Romancing the Runway (Kimani Romance Series #130)

Romancing the Runway (Kimani Romance Series #130)

by Linda Hudson-Smith

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Supermodels Kennedy and Xavier work and party among the beautiful people in the world's most exotic cities. They're glam, gorgeous and the target of every tabloid and talk show around. By day, they're used to being in front of a camera. But by night, neither's used to paparazzi clamoring to capture every intimate moment of their fragile, new relationship.
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Supermodels Kennedy and Xavier work and party among the beautiful people in the world's most exotic cities. They're glam, gorgeous and the target of every tabloid and talk show around. By day, they're used to being in front of a camera. But by night, neither's used to paparazzi clamoring to capture every intimate moment of their fragile, new relationship.

With crazed schedules, constant media attention and surprise attempts to deflate Kennedy's career and steal her man, the pressures are mounting. Can their searing physical attraction and soul-deep connection be enough to guarantee Kennedy and Xavier a picture-perfect ending?

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Kimani Press
Publication date:
Harlequin Kimani Romance Series , #130
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Xavier De Marco couldn't seem to pull his gaze away from the exotic Kennedy Bassett, the supermodel he'd worked with on a couple of modeling assignments. No matter how many times he'd watched her take the high-fashion runway by storm, Xavier was still overly excited by her performances.

Kennedy looked sensuous and hot as ever. Decked out in leather from head to toe, she wore the heck out of red leather pants, a matching bolero-style jacket and a pair of ankle-length red leather boots. The silk shirt she wore, startlingly white and crisp, showed off a discreet amount of mahogany cleavage. As Kennedy began to slowly and seductively remove the leather jacket, Xavier's breath caught.

This woman had more sex appeal than Xavier thought the law should ever allow. Interestingly enough, despite Kennedy's natural beauty, it was her pureness of heart and selfless spirit he had found attractive. He hadn't gotten to know her all that well, but her kind spirit had shone through during the few times they'd worked together. Kennedy wasn't the least bit demanding on the set, but she would speak up if things weren't going well. She was always polite and considerate of her coworkers, readily accepting directions from those in charge. The cameraman had also mentioned to him that she was a delight to work with. Never once had he known her to be late for a shoot during their campaigns. That in itself was very commendable. The genuine way in which she had interacted with the other models had told him a lot—and it had been enough to let him know she was someone he was eager to learn everything about.

The pride Kennedy felt in her profession was written all over her nearly flawless face and in every magical twist and turn she made. Her tantalizing, high-stepping strut was sure-footed. Modeling the stunning Prada creations with grace and style, she was in total command of every part of her willowy five-foot-eight figure. Kennedy held up her head high, as she flung her long, sable hair back over one shoulder. Suddenly, she cast her smoky hazel eyes upon Xavier.

Possessing an amazing athletic build, all the gorgeous hunk of a man could do was smile brilliantly, showing off a beautiful set of even, pearly white teeth. The butterflies surfing in his stomach belied his confident expression. He was more nervous than he'd ever been over any woman. Since he'd finally gotten up the nerve to re-ask Kennedy out, tonight was the night. After the show closed, they planned to have dinner.

Very much familiar with the runway himself, Xavier De Marco, nationally and internationally renowned, was tall, at 6'3", golden-brown-complexioned and utterly ravishing. His deeply set, bluish-gray eyes, sultry lips and wavy, sandy-brown hair were considered his best assets by many. However, Xavier begged to differ. He thought his unimpeachable character and free-flying spirit were his greatest attributes.

Although Xavier was eager to slip backstage to wait for Kennedy to gather her belongings, he considered it rude to leave before the show was over. He also saw leaving any event early as disrespectful to the other performers. He was a performer, so he knew.

Xavier sat quietly, contemplating the part of the evening he'd later spend with Kennedy. He halfheartedly paid attention to the flurry of activity on the runway, until a thunderous round of applause suddenly broke out. He then sat up straight, giving his full attention to the striking, attention-grabbing model who'd just strolled onto the runway.

As the white-hot Tiaja Rae Montgomery confidently strutted her fine body down the runway, Xavier got a strong urge to find an exit. He'd had more than a few sizzling run-ins with the zesty, 5'9" Tiaja Rae—and he wasn't looking forward to another.

Not so fondly referred to by many as T.R., aka Troublesome Rae, she was gorgeous—with a flirtatious lust jones for Xavier. Mocha complexioned, beautiful and sexy, she had a heart-stopping figure, a dream come true for most men. But Tiaja Rae wasn't remotely the kind of woman Xavier was interested in, not in an intimate way.

Kennedy Bassett was Xavier's ideal woman for romancing the runway.

Although Xavier's eyes gave Tiaja Rae their undivided attention, his mind stayed on Kennedy. This fabulous-looking woman occupied his thoughts quite often, ever since their first meeting. Getting her out of his head seemed impossible.

The very moment the fashion show was over Xavier quietly slipped backstage, where he patiently waited for Kennedy to emerge from the dressing room. As his cell phone vibrated against his waist, he quickly responded, greeting his agent, Kirsten Banks, with an enthusiastic hello. Despite the fact she couldn't see him his broad smile was warm and knock-dead charming.

"I need to meet with you right away," Kirsten said, sounding a tad anxious.

"This evening is booked." Xavier hadn't even taken the time to ponder a response. As far as he was concerned, all his time belonged exclusively to Kennedy. "I can meet you in the morning, early, at your office."

The firm way in which Xavier turned down Kirsten let her know there wasn't any room to negotiate. With that in mind, she settled on his suggested time for the meeting. After wishing Xavier a pleasant evening, Kirsten rang off.

Warm hands massaging Xavier's neck and chest from behind both surprised and startled him. However, the soft fingertips felt good on his flesh, but he was more concerned about who the owner was. If the fingers belonged to Kennedy, though he seriously doubted it, the sexy purring near his ear might've been a real turn-on. It would've also made it difficult for him to keep his manhood from rising to an indecent swelling.

Xavier slowly opened his eyes, cringing inwardly at the sight of the lovely Tiaja Rae, who was right up in his personal space.

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Tiaja Rae trilled off a robust, throaty laugh. "Spooked you, huh, X?"

Looking strangely at Tiaja Rae, wondering why she always had to be so aggressive, Xavier rapidly moved away from her teasing hands. "Girl, don't you ever stop?"

"If you're honest with yourself, X, you'd go ahead and admit it."

Xavier looked puzzled. "Admit what?"

"My hot little hands feel wonderful to you. You do know how to tell the truth, don't you?" Tiaja Rae threw her head back and laughed wickedly, loving his reaction.

As if the moment wasn' t awkward and embarrassing enough for Xavier, Kennedy had come out of the dressing room just in time to witness Tiaja Rae's hands all over him. Instead of advancing on her date, Kennedy stood back to see how Xavier would handle her archrival and public enemy number one.

Everyone in the world of high fashion seemed to know about the troubled history with the two models so Kennedy figured he was also aware. She's so transparent, Kennedy thought.

Wiggling her fingers in a farewell gesture, Tiaja Rae turned and saw Kennedy watching, then flashed her a dazzling, triumphant smile. She loved to rub Kennedy the wrong way…con-stantly, at every opportunity. This moment was no exception.

Kennedy sucked in a gust of calming breath. In the next instant she walked over and boldly slipped her arm through Xavier's. There was no way she'd let Tiaja Rae get to her ever again. The silly girl had already tested most of Kennedy's nerves, anyway. "How are you?"

"Fine." Now that you're here. Xavier looked relieved. He knew of the rivalry between the two supermodels, which had begun long before he'd ever come to know either of them. According to the rumor mill, theirs was a longtime contention.

Xavier quickly decided not to explain to Kennedy what else Tiaja Rae had been up to, not unless she opened up dialogue on it. Kennedy knew her issues with her nemesis far better than he did, but he hoped she'd one day tell him some of the details. Tonight just wasn't the time to explore anything as negative as a sinister runway rivalry.

As Xavier lightly kissed Kennedy on the cheek, he briefly covered her hand with his. "You were absolutely fantastic on the runway! Then again, what else is new?"

Kennedy's broad smile dazzled. "I felt pretty darn good out there tonight. We always know when it's going good or bad for us. Everything went really well."

"You didn't miss a beat, lady. You immediately worked the crowd into one hell of a frenzy. That red leather outfit made a bold statement. Ready to get out of here?"

Kennedy nodded. "You bet. I'm hungry." Earlier in the day she had been extremely nervous about their first date. She was kind of surprised that she felt this relaxed with him so early on in the evening. "What about you, are you hungry?"

Xavier grinned. "Ravenous. I figured you'd probably be starving, too. I made reservations at a quaint little supper club/piano bar. In no time at all, they'll have you digging in to something real tasty. One of L.A.'s finest."

Kennedy was thrilled she wouldn't have to wait forever at a restaurant to possibly be served only a halfway decent meal.

Even the finest eateries could be disappointing at times, especially when overcrowded. Xavier seemed to have excellent taste overall so she was sure he'd already checked out the place. Kennedy was sure that having a dish like Xavier seated across from her would be a mouthwatering distraction. If he was anywhere near as interesting as he was good-looking, he'd more than likely command her undivided attention.

Kennedy immediately saw that Café Blue was appropriately named. The entire decor was done in various shades of blue. She later learned Blue was the last name of the owner, who was a retired Oakland Raiders football player. Xavier's father, La Monte De Marco, and the owner, Reynard Blue, had been good friends from back in the day. They'd never lost touch, though La Monte resided on the East Coast.

Once Xavier had introduced Reynard and Kennedy, Reynard ushered the couple to the table he had handpicked. The seating arrangement looked out over the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. The couple was then given cleverly designed menus: thin navy-blue leather-bound books with light blue parchment paper printed with a darker blue ink.

Soft, romantic music drifted from the overhead speakers, though an accomplished pianist was scheduled to perform within the hour. Kennedy thought it'd be nice to listen to piano music while dining. She'd already fallen for the first-class establishment. The atmosphere was romantic yet not overwhelmingly so for a first date.

Xavier stood. "Excuse me for a couple of moments for a trip to the men's room."

"I'll be right here when you get back." She gave him a sweet smile.

Xavier fought the strong urge to lean down and kiss her, but it was too soon for that. Besides, he'd never been a fast mover when it came to the opposite sex. Taking things at a slower pace was more to his liking. Usually he was into first building a solid friendship, yet he was already sure he wanted more. The kind of torrid thoughts he had about Kennedy on a regular basis couldn't be filed away under "friendship."

As Xavier walked away from her, Kennedy watched after him, loving what she saw. His perfectly rounded derriere had her near panting, which led to her recalling some of the details of their first encounter. Now that was a night to remember.

They had met during an intimate photo shoot on a windswept beach in Malibu. The two supermodels had partnered to do a provocative swimwear layout for a high-fashion magazine. Their scantily clad bodies had come into contact quite a bit that day, causing Kennedy's body temperature to rise several degrees above normal. With a body as hard and fine as Xavier's, Kennedy had a hard time keeping her eyes from going too far south and her imagination running wild. The power and sturdi-ness of his thighs and legs couldn't be ignored. Keeping up her professional demeanor wasn't an easy task, but she'd managed. At the end of the day her nerves had been frayed from the tension of wanting this man in a way she'd never wanted anyone. The time she'd spent working with Xavier was ingrained in her memory. Neither one had denied or validated the chemistry between them, but it was definitely present. In spades.

Shortly before the photo shoot had come too quickly to an end for her, Kennedy had been invited to have dinner with Xavier later in the evening. Regrettably, she'd had to decline because of prior plans. Otherwise, she would've accepted his invitation without the slightest hesitation. Xavier had been a delight to work with. Not only was he enchanting, he had exhibited a beautiful spirit, a rare combination in her opinion.

Kennedy had immediately been wildly attracted to Xavier's high energy. To her, he looked like an African-American version of John F. Kennedy Jr., with a similar style of thick, though sandy, wavy hair. His devastating good looks, long lashes and sexy Boston accent hadn't hurt matters any, but the kind of spirit he possessed was more important to her than anything. It'd seemed to her that their spirits were kindred. Xavier had been a gentleman to everyone he had come into contact with regardless of gender. He was caring and thoughtful toward the entire crew. His willingness to lend a helping hand to others was impressive. Kennedy actually saw quite a few of her own qualities in him, which made her believe he had a good spirit.

According to the fashion gossipmongers, Xavier was well bred and well-rounded and a Boston University graduate with a degree in communications. Both parents were successful physicians. His mother, Adelle, was a general surgeon. His father, La Monte, was an orthopedic surgeon. From what else Kennedy had learned, the older De Marcos resided in an elite neighborhood in Boston, in the same house in which they raised Xavier.

Xavier returned to the table. Soon as he reclaimed his seat, he immediately turned his attention back to his date. "What do you think of the place?"

"I like it. The color scheme is fascinating. All these different hues of blues are actually complementary to each other. I hope the food is as wonderful as the atmosphere. I assume you've eaten here before?"

"The food is spectacular. I've come here with my parents a couple of times. I thought you might like it. It's quiet, a lot like your serene spirit."

Kennedy's breath caught. What a nice thing for him to say. Her spirit was a quiet one. She was intrigued with how well he'd already summed up an important part of her character. She loved peace and harmony, detesting conflict in any form or fashion.

"God, you're beautiful," he said just above a whisper, his pulse going berserk. Looking at her was an exhilarating experience. Being in her company was even more awesome.

Kennedy looked perplexed, lowering her lashes. "Sorry, but I'm afraid I didn't catch your last remark."

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