That was when something inside Jack’s chest clenched tight…and he immediately knew why.
“She’s the answer to our problems.”
But what he felt when he looked at the beautiful stranger didn’t just come from thinking she could be the perfect spokesperson for their invention. Jack was a scientist who believed in what he could prove with numbers and calculations and wires and chips hooked together. At the same time, he’d been following a dream long enough to understand that passion lay beneath it all.
Suddenly, he had to ask himself, was love at first sight actually possible?
Larry and Howie had turned to stare at him as if he’d lost his mind. “How on earth could that gorgeous creature have anything to do with our problems?”
“Our device needs sex appeal. She’s got plenty of that. But we also need someone to represent it who will appeal to the broadest possible market.” He could see it all so clearly, just as clear as his first vision had been ten years ago. They would need both still shots and live commercials of her holding the Pocket Planner. Because people wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off her, they also wouldn’t miss the product she was selling. He gestured at the large crowd of men and women, boys and girls, of all ages. “Everyone is clearly mesmerized. Even two-year-olds can’t resist her.”
“Okay,” Howie said slowly, “you’re making some good points. But how are you going to convince Mary Ferrer to work with us? Especially since she has to be one of the most expensive models in the world, and our budget at this point barely covers our coffee.”
“Don’t worry,” Jack said. “I’ll convince her.”
Howie and Larry looked at each other with raised eyebrows, but neither of them expressed another doubt. Both of them knew that when Jack Sullivan decided to make something happen, it always did.
Mary Ferrer could hardly believe this was her final photo shoot.
During a brief break when Gerry, the photographer, changed film and the hairstylist touched up her hair, she looked around at the set that had been created in Union Square for the shoot.
How many bright lights had she sat beneath in the past thirteen years? How many makeup artists and stylists had she worked with? How many high-fashion looks had she sold? How many beautiful pairs of shoes had she worn that had felt as if she’d been walking on nails? How many big cities had she flown to for fashion shows then departed from as soon as the curtain fell so that she could get to her next booking on time?
Though Mary never took her good fortune for granted, the truth was that she’d started to lose interest in all those fabulous trappings somewhere in her mid-twenties. She had been discovered at nineteen by a very well dressed young modeling scout who had passed through Mary’s small village looking for a cup of coffee while he was on vacation in Italy. The man had given Mary his card and had begged her to let him represent her as a model. She’d reached out for her big chance with both hands.
All her childhood friends had been either married or engaged by eighteen. Just like the other women in her village, Mary knew her girlfriends would have a handful of children by their mid-twenties…and they would stay in the same place their whole lives.
But Mary had always dreamed of more.
She had always wanted to travel the world, had been filled with a deep need to see what else was out there. She’d read everything she could get her hands on in the library about other countries, from compelling travel journals to somewhat dry atlases. She’d also made sure to learn English so well that she could read it fluently by the time she’d graduated from school. Alone in her bedroom as a child, she would read her English language books out loud and try to mimic the tones of the actresses starring in the subtitled American movies at the theater in Rome.
Unfortunately, all Mary’s mother had wanted was for her to settle down with a nice man who was up to the job of “taming” her wild urges and giving her babies. If Mary closed her eyes and blocked out the sounds and activity around her, she could still remember their final conversation as if it had happened yesterday.
“I will not allow you to leave,” Lucia Ferrer had declared.
But Mary had not only inherited her mother’s dark hair, flashing blue eyes, and olive complexion, she’d inherited her stubbornness as well.
“This is my chance to finally get out of this small town,” she’d retorted in rapid-fire Italian. The two of them were so similar that the years since Mary had hit adolescence had been fraught with tension. Her father had done his best to try to smooth things out between mother and daughter, and she could see the alarm in his eyes at their exchange.
“That man you met at the coffee shop wants to take you to New York so that you can bare your skin to strangers in flashy clothes after they’ve painted your face with makeup like a tramp.”
Terribly frustrated with the way her mother was automatically assuming the worst—and the fact that she wasn’t giving Mary any credit at all for knowing right from wrong—she explained again. “Randy is a scout who works with a very successful agency. He says he can get me work as a model with famous designers in Paris and London and New York City.” Lifting her chin, she declared, “There’s nothing you can say or do that will stop me from going.”
But her mother refused to see things Mary’s way. “If you leave today, don’t bother ever coming back. You will no longer be my daughter.”