The Billionaire's Toy(10)

By: Penny Wylder

I raise my glass. “Yes, ma’am.”


Walking in to this art gallery was the closest thing I’ve ever really felt to being a celebrity, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Sure, my social media accounts have blown up in the past couple of weeks, but people still don’t recognize me on the street. But the crowd waiting to get into the gallery where Andrew and his friend Heather are putting on a collaborative show? Those people know me. They’re asking for autographs and taking pictures and I feel anxiety rising up in my chest when May and a giant security guard fish me from the crowd and drag me inside.

“Do you ever get used to that sort of thing?”

She grins. “Never.”

“Perfect.” I supposed I’ll have to get used to it if I want to keep doing this though, and for now, I want to. So I have to suck it up and deal, even though the thought of any of those people just coming to see me makes me kind of want to pass out.

She starts walking towards the back of the gallery. “This way to hair and make-up.”

I look around as we cross the gallery. There’s definitely an aquatic theme going on with the art and the lights, everything drenched in teal and blue. Unlike the last exhibition, which was for an already existing Xellum line, both the art and Andrew’s new line of bathing suits are debuting tonight. I’m not the only model this time—which is a relief—but I still think he has something special planned.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been down to his studio so they could take measurements of my entire body. Now that I’m working with him, they’ll make the designs to fit me. Even though I don’t get to keep them, it feels amazing putting on clothes I know are going to fit perfectly. I’ve only seen Andrew in passing, but the spark between us is there. I can feel it.

Walking into the back room, he’s there. He smiles when he sees me, but it’s a professional smile, not at all like the sultry little ones I catch him sending my way. “I’m glad you’re here. Your make-up is the most complicated, and we need to get started, plus I want to see the final look. Trish,” he calls over his shoulder as he guides me to a chair.

The same make-up artist from last time comes over smiling. Andrew points to my cheekbones. “Masque make-up, heavy blues and greens, think mermaid. Lips need to match. Hair loose and as smooth as you can possibly get it.”

I look up at him. “A ‘hello’ would be nice.”

He stops for a second, “Hello. Find me as soon as you’re finished. We have a lot to do.”

“Wow,” I say quietly as he hurries away.

Trish laughs softly, “Don’t take it personally. That’s just how he is, especially on show days. He’s got a lot on his mind and he knows what he wants.”

We fall into conversation while she does my make-up, and I find myself relaxing. Trish has a very musical voice and it’s nice to hear her speak. It’s also nice to get a little more insight into the mysterious Mr. Xellum. I like hearing stories about him, like the time he got drunk and thought that lime green disco pants were a good idea, or how he made sure that a sick seamstress got all the rest she needed even though it was fashion week. Sure, she tells me, he’s a hard ass, and he errs on the cold side, but he’s a good guy.

When she’s finished and I look in the mirror, I don’t even recognize myself. I’m a sea creature come to life, my face patterned with gentle ripples and a blend of colors so seamless you would never know it’s not my skin. My hair is shiny, and seems darker than normal as it catches the light. “I think you’re a miracle worker.”

Trish laughs, “If I were a miracle worker I’d be able to make everyone’s wrinkles and grays go away.”

“Okay, temporary miracle worker then.”

“That, I’ll take. But you may not think I’m such a miracle worker when you have to wash it off later.”

I give her a wink. “I’ll be sure to curse your name plenty.”

Hopping out of the chair, I go to find Andrew. I find him at another model’s station, directing what he wants her look to be. I wait until he’s finished and sees me. He gives me a once-over and nods, gesturing for me to follow. I do, and he pulls a swimsuit off the rack. It looks complicated and gorgeous even on the hanger. With it is a sheer robe in colors that match my make-up. “This is yours for tonight. Let me see it, I want to make sure it’s perfect.” Then he leans in suddenly, and I’m overwhelmed by his sudden closeness. “You’re the centerpiece.”

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