Uncaged Love The Boxed Set #1-5(142)

By: JJ Knight

Hildebrand takes a step away.

Zero grabs one of the sleek dresses that looks like all the others and pushes me into the room.

“Thank you,” I say.

“I know my Jo doesn’t like to be up close and personal with strangers,” he says, tugging the gown from hanger. He gazes at it longingly for a moment.

“All right, Jo. These are too tight to put on the usual way. The trick is to dive in like you’re jumping in a pool.”

I quickly shuck my shoes, jeans and T-shirt. Zero averts his eyes and holds the bottom of the dress open.

I dive in like he says, the light changing to a haze as I move through the heavy beaded fabric. I come out the top, my hands over my head.

“Perfect,” he says and shifts it around. “You’re such a tiny thing.” He zips up the back and snaps something I can’t see.

“Shall we go look?” He tugs on the latch of the door.

“There’s a mirror in here,” I say.

“We can’t get the full effect so close,” he insists.

He leads me out to the main room. Hildebrand and her minions wait by the bench. One of the girls clasps her hands together. “It’s beautiful!” she says.

I’m led to a little podium in front of a set of mirrors set in a half circle. I want to run away, but I step up and turn to look at the dress.

Oh, God. I look like a lacy white sausage with its sparkly guts exploding out the bottom.

“NO!” I say with more force than I expect and dash back to the dressing room as fast as the mermaid dress will let me. Zero hurries after me.

“You all right?” he asks, closing the door behind us.

“I can’t do this. I don’t want a dress like this. I don’t want one thousand guests and a camo screen blocking us from helicopter paparazzi.” I start gulping in air. I can’t even bend in this getup.

“Oh baby Jo, have you told Colt? Maybe you two can elope.” Zero unzips the dress so I can breathe again.

“How can I? I hardly see him between jetting between LA and Vegas and wherever his father tells him to go.”

Zero peels the dress down and lets it fall in a ten-thousand dollar clump. “Sounds like you need a sit-down. Is he coming to Vegas?”

“Maybe. He said he would try.”

Zero kicks the gown out of the way. I’m about to reach for my jeans when I see the Audrey Hepburn dress drop over the top of the door. That can’t be Hildebrand’s idea. At least one of her minions has a heart.

Zero catches it. “Should we try?”

I touch the silky skirt. I remember sitting on the sofa with my dad, laughing my fool head off. I loved the part when Audrey screams after Gregory Peck sticks his hand in the Mouth of Truth.

“Yes,” I say softly.

Zero takes the dress from its hanger. “This one is a step in,” he says.

I know when the soft fabric encases me that this is the one. I turn to the mirror. I don’t feel too fancy in it. It fits me just right. I bite my lip, wishing my dad was here to see it. He’d tell me I was prettier than the regal princess at the end of the movie.

“It’s a good one,” Zero says.

I nod, unable to speak. I turn to the side, feeling the skirt move with me like a wave.

“Decision made. They’ll special order it,” he says, unzipping the back. “Should it be sent to your house in LA?”

I nod. “The condo.”

When he’s slipped out of the room, I bend down and slide my jeans on. A wedding day. It’s not something I thought would happen to me, given my past. But now it’s just three months away.

If I don’t run off screaming before then.

When I walk out, Zero is at the counter making sure they are getting the order right. There seems to be a commotion outside.

One of the girls peeks past the curtains in the front window. “I think there’s a protest or something going on,” she says.

Hildebrand looks up from her computer screen. “What do you mean?”

“There’s a lot of—women? Dressed in costumes.”

Zero’s head pops up. “Uh oh,” he says.

I hurry over to the window. “Zero? What did you do?”

“Nothing,” he says innocently. He taps the counter. “Now make sure you get the size right.” His focus is razor sharp on Hildebrand’s screen.

I jerk back the curtain. Outside is at least a dozen of the performers from Zero’s show, including Angel Wild, Zero’s ex. They are all dressed in various interpretations of Xena: Warrior Princess.

“Zero,” I say again. “You probably want to see this.”

He turns around. “What is it?”

“Angel. And a lot of his friends.” I dash to the counter, and before Zero can stop me, I snatch his phone from his purse.

“Hey!” he says.

I jump to his Twitter account. He’s Tweeted a dozen pictures of himself in the white gown. “Divine for a big day, right?” he posted alongside them.

“You didn’t!” I say.

“Nobody follows me!” he shoots back.

“You have twelve thousand followers!” I exclaim.

He looks sheepishly at Hildebrand. “I am wildly popular,” he says. “I have fans.”