War with a Nobody

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I quit dancing with Walter Burton the moment he told me just how fat a check he'd be getting once he sells his mother's company to one of the many, many interested buyers. I'm sure he thought that information was his one way ticket to my apartment, but I'm not that kind of girl. I didn't value money for money's sake, I valued connections, prestige, and ambition. If he was looking to cast off his mother's hard earned power by selling it to the highest bidder, then there wasn't much left to say. He couldn't help me get my brands into stores with that kind of attitude. I wished him a good night and moved on to the next guy.

I believe I next landed on Samir Kouri, a rising designer in menswear, or perhaps it was Jason Buhle, who was producing a fashion designer competition show. I can't remember. I know I danced with them at some point, just as I know I ended up leaving them for a different dance partner eventually. The names and faces have blurred together in my memory. There were mainly men with some claim to fame or title of power in the industry, while the others were of little consequence and even less influence.

I started to think the night a complete bust. My Black Friday sales were mediocre, which didn't bode well for the Christmas season, and I couldn't even salvage the day by finding a new suitor to return me to my status as one half of a power couple. It was a dreadful way to start off the holiday season.

But, then I saw him.

I stood in the middle of the dance floor, considering my options for the night, when through the moving bodies of fashion's who's who, I saw a lone man watching me from the outskirts. He leaned against a pillar encircled with fall leaves and dried wispy vines. His suit, though impeccably tailored and fashioned from a luscious pine green velvet, didn't lend itself to a particular designer or brand. Something about it, perhaps the subtle embroidery bordering the button holes or the bold burgundy of his shirt, felt both completely off trend, yet masterfully stylish. Wavy golden brown hair curled around the tops of his ears and swept over his brow, curtaining his long, smooth face which bore a smirk upon his lips and a confident glint in his eyes. I was entranced, but also completely and utterly befuddled.

I knew everyone in the room. From our host, Sir Alan Mortimer to the waiter, Antonio, who had been at several recent parties in hopes of signing a modeling gig with one of the many designers in the room. I knew them all. In this industry, you have to know them all. Yet, this man, with his striking attire and handsome profile, was a complete unknown.

That was a problem that needed to be remedied immediately.

"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to stare?" I asked, with a playful roll to my words. "It's impolite." I tried not to wink or giggle or do any number of things my desperate, and slightly tipsy, mind wanted to conjure up. Admittedly, it'd been awhile since I had to flirt my way into a business partnership, but I had several men before Xavier. I had confidence in my experience. After all, I learned early on that the hope of a proper romance was a lost cause and flirtatious negotiations were the only way to succeed in a relationship.

"I have a lot of brothers and sisters," he answered with a slight grin that told me he was willing and ready to play this game. "She didn't have much time to teach us etiquette. So, I hope you'll accept my apology. I admit, I was consumed by the way you moved around the dance floor."

"Oh?" I said, a blush climbing my cheeks as a delighted giggle managed to escape my lips. I cleared my throat and attempted to proceed in a more sober manner. "You know, you could have just joined me and experienced my moves firsthand." I batted my eyelashes and a subtle growl rolled through my words. That felt more in line with the kind of flirtations that were proper for a man of this caliber.

But, as I said, I was desperate and a little tipsy...okay, bordering drunk...at the time. So, perhaps, that's why I didn't notice the vicious humor in the bend of his brow.

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