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 (5 page)

BOOK: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
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Cool air greeted Davis as soon as he stepped inside his darkened apartment. An early morning run along the beach with a buddy, followed by a solo ocean swim, and he still couldn’t divert his thoughts from last night’s dream—about funerals, overexposed photographs, and a pair of haunted eyes. The funeral had been a week ago, so why the dream now? He flipped on the light switch and tossed his keys. They clattered, skidded, and came to a halt in front of his answering machine.

His stomach grumbled. He pushed sweaty hair up his forehead and ran his hand down the front of his face, scruff scratching at his palms. He hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a good two weeks, but he did have some leftover Frogmore stew and pecan pie that he’d picked up from Fried Greens after his slow-pitch softball game last night. That beat a bowl of cereal any day.

Hopping on alternating feet, he yanked off his running shoes. They clunked onto the welcome mat. He shuffled into the kitchen, washed his hands, and pulled out the stew. He opened the container and placed it inside the microwave, but when he hit Start, nothing happened. Well, great. How was he supposed to eat without a microwave? He checked the plug, his stomach snarling.

“I know. I know. You’re hungry.”

Davis turned in place, searching for something ovenproof, and found a flashing red light on his answering machine instead. He pushed the button and pulled open a skinny cupboard between his refrigerator and stove. Grandma Eleanor had helped him unpack his things when he moved in a couple of years ago. He had no idea where she’d put his baking sheets. Or if he even had any.

“Hey, Davis, it’s your favorite aunt.”

He paused his search at the sound of Marilyn’s voice. She sounded okay—definitely not upbeat, but not despondent either. Over the past week, whenever he stopped by for a visit, she’d seemed understandably adrift.

“So I have something I’d like to run past you. It’s an idea I had a while ago, before …” Her words fell away. Over the past six months, she’d spent her time caring for James, helping him fight and then accept a sickness that descended and destroyed with the quickness and ferocity of a raging wildfire. “Anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to put together an advertising campaign—something to market my new line of wedding gowns.”

He opened another cupboard and smiled. Aunt Marilyn thrived at her boutique. She was making quite a name for herself. Blushing brides all across the Lowcountry came to Something New to try on her dresses. A campaign sounded like the perfect distraction—something to occupy her time as she transitioned into the realities of widowhood.

“Remember my friend Joan Calloway? She’s a fashion editor for
Southern Brides
magazine. She contacted me a few weeks ago, asking to do an editorial spread featuring my dresses. I couldn’t commit then, but now I can. She thinks they’re quirky and fresh.”

He pulled out a plastic bowl and a misplaced corkscrew and reached into the back of the cupboard, his palm moving over empty space and the grain of unfinished wood, then caught something promising. Something that felt ovenproof. He brought it out. “Aha!”

“Anyway, I was hoping you might consider being my photographer.”

The smile slid from his face.

“Now please don’t get mad, but I mentioned your name to Joan. She called me back a little while ago raving about you. Apparently, she looked up some of your work online.”

Davis went to the sink and rinsed the dust from the ceramic dish.

“She wants to meet with me tomorrow for dinner to go over the details of the photo shoot we’re going to do next week. I told her you probably wouldn’t be there. But, Davis”—she let out a long breath, a note of
desperation in the sigh—“this is important and there isn’t any other photographer I want to work with. Or one I trust so implicitly. Besides, I think it could be a fun experience. Stop by and we can talk about it, okay?”

A loud beep swallowed Marilyn’s farewell. Davis tore off a paper towel and wiped the dish dry, his mind no longer on the food.

Sunlight dappled through the leaves of the large oak trees lining Marilyn’s street, speckling the colonial houses with pinkish gold. Davis caught sight of his aunt trimming the confederate jasmine climbing up her trellis as he pulled down her long drive and parked in front of the three-car garage. He didn’t want to disappoint his aunt, but there was no getting around it. He made a vow two years ago, and a fun experience, as Marilyn had called it, was not a strong enough reason to break it.

Letting out a deep breath, Davis stepped outside into a heat that was already starting to swelter, despite the early hour. Usually the full brunt of summer’s wrath held out until July, but June was proving to be an exceptionally nasty piece of work. He shut his door.

Marilyn set down her pruning shears and waved, her face barely visible beneath her floppy hat.

Davis cut through the lawn and met her in front of the butterfly bushes. “Hard at work already?” He surveyed her flower garden, which had grown more expansive throughout the years. The powdery-fresh fragrance of the crepe myrtle with its fuchsia popcorn trusses and the sweetness of the purple four o’clocks perfumed the air. When his kid sister Sara was young, she loved helping Marilyn water and prune and pull weeds. She loved chasing the butterflies that flitted and floated around the bushes too.

“You know what they say about early birds.” Wisps of sweat-dampened hair escaped from beneath her hat and stuck to her neck. She pulled off her gloves and her hat, revealing a messy bun and cheeks pinked by the heat. “Did you get my message?”

Davis scratched his jaw. “I did.”

She held up her hand. “Now before you say anything, I think you should know what you’d be saying no to. Sara and I were up late last night, brainstorming ways to make the campaign into something bigger. And we came up with a charity fashion show. It’d be a great way to highlight my dresses, bring some excitement to Greenbrier, and raise money for a good cause.”

His curiosity piqued. “What’s the cause?”

Marilyn’s face lit up. “You know that new art program Sara’s been talking about? I’m hoping we could raise enough funds to bring that program to Greenbrier’s community college. We’d have all the proceeds from the fashion show, along with twenty percent of the sales I make from now until next year.”

Davis blinked, completely unprepared. Marilyn’s suggestion undid his resolve, tangling his motivations into a knot that was impossible to tease apart. A couple of months ago, Grandfather had read about the program in the newspaper—some leading-edge art program for the visually impaired, founded by Frank Calvin Boritz, a world-renowned painter who also happened to be blind. Part of Davis wanted to jump in and say yes, of course. Anything for Sara. But the other part of him resisted. Who was to say he wasn’t merely jumping on the first excuse to take up his camera again?

Marilyn looked up at him, hesitant and hopeful. “Thoughts?”

He scratched his jaw, watching as a Carolina wren hopped along the alabaster branch of the crepe myrtle. It stopped, cleaned its plumage, then spread its wings and flew away. “If I say yes, what would I be getting myself into?”

“You’d do the editorial shoot for Joan. After that, I’d want you to do some photographs for advertisements—a brochure, maybe even some billboard space along the highway. And then, of course, I’d need you for the fashion show. Not just to shoot pictures, but to help organize it. You know much more about this stuff than I do.”

Too much. He knew too much.

His aunt reached out and touched his arm, as if sensing his thoughts. “It’s time to put that knowledge to good use, right?”

Davis stuck his thumbs through his belt loops and chewed over the proposition. He had vowed to himself that he was done with photography. He had no business taking up his camera when Sara could no longer take up her paintbrushes. But what if picking up his camera again meant giving his sister back a piece of what she’d lost? a piece of what he’d taken?

“Joan’s convinced my bridal wear is going to be the next big thing. I’m not sure about that, but I already know your pictures are going to bring in customers. You’re brilliant, Davis.”

He let the praise bounce away. He didn’t need to hear it. His ego had inflated enough last time. “How long of a commitment are we talking about?”

“A couple months, give or take a few weeks.”

A couple months. He could reinstate his vow after that, right? Sure, he’d be doing photography again, but this time it wouldn’t be about him or his selfish desires. It would be about helping Sara. Besides, it was wedding photography in South Carolina, a world apart from high fashion in New York. He let out his breath and made a quick decision. “Okay.”

“You’ll do it?”

Ignoring the tightening in his stomach, he stuck out his hand. “What’s my first assignment, boss?”

Marilyn squeezed his hand. “Dinner tomorrow with me and Joan—she’s very eager to get going. Then you can pick Ivy up at the airport when she arrives, hopefully in a few days. It might be a good idea for you two to get better acquainted. It’s good to build a certain amount of rapport with your model, right?”

“My model?”

“I spoke with Bruce. She’s going to be the new face for my bridal wear line.” A thousand tangled emotions twitched inside Marilyn’s smile. “Ivy’s coming home.”

6

The door flew open and crashed against the wall behind it. Ivy popped up from the couch like a jack-in-the-box springing from its hiding place. A stab of pain shot through her head. Her hands flung to her tangled mass of hair as she sucked air through her teeth.

What in the world?

“What were you thinking?” The door slammed shut. “Please, enlighten me, because I’d sure love to know what goes on in that head of yours.”

She cringed and clasped her head tighter, cradling the source of her misery with trembling hands. Opening one eye, she found her uncle, pressed and dressed, pacing in her kitchen. Her sluggish mind tried to comprehend why, but she couldn’t pin down anything except the obvious. He had no right to barge into her apartment. “Haven’t you heard of a little courtesy called knocking?”

“I knocked. You didn’t answer.”

She pushed the jungle of tangles from her eyes. Her stomach gurgled—only not from hunger. She placed her hands on the leather cushion to steady herself.

Bruce stared at the vase of roses on her counter, then eyed the rest of her things—the dried and framed flowers hanging on her wall; others bundled together in bouquets, hung upside down on hooks where her keys should be; stacks of books—poetry, classics, even a few mass market romance novels—spilling off her bookshelf; and the snow globes she kept on her end tables. The sudden desire to fling her body over her private items trumped the pain dissecting her brain. Bruce might be her uncle, but he was still a man, and she preferred to keep men out of her private space. She stood from the couch and swayed.

“Desperation doesn’t suit you, Ivy. You look awful.”

Desperation? That’s what he thought? “Look, you need to—” A fresh stab of pain sliced through her words. She closed one eye and tried again. “You need to get out of my apartment.”

“On the contrary, this apartment is leased under my agency, which makes it mine.” He fished a key from his pocket and dangled it in the air, proving his point. “I can’t believe how unprofessional you were last night.”

She palmed her head. “I want you to leave.”

“Are you hearing a word I’m saying?”

“Only me and the rest of New York City.” She took a step forward, but something snagged on the Persian rug. One of her heels was still strapped around her ankle. Stomach protesting, she bent over and freed herself. “How was I unprofessional? And how do you know anything about last night?” Maya left early, and as far as Ivy could tell, none of Bruce’s other minions had been in attendance. She squinted at the clock above her stove. Ten in the morning. Even in the modeling industry, the gossip mill didn’t turn that fast.

“Flirting with Luis Ventino? Are you insane?”

“We had fun.” The parts she remembered anyway. “Is that a crime now?”

“You’ve had fun with Ventino before.”

BOOK: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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