He walked around her. ‘Of course what you are wearing could be covering up some grave imperfections. Or perfections.’
‘I’m well aware of what suits me and what doesn’t.’
She watched his inscrutable face. He could be looking at a lump of rock for all he was giving away, but she was feeling electrified as his eyes slowly scanned her body.
‘The question is—what are you hiding under that dress? The perfect hourglass?’
He stepped closer and walked around her again. Coral felt her heart begin to thunder. She felt an unbearable desire for him to touch her with his hands.
‘You know, my longest love affair was with women’s fashion,’ he said, lifting her left arm up by the fingertips and scanning her from wrist to shoulder. ‘I remember going along to my mother’s couture fittings. Even as a very young child I was fascinated by the process—the illusions that could be created or destroyed. That’s one of the reasons I started Heavenly. It’s all behind me now, but I spent my first two years after college working on American Vogue, copywriting. And dating models.’
‘I’m no model, I can assure you,’ said Coral, suddenly cringing at the thought of her generous proportions.
He had stopped behind her. She could feel the heat from his body, his broad shoulders and firm biceps framing her. She could feel the roar of desire rampaging through her veins.
‘But you are incredibly beautiful. And you have a body that is driving me almost mad with curiosity.’
His words landed close to her right ear and she shivered uncontrollably. He moved around her, now lifting her right fingertips and staring down the length of her arm.
‘As an artist, you will know that fashion is a creative process. But you should never ignore the fact that what is pleasing to the eye mirrors desire. For example, I’ve never been clear why it is that just this curve—may I?’
She looked down to where his bronzed hand moulded the space between her waist and her ribs. Her breathing stopped…her body seemed to wilt. She leaned back a tiny fraction and her bottom grazed his loins. She felt his chest against her shoulder blades. A wall of heat flamed between them.
‘Why do some designers ignore the lines and curves that you have to such perfection—that instantly fire a man’s desires? I cannot understand why they do not design clothes that flatter and complement nature’s basic lines. So many make awful clothes that suit…nobody.’
Briefly he lifted her skirt, looked at the fabric. ‘This is nice.’ He dropped it and stepped away. ‘Perplexing, isn’t it? I could dress you. Very easily. There are rooms full of vintage here—couture and off the peg.’
He paced around her one more time, then stood right in front of her.
‘The little buttons—mother of pearl?’
She nodded, unable to speak.
His eyes slowly travelled down, over her cleavage, and it was as if he had touched her. Her nipples hardened…her flesh longed to be touched. A tiny sigh escaped her throat.
‘Yes, you really have got your own style—I love this fifties look. So incredibly feminine and sexy. I’m thinking of the perfect dress for you right now. I could send one over tonight. Would you like that?’
He was so close she could see the shadow between his lips widen slightly.
‘Yes…’ she breathed.
He drew his fingers down her arm, lighting a trail of tiny fires all the way to her core.
‘Oh, yes, I could definitely dress and undress you…’
He stepped forward, cradled her jaw with his hand.
‘Let me kiss you.’
She tried not to look again at the masculine perfection of his face, each line and shadow. He was right. Their chemistry was incendiary. Their attraction almost unbearable. If she could just have a little taste, a tiny morsel of what he was undoubtedly able to give her…
Her body screamed at her brain to give in. But her brain screamed back.
‘My pleasure,’ he said, smiling.
‘We can’t. People will talk,’ she said, dredging up every ounce of willpower and stepping back, even though she was panting with desire.
‘People will always talk. You can’t control it and you shouldn’t care.’
‘But I have to care if it gets in the way of my career.’
‘I can guarantee that kissing me will not get in the way of your career.’
She shook her head, taking another step back. A smaller one this time. ‘I really want to, but I just can’t take the risk,’ she said, thinking of all the things Mariella had said.
He folded his arms over his chest. He was still smiling.