“Well?” Emmy asked, helping herself to another slice of pizza. “How was it?”
“How was what?”
“The date! Duh.”
I rolled my eyes. I’d tried to block that from my memory. “Horrid. Ridiculous. Never happening again.”
“Okay then.” She stiffened. “Still, I’m proud of you for going. And most of all for putting Braydon in his place. Has he called again?”
I fought a wave of tears that threatened to escape. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d made a terrible mistake turning him down. I set my slice of pizza back on my plate. “No.”
“Hang in there, babe.”
It was easier said than done. I hadn’t seen Braydon in more than three weeks. Sure, he’d been in Hawaii much of that time, but still, he’d had ample opportunity to miss me, hadn’t he? And still, he hadn’t called again.
• • •
In the weeks that followed, Emmy became increasingly busy with New York Fashion Week. In the position to be more selective about work that took him away from the charity, Ben wasn’t walking in just any show. This made him even more in demand than usual, which Ben and Emmy used to their full advantage. Rather than simply being cast, they negotiated an exclusive appearance to the highest bidder. He’d chosen the Giorgio Armani show for a ridiculous sum that would go straight to his charity. I was proud of them for the careers they were building. It was cool to watch. They had the same vision and rarely disagreed, despite working long hours together.
Anytime Emmy brought up Fashion Week, I fought the urge to ask her about Braydon, which shows he was being cast in, and if he had any travel plans coming up. I knew that would only fuel my online-stalking of him. Fixating on him wasn’t healthy. He’d clearly moved on and I needed to as well. I did agree to join Emmy and Ben at the Armani postshow soiree. Emmy had convinced me, saying that Ben would be busy chatting up the industry people and she would be left alone. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which Ben left his beautiful wife to fend for herself, but I agreed to go. Honestly, the party sounded like fun. It would give me an excuse to dress up, get out of my apartment, and mingle with pretty people. The idea that I might run into Braydon there only fueled my desire to attend.
He was still constantly on my mind, and even though I knew it wasn’t healthy, I wanted to see him, I wanted him to see me, and I wanted to find out if we still had any connection. That evening I spent an inordinate amount of time blowing out my long hair with meticulous care until it was a glossy mane that fell down my back in a silky curtain. He’d take one look at me and drop down on his knees, begging for me to come back. At least that’s what I told myself as I got ready for the night.
I’d had a facial and was pleased to see my skin was soft and glowing. Applying my makeup was a breeze and I went a little overboard, dusting bronzing powder across my forehead, along the bridge of my nose, and the tops of my br**sts. I added pink blush to the apples of my cheeks, berry lip gloss, and two coats of black mascara. I felt sexy and confident when I looked at the end result.
Without much time to fret over what I would say if I saw him, I rushed to meet Emmy and Ben’s driver outside my building, grabbing my handbag and hustling down the stairs to my awaiting chariot. It was kind of them to send Henry for me. They’d both been tied up at different events all day, working their connections to seek additional donors for their charity, so I planned to meet them there.
I arrived at the swanky lounge where the afterparty was being held and gave my name to the bouncer. The velvet ropes were parted, allowing me to pass through. I felt very posh strutting into the dimly lit space. And I had little choice but to strut—my five-inch heels left me feeling like I was on stilts.
Dozens upon dozens of little white candles dotted the entire space and sheer white fabric floated down from the ceiling, tied into big bows that appeared to be suspended in midair. Pillows and cushions along the walls were the only seating and a large bar took up the entire back wall. I headed straight there, not sure what else to do with myself. Having a drink in hand would at least give me something to do.
Deciding to stick with the posh theme, I ordered a Cosmopolitan. Once I’d tipped the bartender, I accepted the martini glass and tasted the pink concoction. Potent but yummy. Turning from the bar, my eyes assessed the room. It was full of models and other industry people—publicists and photographers, I guessed. I spotted Ben across the room, chatting with an older man in a classic tux, but there was no sign of Emmy. And no Braydon, either. I concentrated on my drink once again. Parking myself on a barstool, I decided the little bowl of salted almonds would keep me company.
I dug my cell phone out of my little handbag to see if I’d missed a call from Emmy, but there was nothing. I considered texting her to find out where she was but decided I wouldn’t bug her in case she was making some connection for their charity.
Within minutes I was ordering another Cosmo to replace the one I’d sucked down rather quickly. Geez, I could already feel the effects of the vodka and Triple Sec as the bartender placed the new drink in front of me. Across the room, I spotted a buffet table with delicious things to eat—sautéed shrimp on skewers, mini burgers and lettuce wraps, and, oh my God, was that cheesecake? The buffet was all but abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. These people were crazy—this mama needed to eat. And almonds and vodka hardly counted as dinner. Oh yes, I’d be hitting that up later.
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