“You were brilliant,” Ralph said, dragging her forward.
“Did you see me?” she asked, aware of her hands shaking.
“Yes, of course.”
How could he have?
“Off, off,” Karen said, dragging the negligee from Emily.
Suddenly, she was naked apart from the small black knickers. “Hey.” She clasped her hands over her breasts.
Karen tugged the red dotty nightie from the hanger. “Much as I’d like to spend time admiring your tits, Emily, this isn’t the moment.”
But even as she’d spoken, Karen’s gaze drifted over Emily’s body.
Emily quickly grabbed the nightie and turned.
She needed a raise.
She dragged the nightie over her messy hairstyle and, like the black negligee, it floated over her body, caressing her curves in all the right places.
“Red heels,” Ralph said, bending and changing her shoes.
Emily pressed her hand on his shoulder for balance as Karen fiddled with the straps on the nightie.
The other models were moving around the changing area, their actions swift and professional.
“Hair.” Ralph again fussed wildly with her tousled mop.
“Stunning,” Karen said. “We’ll sell a ton of these. You were made for this style.”
“I don’t know about that, I—”
“Of course you were,” Ralph said. “You’ve got curves, not like that lot…” He jabbed his thumb in the direction of the other models. “I’ve seen more fat on a dirty fork than on them.”
“You’re on.” Ralph once again steered Emily towards the entrance of the runway. “Go.”
The new heels were even higher, but luckily felt more supportive. They almost fit, too. She checked her boobs—they’d been forced upward again and looked a whole size bigger than they really were.
The tallest model stepped past her, a haughty expression on her face.
Emily took a deep breath. She could do this. She’d done it once and nothing disastrous had happened. The sun hadn’t fallen from the sky and she hadn’t tripped and shown the world her knickers.
She flexed and unflexed her fingers, then stepped into the bright lights.
The floaty material pressed to her body as she walked to the end of the runway. Again she didn’t rush. She took her time, her concentration on Max. He was her point of vision.
When she reached the end, she put one hand on her waist, cocked her hip and risked a look at the customers.
They stared back at her, some sipping drinks, some making comments to their neighbours.
She forced a smile and swept her gaze from left to right.
It was then that she saw him.
He was studying her intently, his dark eyes slightly narrowed and a single crease on his brow.
Emily’s chest tightened. So did her stomach. She wondered if she might be sick. Or maybe even pee herself.
What the hell is he doing here?
Shouldn’t he be running his hugely successful global enterprise? Selling yachts to the rich and famous? Rushing around London being fabulous and busy?
With her heart pounding, she turned. Her feet were heavy, yet also she was floating. She stared at the On Trend logo at the end of the runway. She couldn’t get there quickly enough.
But as she walked, she felt the nightie swish and knew damn well it would be showing off the lower curve of her arse. The black lace knickers were on show for all—and Henry Smythe—to see.
Oh, God. In a moment he’d see the gorgeous models’ bums and compare them with her very average buttocks. And to think yesterday she’d been vain enough to think he’d actually sneaked a peek.
If he did, he’ll be wondering why he bothered, now.
She imagined her backside as two giant peaches wobbling as she paced. Her legs were elephant-like, pounding along, ground shaking, back to the relative safety of the changing room.
Once there, she practically fell against Ralph. “I can’t do any more. I just can’t.”
“What?” he asked, grabbing her upper arms to stop her from running away.
“I can’t.” She kicked off the shoes. “He’s out there.”
“Who?” Karen repeated.
Ralph’s face lit up. “Oh, is he? How interesting.”
“No, no, not interesting. Mortifying, embarrassing. I’ll never be able to consult with him again.” She stared heavenward and growled, clenching her fists.
How can this be happening?
“Honey.” Ralph nipped her chin between his thumb and forefinger and made her look at him. “After seeing you in this I can’t imagine he’ll ever want anyone other
than you doing his consults.”