Read an Excerpt
Dreams did come true.
People had always told Chloe Allen that, but she hadn't quite believed it until the lights in the tent went down, the music rose and she had the world of New York fashion at her feet. If they loved her designs, Chloe would get absolutely everything she ever wanted.
"I think I'm going to throw up," she whispered to her cousin and first assistant, Robbie, who'd been hovering by her side the whole morning. Her business manager and accountant, Addie, who she claimed as a sister, was in the back somewhere, as was Robbie's twin, Connie, her second assistant. This was truly a family business.
"You can throw up later," Robbie said. "Right now, you have to do one last check of the models and start the show, before something happens."
"What do you mean, something happens? Something bad?"
Because Chloe felt it. Even standing in the dark, surrounded by the models in all her beautiful dresses ready to walk that runway, she felt like something bad was coming.
Robbie gave her a little shove to the spot by the entrance to the runway, thrusting her into the spotlight, and from there it was all a blur until it was time to send the last dress down the runway. Eloise, the snottiest model of all, stood before Chloe, pouting that usual model pout, except it always seemed extra-pouty when aimed at Chloe. She took off, doing that odd, abrupt model strut, the dress in ecru-colored silk charmeuse swishing and swaying beautifully as she walked down the runway.
The crowd was on its feet, cheering madly.
Chloe started to cry, couldn't help it.
She'd done it!
The models lined up and took one more turn around the runway, all together. Chloe fell into step behind Eloise and her pretend groom, who as Chloe understood it was actually Eloise's boyfriend of the moment.
They got to the spot where Chloe's fiancé, Bryce, a fashion photographer, stood covering the show, and their friends in the audience started calling for Bryce to join Chloe on the runway. He jumped up there, lean and fashionable in black jeans and a plain black T-shirt, smiling that dazzling Bryce smile, giving Chloe a kiss on the cheek. They stood at the end of the runway with Eloise and her model groom/boyfriend, cameras flashing from all directions.
Chloe finally started to breathe, to let it all sink in. The show had gone off without a hitch, the audience applauding wildly!
Then she felt Eloise fidgeting, heard a quiet hiss of sharp words. Chloe shot her a glance that said, Surely this can wait until we're off the runway! Eloise's boyfriend whispered back furiously, Bryce, too. People started to notice, falling silent and then whispering themselves.
Not now. Not now. Not now! Chloe chanted to herself.
"You bastard!" Eloise screamed, but not at her boyfriend. At Bryce? "You just couldn't keep your hands to yourself, could you?"
Chloe whimpered, all the breath going out of her in a rush.
Her fiancé was involved with her top model?
It was such a cliche, especially finding out while standing here at the end of the runway, like making it all the way down the aisle of a church to the altar only to find disaster. This was supposed to be Chloe's day. Didn't they understand? She was the real bride here!
Eloise shook a long, pointy finger in Bryce's face. "I told you to stay away. I told you I wouldn't stand for this anymore."
Bryce looked pale and defeated. Chloe's mind had gone foggy and sluggish. Eloise was telling Bryce to stay away? So, Bryce was like annoying Eloise? Stalking her?
Laughter trickled in, getting louder and louder, and then the camera flashes became positively blinding. Chloe stood frozen in the midst of it.
Then she realized that Eloise didn't seem to be trying to keep Bryce away from her. She'd planted herself between Bryce and her model boyfriend/groom, shrieking, "He's mine!"
That couldn't be right.
Bryce was sexy as could be, and somehow he'd become Chloe's. He wanted her, despite spending his days photographing some of the most beautiful women in the world, unreal and yet gorgeous in that odd, perfect way of theirs.
Chloe caught a look passing not between Bryce and
Eloise, but Bryce and the male model. The ridiculously toned, tanned, good-looking male model.
An intimate, knowing, regretful look.
"Oh, no," Chloe whispered, fighting with all she had in her not to cry. Not here. Not now.
Chloe, wannabe wedding dress designer extraordinaire, part of the big machine that made little girls' wedding dreams come true, had a fiancé who was sleeping with another man!
James Elliott IV did not in any way keep up with fashion news.
His idea of fashion waswhen he was feeling really daringto forego his traditional white dress shirt in favor of one in pale yellow or perhaps blue.
But one fine September morning, as he walked from his apartment in Tribeca to his office in the financial district and stopped to buy his Wall Street Journal at his favorite newsstand, it was impossible to miss the fashion news. It was plastered across the front pages of the tabloids for all to see.
Some crazy model in a huge, billowing wedding dress jumping a guy on a runway, looking like she was about to claw his eyes out in the next instant.
Waiting for his turn to pay, James decided the model did indeed look crazy, but then most of them were, he suspected. Starvation made women mean and at least a little bit crazy. The photo showed that she had literally jumped on the guy, had her legs wrapped around his waist and her fingernails poised and ready to strike, the guy twisting to get out of the way.
In the background was a model in a tux, looking like he wanted to jump in, but didn't have the balls to do it. And down at the bottom, in the foreground.it looked like.
She was his ex.
The ex, if he let himself admit it. The one who'd really gotten to him, endearing herself to him like no one else, infuriating him, baffling him, hurting him, until they'd finally gone their separate ways.
What the hell had happened to Chloe?
The headline on the tabloid read Taking Bridezilla to a Whole New Level: Bloodshed at Fashion Week as Eloise Goes on a Rampage!
And who was Eloise?
The next tabloid blared Wedding Dress Designer Chloe and Model Eloise's Man-on-Man Nightmare! Their Men Cheating With Each Other!
James grimaced on Chloe's behalf.
And the third said Designer Chloe's Fashion Week Debut Every Woman's Wedding Nightmare: The Groom-to-Be Prefers Men!
Now James felt really bad.
There'd been a time right after their breakup when he'd been mad enough to want Chloe's heart broken, but this seemed unreasonably harsh. If it was even true. Most of the stuff in these rags wasn't, after all.
"Mr. Elliott?" The puzzled voice of the newspaper vendor, Vince, interrupted him. "You want one of those tabloids today?"
"What?" He looked at the man who'd been selling him financial news for years. Nothing but financial news. "Of course not. I was just.waiting to pay."
Vince shrugged like he didn't believe a word of it, then said, "Hot story this morning. We usually don't get any-
thing good that normal people care about during Fashion Week. But a girl-on-girl brawl over two men that's hot!"
"Chloe and that model got into it?"
"The wedding dress designer."
"Yeah." Vince nodded enthusiastically. "Right there on the runway, I heard. Hope somebody got video. I could get into that. You know that girl? Chloe?"
"Used to," he admitted. What the hell? It was Vince. They were morning newsstand buddies.
"She looks kind of mousy in most of the pictures," Vince said. "Like that Eloise chick could tear her apart if she wanted to."
James would never have said Chloe was mousy. She liked to pretend she was tough as nails and incredibly self-sufficient, especially when it came to her career. But when it came to her personal life, she could be sweet, gentle, vulnerable at times, fun, full of life, until she drove a man absolutely crazy. None of that equated to mousiness.
Although he had to admit, in the brawl photos, she looked tiny and sad standing there dejectedly on the sidelines. It looked like her show had been ruined, and she'd been working her whole life for a chance like that. She'd wanted it more than she'd wanted him, that was for sure. And it had just burned him up at the time.
"Sure you don't want one of those?" Vince asked, pointing at the tabloids. "They've got more pictures inside."
"No, thanks." No way he was going to buy that on the street. He'd swipe his assistant's copy.
Strolling into his office on the twenty-sixth floor, he greeted his secretary and his secretary's secretary and then asked Marcy, his assistant, to come into his office, a large, starkly bare room with a massive, gleaming wooden desk, big, cushy leather chairs and an expansive view all the way down to New York Harbor and Battery Park.
He believed in order, discipline, control, hard work and the power of his own mind. People called him a financial genius, and he just smiled and went on with his work. While the current times were challenging, they certainly hadn't caught him by surprise, and he was doing just fine while others around him floundered. Never believe the hype about anythingespecially the economyhe always told people. The philosophy had served him well.
He wondered now if he'd hyped the whole idea of Chloe in his mind to an impossible level. He couldn't have been as happy with her as he remembered or as miserable without her, he told himself.
And he wasn't obsessing.
"Mr. Elliott? Are you feeling all right?" Marcy asked.
"Of course," he claimed, then couldn't quite bring himself to ask for what he really wanted. He cleared his throat, adjusted his tie, frowned. "I just I need I want to see your copy of the New York Mirror."
Marcy sputtered. Her eyes got all big and round and then her cheeks turned red. "But I don't"
"Oh, yes, you do. I know you have that thing, and I want it"
"You know why. I'd bet a thousand dollars you know exactly why."
She looked truly flustered then, but didn't deny either having the damned thing or knowing why he wanted it. She'd come to work for him in the immediate post-Chloe era. He'd been in a truly ugly mood for weeks, and had ended up springing for unscheduled bonuses to her and a handful of other staff members forced to put up with him, as a way of saying he was sorry.
"Okay. I'll go get it," Marcy said, turning on her heel and heading out.
"And don't you dare tell anyone!" he yelled as she opened the door, his secretary and his secretary's secretary peering through, looking worried.
Great. Just great.
Marcy came back with the tabloid carefully rolled up tightly so no one could see what it was. At least she was embarrassed to have it. She scowled as she handed it to him, then reached over to type something into his computer.
"You'll want the tabloid for the photos, but the best written account is here." She pointed to a blog now up on his computer screen, then retreated from his office in an embarrassed huff.
James glanced through the tabloid photos, grimacing at what he saw, then turned to the blog.
The Bride Blog: News of all things bridal.
Bridal Brawl Breaks Out at NY Fashion Week!
Talk about a Bridal Nightmare!
Forget the bridesmaids! It's the other men modern-day brides have to worry about, as we saw in the amazing brawl that broke out at New York Fashion Week.
Wedding dress designer Chloe Allen, plucked from obscurity mere months ago when gorgeous pop star Jaden Lawrence got married in a Chloe gown, was having her first showing at Fashion Week when everything suddenly went horribly wrong.
It seems Chloe's fiancé, veteran fashion photographer Bryce Gorman, just couldn't keep his hands off the male model posing as the groom to model extraordinaire Eloise's bride at what was to be the climax of the show.
And what a climax it turned out to be!
One doesn't think of models like the beautiful Eloise as the kind to ever worry about losing a man to anyone, but lose him she did, and she clearly put the blame on Bryce Gorman.
Eloise jumped himliterallydesigner wedding gown and all. She wrapped those incredibly long legs around his waist and held on tight, her long, pale pink fingernails clawing at his face, supposedly drawing blood.
Bryce swung around trying to dislodge her, as her long train and veil floated around them in an odd melange of satin, lace and bridal horror that will not soon be forgotten.
So far the only video clips of the scene have been particularly unsatisfying. (A free bridal bouquet to the first person who sends a good video of the bridal brawl to this blog.)
Meanwhile, traumatized brides, especially the ones closest to their big day, have been writing to the Bride Blog like mad to say they're keeping a close eye on those groomsmen and any close friends of their grooms.
It seems that old nightmare of standing at the altar, surrounded by friends and family, and finding out at the last minute that the groom had a little fling with one of the bridesmaids has been replaced with the modern-day equivalent.
The groom doing another man!