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Authors: Juliana Haygert

His Allure, Her Passion (6 page)

BOOK: His Allure, Her Passion
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“None of your business.”

“Hay.” He reached for her hand. “Tell me.”

She pulled her hand away and scooted farther away from him. “It’s anxiety, okay? Nerves. That’s probably why my career doesn’t go anywhere. I get sick every time I’m about to step onto a runway or before a photo shoot. I get anxious and my nervous system reacts. That’s why I didn’t fit in that dress at my last show. Because I had a nervous meltdown and devoured an entire box of bonbons by myself in one sitting.” She hugged her knees, her face still away from him.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Chloe,” she confessed. “I don’t like it. Do you think this is easy for me? That you saw my breakdown?”

He covered her hand with his. This time she didn’t pull it away. “No, I don’t think it is. But I’m glad I finally know why a beautiful girl’s career isn’t going so well.”

Hayley didn’t know what to say or do. She was embarrassed at breaking down in front of him, of throwing up in front of him, of revealing her secret to him.

Her muscles felt like she had run a marathon without any training, but she was dying to get home, brush her teeth, take a shower, and sleep in her bed.

She looked down at herself, and the panic threatened to take over again. Desperate, she grabbed a handful of toilet paper and started scrubbing the dress. “Crap, crap, crap. This can’t be happening. Another ruined outfit. The designer is going to kill me!”

Dylan took the paper from her and stilled her hands. “Take a deep breath.” She squinted at him and he squeezed her hands gently. “Come on, do it. Take a deep breath.” With a suspicious look, she did as instructed. “Everything will be all right. We’ll fix it.”

What he meant by that, she didn’t know, and she felt too spent to try to find out. She attempted to stand up, but slid down again, too weak and dizzy.

“Here.” He put her arm over his shoulders and helped her up.

At the sink, she washed her mouth and hands as best as she could. She saw how ashen her skin was and her bloodshot eyes in the mirror. “I guess I missed my last entrance.”

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

In the car, Dylan couldn’t help but steal glances at the girl beside him.

Stubborn, she didn’t want his help, but after almost fainting when trying to walk away alone, Hayley had accepted his ride. And he was glad she had, because she didn’t look good. Since getting in the car, she had leaned back on the seat and hadn’t moved. Her face was very pale, her eyes closed, and her hands over her stomach.

Poor girl. Why hadn’t she told him before? Why hadn’t she sought help? Ironic how she loved modeling, but her nerves couldn’t stand the attention. At least her problem was something solvable. She just needed to get over her hardheadedness and look for a therapist.

Still, her sickness didn’t explain why she’d avoided him for the last two days. Actually, knowing now that she had a show, he would have expected her to invite him to attend it, to help her with his part of the deal.

When he drove past her building, she finally moved and stared at him. “You don’t need to get out. Just drop me here.”

“As if you would be able to take two steps without your legs giving out.”

Her tone low yet impatient, Hayley argued more, but he brushed it off and parked his car in the garage building two blocks from her apartment.

Out of the car, she tried walking alone, but was still wobbly. Almost laughing at her irritating pigheadedness, he scooped her up in his arms. For a second, he thought she would argue, her pale face reddening, but she let it go, burying her head on his chest.

He didn’t expect her to be this light, nor to feel so weak and small in his arms. Had she submitted to one of those crazy diets some models went through before shows and lost too much weight? All this time, Hayley had been the image of strength and determination, modesty and compassion, the one thing pushing him to be better, to do better. Not once had he thought she needed help, that under that hard shell, she was sick and tender.

They entered her apartment and Dylan braced himself, ready for Chloe to charge him, take Hayley, and slap him hard.

Halfway through the apartment, he asked, “Where is Chloe?”

“Should be out on a date,” Hayley whispered.

In her room, he placed her down on her bed, careful not to hurt her in any way.

He sat down beside her. “What can I do for you? Bring water? Help you change? Give you a bath? I’ll behave, I promise,” he tried teasing, hoping to spark some reaction from her.

Instead, she rolled over, turning her back on him. “I want you to leave.”

Dylan blinked. “What? Why?” His fingers itched to reach out to her, caress her shoulders, support her. “Why have you been avoiding me?”

Hayley stretched to the nightstand, opened the first drawer, and picked up a few torn magazines. “Because of this.”

She threw the magazines over at him and hugged her pillow.

Confused, he picked up the magazines and flipped through the pages, until finding what could have triggered her coldness.

Damn. Pictures of blonde number two and him making out on the boat filled the pages, most of them ripped. Why ripped? And why had Hayley held on to them? The image wasn’t of good quality, but everyone could see it was him—and he knew it firsthand. The paparazzi could have been very far away, on one of the other boats in that area, or even a jet ski.

Damn, he never saw that coming.

A painful jolt took hold of his heart. He glanced down, at the girl hugging her pillow as if she would stop breathing if she didn’t, wanting to say something, but not sure what.

He whispered the first thing that came into mind, “I’m sorry.”

“For what? For breaking the deal or because I found out?”

He brushed her shoulders lightly. “For hurting you.”

She flinched away from his touch. “You’re hurting our deal, our friendship.” She sat up, her green eyes ready to burst into tears. “Now I’m the laughing stock of the whole world. The only girl stupid enough to believe in Dylan Deveraux, playboy of the century. Or worse, they’re calling me a slut. Another one you picked up, used until you squeezed all the juice out, then threw away.” Her hand flew to her belly.

Damn, he had screwed this up. “I’m so sorry. I never meant for—”

“Don’t finish that sentence,” she growled. Hayley shot up from the bed, losing her footing and leaning against the wall to steady herself. Dylan stood to help her, but she pushed him back.

“Stay away from me.”

“Hayley, listen to me.”

“No.” Her steps slow and unsteady, she walked past him. “Your time is up. Thanks for the ride home, but I can take it from here.” She rested her back against the wall and glared at him for a quick second, hurt and sorrow shining in her eyes. “You know where the exit is.”

She slammed the bathroom door, and he just stared at it, completely lost.

What had he done? Damn, he had promised her he would behave, to keep his hands to himself for two months. He had stayed celibate for longer before, why mess it all up now? Guilt corroded his insides. He had done this. He had destroyed their friendship. He had destroyed whatever he had with her.

How could he fix it? He needed to fix it.

“Hayley.” He knocked on the door, his forehead touching the cold wood. “Talk to me, please.”

“Go away, Dylan.” Her voice was strained and even lower from behind the door. “I won’t leave this bathroom until you go away.”

Apparently, he wouldn’t be able to fix it right now. He tried to think what Celine would say or do, but decided to give Hayley time alone. He just hoped her hatred for him wouldn’t deepen.

“I’m leaving,” he whispered. Dragging his ten-thousand-ton guilt as chains around his feet, Dylan left the apartment, a piece of him dying, knowing Hayley would never forgive him.

 

***

 

For three days, Hayley barely left her bed. Her stomach was still upset, and she blamed Dylan for it.

She lied to Chloe, telling her she had caught a stomach bug, and advised her roommate to stay away so she wouldn’t catch it. Unfortunately, the pills Chloe offered didn’t help. Her problem wasn’t her digestive system, but her nervous system.

But lying in bed all day wasn’t working either. It gave her too much time to think about Dylan, time to cry and mourn and suffer.

And it hurt. Crap, how it hurt. She’d been stupid to let her guard down, to let her heart get involved, to let her feelings for him flourish.

Since the first day, she knew he would slip and fool around. It was him, part of his nature. Even knowing he had changed, that he had been worse the first year they met, and was doing much better since then, she knew she shouldn’t have trusted him. On the fourth day, she finally felt strong enough, and with her mind numb enough, got up and went to her Pilates class. When she focused on clearing her mind and just breathing in and out during exercises, she almost felt like her normal self.

Back at home, after a shower and a healthy snack, she sat down with the newspaper in front of her, looking for auditions, open calls for modeling jobs, or anything that she could do and add to her resume.

The phone rang. She checked the caller ID to make sure it wasn’t someone she didn’t want to speak to. It was an unknown number.

She picked up. “Hello?”

“Hello. Can I speak with Ms. Allen, please?” the woman on the other end asked.

“I’m Hayley Allen.”

“Oh, hi Ms. Allen, this is J.P. Sun’s assistant, Andrea,” the woman introduced herself, and Hayley froze. J.P. Sun was a star designer. “I’m calling to invite you to a photo shoot with J.P. this weekend.”

Her hand flew to her chest, to control her racing heart. “Wow, that’s unexpected.” She tried sounding flattered, but not too shaken.

“Sorry there is so little time, but
Vogue
just called wanting a photo shoot with the summer line of J.P.’s clothes for the April issue and J.P. wants you in it. Dorant will be the photographer.”
Vogue
? J.P Sun? Dorant? She had to be dreaming. “You would make cover, too. And the payment is very nice.”

As if she had to think about it. Even if they gave her only one dollar, being on
Vogue
—on the
cover
of
Vogue
—would cinch her career. “Wow, I mean,” she cleared her throat, “I think I can squeeze in a photo shoot this weekend.”

“Great. Saturday? All afternoon?”

“Yes, I can do that.” Hayley held a squee behind her clamped lips. She was dreaming.

“Oh, almost forgot,” the assistant said, yanking her out of dreamland. “J.P. wants Mr. Deveraux in the photo shoot, too.”

“What?”

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

Dylan stared at the screen, his eyes blurring at the longest equation he had ever seen. The damn calculations didn’t add up. If only he had a trustworthy engineer to help him. If only he had….

“Hey,” James said, startling him. “Don’t you think you should take a break from that computer? You’ve been kissing that thing for two days. Non-stop.”

Dylan rubbed his tired eyes. “I’ve gotta finish this.”

Frowning, James approached Dylan. “Man, I support you, you know I do. I’ll even help you when I can. But, I have to be honest. This is crazy. You’re killing yourself here for something you don’t even know will work.”

Dylan stared at the monitor, switching the windows from the equation to the drawings. “I have to try.”

This project had been in his head for over a year. He would explode if he didn’t try it. Besides, now he had a motivator to make him finish it and be successful.

“So, that means you don’t plan to get your butt from that chair for the next month?”

“I do. I’ve got my classes to go to. And half of this,” Dylan pointed to the screen, “will be played at Princeton’s labs, so I’ll be going there, too.”

James shook his head. “I lost my partying partner.”

Dylan laughed just as his cell phone rang. He picked it up, already thinking of an excuse to offer his friends for not going out that night, or any of the coming nights for the next months. He almost dropped it when he saw the name on the screen.

James spied over his shoulders. “Don’t answer.”

He didn’t want to answer. He wished he was strong enough to turn it off. But he wasn’t, not when it came to her.

“Hey,” he answered, willing his voice to sound cool, casual, uncaring.

James muttered, “You’re a lost cause,” before leaving the room.

“Hi,” Hayley said from the other side of the line, her tone strained. “Do you have a minute? I need to talk to you.”

Putting on his jerk mask, he said, “I think I can spare you a minute.”

The line stayed quiet for a few seconds. Now she wouldn’t speak with him, but he didn’t want to be the one to give in.

“You know what? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called.”

“Wait!” Damn, he had just given in. He cleared his throat, hoping it wasn’t all lost. “You called just to tease me?”

“No. I called to ask a favor, but it seems you’re too much of a jerk to care.”

“Shoot.” The line went silent again. “What favor?”

“I was invited for a photo shoot, an incredible photo shoot, with an incredible designer and photographer.” Her nervous sigh made him wish he was by her side. “But they want you to pose with me.” Dylan burst out laughing. “Okay, that’s it. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

“Wait,” he said, forcing his laughter to stop. He glanced at his computer, his project blinking on the screen, so many parts unfinished, so many things to do, plan, draw. He had thought about going after her, about apologizing. Instead, he drowned in his project, hoping to get his head clear of her. But here she was, knocking on his door, asking for his help. He could play this. “I think I could do it.”

“Will you stop being a jerk?”

“I’ll try.” He smiled. “What do I have to do?”

She told him to be at the designer’s studio—she gave him the address—later that afternoon, to learn the details and sign the contract.

Dylan wouldn’t have his butt glued on his chair for long after all.

BOOK: His Allure, Her Passion
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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