The runway was set. Only, just as Madison suspected, she was worried about whether or not Tyler would come. She should have slapped Jasmine for suggesting this absurd idea, but she did have a few good points. She just wished he wasn’t her archenemy.
“Ms. Lee, we’re set to go on in five,” a stagehand announced to her in passing.
Madison nodded, twisting her hands into knots as she looked around for Tyler. She told him to be there at six. It was five till seven. Just like a man to be late. Just like a man to make a woman wonder. Just like…
“Looking for me?” Tyler came up behind her and pressed his hand against the small of her back. She shouldn’t have liked the touch and willed her body to move away, though she remained stiffly in place.
“You’re late.” She turned toward him, putting them at an awkward closeness.
“No. I got here at six just like you said.” He pointed to the spot of the backstage area where he evidently came from. “I’ve been minding my own business standing over there watching as this whole production came together.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Right. I didn’t see you.”
“You had bigger things to worry about.” He turned her around and gently rubbed the tension from her shoulders. “Relax.”
The event was a black-tie affair, and her slinky little black dress left little to the imagination. Her assistant, Maura, told her to wear it for the premier of the new line, and she was stupid enough to listen. Now with Tyler standing this close and his body heat surrounding her, she wished she had worn a nun’s habit.
“You smell really good.” Madison’s eyes popped open not realizing her thoughts came out as comprehensible words. “Uh, I mean…”
She knew he was laughing at her and tried to force her mind back to work. But how could she with him touching her, making her body react to his presence in the same room?
“Ms. Lee, I can’t get this to work.” One of the models, holding a string and wearing a frown, complained.
She wore the classic Blacklace nightie, the purple lace fabric falling to the middle of her thighs. The brassier portion of the lingerie should have been tied off to give her breasts definition. But evidently the string broke and the outfit was ruined.
“What happened to the string?” Madison asked as the stagehand lined up the models in show order.
“I guess it broke.” The model shrugged.
“It broke?” Madison jerked away from Tyler, looking for something to clasp the fabric with since she didn’t want to promote a faulty product.
“May I?” Tyler asked the model.
She gave him a naughty grin and nodded her approval.
He pinched the fabric between her breasts, then grabbed a small clothespin to hold it in place. When through, he used the ruffled fabric to hide his intervention and made the outfit look as if nothing had happened at all. He motioned her toward the runway line and sneaked a peek at Madison’s stunned expression.
“I don’t even want to know.” She shook her head, gaining a laugh from him as she began pulling out items for the second round on the runway.
“Ms. Lee, Taylor didn’t show up. She’s stuck in traffic, and it doesn’t look like she’s going to make it in time to model the Bella teddy.” Maura’s eyes were wide and intense.
“Shit. She was fitted for it over a month ago. Nobody else can wear her size.”
“Uh, one person here wears her size,” Maura corrected, looking between Tyler and her boss.
“No way.” Madison shook her head, even though she knew she’d end up prancing around on that runway half-naked. “Oh, why is this happening?”
“I’ll go get the design.” Maura, who clearly was looking for an excuse to get away from her hostile boss, turned and practically ran from them.
“What’s the Bella teddy?” Tyler asked, amused.
“None of your damn business,” Madison spat. “God. I’ve got to go out there half-naked with my nipples shining and have my picture plastered all over the front of every fashion magazine.”
“I thought you modeled your clothes?”
She turned, her heels screeching on the tiled floor. “For design purposes only. If I like the way it feels, American women will like it as well.”
Tyler pursed his lips and looked at the cart of gadgets beside them, while Maura brought the white lace teddy to her. Her heart fluttered, and she felt faint. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t expose herself like this.
Being in a photo was one thing. Images could be air-brushed before they went public. But to be live and walking around half-naked in front of an audience, that was a whole other story, a story she didn’t want to get involved in.
“Go put the teddy on,” Tyler said, bending down to the cart as he went through the gadgets. “I’m going to help you.”