Authors: Kristy Kay
Copyright © 2014 C. Carter
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any other information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction, all names, characters, places, and events are the products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any other information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author.
Cover Art: © C. Carter, ©
Fonts used include Georgia, Tenderness and Comforta, these are open source fonts that are legal for commercial use.
This is dedicated to my husband, the love of my life and my two gorgeous kids. Dream your dreams and make them happen.
I had to get out of the art gallery, away from the pitying faces of my friends and acquaintances; my break up with yet another woman was making the rounds fast. I hated these stuffy events; I had to keep reminding myself that I was here to support Joey, my lifetime photographer friend the one who helped shoot me to stardom.
The least I can do is always be there for him.
I thought. I grabbed another glass of champagne from a passing waiter, throwing it back like it was water. I cursed myself for getting into this mess to begin with; I was hopeless.
“Hey mate, how you holding up?”
I turned, hearing my friend behind me. Joey was a smaller man, standing at only 5’6” next to my 6’ 2” frame. His long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail; his normally sparkling green eyes were sympathetic as he smiled up at me.
“Your photos are amazing as always Joey.”
“You want to escape don’t you?”
I nodded, shamefaced.
“Then sneak out the back door. Me and Cora will meet you out there in just a few minutes. We will have the town car pull back there to pick us up for dinner.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you in your time of desperate need.” I smiled as I earned my friend’s laugh and a shove toward the back of the art gallery.
“Get your ugly mug out of here. Get some air. We will be out shortly.”
I sent my friend a grateful smile, earning a small understanding nod in return before I ducked behind the life size shot of Cora and their children laughing on the windswept cliff near where they live. I loved that shot, loved my friend and his family and their unconditional, undeniable love for each other. I was also jealous of such love and was beginning to believe I would never find anything like that for myself.
I stepped out into the cool afternoon breeze, taking a deep breath, breathing in the essence that was Paris. The hustle, the bustle, the aroma of pastries and coffee from a small shop next door, and the not too far off smell of the River Seine, the closer sounds and smells of my favorite wishing fountain. I turned and stopped, my breath caught in my chest as I looked towards the small fountain across from the gallery. It was situated in a small courtyard area recessed slightly from the busy sidewalk between a chic boutique and a wine shop. But it wasn’t the fountain that captured my attention this time; it was the woman standing close to it.
She had a phone to her ear, apparently doing more listening than talking. She was dressed in a simple dark blue sundress with wide straps, a fitted waist that flared out, ending around her knees. On her feet she wore simple grey flats and she was walking agitatedly back and forth in front of the fountain as she listened to whoever was on the other end of that call. Her hair was a dark auburn, some strands catching the sunlight and sparkling like pure fire as she ran her hands through it, as she impatiently brushed it off her face. She wore it long, wavy and around her shoulders. She turned and I caught the full effect of her. She was breathtaking; her face was flawlessly beautiful, with sad brown eyes that at that moment were so full of anger and a pain that cut me deep.
I stepped back to lean against the wall behind me and watched as she finally took control of the call. She was slashing her hands down and then flinging them up, clearly she was a hand talker. I was not close enough to hear any of the words but I could tell the conversation was distressing her, which made me unexplainably upset for her.
What the hell is wrong with you? You don’t even know her name and you are getting pissed about a conversation you can’t even hear?
I growled silently at my mocking inner voice.
Finally she hung the phone up and sat on the side of the fountain in defeat or dejection, which one I couldn’t tell. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. A single tear slipped down her cheek, catching the sunlight as I stood mesmerized. Her pain was clear even across the distance and my heart tightened.
“Momma! Tell your son he has to be nice to me.” With a hurried, impatient gesture she brushed the tear aside as she stood up. I watched as she physically forced all the pain into a breathtakingly beautiful smile. Curious, I turned my head and watched as a young couple hurried towards her. One was a petite young girl mid to late teens wearing a sunshine yellow Audrey Hepburn dress. Her long golden hair was pulled back from her face; bouncing with each skipping step she took trying to keep up with the long legged male companion beside her. Her face was flawless with youth and beauty; there was a vibrancy that shone from her brown eyes that made you stop and notice. She was currently pouting though you could see the smile lurking at the corners of her mouth. She was waving animatedly at the woman near the fountain and as the couple drew closer, I saw her stick her tongue out at the man next to her and couldn’t help but smile.
I then looked closer at the young man next to her. He was much taller than his petite companion, probably in his early 20’s. His long floppy brown hair brushed the collar of his simple black suit, and had the clean disheveled look that the girls went crazy for. His face, though masculine, carried the same beauty as both women. He was looking down at his companion with exasperation, patience and love. His brown eyes were more serious but he clearly had the same mischievous side since he stuck his tongue out right back at his companion making me smile even broader.
I watched fascinated as the earlier sadness and pain that had shadowed her eyes disappeared completely, transforming her haunting beauty into radiance I couldn’t tear my eyes from. She made it hard for me to catch my breath. The young girl launched herself into her mother’s arms, nearly knocking them both over and I was gifted with the sound of her laughter as she held her daughter. She reached up and brushed the hair from her son’s face, grinning even further when he pulled away presumably complaining about her mussing his hair. She linked her arms with both her children’s and they continued down the street. I stood motionless and watched until the crowd swallowed them up. I was still standing in the same spot when my friends finally joined me a short time later.
“Hey mate, you ready?”
“Hmm?” I turned distractedly and saw Joey standing by a black town car I hadn’t even seen pull up. His arms were around his wife Cora who stood smiling over at me. “Oh yeah, let’s go.”
I walked over to the car, gesturing for my friends to climb in first, glancing back once more before I climbed in beside them, hoping for just one more glimpse of the woman.
“So how did the meeting go?” I turned to my impatient daughter as she bounced on her toes beside me while we waited for her brother Tyler to arrange for our table.
“I will tell you once we’re seated. I’m sure Tyler wants to know as well.” Lily pouted prettily, her brown eyes sparkled with mischief as always.
“But I want to know more, and I want to know now.” I laughed and hugged my daughter close. Her and her brother could bring a smile to my face even during the worst moments. After the phone call I just had by the fountain with my stepmother, dinner with my children was exactly what I needed.
We followed Tyler and the maître d to our corner table. We sat quickly, and I thanked the maître d and he nodded stiffly. I didn’t think I would ever get used to the French and their sometimes-uptight attitudes. Our waiter took our drink orders, looking slightly dismayed that none of us wanted anything but water.
“We’re such boring Americans. We should probably work on that.” I giggled as the waiter walked away shaking his head.
“Why change who we are just ‘cause they don’t like it.” Tyler looked up momentarily from his menu, imparted his wisdom, and then looked back down to make his food selection. There wasn’t much that he thought was more important than food. That, his hair, his engineering work, and apparently his American identity. I grinned and winked at Lily across the table.
When the waiter brought our water back we placed our food orders. Then all eyes fell on me. I looked back into both sets of brown eyes looking at me, brown eyes so much like my own. One was filled with a barely held back impatience, sparkling with life and energy. The other pair was filled with curiosity but the stubbornness never to be the one to ask the questions, also very much like me. I took a small sip of my water.
“So how was your shopping?” I asked. “Find anything interesting?”
“Mom!!! Seriously!!” Lily exploded with impatience. “Tyler is here now, out with it. How did the meeting go?” Tyler just cocked an eyebrow, a move that sent a dagger of pain through my heart, the move so similar to his father’s.
“Okay, okay. Yes you were both made the offer to sign with the Cora fashion house.” Lily squealed and stomped her feet with excitement. Tyler just smiled and nodded arrogantly, grabbing a breadstick from the basket in front of him. His arrogance caused me to smile despite the sharp pain in my heart and I shook my head at both kids. “We go in tomorrow for the final legal paperwork. I faxed them to Alex and he is going to go over them overnight, make sure everything is on the up and up, but, the offer was good and I accepted. They want you to start tomorrow afternoon once the paperwork is done. So far it’s just for this campaign but there is the possibility of more later.“ Tyler nodded and Lily continued to squeal. I reached over and grabbed her hand. “This isn’t your first Lily.”
“I know but it’s a Paris based fashion house, not a silly one.”
“A Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen cover along with Cover Girl contract wasn’t silly Lily. And you didn’t start on the bottom for god’s sake. We both started as the faces and the centerpieces for Calvin Klein USA. Those are pretty major.” Tyler said as he handed the breadstick he had just buttered to his excited sister, shaking his head in exasperation.
“I know but I always thought you made it when you were signed to a contract in Paris.” She grabbed the breadstick and shrugged. Slightly subdued. Tyler grinned and grabbed her ponytail, giving it a gentle tug.
“We made it a long time before we ever left the states baby girl, you just weren’t paying attention.” I watched my children as they bantered back and forth, my heart full of love, and excitement for them as well as pain for the man who would never see his children shine like they were today.
I remembered the moment Lily was discovered.
We were walking down the streets of New York. My baby girl was being her usual vivacious beautiful self. A black SUV pulled up beside us but I was trying to keep up with my daughter who was dancing down the street in a hurry to get to Central Park and the promise of a horse ride and picnic. It had been a long painful year for us and she deserved a little bit of fun.
“Excuse me ma’am?” I hollered for Lily to wait then turned. There was a gentleman standing not too far away in a suit, one of those suits I knew cost more than what I made in a year as a family therapist.
“Um yes? Can I help you?”
“Yes actually I think you can.” By that time Lily had come back out of curiosity, grabbing my hand and looking up at the man. He was in his later years with salt and pepper hair and kind blue eyes that sparkled with mirth as he looked down at the imp standing next to me. “My name is John Hendricks. I am a partner at the advertising firm, Hendricks and Smith.” He handed me his card. It was on heavy cream paper with his name, title, and phone number in a clear, professional type.
Clearly extremely expensive.
I looked up at him, still not understanding what he was wanting.
“How can I help you Mr. Hendricks?” I moved to further the conversation when he stood there silently, expectantly. I was assuming I was supposed to know who he was but had no idea, I had never heard of him before. He looked slightly bemused and a little off kilter. Whether it was because I didn’t recognize the name or for some other reason I had no idea.
“This is normally not how we do things, we normally go through agents, look for the perfect model, and discuss it with the creative types, however, I couldn’t let you get away without saying something.” He looked around at the bustling city, at the pedestrians walking around us, like we were a boulder in a stream, slipping past then coming back together on the other side. “Is there somewhere we can go and sit down for a minute? This heat gets to me a bit.”
I was still very wary of this stranger but he was clearly well off, and he was looking a little pale. My mothering instincts kicked in instantly and I looked around. There were a few boutiques, too expensive for my tastes, a few fast food joints that were way below his, and then I spotted a bookstore not too far away. I pointed at it as I turned back to Mr. Hendricks.
“How about there? We can talk and I will grab you a glass of water. Lily could probably use something cool as well.”
“Yes that works. One second.” He walked to the SUV he had exited, talking quickly to the driver inside and grabbing a briefcase. The driver nodded, pulling out a magazine to read as he waited. Lily and I looked at each other, both raising our brows at each other.
He has a driver?
Lily mouthed to me, then we both giggled as Mr. Hendricks walked back to join us.
“After you ladies.” We both shrugged then headed towards the big chain bookstore on the corner. We walked to the café where I went to order the drinks. Mr. Hendricks stopped me, told me to sit and took control. Ordering him and me waters, and Lily a strawberry banana smoothie that earned him a great big grin. Once we were settled with our drinks my curiosity was getting the better of me.