the way you look tonight - Page 7

In that moment, one she’d never forget, Mary had let her mother’s absolute refusal to see reason—and her own flaring temper—push her all the way out the door and away from their small country village.

But Mary had never believed her mother would stand by her threat.

She’d been wrong.

As Mary opened her eyes, she was glad of the chance to focus on the lights and excitement of downtown San Francisco at Christmastime rather than giving in to the gnawing pain in her heart that had grown bigger and bigger over the years that she'd been estranged from her parents.

But though she dearly wished she and her mother could have seen eye to eye over her career opportunities, Mary couldn’t imagine giving up the experiences she’d had all over the world or having had the chance to work with so many talented and passionate people. The past thirteen years had been exciting, lucrative and challenging. Despite the long hours and working in conditions like today, when the winter wind blew straight through the thin velvet of her dress and chilled her from the inside out, she would never complain about her career.

Gerry, one of her favorite photographers, moved to where she was standing at the side of the set with an apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry for the delay, Mary. I know it’s cold out here. Are you ready to get started again so we can finish up and then go get warm?”

Shaking off her thoughts of the past, she smiled back at him. “Absolutely.”

But instead of picking up where they’d left off, he put his hand on her arm. “I still can’t believe this is the last time I’ll get to photograph you. Please tell me you’ve changed your mind.”

Mary would have hugged him if it didn’t mean sending all of the stylists into a panic and losing another fifteen minutes to more touch-ups to her hair and makeup and clothes.

She’d had an amazing career and was still in high demand around the world for both print campaigns and runway shows, but after seeing what happened to models when they kept working past their prime, and how bitter they became when they were inevitably passed over for younger women, she’d made the decision to step into the next phase of her life.

“I’ve loved working with you, Gerry. Hopefully, we’ll work together again in a different way in the future.”

“Have you decided what you’re going to do next?”

As soon as she’d announced her retirement from modeling, Mary had been offered plenty of opportunities to consider: fashion editor for a major magazine, working with Randy at the agency, taking on an advisory role for a makeup company. As a teenager, she’d known becoming a fashion model was exactly the right choice. Now, after thirteen nonstop years, she knew she needed to take as much time as necessary to think through her next steps. And she would start by settling into the beautiful attached house she had rented last month on Nob Hill, just a few blocks from Union Square.

“As soon as I decide,” she promised her friend, “you’ll be one of the first to hear.”

As she moved back onto the set, she turned her gaze to the side and saw an extremely handsome man who was watching the shoot. He was wearing a suit, but his dark hair was a little too long and his five-o’clock shadow looked as if it hadn’t been touched for half a week, at least. His eyes were interested, like those of so many others. But something about the way he was looking at her was slightly different…as if he was looking deeper than men usually did.

Oh my.

Mary had worked with the best-looking men in the world, but none of them had ever made her feel this shock of attraction. Especially not with just one look.

The suit, frankly, looked all wrong on him. And not just because it needed better quality fabric in the hands of a top-notch tailor. Something told her that well-worn jeans and a favorite long-sleeved shirt would have accented the man’s rugged sensuality much better.

“That’s perfect, Mary,” Gerry called out to her. “Your look of longing is exactly right. Hold steady with it while I get some shots from the other side.”

She’d been so lost in the beautiful stranger’s eyes that she hadn’t realized Gerry had started shooting again.

It wasn’t like her to be caught off guard while working. She was known for her focus and stamina. And, sometimes, if people were being disrespectful to her or the crew on a shoot, her Italian temper would be revealed. Since she always gave her best, she didn’t think it was too much to ask others to do the same.

Longing. That’s what Gerry called this feeling inside her chest. And perhaps he was right.

Mary had been a virgin when she left Italy at nineteen and, with her mother’s voice continuing to ring loudly in the back of her head, she’d been careful not to let anyone take advantage of her innocence, either personally or professionally. At twenty-one, she’d truly believed she was in love with her first lover and that he felt the same about her. Too late, she’d realized he was simply in love with her glossy image. He was always gone before the morning light brought bed head and morning breath. Then, when she’d been hit with an awful flu and he wouldn’t come anywhere near her, she’d had to finally accept the truth that he only appreciated her when she was the “perfect” version of Mary Ferrer.

She’d been more careful with her next boyfriend, and the one after that. She’d made certain they had plenty of occasions to see the real her. And yet, as each relationship progressed and then eventually fizzled, she couldn’t help but feel that they had all expected so much more from her than from other women. She wondered if she would ever be able to live up to the idealized image men had of her from all her magazine and newspaper photos.