Authors: Kristy Kay
“Mr. Hendricks, as much as I have enjoyed this rather strange interlude. And I don’t mean to sound rude, but what was the reason behind you stopping me and Lily in the street?” He took a final swig of his water, and then leaned forward, taking some papers out of his briefcase setting them on the table between us. He took a deep breath then dived in.
“My firm was given an account, a very big account with a large company who wants to revamp their entire public image, or actually they want to create a new one and a new subsidiary, a new brand joint with the one they already have. They are run with good old fashioned American values and business ethics, and want that to be reflected through the advertising. We have had a heck of a time finding anything that would reflect their ideals. Then I saw you and your daughter. The golden hair with the brown eyes, the carefree joy from the child, the patient unconditional love from the parent. Your daughter is the essence of freedom and joy. She is pure sunshine, reminding me of my boyhood days swimming in the river, riding bicycles. I want her to be the focal point of this advertising campaign.”
Lily and I stared at him, dumb struck. Lily was 12, she was a vivacious beautiful girl but I always thought I was just biased. Modeling of any kind was never something either of us ever even thought about, not in any real sense anyway. As we sat staring at him he grabbed a blank paper and some pencils out of his briefcase, quickly sketching a few pictures.
“It would be print and commercials. She would do both. It’s a clothing company so lots of playing with new styles. It would only be a few months; they usually have cycles or campaigns. Each one they try to be different and unique but I think this will by far be the most amazing and eye catching and they could end up using her for years.” He showed Lily and I the drawings. There was Lily playing on a tire swing, a barn in the distance with an American flag on the side, her bicycling down an old dirt road, climbing on to a school bus, doing somersaults in the grass, running through a field of corn, having a picnic, sparklers on the fourth of July. For a hurried sketch, these were pretty good and apparently explained why this man was in the position he was in.
“There are probably hundreds of kids out there that could do those.”
“None with the same innate carefree naturalness as Lily. I have worked in this business awhile. I know what kind of kids go into this business. Their parents force them into it too young or they themselves have the unnatural drive it takes to make it, but none of them come out on the other side without some kind of cynicism, and that shows through the eyes, through the lines of their mouths and the fake smiles. I want something more natural, something purer for this. Someone who is carefree and happy.” I glanced down at Lily worriedly. The past year had not been a good one for anyone, Lily seemed to have taken it all in stride very well, much like her mom. But I knew Lily was very far from the carefree, happy child she usually portrayed because she was so much like me.
“I am going to have my team draw up a bunch of story boards and ideas. I want to make sure we have this solid before you make a decision. I know you need time and that’s totally fine. I will send you everything we have and I’ll walk you through every step so we are sure you’re comfortable and she’s comfortable.” I looked up at the kind man in front of me.
“You don’t normally use the kid gloves with everyone do you?”
He smiled shyly.
“No we don’t. However, I think Lily can go a long way. If she wanted to she could grace the pages of fashion magazines when she gets older but I don’t want her to turn cynical or overwhelmed. I want her to grow to be graceful, full of life and joy, for her to share that with as many people as she wants. And I think you are the mom that is going to want to know what’s happening every step of the way. I’ll help you by walking you through all this one step at a time.”
“What about Tyler? Can he ride a bike too?”
“And who is Tyler my dear?”
Lily pulled out the picture she never went anywhere without. The last picture taken before her father left for the war, the last picture before our world was shattered. Tyler and Lily were grinning into the camera while her father who was dressed in his uniform, and I only had eyes for each other.
“He’s my brother!”
“Be still this aging heart.” Despite the quick stab of pain in my heart she grinned at the face Mr. Hendricks was making. He looked up at me, understanding dawning in his eyes as he saw the pain in mine. He nodded sadly then turned his attention back to Lily. “I think there is definitely room for this young man on another bicycle.”
I was brought roughly back to the present when a breadstick went flying past my face and landed in my water. I turned and looked over at Lily who was trying to look outraged and innocent all at the same time.
“Why do you automatically look at me like that? It could have been him you know.”
“No it couldn’t be. I outgrew flinging food at people when I was like 7.” Lily stuck her tongue out at her brother who returned the gesture.
I rolled my eyes and looked towards the entrance, where I had last seen the waiter to ask for another glass of water. As I did my eyes collided with a pair of dark blue ones. Without knowing how, I knew he had been watching me. He was gorgeous from his dark brown hair with just the slightest bit of silver starting to show, which was disheveled either by the wind or his fingers, I wasn’t sure which, to the rugged unshaven stubble along his jaw, to the dark jeans he wore with a blue button down shirt and suit jacket. He was simply the hottest man I had ever laid eyes on, and I had been my children’s modeling manager for five years. Suddenly recognition hit over me, I had seen this man before, many times. He was the source of many beautiful erotic dreams.
“Mom is that Daniel Kaehe?” Lily had followed my gaze, leaning over the table to stage whisper the question. All I could do was nod. All words were gone. This beautiful man, model turned A-list actor, was in the same restaurant as me, looking straight at me.
I frowned slightly.
Why the hell is he looking at me?
I looked down at myself to make sure I didn’t have butter all over the front of my blue dress. My hand went to my hair to make sure the hair was still mainly in place. I wiped my face nervously with my napkin, I hadn’t eaten anything but a man that gorgeous never looked at me, there had to be a reason for it.
“He is with Cora, mom. THE Cora.” With effort I moved my eyes to Daniel’s companions and indeed saw Cora Walker, the American woman behind the fashion house Lily and Tyler just signed with. She was a petite woman, short black hair cut into a bob that framed her pretty face, making her grey eyes look even bigger than they already were. She was wearing one of her beautiful dresses, an emerald green diaphanous creation over an even deeper green under skirt. She looked absolutely stunning and only illustrated my awareness that I was far from someone people noticed. My eyes fell on the man beside Cora.
That must be her husband.
I thought. He was a handsome man with his long black hair loose and around his shoulders. His hand was on the small of Cora’s back, a gesture I remembered well and missed poignantly. Then, because I had no choice, my eyes went back to Daniel. He had turned to say something to his companions so I relaxed.
“Lily, I don’t have anything on my face, do I? Or in my hair? On my dress?” Lily glanced over me quickly.
“Of course not. I didn’t throw the breadstick at you mom. I threw it at the jerk right there.” That earned a noncommittal grunt from her brother and a look that said he would get her back at some point in the near or far future. Tyler timed his revenge in such a way that Lily never saw it coming. Which always made me wonder why Lily even tried.
“Excuse me, Ms. James is it?”
I turned, my eyes widening as I saw Cora standing next to our table. Joey and Daniel standing right behind her.
“I heard that we just signed both your kids. I was going to officially meet them tomorrow. I like to take a personal hand in all my models so I choose them myself, but since we are at the same restaurant I thought why not come over and say hi.”
The waiter who was absent just minutes before materialized at Cora’s elbow, “Mrs. Walker we will be joining another table to this one as you requested.” As soon as he got a small nod of approval from Cora another table was joined to ours. Three more chairs and place settings added quickly as well. I looked at Lily who was watching it all wide eyed, then at Tyler who was for once sitting up straight with a touch more than curiosity in his eyes. Cora sat elegantly at the other end; her husband next to Lily and much to my dismay Daniel Kaehe sat right next to me.
“I hope you don’t mind if we join you. Seems a waste for us to have two tables at the same restaurant when I very much want to get to know the two kids I just signed.” I barely registered Cora’s words, trying to focus instead on remembering to breathe. Daniel smelled as good as he looked, a mix of mint, his shampoo or body wash, and hot-blooded man. He leaned close.
“Breathe Ms. James.” My wide eyes flew to his. There was definitely a teasing glint in the depths of his blue eyes that made it even harder for me to catch my breath. I smiled sweetly up at him.
“I will if you will Mr. Kaehe.” His eyes darkened slightly as he looked down into my sparkling brown eyes. To prove my point, I took a single deep breath then turned back to the conversation, making an effort to forget the incredibly irresistible man at my side. I refused to be one of many, I knew his reputation. He had married a few years ago to a woman who was pregnant with his child at the time his career was taking off. According to her, after a year or so he lost interest and was too busy with his career to put her first anymore. Since then it had been a string of beautiful women, one after the other, none of them for more than a few months at a time. It seemed no one could keep this man’s attention for long, and the last thing I needed was a hot affair with a high profile womanizer. It was definitely the last thing my heart needed.
“So Lily, I understand you have never been to Paris before?”
Lily smiled shyly at the woman who she had hero worshipped from a far for a couple years now. She shook her pretty blonde hair. “No, we never had a reason really. We have been to London a few times. Momma bought a cottage in Ireland, and Tyler and I had a photo-shoot in Milan last year. Other than that it has been all New York or LA mainly.” Joey looked up at me.
“A cottage in Ireland huh? Whereabouts?”
I could feel my face blush when I felt everyone’s eyes on me. I wasn’t used to having the attention on me.
“Umm… On the west coast in Donegal, it’s near a place called Glencolumbkille.” I said this while looking at my hands.
“Really? We have a home not too far from there ourselves. We just had it built not long ago. I love the rugged feel of the coast.” I looked up into his warm eyes and smiled.
“Me too. Its wild and beautiful, something has always drawn me to Ireland. The kids did a small shoot in Belfast, I took a trip to the coast, saw this small cottage and fell in love. Couldn’t resist.”
“She wants to write a novel. She said that’s the only place she finds enough peace for it… Ouch!” I look over at Lily who was glaring at her brother and looked to be rubbing her leg. I raised my eyebrows at Tyler and he just shrugged then turned back to Lily telling her to shut up with his eyes. She pouted prettily. Thankfully we were interrupted with the arrival of our first course. The conversation moved away from the cottage and me to focus more on the kids and a show of Joey’s at his art gallery a few blocks away. I made a concentrated effort to pay attention to the flow of the conversation, smiling and speaking when I needed to.
After a while I relaxed. Cora and her husband were very nice, friendly, down to earth people. He grew up in Belfast with Daniel, a fact that for some reason had totally slipped my mind. He was the photographer who helped launch Daniel’s modeling career. They were very comfortable with each other, telling stories about when they were growing up and the things they did to each other through the many years of friendship. They both climbed together, never letting the other one get too far away. Joey met Cora at a Paris photo-shoot where she was interning for Christian LA Croix, as a New York fashion exchange student. He had pursued her relentlessly until she agreed to marry him. They now split their time between Belfast and Paris.
“And what about you Ms. James?” Cora looked at me, smiling kindly.
“What about me?” I smiled.
“Besides managing these two scamps, what do you do?” I grinned at her description of my kids, thinking she nailed it right on the head.
“Well they keep me pretty busy Mrs. Walker.”
“Call me Cora, please. We are going to be very close. I can feel it. But they can’t be working all the time.” I smiled shyly, knowing my face was again blushing. Damn light skin.
“Then you must call me Kathryn please; they do a fair amount of working. Mainly in New York so they can finish school. Tyler just graduated from NYU with a degree in Engineering. With the advantage of tutors, his drive and intelligence he was able to graduate high school a little early and has spent every second of his weekdays working on his degree so he could do his modeling gigs in the evenings and weekends. Lily will be a senior this year at a private high school in New York. Thankfully the school caters to children in the business so provides tutors whenever the kids have to be elsewhere. When we are home, during time off, I consult as a family therapist with a foundation I co-founded with John Hendricks, I can’t do it full time but I like to help when I can.” The looks of surprise and respect that flitted across Cora’s face warmed me even further. I liked these people. Daniel had stayed pretty silent throughout the dinner except to send jabs or small comments to his friend across the table. But he chose this moment to speak up.