“You’re considering it?” Parker says, clapping her hands together. “Well, it would require the next twenty-four hours of your life—I would pay you, of course.”
She blinks. “I suppose we can hammer out those details later. But we would have to work together around the clock. And there would be a runway show at the end of it. Tomorrow. In front of a lot of people.” She slumps a little, as if she’s just considered something. “Critics can be horrible, though. I-I don’t want to subject you to that.” She chews her lip a moment, then slides off the stool. “Maybe it was a bad idea—”
“Wait.” She’s leaving? Panic rocks me back on my heels. “Hold on, now, Nebraska. Sit back down.” She hesitates. “Please?”
Parker nods, takes her stool again.
“What exactly are you worried about?”
“That critics can be evil on occasion. I’ve prepared myself to be judged, but you…” She shakes her head. “To bring you into the fray and make you vulnerable when you have no experience? That wouldn’t be fair.”
“Vulnerable?” A laugh rumbles out of me. “Parker, I don’t give a rat’s ass about what some fashion critics say about me. Not if it doesn’t affect your show in a bad way.”
“I want to take that risk. I think you—” She cuts her gaze to the side. “I think it would be worth it. If you need time to consider the offer, I’ll understand.”
Let me see. Do I need time to consider spending twenty-four hours with this sweetheart?
Being around her knowing I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell is going to be murder on my cock, but I can’t bring myself to turn down the opportunity. To hear her laugh, to smell her wildflowers scent, to watch her work and learn more about her. Maybe Parker will let me become her protector. Or the one she runs to with problems.
Is it crazy to hope for that, since I can’t hope for more?
“I don’t need time to consider it.” I swipe my phone out of my back pocket. “Just let me get one of my employees in here to cover my shift.”
“You own this place?”
I nod once. “I’m Daws Mulloy.”
She takes that in. “You’re really going to help me?” she squeals, joy flooding her face.
Don’t fall in love with her. Don’t do it.
But when she launches herself over the bar into my arms, I worry it might be too late.
When me and Daws walk into the studio, everyone has gone home for the night and I’m grateful for the quiet. There is a geyser of ideas in my head and I’m eager to get them on paper. To test fabric against Daws’s skin tone and…and okay, maybe I just want him all to myself. I feel like I’ve gone out into the wilds of Manhattan and brought back a treasure. A big, beautiful treasure and I don’t want anyone else to steal him from me.
In comparison to his tank-like frame, the studio becomes a tiny dollhouse. I feel smaller, too. Like he could pick me up and toss me around like a beach ball. Why is that so appealing? Why do I keep looking at his thick, work-worn fingers and wondering what they would feel like tangled in my hair?
I’ve always kind of assumed my sex drive had never been installed. While I was on the reality show, my platonic, short-lived relationship seemed to confirm that. But maybe I just hadn’t met my type. Maybe I just hadn’t met Daws.
Oh lord, if I’m not careful, he’s going to catch me mooning at him.
He’s older, wiser and confident. Kind, too, for helping me at a moment’s notice. The women he dates are probably daring and bold. They likely know themselves, whereas I’m still finding out who I am. They probably take shots of tequila and wipe their mouths afterwards with their sleeves. It’s best if I keep my relationship with Daws professional so I don’t get crushed. I know what it feels like to be rejected, but I think it would hurt a lot worse coming from this man.
“How do you want to get started?” Daws asks, those massive arms crossed over his equally massive chest.
“Um…” I set down my satchel on one of the work tables and remove my coat. “I think, since I’m designing this line for you, I want to find out which materials appeal to you most.” I unbelt my coat and toss it over my satchel. Then I drop down on my knees and bend over, searching for the sample books in the cabinet underneath. It’s not until my hand closes around the book that I realize I’m probably flashing my ass at the man, thanks to the abbreviated length of my leather skirt. Normally this work space is full of naked models, so I wouldn’t think twice about someone seeing my panties, but I hear Daws’s intake of breath and the groan that follows, and God help me, I tilt my hips even more. Look. “Almost got it…”