Wool. Rows and rows of wool. Everywhere. Audrey Cannon was going to fire the imbecile that screwed up this order.
“Who orders this much wool!”
Her hands flew up in the air and then her fingers dove into her hair and tugged. Hard.
What she wanted to do was cry.
“Jesus.” What was she going to do?
Audrey knew who’d they blame. Her. An intern whose name was Paul Richards demanded to be called Tymber because Paul was too mundane, was probably the one who put the damned order in for the wool. But he had the ear of Cardinal, the Designer. He also had his mouth, ass, and other parts.
Audrey kicked a bolt.
“Ow! Dammit. Stupid Audrey.”
She sat on the nearest pile of wool and covered her face with her hands. She sucked in some breaths and stood up.
“Lemonade out of lemons.”
Next, on Audrey’s list, figure out how to make all this wool disappear.
The studio was empty. It was just Audrey. She went to the office and started to make some phone calls to see what had happened.
Cardinal and Tymber had the crew out at the newly renovated Michigan Central Station. Had it still been dilapidated Cardinals new line would have been spectacular in the space. But now his sparse cuts of fabric he barely pinned together was not appropriate for the venue.
Audrey thought of her classic mid-century modern designs in her look-book, now they would be perfect for the train station’s new interior.
She slammed the phone down. Of course, her name was on the order. Of course, she signed off on it.
“Dammit!” She was so screwed. Audrey might as well quit now. Cardinal would never believe it wasn’t her fault because he was screwing Tymber.
She needed to stop the direction of her thoughts. She didn’t want to be angry at Cardinal. He was a good man, one of the only designers in the industry that was not a snide backstabbing bitch, and he thought she had a lot of talent. But when he was in a relationship he was blind to prissy attentive gay boys, and he forgot all the other things that were important to him. Like maybe he should choose boys that had good morals.
Going over to the design side of the space, she switched up what she was doing. Her need to stop thinking about all her troubles led her to pull out the summer line designs she was mocking up.
Audrey sat down at her drafting board and focused on the abstract deconstructed patterns and materials Cardinal wanted to come together with recycled materials.
She sighed. Her sketches weren’t working. Her mind kept going back to the piles of wool in the other room. Cardinal’s theme for the new season was bold and exciting, but it wasn’t her style. She was tired of working on other people’s designs. Audrey liked refined materials and classic lines more like her namesake Audrey Hepburn had worn. Style’s like the actress wore in her movies Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
She was gorgeous, and so were the clothes she wore and the designers who transformed her.
Wiggling her cramping fingers, she moved the accessory sketches she wound up working on and replaced them with her sketches from inside the messenger bag stored at her feet. She’d been working on them the previous night. It was a line of business dress that emulated her vision of the past with a contemporary twist on the modern woman.
Her hand put pen to paper without thinking, and she began to draw. Before she knew it, her pen became an extension of her hand, and the clothes she was sketching came to life. Designing clothes was when she was happiest. Everywhere else there were too many responsibilities that rested on her shoulders.
Words pierced through her concentration, and her fingers caused the ink to stutter across the page. She crumpled up the sketch and started a new one.
“If you would just pay more attention to what your sister was doing maybe she wouldn’t have the problem she does.”, “Why can’t you be more like your sister. She’s beautiful, elegant, excels at bringing in donations for the charity’s she’s working. It’s what you should be doing Audrey. Trying to find a husband with a name and means to take care of you. Not this willy-nilly hobby with fashion. And if you’re helping your sister you can keep an eye on her, so she stays out of trouble.”, “We do not need any more scandal making your mother, and I look bad.”
Audrey squeezed her pen tighter, and it skidded across her paper ruining another sketch. This time of a dress that she just couldn’t get right. She ripped it off the drafting board and threw it aiming for the garbage, but of course, she missed. She was single-handedly the worst person to have on a sports team ever.
She got up and rounded her table bending over it to pick up the discarded sketch.
“Ow!” She was a walking disaster and hit her head when she stood up too quickly.
No one should be here.
She forgot to lock the door. Again. Cardinal was always telling her how she never looked at her safety as important.
She heard the voice coming from the long hallway adjacent to the fabric storage room they used for their runway. She was currently peeking around the archway.
“Anybody here?” The voice shouted.
She sucked in a breath, and her eyes went wide. “Oh, boy.” She whispered. The man’s eyes snapped to hers.
He strutted down the hallway, and she covered her eyes. “Stop!” She yelled.
Her fingers parted letting her eyes see again what she thought she was seeing. A really, really, stunningly hot, naked guy coming right at her.
“Please stop,” she begged.
Because if he didn’t stop and put some clothes on she might embarrass herself by jumping him. She fanned her flushed face.
Audrey couldn’t help it. She had to peek again.
“Isn’t this where the Cardinal photo shoot is?”
“Ahh,” she stammered. “No.”
He reached around as if to go for a phone in a pocket of his non-existent pants and found only ass cheek. She squeaked, pinched her lips together and tried to hold in the moan that gathered deep in her throat. Taking another look-see didn’t seem to help the situation.
He was the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“My agent said to be here at ten. Was there a change in location?”
“The shoot is at the Michigan Central Station. The models were scheduled for sunrise this morning.”
The man whipped around facing away from her, and his hands ran through his hair. “What the fuck. What, the, fuck!”
She barely heard his words because she couldn’t focus on anything other than his gorgeous ass that was now front and center. She gave up hiding her view and dropped her hands.
Audrey cleared her throat. “Do you want to put some clothes on,” unfortunately she asked, “and we can sort this out?”
“What I want is just one fucking thing to go right.”
“Well, if you put some clothes on it would be a lot easier for me to help you do that.”
He turned around, and Audrey looked down to the plank wood floor memorizing its wood grain.
“Yeah,” he said and took a step toward her. She saw him move and knocked her elbow into the wall.
“Yeah.” She squeaked. Pretty soon she’d fit in with the mice that made their home in the studio.
He laughed, and she melted a bit and tingled in a few places that hadn’t tingled in a while.
“Sure. I’ll be back in a minute.” He walked away, and she watched. God what a sight, she thought. He strutted like he was walking into a room full of people to give a speech about world peace. If only she had that much confidence.
The man had zero body fat, a light tan that said he protected his skin and didn’t bake outdoors or get a silly spray on tan. No, that man was perfect.
She went back to her desk, and a few minutes later he was walking toward her fully clothed and on the phone looking a whole lot like a pissed off male.
“Mack, you said ten. I’m here at ten. There’s a woman named,” He was looking at her expectantly while she was still thinking of all the goodness that he’d covered up.
“Oh, right. Audrey Cannon.”
He smiled, and she tingled some more. His eyes flipped down to her lips, and she unconsciously couldn’t help but lick her lips to catch the drool that was making a run for it. His eyes became hooded, and he watched every long second of her tongue moving.
“Audrey Cannon,” the man said into his phone.
Audrey smiled, and the man watched that too. That was nice she thought.
“Mack, you knew this was a good gig for me, a stepping stone out of the club.”
He waited, and his eyes got hard, and he looked out the window.
“Yeah. Damn, straight you’ll fix it.”
He hung up.
They both stared at each other.
“So,” Audrey mumbled. “I, ah, guess you don’t need my help to fix things.”
He didn’t say anything but kept his bright autumnal eyes on her. She couldn’t look away. But silence always killed her.
“What’s your name?”
The Adonis turned his head and slowly blinked like he was waking from a spell. Which at this point quite possibly could have happened.
It was her turn to look be-spelled. “Jex?”
“Yeah. Most people call me Jex.”
“That’s not your name?”
Silence again. Ridiculous, she thought. He must think she’s an idiot.
“What’s your real name?”
“You’ll have to get to know me better before I tell you that.”
Audrey blushed. “Um, well, I’ve seen you naked, so that’s something.” She blushed a brighter red this time. She couldn’t believe she was flirting with him. She barely had enough experience to count on one hand. But this man made her nervous but also forward in a way she never felt she was confident enough to try. He seemed so comfortable in his skin that it must be rubbing off on her.
“So, why aren’t you at the shoot, Audrey Cannon?”
He moved and leaned a hip on her desk forcing her to fall into her seat.
She cleared her throat. “I help design and Cardinal wanted me to keep moving on next summers line.”
“Hm.” Jex looked over her shoulder which put his front close to her back because she shifted around to look at her drawings. His nearness was dancing across her skin, and her heartbeat was jumping as if she’d just gotten off a treadmill.
He reached around her and tapped the red tapered pantsuit and jacket with the tulip pocket and accidentally brushed the side of her breast. She shivered. His chin dipped, and he hummed right next to her ear. Trying to ignore the luscious way he smelled, the sweet and musky forest scent, she focused on the sketch and quickly shoved it to the side into a folder in her look-book. It was one of Audrey’s favorites. She didn’t want his opinion on them. They weren’t ready to be seen yet.
“Those are my designs.”
She pulled out Cardinal’s designs.
“These are the ones I’ve been working on for Cardinal.”
“I like yours a lot better.” He pulled her work out again and pointed to the lapel in one of the jackets.
“Hey,” she squawked into his ear, but he didn’t step back. Not until he had her designs laid out on her table. She tried to put them away, but he grabbed her hands and set them on her lap. Now she was annoyed.
“Relax,” he said, and he let go and took a step to lean once again on her drafting board. “You shouldn’t hide these. They’re really good.”
“How do you know? You just wear the clothes.” She snapped harsher than she thought possible.
He took another step, and this time it was away from her table. “Sorry. I was just complimenting you.” He raised his hands above his head. “I’ve got to go anyway, straighten things out regarding this shoot.”
He turned away, and she popped out of her chair and grabbed his arm. “Wait! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just frustrated that I haven’t shown them to anyone. Not even Cardinal.” Aubrey sighed. “Things are always going wrong these days, and I didn’t want to take the chance he might reject my ideas.”
“What I’ve heard about him says good things for you. I don’t think he’d shit all over them. You should show him.”
“Maybe.” She whispered. “But not today. Jesus he’d crucify me alone for the wool issue we’re going to be having for a while.”
“That is a lot of wool for such a small lapel,” he flicked a thumb toward the wool, across the hall.
“Yeah. A mistake I have to rectify.”
“You don’t look like someone that makes huge mistakes. Did you really order that much fabric?”
“No. But it might as well have been me since I’ll get blamed for it.”
She waved him off and sat on her stool.
“So, what are you going to do about missing the shoot?” Audrey asked to guide the conversation in a new direction.
“Hopefully, my agent will get his shit together, and I’ll finally get a gig that’ll get me noticed. In the right way.” He said the last part under his breath. Audrey barely heard him. She wondered what he meant by that.
“I’m surprised you haven’t. You’re stunning.”
He laughed. “Yeah, stunning.”
She tilted her head and looked at him. Did he not think he was gorgeous, she asked herself? He answered.
“Some people think so.” He shrugged. “But apparently not the most important people.”
“I could talk to Cardinal if you want. See if you can catch the next shoot.”
He shrugged again, looked down and away. “Sure, if you think it won’t be too much trouble.”
Where did the confidence go she saw when he was walking down the hallway? This person in front of her seemed to have the light taken right out of him. It didn’t make any sense.
“If he doesn’t fire me over the wool debacle I think he might take my word that you’re worth a second chance.”
He nodded. “That works.”
Jex looked around and then his eyes came back to her.
“Now that we have the nudity portion of the relationship out of the way how about I take you out for lunch.”
Audrey’s words wouldn’t form. She froze. Her life was complicated enough without adding a hot guy to the mix. She should give herself permission enjoy her life. Enjoy an attractive man, find out what was behind the pretty face and the body of a god, because she sensed a lot was going on behind his amber eyes. It would be nice to feel something besides the worry and anxiety over her sister. It followed in her sister’s wake wherever she went, and it was a stifling mass that always hung low and thick in the apartment they shared. Why couldn’t she think of herself for once? There was something about Jex that she liked very much. Very, very, much.
With a deep cleansing breath and a long exhale, she nodded.
“I’d like that, Jex. I’d like that a whole hell of a lot.”