I wanted to tell him not to bother, but I liked that he’d be willing to tell her about us—this, whatever this was. But maybe I was reading too much into it. It wasn’t some chivalrous act, some romantic gesture. He just didn’t want to have to sneak around for the next three months.
Ben pushed the loose strands of hair back from my face. “And about what you asked me last night . . . we’ll talk about that tonight, okay?” Ben’s big, warm palm cupped my cheek. “I didn’t forget.”
Our whispered conversation in the darkness last night came rushing back: his raw emotional state, the bathroom cabinet full of prescription bottles, Gunnar’s warning, Fiona’s possessiveness. All of it hit me like a wave. I was headed for an early nervous breakdown at this rate. But I was powerless to stop the crazy train carrying me straight for destruction. In fact, I wanted an express ticket. I nodded, pulling my shirt over my head and letting the sheet drop away once I was covered.
I knew he’d be busy all day with fittings and meetings. “Go,” I shooed him from the bed, knowing he was already late. “I’ll let myself out.”
He dropped a light kiss to my lips then rose from the bed. I stepped into my panties and jeans while Ben headed into the shower. Back to reality.
After a hot shower back in my room and my usual coffee and croissant, I logged into email. The benefit of Fiona having a separate room meant her usual mode of communication—Post-it notes—was reduced to email. There was just one message, sent at one in the morning. Crap.
I sipped my coffee and stared at the offending message without opening it. I wondered if she’d commented on last night. It’d been a bold move even showing up at Ben’s birthday dinner, and then stealing the guest of honor right from under her nose. What had I been thinking? Fiona was my boss. She could fire me and send me packing at her discretion. And then what would I tell my mom? I’d gotten fired for sleeping with one of the models. God, could you imagine? I shuddered.
Opening Fiona’s email, I breathed a sigh of relief. Her note instructed me to meet her at 11 a.m. at the Yves Saint Laurent offices in the 8th arrondissement near the Champs-Élysées.
I knew Paris Fashion Week was just a few weeks away, which meant our schedule was about to get crazy.
When I arrived at the limestone building, a beautiful young receptionist sat at the sleek, marble-topped desk. Her lips were painted YSL red, her dark hair tucked into a sleek chignon.
“Bonjour,” she greeted me in a perfectly pretty and feminine accent. Great. Even the receptionist had me feeling insecure.
“Bonjour,” I returned, stopping in front of her desk. “Um, I’m with Status Model Management. I’m supposed to meet Fiona Stone,” I muttered, hoping to God she spoke English.
“Yes, this way.” She rose on precariously high black patent leather pumps—how very chic—and showed me down the hall.
The hallway was lined with guys looking to be cast in the show. Some sat on the floor, others stood, many played with their phones, while others talked quietly to the guys near them.
I pushed open the heavy door as the receptionist retreated back to the lobby. Aside from the row of chairs facing the front of the stark white room, it was empty. I spotted Fiona right away, seated with a small cluster of stylists. I approached them carefully, cursing myself for not dressing better. I was in simple khakis, sensible flats, and a white button-down shirt paired with a navy cardigan. Basically, Fiona was going to have a stroke when she saw me. But I didn’t care. I had a job to do, and I was comfortable.
I inched my way toward my boss. A male model came out from behind the curtain slung across the front of the room and began walking for the stylists. With his classic death stare in place, he strutted forward. His walk was perfect—cold and calculating, without blinking. He paused then turned and headed back behind the curtain. Today was casting for our guys, as well as fittings for the ones who had already been chosen for the show. I slid down into the chair behind Fiona. She instantly turned and looked me over with a critical sigh, shaking her head and frowning. Off to a great start, Emmy.
We watched several more guys come out and walk for the group of Yves Saint Laurent executives. I did my best to quickly pass Fiona the comp cards as each guy was announced. I’d printed off the portfolios that morning and arranged them in a binder, choosing our younger guys with dark features and intense looks, a favorite of YSL. As much as I complained about Fiona, I enjoyed my job and took pride in what I did.
John Paul from our agency, just nineteen years old and starting this career in this crazy business, came out next, dressed to kill in a beautifully tailored pin-striped suit that appeared made just for him.
“Street walk, darling,” Fiona drawled, correcting him.
His walk had been too exaggerated, too much swish in his hips. I’d come to learn street walk meant walk as naturally as you would down the street, no posing, no hands on hips. Each designer preferred a different walk. Versace was known for wanting lots of swagger and attitude, but apparently the classy folks at YSL were looking for the understated. John Paul straightened his shoulders and walked naturally down the center of the room before turning on his heel and heading back behind the curtain.
The stylist seated next to Fiona jotted notes into her iPad. I wondered if he’d made the show or not. Little things like the way your h*ps moved when you walked mattered so greatly in this field. It was a cutthroat business. While the models’ walks set the mood for the show, it was all about the clothes. Then fashion editors would write about the next big trends, orders would be placed, and the next year we’d all be wearing remnants inspired by these shows. It was fascinating, really.
I wasn’t expecting Ben to be here, but the production assistant announced “Ben Shaw” in the most adorable French accent. My eyes snapped up to the front.
Ben walked out from behind the curtain like he owned the room and strutted down the walkway. He looked straight ahead and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. A smile tugged at my lips. He was devastatingly handsome, outfitted from head to toe in the designer clothing. A cropped gray wool coat for fall, paired with fitted black trousers. Oh wow. He was sex on a stick. I couldn’t believe this was the same man I’d just shared a bed with. The same man who’d sleepily offered to take me to breakfast. He was absolute perfection. Ben was a professional, his walk sure and strong, his gaze cast forward, undistracted and certain. Unlike the guys who were nervous or scatted, their gazes darting to check for reactions as they walked, Ben was utter confidence, staring straight ahead and letting nothing stand in his way. Commanding. And sexy as hell.
His eyes caught mine and a lazy smile lit up his face. My body temperature ratcheted up several degrees.
Moments later, Ben turned and disappeared back behind the white curtain concealing the small changing area. My phone vibrated in my pocket, and though I knew I shouldn’t let it distract me from work, I pulled it out to see who was texting me.
To my surprise, it was Ben.
Ben: I can’t stop thinking about how good you taste.
My cheeks flamed bright red as I shielded my phone and peeked around me. No one was paying any attention to me, but that was beside the point. He couldn’t just text me things like that. We were at work.
Ben: Come back here, babe. I want that pretty p**sy.
Holy shit! Was he crazy?
Me: No way! You’ll get us both in trouble. Go change into your next outfit.
Ben: Just a little taste.
I should have typed back no, been firm and resolute, but instead I just replied: Later.
My heart hammered away at my ribs as I watched my phone, waiting for his reply. I was astounded by the things he wrote me. He normally seemed so polite and well mannered. But I secretly liked that he had a filthy f**king mouth. Thankfully, my phone stayed silent for the time being.
A moment later, Fiona dug her smartphone from her purse, answering it loudly, interrupting the poor model walking for her and the YSL reps. Fiona cupped a hand over the mouthpiece of her phone and tried to speak privately in the not-at-all-private room. “I can’t come back there right now, love.” She sighed heavily. “Did you sleep last night? Hmm . . . are you coming down with something?” She listened for a moment then added, “Hang tight. I’ll send in Emmy.”
Fiona turned to me, shoving the phone back in her giant bag. “It’s Ben. He’s feeling flat knackered. Early mornings are not his thing.”
I didn’t mention that it was already after 11 a.m.; I merely nodded.
“Go bring him pain reliever and some water, dear.” She shooed me with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“Sure.” I hopped from my chair, grabbed my purse, and headed back behind the curtain, ready to give him a piece of my mind. This was some little ploy to get me back here, and he was using Fiona to do it. He was going to get us both in trouble. I didn’t know whether to be mad, nervous, excited, or horny.
When I spotted him, he was standing casually near the back, his eyes already pinned on mine. His eyebrow quirked up and he raked his gaze boldly down my body, stopping at my chest. He smiled just slightly. My sex muscles clenched. That cleared up the horny part. But geez, we couldn’t do this now. Was he crazy?
Approaching him, I stopped at arm’s length. “We can’t do this, Ben. Fiona will fire me so fast, I’ll be on the next plane out of here. . . .”
“Never going to happen.” The cool authority in his voice made my stomach flip.
Emmy looked all proper in her pressed khaki pants and button-down shirt. It made me want to mess her up and leave her looking thoroughly f**ked. Claimed. It was twisted, I know.
I never really thought I could get a normal girl. They all wanted me for my persona—what they saw on the outside. The supermodel they thought I was. I didn’t feel like that guy. Which is why I liked that Emmy seemed to see beyond it all. Part of it was because I’d let her in—told her things about me I rarely told anyone. Things only Fiona knew. I’d been around enough women to know that the way Emmy affected me was different.
Sure, I had physical needs that I satisfied but I was never stupid enough to believe it was love when they looked at me. Some would profess their devotion, swear they loved me, but I wondered if they could even see past the designer-labeled clothes. Emmy saw through all that and directly into the real me. She leveled me with her humanity, her realness. She’d pushed me to be more open, taken care of me on and off set, been my advocate simply because it was the right thing to do. She had an open-faced belief that the world was a good place and that people could be trusted. It was refreshing, especially in this business. She wouldn’t be changed simply because she’d gotten a job in an industry where looks were everything. From what I’d seen, she was the type to stay true to herself. I realized with absolute clarity, I respected the hell out of her.
I stepped toward her, closing the distance she’d purposefully left between us. “Do you trust me?” I could still remember her smell, her taste, the little whimpering sounds she made last night. She was f**king delicious and I wanted more.
She swallowed, visibly shaken, but gave a tiny nod. It was enough. I took her hand and pulled her behind the partition that separated off a small area for changing. There was a dude behind there buttoning up a shirt. I tossed him a look that he accurately read as Get the f**k out. He made a hasty retreat. Smart guy. Because I was three seconds away from having Emmy’s panties around her ankles, and no one was going to see her bare little p**sy but me. I wanted to smell her, taste her, devour her. Never had a girl gotten under my skin so completely. I had to have her.
The expression on her face was a mix of panic and curiosity. She bit down, burying her teeth in her bottom lip, and met my eyes. She did trust me. I saw that. And she was worried how far I’d push her.
I wouldn’t betray her trust by doing something she wasn’t sure about. She took her job seriously, and now I’d lured her back here for sex. Shit. My hard-on would have to wait. Sorry, buddy.
“Later, okay? You’re mine.”
She looked up into my eyes, her face awash with relief. “Yes,” she confirmed. “Later.”
The promise of later would have to be enough to get me through the next few hours.
It was eight o’clock when I made it back to the hotel, and I was exhausted. My body was fighting this European schedule, and Fiona’s ridiculous demands kept me running. But Ben’s text said to come straight to his room and to come hungry.
When I arrived at his door, he planted a tender kiss on my lips and pulled me inside.
“I listened to the CD you made me.”
“I loved it. Thank you.” He pressed a soft kiss to my forehead, his expression truly grateful.
I sensed this was a new side of him, a softer, sweeter Ben, and I liked it. I didn’t know what had changed between us but he was clearly letting me into his world.
I noticed a room service cart with various platters covered with silver domes. “Breakfast in bed okay?” he asked.
“Breakfast? For dinner?” I loved the idea, but it was a little unusual.
“Since I didn’t get to take you out to breakfast like you wanted this morning.”
I didn’t realize it before, but now that I could smell the food, I was ravenous. Ben lifted the domes from the plates, and my mouth began to water. Golden waffles dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a with mixed-berry compote, fluffy omelets with goat cheese and mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil, thick cuts of ham and a green salad on the side. It was anything but a country breakfast, almost too pretty and elegant to eat, but it was perfect.
“This is lovely, thank you.”
“You didn’t have to do all this. . . .” I wanted to remind him he’d said this was just sex between us, but I didn’t. Couldn’t.