the way you look tonight - Page 8

But it was her last relationship that had taught her the most. Romain Bollinger owned the finest watch company in the world. She had been hired to promote his important new line of Swiss watches, and though she’d always been careful not to mix business with pleasure, he was persistent—and charming—enough that she became his lover, as well. However, when the ad men decided the next phase of advertising for the ultra-important brand would be better served in the future by a woman ten years Mary’s junior, Romain agreed with them by replacing Mary not only in his ads…but in his bed, as well.

That’s when she learned that he had wanted her not for herself, but for her value to his company, both in his campaign and on his arm at parties. When her value disappeared, so did any pretense of affection. She’d been determined to finish out her contract, and that final week of photo shoots with Romain hovering over her harshly critiquing every pose and expression had been excruciating.

As she’d walked out of Romain’s Geneva penthouse for the very last time after finding him in bed with her young replacement, she’d sworn that she would never give up her freedom for anything but true love.

Now thirty-two, and still nowhere close to finding true love, Mary was all but certain her “freedom” would last forever.

But as the stranger’s eyes remained locked on hers while she held his gaze so that Gerry could get the shot he wanted, a shiver went through her that had nothing to do with the cool December air rushing over her skin.

Mistaking the reason for her shiver, Gerry called out to one of the crew to turn up the portable heaters on set.

For the next couple of hours, she continued to pose. Strangers came and went all around Union Square, but the beautiful stranger remained exactly where he was. Perhaps she should have been wary from his interest, but he didn’t look alarming in any way.

He simply looked like a man who was interested in a woman.

Maybe, she thought as Gerry finished shooting his final roll of film and the gorgeous stranger walked toward her, today wouldn’t be an end, but the beginning of something new and amazing.

Chapter Three

As the sun set behind the buildings in Union Square, the temperature immediately dropped by several degrees. Normally, once they called a wrap, Mary would have rushed back to her dressing room trailer to warm up with a cup of tea but, despite her shivers, she headed toward the man to meet him as he walked directly toward her.

Instead of simply holding out his hand and introducing himself, he took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. If another man had done this, it would have felt presumptuous, but Mary sensed that he was genuinely concerned for her having been out in the cold for so many hours.

His jacket, so big that it swamped her slim frame, smelled like clean, warm male. She wanted to burrow deeper into it, but instead she held it closed across her chest with one chilled hand while holding the other out to him. “I’m Mary. Mary Ferrer.”

“It’s been a pleasure watching you work, Mary. I’m Jack Sullivan.”

Despite having stood outside in the cold for the past several hours without any lights or portable heaters nearby, when his fingers closed over hers, they were warm. Even in her heels, she had to tilt her head to look up at his face and figured he was at least three inches above six feet. His shoulders were broad, his hips trim, and his hand over hers was large and strong.

“Could I take you for a cup of coffee or something to eat? You’ve been working so hard, I expect you’re starved.” He grinned and said, “I know a place not far from here that’s got the best cherry pie you’ve ever tasted.”

She couldn’t have contained her pleasure even if she’d tried. “I love cherry pie.” She gestured at her dress and heels. “I just need to get out of this outfit first and thank the photographer and his crew.”

“Take your time. I’ll wait here.”

She started to take off his jacket, but he put his hands over hers where she was holding the lapels. “Keep the jacket. You can give it back to me once you've changed.”

Every time he touched her, she lost her breath. And as she moved to where Gerry and his crew were packing things up, her hands were still tingling from the brush of his fingers over hers.

Making sure not to rush her goodbyes, Mary hugged each member of the crew. “Thank you so much for making my last shoot one of my very best.”

Hugs and kisses came from people she’d worked with countless times over the past thirteen years. What she’d miss most about modeling wasn’t seeing her face on magazine covers, but not seeing the family of photographers and lighting technicians and stylists she’d grown to love so much.

Gerry held her the longest. “I know you’re ready to move on, Mary, but I’m going to keep holding out hope that we’re going to do this again. Soon.”

Her eyes were damp when she finally stepped into her trailer to strip out of the red velvet dress and put it back on the soft hanger. By the time she’d slipped off the beautiful heels and pulled on her jeans, along with a turtleneck and a loose sweater that floated over her curves, excitement—and heady anticipation—was moving through her.

Okay, so it was just coffee and pie with a gorgeous man, but some of the greatest things started from something small, didn’t they? And hadn’t the last big change in her life—thirteen years ago—happened over a cup of coffee with Randy?

Mary didn’t waste any more time checking her appearance before opening the trailer door and walking back toward Jack. She even liked the sound of his name.