Read A Broken Kind of Beautiful Online

Authors: Katie Ganshert

Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #United States, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Single Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Christian, #Literary, #Religious, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction

A Broken Kind of Beautiful (4 page)

BOOK: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
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She held the small package, its size doing little to still the sudden bout of nerves inside her stomach. Annalise’s heels clicked across the hardwood floor. Ivy turned away from her friend and blocked the letter. Nobody knew she’d applied. Not even Annalise.

Her friend walked to the kitchen island and buried her nose in the rose petals.

Ivy’s thumb twitched over the envelope’s seal. Should she open it?

She bit her lip. If she didn’t open it now, she’d think about it all evening. She couldn’t risk a muddled brain. Not tonight. Not with Clara Vans in attendance. Taking a shaky breath, she slipped her finger beneath the flap. She unfolded the letter with trembling fingers and blinked at the typed words. It opened with a polite thank-you for her application and ended with an even politer rejection.

She hadn’t gotten in. The university had rejected her.

“What are you doing over there so secretively?”

Ivy hid the letter behind her back.

“Come on, Ivy. We do not want to be late.” Annalise stepped in front of the door, an amused smile drawing up the corners of her mouth. “In the words of our main man, Bruce-y, forget what is bothering you and show me your sexy face.”

Show me your sexy face
.

Bruce’s motto. Her life’s purpose. A sudden surge of anger pushed against Ivy’s despondency. She crumpled the letter in a tight fist and shoved the paper ball down the sink. She flipped on the garbage disposal. The blades growled and gurgled as they shredded the paper into soggy confetti.

“An interesting way to recycle.” Annalise opened the door. “Are you out of garbage bags?”

Ivy plucked her purse off the counter, strode past her friend, and did the only thing she was any good at. She put on her sexy face.

4

Ivy followed Annalise past the crowded line of clubgoers, her shoulders back, hips swaying as a balmy nighttime breeze caressed her skin. The women in line swiveled their heads to watch her and Annalise pass. Several men whistled. Ivy let their attention fuel her waning confidence, because that’s exactly what she needed if she was going to impress Clara Vans. They stopped in front of the velvet rope where two familiar bouncers stood guarding the entrance.

“Good evening, ladies. You here to enjoy the launch party?”

“Ventino’s new line of purses?” Annalise quipped. “What’s not to enjoy?”

The taller bouncer unclipped the rope and swept his gorilla hand toward the entrance, his attention moving up Ivy’s legs as she stepped past.

The muffled beat of dance music throbbed through the heavy door. As soon as the bouncer swung it open, the music spilled out into the night and pulsed through Ivy like the deep thud of jungle drums. More fuel.

He offered his elbow. “Allow me to escort you to the back room.”

She took his arm, Annalise took his other, and together, they moved with him through the throng. Their escort stopped in front of an open room filled with purse-lined tables and a crowd Ivy knew well. Men dressed in Armani, women clad in the latest and greatest fashion trends, all standing in small cliques, holding drinks and hiding personal agendas behind pretense and gossip. She understood the rules and subtle nuances. She’d played the game since she was fourteen.

“Have fun,” the bouncer said before turning to leave.

Ivy smiled her thanks, then leaned close to Annalise so she could be heard over the music. “Is Gary coming?”

Gary was Annalise’s quasi-boyfriend and a successful photographer. The
two had met at a photo shoot for Ralph Lauren in the Dominican Republic a couple of winters ago. Annalise pointed toward one of the tables. “He’s over there.”

“Do you see Clara Vans anywhere?” Ivy asked.

“You aren’t wasting any time, are you?”

“Let’s just say I didn’t come to look at purses.” Ivy scanned the crowd. “I need a drink. I’d offer to get you something, but I’m sure Gary will take care of you.” Gary always took care of Annalise. He took care of all his models, using his under-the-table connections to feed a whole host of habits, the most popular being cocaine and diet pills. Annalise partook of both. Ivy, neither. She’d seen firsthand what addiction had done to her mother. She squeezed her friend’s hand before making her way to the bar and sliding onto one of the leather stools.

A man dressed in a business suit claimed the seat beside her. He leaned his elbows on the bar top and looked at her with open interest. Ivy feigned naivety. Losing her contract. NYU’s rejection. All of it melted away. Here was something she was good at.

A bartender approached. “What can I get you, beautiful?”

“An apple martini, please.”

He nodded and went to work.

Ivy reached for her purse, a premeditated action. Just as she expected, the man beside her put his hand on her forearm. “Allow me.”

She looked up with wide eyes, pretending to notice him for the first time. He looked a few years younger than her father and every bit as handsome. “You sure?”

“For you? Anything.”

She shifted her weight, mirroring his posture.

The bartender placed her martini in front of her. The man dipped into his wallet and handed over a bill. “Gin and tonic.”

That’s when Ivy noticed it. A hint of a tan line circling his left ring finger. She blinked, then brought the martini to her lips.

“I recognize you,” he said.

She ran her fingers over her necklace. “You do?”

“You’re the woman on those makeup commercials. You have to be.” The bartender slid the man’s gin and tonic across the bar top. He took a sip, ice clinking together in his glass. The flush in his face told Ivy it wasn’t his first drink. “Am I right?”

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be for very much longer. “You are.”

He whistled. “You’re even more stunning in person than you are on television.”

The words tickled her ego. This man would empty his wallet just to sit beside her for the rest of the night. If she let him, he’d buy her roses and jewelry and perfume. All because he wanted her. He burned with it. She could see the desire in his eyes. She brought her chin to the top of her knuckles and flashed her dimple.

“What do you say we dance when you finish that drink?”

“I don’t usually dance with strangers.”

He leaned one elbow on the bar and swiveled his chair toward hers. “What if I told you my name—would that help?”

“It might.”

He leaned closer. “Brian.”

Ivy took another long drink. His leg brushed against hers, but she didn’t pull away. “You want to dance with me, Brian?”

His eyelids fluttered. “Uh-huh.”

She traced her finger around the outside of her martini glass.

He watched her movement. “What do you say?”

“Here’s what I have to say.” She set her hand on his knee and paused, listening to the catch in his breath. Disgust blistered beneath her skin. “Get your ring out of your pocket, and put it back on your finger.”

He drew away, his mouth hanging open.

“Be a man, Brian.” She picked up her drink. “Go home to your wife.” Resisting the urge to knee him where it hurt, she sauntered back to the
private room and found one of Bruce’s assistants standing off to the side. A breath of fresh air in a room full of clichés. Maya was a perpetual wallflower, which probably explained why she tugged at Ivy’s heartstrings.

Ivy walked over and offered a friendly smile. “Hi, Maya.”

Maya melted with relief. “Ivy!”

“Let me guess—Bruce asked you to make an appearance?”

“He wanted me to keep an eye out.”

Ivy drank the last of her martini. “For promising new clients, no doubt.”

“I really don’t like these parties,” Maya said, fidgeting with her scarf.

Her dislike was painfully obvious, but what Maya lacked in social acuity she more than made up for in hard work and kindness. “You know,” Ivy said out of the corner of her mouth, bending her knees a bit to compensate for their height difference, “if you decided to call it a night, I don’t think Bruce would be any wiser.”

“Really?”

“I wouldn’t say anything.” Ivy plucked the slice of apple from the rim of her glass. “Besides, Bruce has plenty of clients already.”

Maya darted a few glances around the room, then hitched her purse strap over her shoulder. “I do want to catch up on some episodes of
The Bachelorette
.”

“I’ll be curious to know what you think of her latest decision.”

“Will do. Thanks, Ivy!” Maya gave her a side hug, then wove through the crowd until she fell out of sight.

When Ivy turned around, she spotted Clara Vans at one of the purse tables. Taking a delicate bite of her apple slice, she set her martini glass on a table and made her way over, selecting a zebra-print handbag from the collection. “Ventino is a genius.”

Clara looked up from the black clutch she held out in front of her. “Isn’t he?”

“I did some work for one of his collections a couple years ago.”

“Did you?”

Ivy held out her hand. “My name’s Ivy Clark.”

“Oh yes. You’re one of Bruce’s girls, aren’t you?”

She nodded as a bartender entered the room, a tray full of champagne flutes balanced on the palm of his hand. Several people raised their drinks in gratitude. Ventino himself nodded his thanks at the bartender before catching Ivy’s eye, a lazy smile spreading across his face. The two of them had a fling a while back. According to Annalise, Ivy had broken Ventino’s heart. Obviously, Ventino didn’t hold a grudge. And unlike that creepazoid Brian, he wasn’t married. She smiled back before refocusing on Clara.

“Bruce is wonderful,” Clara said.

“He is.” She set down the zebra bag, gathering her courage. “I absolutely adore the direction you’ve taken
Friction
. I’ve been in several issues in the past. I’ve always admired the magazine’s vision, but even more since you came on board.”

Clara picked up a red leather purse and held it beneath her nose. “This is exquisite.”

“In fact, I was talking to Bruce the other day about how much I’d love to do some more work if you ever—”

“Ms. Vans, just the woman we were looking for!”

Ivy turned to her left, toward the voice booming over the music. Charles Creighton, another hotshot agent, escorted the most exotic-looking girl Ivy had ever seen. She couldn’t be a day over sixteen, yet she held a glass of wine like it was a natural extension of her body.

Clara abandoned the purse.

Creighton spun the girl around, like she was up for bid. The apple martini soured in Ivy’s stomach. “I’d like you to meet Gabriela Gerbasi. She’s been in almost every fashion magazine across Europe. She’s a sensation in Milan and Paris. I’m telling you, Clara, people are in love with her.”

The girl took a drink of her wine and had the audacity to look bored.

Ivy shifted. She used to be the one editors drooled over. The one her agent paraded around clubs like a trophy. But it hadn’t lasted. That high that came with being loved by the world? It didn’t last at all.

Creighton turned to Ivy, as if noticing her for the first time. “Iris, how are you?

“It’s Ivy.”

“Right, Ivy. How’s Bruce?” The two were longstanding competitors. Several times early in Ivy’s career, when she was the promising one, Creighton had made her under-the-table offers—swearing to take her career places her uncle never could. Maybe she should have taken him up on them. Or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“Fine, thank you.” Her words fell like icicles.

“I heard about losing that contract with Reynolds. You really ought to be more careful with your reputation. O’Banion said you were downright argumentative.”

Ivy blanched. Downright argumentative? O’Banion was slandering her name. A simple suggestion was hardly argumentative. She shot a furtive glance at Clara. “O’Banion exaggerates.”

“No need to get riled up. It wasn’t because of him that you lost the contract. It’s just the nature of this industry. New faces are always flooding the market. Competition is especially fierce at the moment. Wouldn’t you say, Clara?”

Clara didn’t seem to hear a word. She was too busy salivating over Creighton’s Brazilian-looking commodity. “I’d love to talk about getting her an editorial, Charles. She’s exactly the right fit for my magazine.”

Creighton kissed Gabriela’s cheek and took Clara’s hand. “Let’s have a drink, shall we?” He led Clara away, abandoning Ivy with the girl, who sipped her wine and rummaged through the purses as if she hadn’t understood a word that had been spoken. Maybe she hadn’t. Ivy had gone through the same thing abroad. Bruce auctioning her off in foreign languages, always fishing for the highest bidder.

The emptiness she’d tried to tuck away all evening ripped open inside her chest. She searched the room for Annalise. Instead, she found Luis Ventino. He leaned against a high table, surrounded by three women, but he stared at her. She moved to the drinks the bartender had dropped off, picked up a flute, and took a long sip. When the champagne was all gone, Ivy strutted toward Ventino and fought against the empty chasm the only way she knew how.

5

BOOK: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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