Twirling a marker, Cole stood at the white board in one corner of the backstage hall staring at the line up of the fifteen designs that were going to be on the runway in an hour and a half. Fifteen designs, and the design he’d thought would make the finale design was without a model. Shaking his head, he moved the runner up to the last spot and took a step back.
“Her hair shouldn’t be a problem if the head hairstylist fixes it,” his mother said coming to stand beside him. “The design can’t be cut out of the show.”
“I don’t want to refit it,” Cole said staring at the board thoughtfully. His mother was right, but it was always good to consider the possibility. Turning he looked around the large room where models were already arriving and getting started on their preparations. The hair stylists were already hard at work at their station, scanning them he frowned. “He’s not here yet.”
“I just called him,” Dianne said. “Don’t start scowling yet, without Yui’s stupid decision making; we were going to be on time. I cleared the schedule with him yesterday.”
“Do you realize you spend ninety percent of the time making excuses for him?” Cole asked bitterly. Refusing to dwell on that particular explosive keg, he turned his worries back to the situation at hand.
The show was purely meant to impress, and that was how the designs had been created. Each of the fifteen dresses represented a jewelry company that was invited tonight. His older brother, Antonio, had come up with the idea in order to invite more investment and increase popularity with high couture jewelers. He’d characterized each of the models using the mythical goddesses the fifteen designs represented. Glancing around the room, he started ticking the names of those who didn’t have issues. Iris, Rhea, Selene, Luna, Sol, Venus, Graces, Fates, Eos, Ceres, he paused when he got to Athena.
“She’s in the bathroom,” Dianne said helpfully. “Her hair is done; she’s going to makeup next.”
“I have to choose between, Gaia, Aphrodite, and Flora,” Cole said then. “One of them will open the show, the other will close. Meanwhile, we need to figure out what to do about Hera. The Swarovski jewels are on that design.”
“Michel might be able to help with the fitting, he can loan us one of his lead models,” Dianne said quietly. “She will understand if we have to pin it on her, she’ll know how to walk.”
“I can’t believe we’re even contemplating that.” Cole dropped the marker he held on its holder. “What the fuck is wrong with Yui? Partying all night, and showing up with a sheered head.” Just thinking about it was making him shudder.
Rubbing at his eyes, he almost groaned when his assistant came rushing holding out a cell phone and a clipboard full of papers.
“Antonio is on the phone, I don’t know who told him about Yui, but he’s panicking. He wants to talk to you,” Miaka said handing the clip board to Dianne.
“I’ll sort this out,” Dianne promised Cole as he stared at the caller ID on the phone. “Tell him everything is fine, Cole, and mean it.”
Cole grimaced as he took the call, walking out of the hall to the corridor where he could gain some modicum of privacy. His eyes were gritty, and he still needed to change from the loose black shirt, and soft pants he’d worn at six in the morning. Running fingers through his curly black hair, he cleared his throat.
“What’s up, Antonio?”
“I have plans riding on this fashion show, Cole. I can’t handle news like I’m getting while watching these representatives taking seats ready to watch their merchandise on your designs.”
“If this is your way of showing support, it sucks,” he replied. His gaze on his leather sandals, he leaned on the wall and tried to come up with a solution to Yui. “It’s a small staffing problem, Michel and I will fix it.”
“You’re including Michel,” Antonio said his voice seemed to rise higher and Cole closed his eyes.
Maybe he shouldn’t have mentioned Michel was helping. Everyone tended to react the same way whenever Michel was included in a crisis situation. “Antonio, please, I’m sure the bar is open next door. It’s still early, why don’t you get something to calm down and let me handle this side of things. Don’t you trust me?”
“You know I trust you, but-
“But nothing,” Cole interrupted him. “The show will go on without a hitch. I’m hanging up now.”
Hanging up, Cole let out a long sigh and allowed his head to drop for a moment. His confidence was lagging today. Yui was murdering him. When she had walked in, her red locks butchered by some unknown hair dresser, he’d wanted to kill her. If there had been a gun close by, he might have shot her. He hadn’t even given her a chance to explain, instead, he’d just kicked her out of the hall. To think he’d spent the past week, fitting Hera’s dress to her, reaching a hand up to rub at the back of his neck. All that work for nothing, the thought burned.
The double doors at the end of the corridor opened and he glanced up in time to see Savan Bovian walk in from the lobby and he wasn’t alone. The sight of the woman walking behind him had his blood pressure sky rocketing to unheard of heights. It thundered in his ears as though he was going to have a heart attack in the next minute. Hours of work, the stress of dealing with Antonio and his darned investors, the fabric issues the production department had made him go through, all of it seemed to explode in that moment. He couldn’t have stopped it if he wanted to. The bloody wardrobe disaster couldn’t walk in here hauling that woman as though she hadn’t just ruined his perfectly planned fashion show.
“Turn around and get her out of here,” Cole said pushing off the wall, and moving to stop their progress to the backstage hall. He couldn’t help noticing that Savan held tightly to Yui’s hand, his body positioned protectively just incase Cole was to lash out. Those slender fingers that teased hair into submission so easily were clenched around Yui’s-, he stopped that thought. “I won’t have her in my show and that is final.”
“I can fix it,” Savan said, not letting go of Yui’s hand. She was clearly shaking as she tried to pull away from Savan’s hold, but the punk was not letting go. Cole wished he would. “If you move, I’ll get started and the show can go on.”
“Who do you think you are? What can you do about a woman who has no hair? You were there during the production meeting weren’t you? Or do you only have a pretty face and no brains?”
“Don’t go there,” Savan warned, standing his ground. He handed his motorcycle helmet to Yui and moved a step closer to him. “I said I can fix her hair to fit the theme, but you need to move so that I can get started.”
“You’re not listening,” Cole replied tightly, his hands clenched as he stared down into cool dark onyx eyes. “She’s not modeling any clothes of mine.”
“Aren’t you overreacting here,” Savan asked with a frown.
Frustration mixed in with the emotions already riding him hard as his eyes helplessly followed the dance of lines on that smooth forehead. The urge to reach out and move the blond fringe away from Savan’s forehead so that he could see more of that frown annoyed him. Stepping back, Cole turned to look at Yui. Her eyes were red, probably from crying earlier. She lowered her gaze and he scoffed. Beautiful women and their weapons, of course Savan would fall for all those tears.
“We had a deal, Yui,” he said then. “Didn’t we?”
“Yes,” she said quietly.
“Your hair was supposed to be kept long for the sake of this fashion show. I especially asked you to do so, and still, you broke the deal,” he said, with a shake of his head. “That dress was to be the finale, if you wear it now; you’re going to be in the middle of the line up. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that. The offer to be the face of Niad is also off the table. Are you still willing to stand there?”
“She is,” Savan replied with a hard tone.
Cole couldn’t help turning back to meet those dark eyes again. He’d never met someone so unsettling. Savan seemed like a man caught on the verge of some sort of event at all times. He strove to remain untouched by people and situations; yet, here he was fighting for a model that had screwed up. What did he think he was doing? Why did he care what would happen to Yui? The publicity that would be generating from this, cutting her hair before a show, was going to be trouble for any jobs she thought to take in the future. Savan had to know that. Or maybe, he fought the ugly need to lash out as he finished his last thought. Were they dating?
“I was asking Yui,” Cole said with a lifted brow. “I don’t understand how your answer factors into anything she does?”
“I’ve made it my business,” Savan replied. “If she doesn’t care what her position in the line up is, are you going to let me fix her hair?”
“I don’t understand you,” Cole exploded. It would be a good thing if Savan could fix Yui’s hair but why did he need to fight for her so valiantly? Closing the distance between them, their noses practically touching, he could breathe in Savan’s scent. A maddening mixture of mint, lavender and vanilla filled his lungs. He closed his eyes as heat simmered deliciously, until he was fully erect. His trousers got too tight and the need to pull Savan closer rose.
“You’re invading my space,” Savan said coldly.
Blinking, Cole stepped back and let out a harsh breath. It had been so long since he’d reacted to anyone this way. It felt like a betrayal. Danny. He bit hard on his lip in punishment. “Go on in, at least that solves one problem. As soon as you’re done with her hair, call me, she doesn’t go on unless I approve it.”
“Yes, master,” Savan said mockingly, before he walked around him and into the backstage hall.
Yui hurried after her knight, and Cole was left to stand in the hallway puzzled by his own behavior. He needed this show to end, things would go back to normal and he could concentrate on something more important than his carnal thoughts. It was bad enough that he was lusting after a punk with terrible fashion sense. It had to be because he had been neglecting his needs. Shaking his head, he let out a breath and decided that after the show tonight he was going to have to do better than his hand to alleviate his needs.
Savan could barely breathe, his steps faltered the moment they walked in to the backstage hall. Stopping, he let go of Yui’s hand and took in a deep breath to calm down. This was getting unreasonable, that man was out of his mind. Did he have to be so forceful about everything?
“Thanks,” Yui said looking at him as though he’d just saved her from the depths of hell. “I owe you fifty, Savan.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he replied looking around the room and the looks she was getting. The rest of the models were giving her bad looks, no doubt because she was back after having committed such a faux pas. Glancing at his watch, he pointed to the hair and make up area. “Let’s go, we don’t have much time. I still think you should have called me last night instead of allowing your mother to do this to your hair.”
Yui sighed and followed him to the line of chairs set up with bright lights shining to allow perfect lighting. Slipping into an empty chair, she stared at her face in the mirror while Savan put away his helmet.
“I already told you, she gets that way, I have no way of controlling it. I wish I could explain it to you,” Yui sighed and he glanced at her with concern. Seeing it, she blushed. “Listen, we’re all not like you Savan. Our lives aren’t as free as yours seems to be. I have a family who depends on me. Even though I’m a super model, people think I have it all, but it’s not easy watching my mother lose her mind the way she does sometimes. What could I do?”
“You could have called me,” Savan said quietly, wondering if he really did come off as being free. Shying away from his own problems, he focused on Yui’s hair, running his fingers through it as he planned his design. “She didn’t have to cut the hair off; you could have used a wig. I’ve showed you how to get one on really fast, if you need to.”
“It was late, and I wasn’t in a position to save it,” she said shaking her head.
Savan couldn’t help marveling that she still seemed taller than him even seated as she was. Her beauty was the classic kind of beauty that was not too pretty, but ethereal enough to be stunning. She walked the runway like she owned the entire world. Her confidence was inspiring, and if you didn’t know her past and her personal life, one might mistake her for having it all. But, apparently, she didn’t have it all.
“Next time, call me before you go see her. You have my private number, don’t you?” Savan demanded forgiving her. To be truthful, he’d forgiven her the moment he’d driven up to Niad and found her crying seated on the curb. She’d looked so miserable, remembering his own issues earlier; he hadn’t had the heart to yell.
Picking up a wrap, he put it around her shoulders and pushed her chair closer to the mirrors and the counter of products put there by his assistants. Smiling at Yui, she let out a relieved sigh and started talking. “You should have seen the monster’s face when I walked in. I thought I was done for.”
“What have I told you about playing with fire,” Savan asked. The day before, he’d spent a considerable amount of time moisturizing her long hair before he’d died it red for her role as Hera. Staring at it now, he could hardly believe it was gone. “I moan your hair, it was beautiful.”
“Savan,” she said quietly looking at him through the mirrors. “Are you sure I can’t make you date me?”
Sinking his fingers into her hair, he wiggled them making her smile before he spoke.
“I’m as gay they come, my love, and proud of it. A hug and a night out getting stinking drunk is the best I can do for you, but first, we have to get through the next two hours.”
Thankfully, he usually planned for most types of problems when taking a job like this. Glancing at his assistants, he was happy to see that only two models were remaining. His most talented stylist, a young man named Kaito was busy working on Gaia’s hair.
Her colors were all shades of green, her blond mane of hair tumbling down her back in large barrel curls. Kaito was weaving green dyed pieces of fake human hair into it to compliment her makeup. Sali, the other hairstylist, was busy fitting an intricate flower piece of daisies for Flora, the goddess of flowers. Already with the dressers, the other twelve models were already done, and wearing their dresses. The excitement was intense as with each minute, the show drew near.
Dressers were rushing from one model to another, the fashion producer was ordering his minions around, and there was Cole, making juggling incessant questions from photographers, and dealing with issues with the dresses.
Happy that things were moving along, he got to work on Yui. Retrieving packages of fake red hair from a stash of fake hair in a box, he laid it out on the table, and got to work, blocking out everyone else in the room. Using hair glue, he fixed the track lines of red fake hair in her hair. At some point, he managed to fill her whole head with the fake hair.
Running his hand down through the mass of hair that had accumulated down her back, he nodded his satisfaction. Now that she had long hair again, they were going to get started on Hera’s hair design. Her crown was to be a pearlescent red crown that would fit at the top of her head. Grabbing the red and gold glittering string that Kaito handed him, Savan got to work weaving it through some of the hair on her right side, while Kaito did the left. Pulling it back, he twisted it on one side and took Kaito’s side holding them together on the back of Yui’s head; he tied the glittering string around the twists. Reaching for the crown made of scales that were polished to a red pearlescent shine he arranged it so that it fitted over her head making sure it fit in the twists so that there would be no chance of falling or slipping off. Stepping back, Savan reached for a roller, and started on giving the hair the barrel curls that everyone else wore.
“How much longer,” Dianne asked just as Savan did the last curls.
Glancing at her, he turned of the roller and put it in its holder. “I’m done.”
Dianne moved around him to take a look at Yui and gasped. Worried about that reaction, Savan glanced at Yui’s reflection in the mirror and smiled in satisfaction. Forcing fake hair into compliance was easier than actual hair. The full bodied barrel curls were perfect, and the color was a vibrant red that complimented her warm skin. She seemed out of this world. She moved to look up at him, and the lights captured the glittering string in her hair, making it seem as though it were sparkling hair.
“Cole wanted to approve it,” Savan said, flexing his arms above his head. He glanced around the room, noting that the models had moved to the waiting area where Cole was inspecting them. The make up artists were making adjustments and the dressers were watching over the designs. Catching the eye of one of the nicer ladies who did make up, he waved her over.
“I’ll get her dresser,” Dianne said with a secret smile.
“Savan,” Yui said when she was surrounded by the make up crew. He paused to look at her. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” he waved at her and motioned for his crew to start packing up. Finding Dianne at the clothing racks, he watched as she opened the bag holding Yui’s dress. “Do you need anything else from me?”
“Yui was last,” Dianne answered absent minded. She was staring at the dress, and frankly so was he. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. The crystals sewn into the bodice flashed in the light, like glittering ice on a bed of red silk. “You won’t stay for the end?”
“I don’t need to. I’ll leave two stylists for later,” Savan replied. “I’ll see you some time.”
“Fine,” Dianne said looking up at him then. “Thank you, I know it’s been trying dealing with my son. You did well.”
“I suppose,” Savan glanced at the tall man talking to a photographer by the models and shook his head. One last look, before he walked away. Drinking in the sight of broad shoulders, encased in a pristine white shirt, slender hips that moved on to long legs in black slacks. That black curling hair that spoke of his Italian heritage. Cole laughed and Savan couldn’t help the twitch on his own lips. The man had that kind of laugh, the kind that was infectious. It was a beautiful laugh.
“Savan,” Dianne cut into his thoughts and his gaze moved to her swiftly. “You were leaving.”
Her reminder sobered him. Which was a situation he needed to cure soon. Some time spent at his favorite club would get just where he wanted to be. Nodding curtly, he turned and walked away from her, and him.
“Yui is closing,” Dianne said when she found Cole at the runway entrance. He waved off the second last model, and turned to look at her puzzled.
“Gaia closes, we talked about this. If Yui is done, she should be right here.” Cole turned to inspect the two models standing with him.
“Trust me, Cole,” Dianne replied. “Yui will close.”
Not wanting to get into an argument, Cole frowned and was about to take his mother’s hand to pull her to the side, when Yui appeared. It was perfect. It was just as he’d imagined it on paper, he thought as she stopped beside Diane her left hand on her stomach from nerves. She glanced at him nervously, and he smiled.
“Yui goes last,” he said knowing a good show stopper when he saw one. Turning to his mother, he asked, “Where is he?”
“He’s left,” Dianne replied.
Cole frowned and watched as his mother walked away without further explanation. What did she mean Savan had left? Without even a single word of goodbye?
“I know where he goes after work,” Yui said quietly. Her voice soft, she glanced at him with a repentant expression. “The least I can do is to pay him back, right? I’ll give you the address when we’re done.”
“Give it to me now,” Cole said handing her his cell phone. He had a list of questions for his head hair stylist. First on the list was what kind of man left a job unfinished without a single word? Little punk!