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Novelist Johnny Ray
A love affair at the top of the modeling world shakes the foundation of what was never meant to be.
MODELS AND LOVERS
Have you ever had love slip between your fingers? When was the last time you had a hero and heroine that you could really pulled for?
This is a love story blossoming inside the world of modeling. In spite of the glamor and intrigue of this high fashion world, love is really about one guy and one girl finding each other. But wait, there is one more condition--they have to admit it to each other.
Thomas (Tommy) Conseco, the frightfully delicious owner of one of the top modeling agencies in New York City, demands respect which he has so rightfully earned. Aspiring models from around the world would sacrifice anything to become one of Tommy’s “girls” fully knowing he can make them a legend, or send them home crying. Tommy has one rule he has followed without exception. He never gets personally involved with anyone in the modeling industry, and as far as sex with his models and employees is concerned, it’s strictly off limits. As a result, his heart is immune to even the most beautiful women in the world. This rule has served him well in business, but has left his personal life and bed cold and empty.
Enter Balarie Danson, the woman who is about to turn his carefully constructed world upside down. Balarie may not have the glamorous looks of a super model, but she’s bright, attractive and terrific at her job booking talent for the agency, especially the male models. Yielding to her charms, Tommy invites her to go on a business trip to Milan with more than business on his mind. When she turns him down, saying she’d prefer to concentrate all her energies in the New York market, Tommy assumes she’s refusing him and the possible chance at romance. The truth—Balarie is secretly terrified of flying and a long cross-Atlantic flight is more than she can face, despite her ambition in business and her secret attraction to her enigmatic boss. She’s heard the rumors, but the sparks flying between them are telling her Tommy’s looking for more than her talent as a booking agent. But Balarie is also looking for more than a one-night stand. So if Tommy intends to break his long-standing rule and seduce this woman into his bed, he’ll also have to let her into his heart because Balarie won’t settle for anything less than a love that lasts forever, and a hero who can help her conquer her fear of flying.
Balarie Danson’s excited squeal shattered the eerie silence as she flipped the switch to her new office. Suddenly embarrassed by the scream of overflowing joy, she glanced around. She assumed, or at least hoped, no one else worked this late.
Finally, she had landed the chance to prove to the fashion world what she could do. After so many years of dedication and struggling to get by, the sweet rewards of her success appeared to be so close that she could almost taste it.
She raced around her desk and dove into the dark brown chair on the other side, inhaling its leathery aroma. While nicely furnished with paintings and coordinated artwork, the space still needed her personal touch, which was why she had decided to work late with no one else around to bother her.
Balarie glanced at the boxes which contained her personal items such as some awards and photos of her working with various models and designers. While earlier in her career she had initially obtained some modeling work for herself, she had become a master at helping her modeling friends find work, which eventually caught the agency’s attention. Her move from a modeling career to handling other models with one of the best modeling agencies in New York City may have surprised many people, but none more than herself.
After walking toward the boxes, she stopped, as the presence of someone standing in her office doorway startled her. She swirled to confront the intruder—her new boss and the owner of the agency bearing his name. “Mr. Conseco! I didn’t know you were here.”
Thomas Conseco didn’t smile as he studied her. He looked taller than earlier. Being slightly over six feet herself, Balarie seldom looked up at many guys, especially in the four inch heels she often wore. “I heard someone yell. Was that you?”
That’s embarrassing. She decided to be honest. “I’m excited about working here. Sorry, I thought I was alone.”
“Good.” The features of his face shifted into the signature smile she remembered from earlier. “I hope your enthusiasm will last after you see how demanding this work can be. And by the way, you can call me Tommy.”
“Yes, sir. I mean, Tommy. I hope its okay I came in tonight to get my office ready.”
“This isn’t a bad idea. We have a staff meeting at nine tomorrow, and where I’ll be introducing you.” As he stared over the top of his light rose-colored sunglasses, she wondered why he even wore them at night.
“I’ll be there. I want to get into my role here as fast as possible.”
“You’re going to have your hands full handling some of the male models we represent. Many bookers don’t like working with them. My best advice to you is to find work for your top models before they leave us. You’ll never have a better time to make an impression than now.”
“Thanks. I plan to start interviewing all of them as soon as possible. Your agency has a fantastic reputation, and I want to uphold the name as best I can.”
The fact he talked to her openly made her feel at ease, but the constant stares confused her. Was he checking her out? She knew she hadn’t dressed in office clothes for the night, but she had never expected to see anyone, especially the owner at this late hour.
Tommy, on the other hand, dressed as if he would be the main attraction on a fashion runway. His hair, a dark-brown containing streaks of blond running through it looked gorgeous! The style was a mixture of a professional business man and artistic flare, obviously the creation of a world-class stylist. While many guys showed signs of a five o’clock shadow on their face, Tommy remained clean and neat, showcasing his high cheek bones and rugged jaw lines, the perfect requirements of a male model. At the distance apart from him she couldn’t tell the true color of his eyes but they were light colored and perhaps blue. She suddenly wondered if he had ever modeled himself.
“I certainly hope you remember our reputation is on the line every day. I know this is after hours, but any time you come to the agency be sure to dress appropriately. Many times at night we have clients dropping by to check on a shooting. And as you know, there are emergencies that can come up at anytime which have to be handled.”
She knew his comments were a polite way to tell her not to dress like this again. She took the message to heart as she started to apologize.
He raised his hand to stop her. “I think that will be all. Good luck on getting set up tonight and on your first appearance tomorrow.” As he turned to leave, she studied his suit. She wished she could name the designer, but couldn’t. Whoever it was had tailored him perfectly by highlighting his muscular body underneath the suit.
“Thanks, I’m not going to be here long. I hope to make it to the gym tonight. Thank you for the warning about clients coming by late at night. I’ll remember it.”
Tommy turned to face Balarie once more. “It’s a little late to work out, but it is better than never. I’ll see to it you receive an invitation to join my sports club.” He paused. “You have a chance to make a name for yourself here. If you do, you’ll also be a large help to our Paris and Milan office. I know you’ll love to see them soon.”
Panic swept through her. Going to Paris or Milan was impossible! She had made it through the first thirty years of her life without riding on a plane and had no intention of ever boarding one. Fearing this could cost her this dream job, she decided to hide the fact. Later, much later, she would tell him and hope for the best. She needed to respond, but how?
“Before I leave, let me give you one piece of advice the previous owner of this agency gave me when he sold it to me fifteen years ago.” His perfect white teeth glistened as he stepped deeper inside her office. He was either genetically gifted, or they were capped. He raised his fingers in a pyramid in front of his face before he continued. She understood body language enough to recognize the obvious signs of superiority but she expected such from him.
She nodded her head in appreciation of his advice, wondering exactly what he planned to say.
“He told me the number one piece of advice I needed to stick with involved screwing anyone involved with the agency. This is why I enforce a strict rule against it. I’m sure you remember signing a copy of our policy and procedure manual when you passed through personnel.”
“Yes and that makes sense to me.”
“It’s much harder than you can imagine, but it becomes easier after you’ve firmly established your name and professionalism.”
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I don’t date, and I work almost all of the time. My one vice is my physical training. I have to have my work outs.”
“Good, I see we share one interest. Since you’re going to be handling the men here, it would be good for you to make contacts with many gyms around the city. You’ll receive a complete list of breakdowns tomorrow on your desk, but you won’t have long to study the information before the meeting.”
“Thanks, I’ll do my best.”
“Your best is good, but results will help you keep your job.”
She didn’t expect him to be so brutally open on her first work day but knew he spoke the truth. Her job as a booker was to find jobs. She could make one hundred thousand dollars or she could make five hundred thousand. Her income all depended on how many quality bookings she landed. She felt glad the manager handled the careers of the models, leaving her to concentrate on sales.
As he turned to leave, she noticed his shoes. He wore Cuban type heels with the heels themselves made of some sort of an antique looking silver metal. The extra two to three inches was what added to his height.
As she raised her stare back to his face, he tilted his head to one side. “I see you noticed my shoes. These are a gift from Tony Marcello. He knows how much I love to dance tango, and he designed these for me.”
Balarie walked closer. “I hate to stare, but may I see them again?”
Tommy bent his knee slightly and lifted the material on his pants to reveal the shoes. As she dropped to one knee to look closer at the elaborate details of a silver and gold imprinted sun radiating in several directions, the quality of the workmanship mesmerized her. “Okay, like wow, this is one designer you have to introduce me to.”
Tommy allowed the bottom hem which flared slightly to fall to the floor. “That you can count on, he’ll become one of our major clients soon. He has a flair for design which outpaces many expert shoe designers.”
As Balarie stood, she looked into his ocean-blue eyes, a color she’d suspected earlier. His scent, perhaps a British Creed, floated toward her. She remembered avoiding many men over the last several years. This time she wondered if he really kept his word of avoiding sex with everyone in the modeling world. His vibes certainly didn’t convey his words. “I’ll admit to one more vice. I’m crazy about shoes. Buying the latest is where I spend most of my money.”
“I see. When words circulates that you do, expect to receive many shoes from designers who will be sending you their . . . latest. I’ll expect you to keep a level head in all of this.”
“I can return them if—.”
“What for? Enjoy it.” He glanced around the office. “I’ll check back on you later and see what you did here.” He left as he pulled the door closed behind him. Was this his way of making sure no one else saw her in her fatigues?
Since he had built this modeling agency into a power house in the modeling industry he had to be one smart dedicated guy. She needed to learn everything she could from him if she ever hoped to own her own agency later. She knew she had just gotten her foot in the door, but it was a good foot. She needed to learn the names of all of the top clients and how to satisfy their needs.
She turned toward the boxes she had delivered which would add her distinct look to the room, but she knew it would be dismal compared to the other seasoned bookers in the agency. She would use what she had. Since Tommy said he would be coming back to see what she did to the room, she needed to make a call soon to another friend, an interior decorator.