Page 44 of Buying the Bride

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The curtains drop and the crew rushes in. “Last one,” someone whispers to me. It’s a deep purple gown with a plunging neckline, lace sleeves and plenty of sheer material around my legs. This is definitely the most couture of the things I’ve had on today. I step into the dress, and there’s some type of body suit inside, but I don’t have a good picture of what the transformation will be. It doesn’t matter though because I’m high on the moment.

The curtains rise and I sweep the skirt out and let it drop. I can’t be a mannequin in this dress, it needs movement. I break my rules for this one, and I don’t stop moving. Even though it’s slow so I don’t fall off my pedestal, I dance, swaying with the music that’s flowing through the speakers and making the dress dance too.

The crew comes in for the final time, and this time there isn’t a clever flowing and clipping. With two buttons, half the dress falls off, revealing the bodysuit I felt underneath. It’s more skin than fabric, and I realize that this is the final transition: eveningwear into lingerie.

I lose my momentum for just a second. Do I want to be in front of half of New York in my underwear? The answer comes immediately and unexpectedly. Yes. Striking a new pose, I raise my arms above my head and lean into it, using poses that push the line between fashion and something too sexy for the Flatiron building on a sunny afternoon. I find Andrew again, but this time he’s not outside. He’s standing in the doorway of the gallery. The encouraging smile he’s worn this whole time is gone, replaced with a look of intensity and sheer heat.

The curtains drop and the crew comes to help me down. Suddenly I realize how exhausted I am. My feet are aching from hours in high heels and I’m sweating. I didn’t feel any of it until this moment. Someone from the crew hands me a water bottle, and another one a robe. They pull me down the hallway, I assume to get me out of hair and make-up, but Andrew stops them. “I’d like a moment alone with Delia, please.”

No one even questions, just subtly disappearing and leaving the two of us alone. But not even that is enough, because he pulls me into another tiny room across from the dressing room. It’s cluttered with random electronics and paraphernalia for the gallery, and there’s barely room for the two of us to stand together, but we do.

He towers over me, and I can feel the heat coming off his body in the small space. “That,” he says, “was everything I hoped for.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” I say, breathless at how close he is after hours of being drunk on the feeling of his gaze. I want to reach out and touch him, and he’s so close that I’m can barely stop myself from reaching out.

“I want you,” he says, and my breath catches. “I want you to work for me.”

Stupid, Delia. Of course he wants you to work. This was a job, not an audition for which model is going to fall into his bed. On the heels of disappointment comes a wave of happiness. He wants me to work. I can pay my bills and not have to worry about being evicted! “I’d like that.”

“I want to know if you can handle it,” he says, his voice sliding low. “I want to know that you’ll do everything that I ask, because I haven’t found a muse like you in a long time.”

“A muse?” I smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever been called someone’s muse before.”

“I want you to be mine,” he says, inching just a little closer, and I suddenly find it hard to breathe. “I want you to say yes, not only for me, but because it will help you too.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Oh? How so?”

“The things I’ll ask you to do won’t always be easy. And a lot of them will push your limits. But they’ll also help you become more. I told you, you have that fire in you, and I want to help you make the world burn brighter with it.”

I laugh a little, his passion at once arousing and unnerving me. “You come on a little strong, Mr. Xellum.”

“Yes, I do,” he says, his expression not changing. “And I always will. I know what I want and I never compromise, which is why I need to know if you’re able to handle it.”

Tags: Penny Wylder Billionaire Romance