I kept my eyes firmly on my book as I listened to the girls whispering behind me. My face was still burning, Liam had hung his jacket on the back of my chair instead of taking it back. insisting I keep it in case I got cold again. So, of course, the other girls were shooting silent daggers at my back.
“What makes her so special anyway?”
“God, what does he even see in that weirdo?”
“I heard they went to lunch together yesterday, Diana said she saw them kissing!”
“What! I wish he would kiss me!”
“I heard she’s sleeping with him; I mean what guy would pass up free sex? Maybe he just puts a bag over her head.” someone stifled a giggle.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, I slammed my book shut and got up walking stiffly from the room. Several sniggers followed me out the door, I snapped it smartly shut behind me and strode out to the lawn in front of the building sitting down with an angry huff. So, what if he doesn’t pay any attention to them! Serves them right, they're a bunch of stuck-up snobs! Suddenly his jacket settled over my shoulders again and he sat beside me giving me a concerned look.
“Your class isn’t over yet,” I said dryly glaring at my shoes, “You should get back to your fan club before they start thinking we’re a thing.”
He glanced back at the faces peering out of the glass door, they disappeared quickly, “Dusty are they bothering you?” he said quietly ignoring my biting remark, “I can make it stop, just say the word.”
“I don’t need you fighting my battles for me,” I snapped, “That’ll just make it worse, just drop it. Go finish the class.”
“Not until you join the class,” he said smiling gently, “Where’s the prickly little Dusty I met? I bet if you show them the same kind of attitude you showed me that night, they’ll leave you alone.”
“Now you just sound like my dad,” I growled, “Besides, I don’t want to scare them off.” I mumbled, “I want to be a part of them.”
“You really want to be like those petty glamor dolls?” he said and gripped my chin making me look at him, “I like you just the way you are, you stand out. It’s unique and refreshing, honestly, I’m happy you’re not like them.” Suddenly he pulled me to my feet, “Come on, we can go to the movies now. Let me dismiss class.”
“But I still have math!” I said going pale, “I can’t miss, Finals are next week!” he smiled at my sudden panic.
“Oh I’m sure I can help you out, I am a professor here after all.” he pulled me back into the storm of whispers in the classroom, refusing to let me go, “Class dismissed, I want a detailed analysis of the effects of wildfire on the ecosystem on my desk as soon as you come in tomorrow,” he said keeping my hand gripped tightly in his as he addressed the entire room. The class gaped, too stunned to even gather their books.
Without waiting for their reaction, he calmly pulled me back outside, “Are you serious?” I said stiffly as he pulled me down the sidewalk, “Hang on a minute!”
“Did I embarrass you?” he turned a disarming smile on me, finally stopping near the parking lot.
“No! I mean you should be embarrassed by me!” my insides churned queasily as I thought of the hell this was going to rain down on me, “They hate me, don’t you get it?”
“Well now they can hate me too,” He smiled and pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. I heard a smart report as a car suddenly lit up in response to the fob.
My jaw dropped, “That’s your car?” I was stunned at the sleek black predator crouched low over the pavement. “A charger?” my pulse hammered in my ears around the knot of excitement in my throat. My dream car!!
“I did say I wasn’t poor right?” he laughed, “Better close your mouth, a bug might get trapped in there.”
I snapped my mouth shut, “I still don’t think this is a good idea.” I said quietly, he opened the doors with a button on the keys and set me firmly in the seat.
“Here, take a seat while you think.” He reached across me buckling me snugly into the seat before I could react.
He climbed into the driver’s seat and the engine stirred to life behind us, sounding like an angry swarm of hornets. He pressed a few buttons on the impressive array of controls between us and pulled his seat belt around him. I glanced over at him nervously as he shifted the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot. Jesus, he’s pushy! I thought as he drove silently, he looked like he was deep in thought. He clenched the steering wheel so tightly in his hands, I could see the bones standing out against them. He glanced over at me suddenly and I jumped.
“We’re going a little earlier than I planned, so we need to kill about three hours until our movie is ready.” he looked angry, “You got any ideas?” Is he mad at me?
I blurted the question and his eyes widened, “Are you mad at me?” his expression softened and he smiled.
“What? No, I’m just sick of people nowadays.” his lips twisted in disgust, “I can’t believe they’re bullying you anyway.”
“Where should I start?” I started ticking things off on my fingers, “I’m too short, I don’t wear makeup, I can’t get a tan, my nose is too small, my clothes aren’t as nice as theirs, oh and the newest thing, their obsession is paying too much attention to me!”
“Well, I can tell you right now that for one you’re the perfect height, two, your skin is flawless, please don’t ever wear makeup around me, and you don’t need a tan. Look I don’t have one, I hear it causes skin cancer anyway.” he held his arm out for me to see, “Hmm...let me see your nose is cute and I can fix the clothes. I don’t see any problem with them but if they make you unhappy, then I know what we can do with our three hours.” he turned off toward a busier part of town, “And me? Well, they’re just going to have to deal with me paying attention to you. I like paying attention to you, you’re interesting.”
I laughed, “You’re so creepy!” I said and he shot a feigned hurt look at me clutching his heart, “Seriously, what is up with you? You do realize they’re possibly going to replace you for cutting the class, right?” he shrugged and turned back to the road, “Professors don’t cut classes and run away for the day with their students.”
“This one does,” he shot me a grin, “Besides, the dean is a good friend of mine. She used to let me get away with just about everything.”
I wonder why! I thought balefully, gazing at his perfect profile. He probably got away with everything because he’s so perfect! He glanced over and saw me looking at him.
“See anything you like?” he asked playfully, winking at me, “What did I tell you about staring at me?”
I quickly jerked my eyes away staring at the huge parking garage we were pulling into, “Where are we?” I asked, glancing around at the dark rows of cars flashing by as he drove directly to the top.
“Beau,” he said simply, parking and getting out with a grin. What! We’re at Beau? What the hell is he thinking! I can’t go in there!
I clung to my seat as he came around and opened my door, “No way! I’m not going in there!” he sighed and tapped his chin as if he was deep in thought.
“Well, I guess I could carry you in there, but I might scare the staff.” he gave me an impish grin, “Come on, let me get you some clothes Dusty.” he held out his hand.
“You’re not buying me anything here, are you crazy?” I glared at his hand as if it had rabies, “Do you have any idea how much these clothes cost?”
He leaned over, his eyes crinkling as if he were laughing at me, “Do you have any idea that my mother owns Beau?” I stared at him, too stunned to speak, “That’s one of my odd jobs, I model clothing here for her commercials and magazines too.”
I knew it! I knew he was a Beau boy! He sighed, reaching down to tug me out of the car, “Come on, it’s cold out here!” pressing the keys he locked down the car and pulled me to the elevator.
The towering building loomed over me, I glanced up at it uncertainly. What have I gotten myself into with him? He glanced over at my troubled expression and laughed, “Don’t tell me you’re growing feathers under those thorns now.”
I thought back over the magazines that I had come across at home. He’s got the same weird rune tattoo on the side of his neck as the three brothers everyone has been going so crazy over, I glanced at the small runes on his neck, barely visible under his hair. But he’s too tall to be Triple Threat and Erreur Fatale is blonde, “You’re Chevalier Noir, aren’t you?” I said quietly, he looked at me stunned.
“How do you know my model name?” he tilted his head curiously at me as the doors slid open in front of us revealing a plush lobby.
“Melissa collects Beau posters,” I said blushing as he tugged me up to the receptionist.
“We wear masquerade masks during shoots though,” he said cutting a sly look at me before turning to the sharply dressed woman behind the desk, “I’m going up to see Mom.” he said, she looked at me suspiciously, “This is Dusty Rivers, she’ll be coming with me.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Cross.” she pressed a button on her phone, “Yes Mrs. Cross? Your son Liam is here to see you. Yes ma’am I sure will.” she turned a bright smile on us, “She’s waiting.”
He turned to me as he pulled me to a different elevator, “You didn’t answer me, how do you know my alias? We keep our faces covered.” he looked carefully at me.
“I didn’t know it,” I said blushing under his scrutiny, “I guessed, why are you taking me to your mom? I thought you weren’t going to let me meet your family until I said I would meet them?” I rubbed my arms nervously, “What if she doesn’t like me?”
“Well seeing as my mother loves everyone, I don’t think you’ll have a problem with her liking you, as for why,” he grinned, “She creates custom styles on the spot, I’m going to let her dress you.”
My mind reeled; Angelique Cross is going to dress me? I was speechless, my jaw hung open. He reached out a gentle hand and closed my mouth.
“Once again, bugs,” he said and pulled me out of the elevator into a spacious office.
“Liam! It’s so good to see you again!” a beautifully dressed woman swept across the room hugging him tightly, she spotted me and smiled brightly, “Have you been out recruiting models for me again? She’s lovely, I bet I could do so many things with this one, she looks versatile.” she circled me inspecting me before he had a chance to speak.
He cleared his throat, “Mom, this is my girlfriend, Dusty Rivers.” She stopped short and looked up at me with a shocked expression. I gazed at him with an equally shocked expression, I don’t remember telling him yes!
“Well this is new,” she gave me a warm hug and turned to him, “You’ve never brought a girl to meet me before, she must be special to you.”
“She’s a student at the university where I’m substituting the rest of the semester for Karen,” he moved beside me and wrapped an arm around my waist, “I want to get her some new clothes today, can you help?”
Angelique lit up happily when he said that, “Sweety you don’t even have to ask!” she got a determined look on her face, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and get started would it?” she turned to her desk and pressed a button activating her com, “Amy I need my sizing tape and send Phillipe up here.”
“Yes ma’am.” a tiny voice came back over the com.
“Dusty, I know this may sound strange to you but I need you to undress please,” Angelique turned her gaze back to me and I turned crimson, “The undergarments can stay, but your clothes are much too bulky.”
“I’m not taking my clothes off in here!” I stuttered weakly glaring at Liam who was laughing silently, That weasel! He knew she would do this!
“Well knowing my son, there probably isn’t anything on a woman that I’m sure he hasn’t seen before,” she shot an accusing glare at him over her shoulder, he looked away innocently scuffing his shoe on the carpet, “Besides, for one the measurements will be off with your clothes on and I would also love to see you come back to apply as a model, you have a perfect stature for it. But to do that you have to be comfortable taking your clothes off around the staff.”
Chicken! He mouthed at me behind her back grinning. Scowling at him I reached down and grasped the hem of my shirt, taking a calming breath I pulled it over my head and dropped it on the floor. I glanced over at him smugly, his mouth dropped open and he gaped at me.
“Oh, close your mouth son,” Angelique glanced back at him, “You’ll get a fly trapped in there.” So that’s who he got that from, I thought as I nervously kicked my jeans away.
“Come here Liam,” Angelique said circling me as several staff members filed into the room, “I need you to hold the tapes for me while I write down measurements, Phillipe, I need you to color coordinate and you there, bring in the hems for the longer outfits” she was immediately all business, sending the staff into an orderly scatter around me. She went to work wrapping the tape around my waist first as the man she called Phillipe laid different colored pieces of the fabric against my arm. Clucking his tongue in disapproval he shoved the scraps in his pocket and whisked away to another part of the office. She glanced over her shoulder at Liam impatiently. He immediately stepped to her side and held the tape against my skin.
My heart leaped into my throat as soon as his hands touched me. I can’t believe I’m doing this! She got down on one knee and wrapped the tape around each of my legs next, then moved up to my chest. What is he thinking? I caught him staring at me with some unreadable emotion before he glanced away, a faint flush on his face as he held the tape around my chest. I can’t believe it, he’s blushing! I felt a giddy sense of triumph and smiled. Finally done with the measurements she handed her board to Phillipe who had made his way back to us. He immediately disappeared into a room connected to her office. She pointed a jeweled finger at my old clothes and one of the staff members immediately scooped them up. Emptying my pockets onto the desk she threw my clothes into the garbage.
“Yes, you’re perfect,” Angelique clapped her hands as she circled me, inspecting me from every side, “Can I convince you to come in and do a couple shoot for me?” she smiled, “Just to try it out? I think you would do wonderfully; I have a beautiful new line of lingerie I want to release. If you like it, maybe you can come sign on once you graduate?”
“Mom, she's a photographer,” Liam said, still avoiding looking at me, “I think she would prefer to be behind the camera.”
“I can let her try that out too,” she said smiling at him, “We need another talented eye around here anyway.” still smiling she turned back to me, “What do you say, Dusty, would you like to give it a try? I would love to put this set out there but my boys refuse to shoot together with any of our female models.” she shot an accusing glare at Liam who scowled at her, “Not to mention they’re a bit too curvy to display them to their advantage, but with your hips.” she circled me curiously, “Yes, I think you’re perfect for it!”
“They’re leeches,” he snapped, crossing his arms over his chest, “I don’t want anything to do with them.”
I looked at her hopeful expression, well, anything is worth trying at least once I guess. “I’ll try it out,” I said, steeling my nerves and smiling at her, “It’s the least I can do for you for going through so much trouble for me.” Liam turned his stunned gaze to me.
“Oh, sweet child, this is no trouble at all,” her kind eyes that looked so much like his crinkled at the corners as she smiled, “Honey this is what I do!” she shot a condescending look at him, “It’s refreshing to have such a sweet girl around, where have you been hiding her?”
Phillipe interrupted the conversation by rolling a long rack of clothes into the room, I gasped at the clothes, oh hell, I know some girls that would kill for some of these clothes! Reaching out I caressed the smooth fabrics.
“Now, I’m going to pick out the first outfit,” Angelique was immediately back to business sliding the clothes around on the rack, “We’ll have the rest sent to your dormitory, and I’ll leave it up to Liam to work with you on the basics of styling. Is that alright with you?” she came over to me with a deep purple single strap off-shoulder top and some dark blue leg hugging jeans, I nodded at her. She smiled, “Well let's see how I’ve done!”
After I pulled the clothes on, she circled me again, inspecting me as the staff started packing the clothes into long dry-cleaning bags. Liam watched silently; his expression indiscernible. Finally, Angelique came around to face me with a stunning smile.
“Well honey, I think this works perfect, Phillipe does have such a great eye for color,” she grasped my hand warmly, “I hate to meet and run but unfortunately I do have a board meeting in about ten minutes. It was wonderful meeting you; I think you’re perfect for Liam.” she turned and gave him another warm hug, “You should come to see me more often, and stop hiding this little beauty you hear me?” I flushed as she strode back to her desk.
He gave me a half-smile and offered me his hand, “I think we have about forty-five minutes to make it to the movies.” he said quietly.
I scowled at him, “You’re a weasel you know that?” his lopsided smile turned into a wolfish grin as he took my arm leading me back to the elevator, “Was that your plan? To see me half naked?”
“Actually, I can’t believe you did that.” his eyes looked dark as he glanced down at me, “You’re braver than I thought, you surprised me.”
“You were...testing me?” I said incredulously, as the elevator slid open, “I can’t believe you.” I fumed as my face reddened under his dark gaze.
“Well, do you believe me now?” he put an arm around me as we got into the second elevator to go back to the parking garage, “I told you, you’re perfect.”
“I don’t think it’s going to change anyone's opinion of me,” I said feeling uneasy, “They’re going to make this worse, they already think I’m sleeping with you for money or something.”
“Stop worrying about what they think!” he said, sounding tense, “Society doesn’t rule you Dusty,” his intense amber gaze pinned me to the side of the elevator. He ignored the door as it slid open trapping me against the wall with his hands on either side of my head, lowering his head he leaned his forehead against mine, “Damn it how else can I show you you’re beautiful? My mother, the most famous designer on this side of the country, wants you to model her clothes for Christ’s sake!” he frowned, “Why have you let those people beat you down like this? I understand now why you’re so thorny, you’re afraid, aren’t you? Of getting hurt…” My lips trembled under his verbal assault as the years of bullying washed over me, I felt a tear slide down my cheek. He hesitated when he saw it, his eyes getting wider in horror, “Dusty are you crying?” he reached down and brushed the tear away with his thumb.
I looked down at my shoes speechless, avoiding his gaze. He was right, people had always been jerks to me. Melissa was the only one who had ever tried to be my friend, but since she was so ridiculously pretty and outgoing, she was my polar opposite, and people hardly ever associated us as friends. He suddenly gathered me in his arms holding me tightly.
“Jesus Dusty,” I heard his heartbeat pick up against my ear, “I swear you are the most elemental woman I’ve ever met, you turn from fire to ice, and then from sunshine to rain.” he whispered into my hair, “Please promise me you’ll never change.”
I silently nodded against his chest, even my thoughts were silent. He checked his watch behind my back, “Well, we're going to be late for the movie, is there any way I can convince you to come back to my flat to watch a movie?” he said and I immediately put up my guard again.
“In your flat alone?” I pulled away looking at his forced smile, “Isn’t that a bit personal for two friends who aren’t dating?”
“Well, my two brothers live there with me.” he said, leading me back to his car, “If that makes you feel any better, I mean they can be worse than me about pretty girls, but I’m sure I can convince them to keep their paws off of you.” his weak attempt to cheer me up didn’t work, I grimaced.
“Okay fine,” I consented, my nerves stretching taut, Oh no, worse than him? I didn’t think my nerves would be able to handle it, “But no romances, I’m serious, I still want to watch something scary.” I settled into the seat and once again he buckled me in.
“We’ll talk about the dating issue.” he shot me a wicked grin when he climbed into the driver's seat, I blushed, “I’d like to keep you around Dusty.”
I folded my hands, staring at my lap as the engine purred to life again. He quickly wound his way out of the parking garage and slid into the busy afternoon traffic. He kept shooting worried glances at me as he drove.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he said quietly, as we turned into a residential drive, “You look nervous.”
I looked over at him startled out of my thoughts, “It’s nothing,” I shot him a quick smile, my face feeling warm.
“Alright then,” he looked puzzled as he turned into a drive and I looked up, gaping at the penthouse in front of us.
“I thought you said this was a flat?” I said incredulously as he parked beside a beautiful silver C7 Corvette and a flashy yellow Shelby cobra with racing stripes, “This is practically a mansion, and whose cars are those?”
“My brothers are home,” he said with a sigh, “This is where I live, and I hope you’re prepared for this,” he grinned, “Watch Darren’s hands, they tend to wander a bit and Micah he’s...um.” his face darkened, “Flirtatious, don’t let them intimidate you okay?” My nerves jumped nervously, Shit, I hope I can handle this!
About the author
I am a single mom of four who is also a published author! I use writing as a second income to help me raise my kids so every little bit helps! I write Erotic Fantasy novels and poems. if you love my work thank you! I appreciate your time!