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I'M out of hair-spray, Diana. Can I borrow some of yours?' Stella hovered behind the blonde-haired girl, taking care not to move her head too much for fear a brunette lock might slip out of place in her elaborate hairstyle.
'There.' Diana pointed to an aerosol can on the table with the end of her eyebrow pencil before returning her concentration to the reflection in her makeup mirror.
Perfect, beautiful features stared serenely back. Large, luminous blue eyes that seldom revealed her inner thoughts were superbly framed by long curling lashes. Their thickness was increased now by the application of artificial eyelashes while a turquoise shade of eyeshadow intensified the colour of her eyes. Her nose was exactly right, not too short, not too straight, not too large. Her lips were proportioned correctly too, with her upper lip forming a perfect cupid's bow, and the lower lip was just enough larger to appear sensuous under the application of layers of lip gloss over the pink-tinted lipstick. She had an oval face and her creamy clear complexion was the envy of all the models. The pale, ivory base make-up seemed wasted since nothing could improve it.
From long experience, Diana added light feathery strokes of the charcoal-grey eyebrow pencil to fill in and accent her finely arched brows. Removing the blue band that had held her silvery blonde hair away from her face, she began briskly brushing the long silken tresses. The ends of her hair curled naturally upwards, including the fringe that she always brushed away from her face. She had been endowed with hair that naturally looked windblown and was beautifully rumpled when it actually was tossed about by the wind.
The door of the trailer swung open to admit a willowy chestnut-haired girl in a swirl of cool air. She shivered in her halter outfit as she quickly closed the door behind her.
'They're ready for you, Stella,' she announced through chattering teeth.
'Tell them I'll be just a minute,' Stella replied, inspecting her reflection for any last-minute adjustments.
'You tell them. I'm not going out there in that cold again until I have to,' the other girl retorted sharply. 'I'll never get adjusted to wearing summer clothes in the winter. I'll die of pneumonia first!'
'It's not usually this chilly in February, Vanessa,' Diana reminded her.
Vanessa shrugged indifferently at that claim, choosing instead to call after the dark-haired Stella just leaving the trailer, 'Watch where you step or you'll be getting manure all over your shoes!'
Diana hid her smile at that warning, but not in time for the disgruntled Vanessa to miss. She let the glowering look slip by without comment.
'Wait until you get into that white outfit and have to wander around all those cows and horses with Connie shouting at you all the time not to get it dirty,' Vanessa grumbled, slipping out of the brilliant flame-hued halter dress and into her long smock. 'I don't understand how Connie comes up with these hare-brained ideas. Whoever heard of clothes being photographed at a rodeo? It's positively ridiculous!'
'It is not ridiculous. It's a perfect background for this particular design blending Western and Indian with modern styles. What better place to do that than San Antonio and their annual rodeo?' Diana reasoned, glancing away from the mirror long enough to see the thawing in Vanessa's face.
'Well, I win admit one thing. I've never seen so many good-looking, rugged he-men in one place before,' the other girl relented. 'And they aren't bashful about making their admiration known.' Vanessa smiled at herself in the mirror. 'I don't know when I've had so many whistles, winks, and invitations from the male sex.'
'Don't let it go to your head,' Diana warned. 'You'll never meet a more footloose and roving bunch of men than these rodeo riders. They've got to be the land equivalent of the proverbial sailor with a girl in every port.'
'You're always such a spoilsport.' Vanessa shook her head sadly at the blonde girl methodically brushing her hair until it glistened and crackled. 'Not every guy you go out with has to be the one you marry. There is such a thing as a fun date, you know. And I bet these cowboys can really swing!'
'You can have all the swingers as far as I'm concerned.' Diana put the brush on to the little table and fluffed the ends of her hair with her hands. 'You just point me to a nine-to-five-man with a little home in the suburbs and I'll be happy.'
'No one who's as domestically minded as you are should have been born with such looks. You're a disgrace to the modelling profession!'
'Don't be ridiculous!' Diana laughed. 'I bet you sit home alone at night just as often as I do. You have to or you wouldn't get enough sleep to keep those circles from clinging under your eyes or those inches from being added to your waistline from all the food and liquor.'
'Being a model does have its limitations,' Vanessa admitted reluctantly. 'But that's just because we're here in Texas where the Miss-America look is idolized. New York is a different story.'
'Pooh!' Diana shook her head. 'Dallas models are not any different from any high-fashion models you want to name. The work is-just as hard and demanding and not at all glamorous, as anywhere else, whether you're modelling clothes in a store or for a photographer as we do. And it's certainly not one big swinging party in any part of the country!'
'It does have prestige.'
'I'd sooner have the prestige of being a wife and mother,' Diana retorted, walking over to take the white jumpsuit off its hanger.
'Not me. I don't want some kid spoiling my figure.'
Diana winced at that, the unfeeling statement hitting a wound that had never healed. But it was something she never discussed with anyone, mostly because there had never been anyone who had ever been close enough for her to confide in. She hid her loneliness behind the serene mask of beautiful composure and no one guessed it was there.
'Di, honey, what you need to do is go out a little more. It's about time you found out that there's more to life than marriage and kids.'
Laughter rolled out easily at that superior remark. 'You say it as though all I have to do is snap my fingers and I'll have a string of admirers standing at my door,' Diana replied. 'Do you know why I sat at home by myself on New Year's Eve? Because nobody asked me out. Everyone assumed that I was invited somewhere else. The nice guys in this world figure that a beautiful girl has all kinds of men ready and willing to date her, so they don't want to join the throng. Girls like you and me end up attracting the duds, the ones who need their images and egos boosted by being seen with a beautiful woman on their arm. They don't care anything about us as individuals.'
'Lord! I never realized you were so bitter.' Vanessa eyed her curiously. 'You must have really been burnt.'
'A long time ago,' Diana answered grimly, remembering the shock she had suffered when she discovered she was just a beautiful possession to a man she had liked very much.
It had hurt at the time, but now she could barely remember what he looked like. It hadn't really made her bitter; although she might have sounded that way. It only reaffirmed her desire to marry and settle down, but not with just anybody, only Mr. Right. At twenty-four, she was beginning to wonder if he would ever come along. Like everything else, Diana bottled that question inside her, keeping the poised, confident mask in place for the outside world.
'Oh, honey, you look beautiful in that!' Vanessa exclaimed as Diana locked the zipper in place and turned to inspect the slack jumpsuit in the full-length mirror.
The white fabric was one of those new lightweight synthetic knits that stretched and moulded over a figure. There was only the slightest flare of the pants at her ankles before the material tightened at the knee and over the thigh to hug her waist, stretch over her breasts and around her neck in a halter, leaving her back bared. The striking feature of the outfit was the embroidered thunderbird design in bold turquoise colours that adorned the slack portion like a stripe up the side. It accentuated the blueness of Diana's eyes just as the white fabric complemented the pale colour of her hair.
'You don't think it shows too much, do you?' she asked, as she pulled the plunging vee front closer together in an attempt to hide part of the cleavage of her breasts.
'Of course it does,' Vanessa laughed, 'but it's supposed to.'
At that moment the trailer door opened again and an older, auburn-haired woman walked in. She was dressed in a tailored corduroy pant suit with a heavy walking jacket. The rusty colour accented the red in her hair. Glasses hung from a gold chain about her neck and there was a no-nonsense look in her face.
'Good,' she said briskly, looking Diana over. 'You're just about ready. Here's the jewellery that goes with that outfit.'
Diana slipped the heavy turquoise and silver bracelet over her wrist and began putting on the matching earrings, aware of the scrutiny she was receiving from her employer, Connie Deveronne. After six years of modelling, the impersonal minute inspection still made Diana uncomfortable, but she never let it show.
'Have you been gaining weight?' Connie demanded in an accusing voice.
'No.' Diana remained unruffled, knowing the scales had not changed in over three years, thanks to a closely watched diet.
'Your measurements are shifting, then.' Her employer's eagle eye settled on the rounded curve of breast the low neckline revealed. 'We're trying to sell the dress and not your body. Are you wearing a brassiere?'
'Yes,' she answered, keeping her eyes firmly averted and concentrating on the last earring being securely fastened. Only Diana knew that the light pink in her cheeks didn't come from any rouge.
'Take it off. It might flatten you a little to be without it.' With that order given, Connie turned and walked towards the door. 'Rick will be ready for you in about ten minutes.'
'The old baggage!' Vanessa made a face at the door. 'Doesn't she realize you're only going to look more sexy without it?'
'Haven't you realized that it's all right for us models to look sexy as long as it's the clothes we're wearing that makes us that way,' Diana laughed.
She couldn't admit how uncomfortably naked she felt without all of her undergarments. Vanessa would only laugh at her for being so prudishly modest and old-fashioned. Still, a few minutes later when Diana stepped out of the door of the trailer, she couldn't help thinking that all the eyes turned her way were looking at only one thing. She forced herself to appear unconcerned, but her fluid movements were hurried, as she subconsciously tried to escape the prying eyes.
The weather was cool. A sweater would have been welcome to cover her bare arms dappled with goose-bumps. The nippy air made the animals frisky. Horses were prancing and pulling at their bits, snorting and sending puffy clouds of their frosty breath into the air. Half-way to where she was to meet the photographer, Diana met Stella on her way back to the trailer.
'How's it going?' Diana asked as Stella paused in front of her and turned to smile at a cowboy's complimentary whistle.
'Pretty good,' Stella replied, glancing around quickly. 'Connie's a little uptight because we're beginning to draw a crowd, but believe me, some of the looks will keep you warm.'
'Hey, babe! What are you doing tonight?' A cowboy pulled his horse to a stop beside them and eyed Diana boldly.
'Sitting home with my sick mother,' she answered easily. 'Better luck next time.'
The lean wiry figure wasn't at all put off by her weak excuse, but he tipped his hat and rode on. He hadn't really expected any different. Diana watched him for a moment before turning back to Stella and the knowing twinkle in her eyes.
'See what I mean?' Stella smiled. Diana raised her eyebrows in agreement before catching sight of the auburn-haired woman approaching.
'I'd better get going. Here comes Connie now,' Diana nodded towards the woman.
Connie Deveronne hustled Diana to where Rick, the photographer, waited. After only a few pictures, the young man lowered his camera, shaking his fair head. Connie was immediately at his side inquiring what was wrong.
'The white outfit needs a better background.' The man looked around him searchingly. 'Something with a bolder colour more defined.'
Diana hovered to the side, shivering in the lightweight fabric. Patience was the byword of a model with endurance coming in a strong second. She kept her attention focused on Rick and Connie, avoiding the cowboys seated on a nearby fence railing. She knew she was the object of their muffled laughter and whispering conversation. Dressed as she was, she felt singularly vulnerable.
'Come on, Diana,' Rick called. 'We're going to try the arena instead of these livestock pens.'
Dutifully she joined them, seeing the cowboys out of the corner of her eye as they hopped down from their perch and joined the procession. If she hadn't been so ill at ease, it would have been amusing, especially considering the disgusted expression on Connie's face. It wasn't a long walk to the rodeo arena, but it wasn't made any shorter by the chill in the air. Diana hugged her arms about her shoulders to ward off some of it with her own body heat. The gesture brought an instant offer from one of the cowboys for Diana to take his jacket.
'Don't you dare put that smelly thing over that outfit!' Connie whispered threateningly.
As much as Diana would have liked to accept, she refused the offer with a smile of appreciation. Then they were all walking into the arena on to the red-brown dirt. There were only a few horses and riders inside, but their entourage of cowboys quickly positioned themselves on the heavy wooden rails. Diana stood quietly as Rick and Connie discussed the situation, not paying too close attention until Rick let out a low whistle.
'That guy is straight out of a cigarette commercial,' he murmured to Connie. 'And have you ever seen a horse like that? This will be perfect!'
Even as Rick started walking forward his hand raised in the air, Diana was trying to follow his direction. It only took her a second to see what had caught the photographer's eye. On the far side of the arena was a horse and rider cantering through a series of figure eights. The horse was blood red with flashy black stockings to above his knees and a black mane and tail. The man astride the horse was the personification of every publicity man's dream of a cowboy. He sat tall and erect in the saddle, each fluid movement of the horse matched by himself. The man was lean and tanned, dressed in faded blue levi's with a matching denim jacket lined with sheepskin. And on his head he wore a weathered brown stetson hat, pulled low over his face.
As the cowboy caught sight of Rick waving to him, he slowed his horse to a stop and walked in their direction. Diana watched as he sat immovable in the saddle and listened to Rick. Something in the man's bearing made her think that he would refuse to have himself and his horse act as a backdrop for Rick's pictures. There was the slightest hesitation before he looked to where Diana was standing beside Connie and nodded agreement.
Rick motioned her forward and Diana quickly complied. Precious time had been spent finding a suitable background, and Rick didn't waste any more of it making introductions between his model and the cowboy. Diana didn't even get a chance to study the man up close as Rick hurriedly moved her into position on the right side of the horse and began giving instructions. She was intrigued by the man atop the horse and in between snaps she sneaked quick glances in his direction.
Swift impressions of a lean hard face, tanned and clean-shaven, were formed. The shadow of his hat brim made it difficult to determine the colour of his hair, but Diana thought it was brown. His eyes were a different matter. One look they appeared blue and in another they were grey. Yet in all of her stolen glances one thing stood out, and that was his arrogant remoteness, as if all this was beneath his dignity. For some reason, Diana wasn't offended by his coldness that bordered on contempt. On the contrary, it fascinated her.
'Put your left foot in the stirrup,' Rick ordered, his face concealed behind the black camera. 'Stand in it suspended beside the horse.'
Excerpted from Land Of Enchantment by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1975 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Posted January 19, 2010
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