Lina Brennan loved her life.
She walked into the studio on Forty-Second Street with nothing but confidence guiding her every step. Three hours ago, she’d landed at LaGuardia Airport and stopped by her apartment to shower all the travel grime away. She changed into a tangerine pantsuit, white blouse and camel patent leather Steve Madden pumps. From there she’d taken the Ron Gold Fashions company car service to where she knew her godbrother and boss, RJ Gold, would be working for the better part of the day. The news she had for the head of sales couldn’t wait until they were both back in the office. She was going to take great pride in announcing that the quarterly London sales figures for the RGF Women’s World Collection were the best they’d been in the past year—and it was all because she’d been busting her butt selling the line to every vendor she could get to.
There were at least twenty-five people in the open-concept studio. Straight toward the back was a red desk and matching high-backed chair in front of a white backdrop. Two models wearing black—one in a skirt suit and the other in a pantsuit—stood in front of the desk, posing, as a photographer, stooped low about six feet away from them, snapped pictures. In Lina’s direct path were makeup and hair technicians, and clothing racks lined the walls of the space.
With giddy excitement she approached the small group gathered behind the photographer and tapped RJ on his shoulder.
“Hey, Lina,” he said after turning to see her. His greeting was equal parts pleasant and surprised. “Thought you were in Paris. When did you get back?”
“Just this morning. Here, I wanted you to see this right away.” She’d been carrying the folder in her hand even though her Tory Burch bag had more than enough space to hold it.
In her excitement she released the papers before RJ grabbed them, and they scattered across the floor. “Sorry, my mistake.”
She bent down and picked up a sheet of paper. Took a few steps in the same crouched position, snapped up another sheet and then another. When she stood, a light flashed in her face. A second burst followed quickly. Blinking furiously, Lina shook her head and held up the papers to block the light from her eyes.
“That’s it!” a man’s voice yelled. “That’s the look I want—busy, focused, determined. All while wearing a designer suit by RGF.”
Applause followed the statement, or rather, a few people clapped as she lowered the papers and tried to figure out what the hell had just happened. That’s when she realized she’d followed the scattered papers onto the photo set and was now standing in front of the two models. “Oh no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get in the way,” she said and immediately started walking backward to where RJ stood.
With a glance over her shoulder, she saw her boss frowning and prayed she wasn’t in too much trouble for interrupting the photo shoot.
“You weren’t in the way at all,” that man’s voice continued. “In fact, you were perfect.”
This time it wasn’t just the words that gave her pause but also the smooth timbre of the voice, which caused a quick jolt of awareness to slide along her skin. Lina glanced in the direction the voice had come from and gasped when she locked gazes with someone she’d thought she’d never see again. “Carver?”
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