“I am tired of trying to make you understand, Michel,” Dianne Lucianne said in exasperation. Staring at the designs laid out on the work table in her office, she shook her head. “Haute Couture will not raise Niad Fashion’s reputation. I need you to design clothes for the fall ready to wear line. Can you do that?”
“Mother, you know I hate it when you do this to me. I can’t stand it,” Michel said with a strained tone.
Dianne looked at her son with a raised brow. They were at their family home in Ginza. It was a Friday afternoon, and Michel had come home to submit his current designs for the line. Michel was her first born son, and incredibly talented when it came to fashion design. The problem was that he couldn’t seem to take criticism for his art. Niad Fashion was on the brink of change, and they needed to make their stamp on the industry with the coming ready to wear line. However, Michel’s attitude was keeping them dead in the water.
Letting out a sigh, Dianne folded her arms against her chest and paced the length of her work table. Of her three sons, Michel was the only who’d taken after her late husband. His looks favored his Italian father; his eyes were brown, his hair curling wildly. His talent for high fashion and creativity. His temperament, that stubborn and unbending will, made him impossible to persuade. It was taking all she had not to walk over there and shake him.
“Michel,” Dianne started, but he stopped her by standing up and raising his hands up.
“Mother, I’m never going to be what you want me to be. Niad Fashions ready to wear is not me, you need to take a step back, and focus on the right son.”
“Antonio deals with the financials, you deal with the design,” Dianne said vehemently. Her second born son could not design because he’d been blessed with a brilliant mind for mathematics instead. He ran the financial side at Niad and he was also the one who’d advised her and the rest of the executives to venture into the ready to wear industry intensively. “What is wrong with you, Michel? All I’m asking of you is to make a few concessions in your design style.”
“I am not talking about Antonio,” Michel said quietly. “And I’ve tried making concessions in my design, I always end up unhappy with the results. Don’t ask me to do that to myself.”
“Are you suggesting Cole?” Dianne stopped her pacing to stare at her eldest son. “Cole is still in school. He is also in Italy, how do you suggest we have him focus on the business while he is away?”
“You need to check in with your youngest son more,” Michel said with a chuckle. “Also don’t take what he says at face value. He has been quite busy these past two years.”
“What do you mean?”
“Go visit Nonna and Grandpa,” Michel advised. “And don’t act as though you’re there to convince Cole to come back here. You’ll lose him.”
“What don’t I know, Michel? Is Cole alright? Is he in trouble?” Dianne asked, panic setting in. Family always came first before business. She loved her sons so much; she’d do anything to make sure they were alright. Cole was in Italy because she’d felt that was the best place for him while she brought up the company. She called him regularly and visited him every month. He’d been too young when his father died. When Raphael’s parents had offered to look after him in Italy, she’d thought it a good idea in order to give Cole stability. Now to hear that something was up with him, she shook her head. “Michel, don’t do this to your mother, tell me what’s up with Cole.”
“He’s not in school, mother,” Michel said quietly. Shrugging, he smiled. “I don’t think this should come from me, so go visit Cole. You might want to try Milan, he has an apartment there.” Reaching for his cell phone, he sent her a message. “That’s his address; don’t tell him I sent you there. He won’t forgive me.”
Cole’s Fashion was having a show at the Sevilla hotel. The three assistants who worked for Cole’s fashion had spent the day before arranging the hall they were using. In the morning, they arrived at five in the morning to complete the arrangements as well as prepare the gift bags that would be given to the guests and Milan’s top fashion critics. Attached to the main hall, was a preparation room that was currently filled with the fourteen models who would model the new summer line.
Moving from one model to the other, Cole adjusted seams, arranged fabric, tucked in unwanted fabric, making sure that each design was sitting right. Moving around the make up artist, Cole gave the models around him a once over, and a frown appeared. Someone was missing. Placing the tape he was holding on a table, he walked around the room searching for the male model who would wear the showcase design.
“Have you seen Danny?” he asked an assistant when he couldn’t locate him.
“He went into the little office you’re using across the hall,” the assistant answered. “Guests have started arriving; we’re showing them to their seats. I should also let you know that there are two members of the press insisting they want a look back stage.”
“Allow them in when we are ten minutes to show time,” Cole said firmly.
His assistant hurried away and Cole headed for the make shift office. It was a good place to escape from the madness preparing a fashion show could be. Opening the door, he slipped into the dimly lit room and let out a sigh when he saw Danny’s slight figure leaning against the desk. Closing the door behind him, he stopped and stared at his lover.
“What are you doing in here? The show is about to start soon, we should get you to makeup.”
“I don’t know if I can do this,” a small voice said into the room, the sound of it sending a thrill down his back. “All those people, Cole, this is too much.”
“Danny,” Cole sighed at the familiar words. He wished he could infuse some of his self confidence into Danny. His boyfriend was shy and had such a low self esteem it was painful to watch him sometimes. Moving closer to Danny, Cole stopped when he was standing inches away from the slender young man. Placing a finger under Danny’s chin, he lifted that beautiful face so that he was looking into startling hazel eyes. “Hey, you, where’s your smile?”
Leaning down, Cole pressed a chaste kiss on those lips before he pulled back and smiled. “Cheer up; do you know how sad you look right now? It’s depressing me. We are about to have an awesome fashion show out there, you’re wearing the most stunning summer clothes I’ve ever made, why are you moping.”
“Because, I might let you down,” Danny replied with a small voice. “I don’t ever want to let you down, Cole.”
Cole shook his head and closed the distance between them. Wrapping his arms around Danny, he rocked his boyfriend gently, burying his face into Danny’s blonde hair. Breathing in the scent of lemons, Cole closed his eyes and pressed a kiss on Danny’s shoulder. He sighed when slender arms tightened around his waist. He didn’t know how else to empower Danny. He loved him so much, and still it didn’t seem to be enough to give Danny courage.
“I love you,” Cole said gently. “I love you and you don’t need to worry about letting me down, because it will never happen, Danny.”
“Are you sure,” Danny asked, clinging to Cole’s shirt tightly.
“I’m sure,” Cole replied firmly. “Now, come on, we have to show off this awesome bod of yours out there. In my opinion you don’t even need the makeup.”
“Hey,” Danny protested with a laugh. “Concentrate on making the clothes, and leave the styling to those who know. You know the make up makes the show.”
“Really,” Cole said as if it was a secret being revealed to him.
“That’s why you have me, so I can remind you of such things,” Danny replied, pressing his own kisses to Cole’s neck. The feel of them made Cole’s heart soar. He loved it when Danny got affectionate. Pulling back slowly, Cole pressed a full kiss on Danny’s lips, hoping to keep Danny’s happy mood up; he smiled as Danny pressed his body closer to his announcing his arousal. Groaning because they really didn’t have time to do more, Cole sucked on Danny’s tongue for a moment loving the sound of Danny’s hitched breath. “Mm, you taste really good.”
Stepping back, Cole took Danny’s hand. “You can get more of that after the show. I’ll let you have free reign too.”
“You’re such a tease.” Danny sighed but he did allow Cole to pull him out of the room.
Dianne sat in the front row of the fashion show watching the designs on the runway with awe. Somewhere in the past five years, her twenty-two year old son had created a fashion house and turned it into a success in Milan. Cole’s Fashion had a deep following; the people seated in the seats around her were veterans of the line. The murmurs she was hearing were positive, which meant the general approach of the summer line would be an enormous success. How she had never known about Cole was still a mystery.
The model wearing the final design appeared at the start of the runway. He was blonde, his hair spiked up, as all the other male models had worn their hair. His face was made up with make up; his eyes were highlighted with dark shadow. He wore an elegant white shirt with an interesting collar cut. The back of the collar was up and the edges of the collar were tipped and opened up the neck. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows; his hands were in the pockets of the khaki knee length shorts. He wore white sandals on his feet, the look spoke of utter relaxation, and comfort in the coming heat. The shirt could be worn without buttoning, or buttoned. The model had only used one button in the middle of his torso. He walked with such confidence down the runway pausing for a moment, he allowed a full view of his figure before he walked back and reappeared a moment later with Cole on his arm.
Dianne couldn’t help smiling widely as her son was presented with a large bouquet of flowers. He bowed his thanks and waved at the clapping audience before he returned back stage. It seemed as though her son had done well for himself. The question was why he had felt he needed to lie about his success to her. It hurt to know that he had kept all this from her. It really hurt.
Cole was busy talking to three of his models who were hoping to keep the pieces they were wearing. Laughing with the three girls, he told them to come see him at the boutique the next day and they would talk. At least by then he would know what he would give them. As they hurried away, he took a sip of his champagne.
“You’ve been hiding something from me,” his mother said.
Cole had to press a hand to his mouth as he choked on the champagne. Turning around to face his mother, he wiped at his mouth with his palm and paused to stare at his mother.
“What are you doing here?” Cole asked in shock.
“Hello to you too,” Dianne said, with a wince. “I thought I should see what my son’s been up to.”
“Oh, mom,” Cole said and moved to hug her tightly. He wasn’t sure how she was here, but he was happy to see her. She looked so beautiful too in an elegant sapphire dress that flared at her waist into a full bodied skirt that reached just above her knee. The straps holding it up at her shoulders were made of small shining blue beads that danced with the light. Her hair was cut shoulder length and she’d left it to fall down without holding it. A few years ago, she’d been taller than him, now he towered over her. She was a short petite lady with a temper, he mused. “I’m happy to see you.”
“I’m happy to see you, but am also very angry with you.” Dianne pulled back to look up at him. “How could you keep this from me?”
“Mom, I’m sorry,” Cole said sadly. “It’s a very long story…, which you want to hear.” Cole added when he saw the expression on Dianne’s face. Damn that Michel, obviously this was about Niad Fashions, Japan. Just when he thought he’d escaped that particular fight. Reaching out to a passing waiter, he swiped a glass of champagne and handed it to his mother. “Here, have a glass of champagne.”
“I know you, Cole,” Dianne said sipping at her drink. “Don’t worry; I’m not here to talk about my company.”
“Are you sure mom?” Cole asked with a frown.
Dianne smiled as she met his gaze. Shaking her head she said, “I don’t want to talk about Niad. I want to talk about you, and what you’ve done here. I’m so proud of you.”
Cole paused, looking at her skeptically; she wasn’t for keeping things hidden. This was probably killing her right now. Hiding a smile, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Are you really sure, mom?”
Dianne nodded and sipped her champagne looking around the festive room. “Really, son,” she said. “You can even show me that girl you like, that made you move out of your grandparent’s house.”
Cole frowned. Things were always better out in the open, taking in a deep breath, he said. “Actually, about that….