Instead, she could see that he automatically understood. “I’m not going anywhere. Go see who that is.”
She pressed a quick—and grateful—kiss to his lips before rushing off to grab the phone from its cradle. “Hello, this is Mary.”
Yvette’s cheerful voice came through the line, and Mary had to smile at the girl’s rush of excited words. “Slow down, Yvette,” she said with a laugh. She grinned at Jack, who was in the kitchen filling her moka pot with water. “Start over at the beginning so that I make sure I get all the fantastic, exciting details straight. You were playing cards with your aunt and uncle in your Iowa farmhouse when you got a call about a last-minute shoot in Switzerland?”
Mary had just kicked off her shoes and was tucking her legs beneath her to relax on the couch when Yvette said the one name she’d never wanted to hear again, much less a name connected with one of her young model friends. “Romain?” His name followed a sharp intake of breath as Mary confirmed again, “You’re working with Romain Bollinger in Switzerland?”
Yvette continued to chatter in her ear, while Mary’s hand went numb on the phone as she was hit with a crystal-clear flashback to that horrible day she’d walked into his penthouse and found him in bed with a much younger model.
A young model who had looked an awful lot like Yvette…and one who hadn’t lasted any longer in his bed, or life, than Mary had. Models, they’d all learned the hard way, were totally dispensable objects to Romain. He was, in fact, a thousand times more faithful to his French chef than he was to any of the women he brought in through his revolving door.
On a night when Mary should have been basking in the glow of finding a man like Jack Sullivan, she was forcibly reminded of what a fool she’d been when it came to matters of the heart. She’d believed every one of Romain’s false promises and had been so desperate for someone to love her that she’d turned every one of his pretty lies and every single kiss into so much more than he had ever meant them to be.
Sitting on the couch speaking with Yvette on the phone while Jack was just feet away in the kitchen, Mary couldn’t stop her past and present from getting all tangled up again.
Jack and Romain, Mary and Yvette, love and loss, heartbreak and recovery…she simply couldn’t figure out how to separate them.
Belatedly, Mary realized that Jack had left the kitchen and was kneeling in front of her, her free hand in his. His eyes were full of concern and silent support.
A week ago she probably would have run, would have done anything she could to push him away and escape from feelings that were too strong and too frightening. But, amazingly, as she stared into his eyes and felt his thumb stroke over her palm, she actually felt her insides begin to untwist. Enough that she finally realized Yvette was saying her name over and over, asking if their connection was still all right or if they’d been cut off.
Working to refocus her thoughts on the bright, vibrant young woman on the phone, Mary knew she needed to warn Yvette to be careful with Romain. She wouldn’t be able to stand it if the fun, lively girl was drawn in by his false promises and ended up hurt and disillusioned. At the same time, however, Mary remembered all too well what it was like to be a headstrong young woman. Whenever anyone had told her to be cautious, there had been nothing more she’d wanted than to prove she could deal brilliantly with whatever risky situation had been thrown at her.
Very carefully, in as easy a voice as she could manage, Mary told Yvette, “I worked with Romain and his company a few years ago. The photo shoot was excellent, but—”
Oh, how she wished she could find exactly the right words to keep Yvette safe. Barring getting on a plane to Switzerland and watching over the photo shoot to make sure he didn’t try anything, it was simply impossible to play bodyguard to the young models who had come to mean so much to her. And wasn’t it true that they would soon come to hate her for hovering?
Mary took a deep breath. All she could do was tell Yvette the truth of her feelings and then trust her to do the best she could with the information. “Romain is quite a ladies’ man. I know that because I didn’t just work with him,” she admitted in a voice she worked hard to keep steady. “I dated him for a while, too.” Jack’s hand on hers kept her warm and grounded as she told Yvette, “It didn’t end well, and the reason it didn’t is because he cheated on me. To him, I was nothing more than an expendable pretty face. I could never forgive myself if something like that happened to you—I just wanted you to know.”
“He sounds like scum,” Yvette said in a passionate voice. “And stupid, too, for cheating on you. What guy could be that dumb when you’re so amazing?”
Mary was more than a little surprised to find herself starting to smile at Yvette’s reaction. And then when the girl said, “Besides, I’m not interested in old guys like him,” she could all but see Yvette’s nose scrunch up as she added, “Eww.”
Mary couldn’t keep her laughter from bubbling up and over as she agreed with a simple and heartfelt, “Yuck.”
All those years ago, when Mary had been telling her mother about her grand opportunities to model in New York City, all she’d wanted was for her mother to have faith that her daughter would make good decisions. Now, she realized, it was her turn to do that for Yvette.
Of course, Mary had known all along that Yvette had a good head on her beautiful shoulders. Which was why she meant every word when she told her, “You’re going to knock them off their feet in Switzerland, honey. I can’t wait to hear all about it when you get back. And thank you for sharing this great news with me.”