Holly, Present day
I don’t know who came up with the concept of watching people of unearthly beauty march down a runway while hundreds of other people watched, but whoever it was needed a serious reality check. It was fun for a while, the first and second day had been thrilling even, but the third day was painfully boring, not to mention unbearably hot. Ian spent every minute he could watching the shows, talking with designers and even some models, and while I knew that was our job - I just wanted to do anything else. The designers, models, and those people that dressed them backstage pointedly ignored me, I wasn’t the journalist after all, and standing up against a wall or flanking my boss - waiting for some indication that I was supposed to do something - was a cruel form of torture. I was doing my best imitation of a professional adult as I checked the sleeves on my black and silver blazer, before smoothing out my short black pleated chiffon skirt, even my navy blue semi-sheer blouse was perfectly pressed and wrinkle-free. I wanted to look like the sexy secretary, the kind that leaves an extra button undone but never puts out, I figured Mya’s knee-high boots captured the essence perfectly. Never again will I look this put together or feel this sexy. The moment of sexiness passed as I saw one of the models walk past topless.
“Oh my, dear - please tell me, what collection is this from?”
I spun around, shocked that someone was actually speaking to me for once. A plump woman with a short, silver bob and oversized purple rimmed glasses reached out to grasp my heart pendant and stroked it lovingly. I had been on the fence about bringing it, but I didn’t know when else I would have the occasion to wear it. Now I was glad that someone else appreciated it.
“I’m sorry it was a gift; I don’t actually know,” I said sheepishly.
She made a tsk noise but smiled up at me. “It is quite lovely, the stonework is exquisite...” The woman trailed off and I suppressed a giggle at her thick English accent, I didn’t think she would appreciate my laughing at her.
“You’re with the press I presume, what magazine do you write for?” she asked, then continued before I could respond, “A young lady with such impeccable fashion taste must be a catch for any company.”
Is she insulting me? I suddenly clued in as she started to feel the fabric on my blazer with a smirk. “Holy shit -- I’m so sorry, please excuse me Ms. Abigail de Santa-- I didn’t mean to--”
Abigail laughed, a lovely melodic sound. “Darling, I assure you that my mouth is far filthier at the best of times.” She paused as she looked me over more closely. “The jacket is vintage, fall of ’92 I believe, the skirt is part of my recent spring line. The boots - Prada? Unknown blouse, but fine craftsmanship none-the-less.”
I was swooning, the only designer I actually followed, the only one I would fork out an entire paycheck for, was assessing my clothes. And she approves! I could die happy now. “I’m actually not a journalist, I’m here with NEXT Fashion as--”
“As my assistant,” Ian interrupted, placing a hand firmly on my shoulder. “Great to see you, Abigail.”
Take the wind out of my sails why don’t you. Abigail’s expression soured as she glanced between me and Ian. Ian’s hand moved down my shoulder to my lower back, just above my skirt’s waistband, his touch was firm and distinctly uncomfortable. I shifted slightly, pulling away from his touch. The woman watched my face closely before she addressed him. “Mr. Johnston, how charming to see you here again.” Her voice oozed sarcasm, but Ian seemed unfazed.
“Same to you Abbie, I don’t suppose you have anything you’d like to say about your collection to NEXT?” Ian’s tone was clipped and cold, unlike anything I had heard from him before.
“I didn’t have anything for you last season, nor this season, or the next,” she said, her cool gray eyes staring him down. She turned to speak to me directly, “It was lovely to meet you, Miss-?”
Oh, right. “Holly Mitchell, and thank you, honestly it’s a dream come true to meet you,” I said, reaching to shake her hand. I watched in awe as she walked off towards the stage doors, her golden maxi skirt swishing behind. Okay, what was he so testy for?
“Such a twat, she thinks she’s so much better than other people,” Ian muttered angrily.
“Wow, harsh much? She was great with me, and have you seen her work? She’s a visionary.” I tried to not sound like a schoolgirl with a crush, but I couldn’t help it, my panties were practically on the floor.
“No, she has a team of people paid half her wage to create her collections and then sells them for a horrendous markup. But it’s not important right now, what do we have next?” He sounded bored; I don’t know what he had to complain about - I was the one standing around.
I checked my phone as I responded, “We have some time, we can grab the prints from Phillipe, and get you back here to meet with Betsey Johnson within the hour.”
He agreed and gathered up his messenger bag. I almost had to jog to catch up with him. He didn’t say anything else about Abigail, but I could tell he was still stewing about the encounter. My phone went off and I reached for it, Phillipe, perfect timing. The conversation was brisk, he was heading out shortly and we needed to move quickly if we wanted his photos before he left Paris. I hung up as we climbed another set of stairs. “We might need to get a taxi, I’m not sure that we can make it there that fast.” I tried not to convey how out of breath I was while I tried to keep up with his long stride.
“Yeah, that’s fine I’ll call-” Ian’s voice faded out of my hearing as we rounded the next corner.
He was standing there, in a perfectly pressed onyx colored suit, the jacket casually open and sleeves pushed up his forearms, the top two buttons on the white dress shirt undone. Adrien. His pitch-black hair was longer, shoulder-length, he no longer had a beard - just thick stubble, and he was deep in conversation with his mother. This is not how I imagined this going. Time didn’t feel like it had stopped like I had read so many times, it was worse; like the world lurched and I was close to tripping over my own feet. I halted, fearing that I actually would fall. I couldn’t see anything else; I knew Ian was still talking and I couldn’t hear a single word. And in a moment, everything came crashing back. Adrien’s eyes met mine as he turned, his mouth parted slightly, and he looked like he had seen a ghost. Blanche - his mother - turned as well, her confusion obvious.
“Holly, mon ange!” Blanche cried and rushed towards me. She clutched me hard to her, in a bone-crushingly happy hug. I stood in shock, unable to say anything or take my eyes off Adrien’s. She stepped back, beaming at me, and grasped my hands as she looked me over.
"Mon ange, you should have called! I had no idea you were back in Paris, this trou du cul--” She turned and smacked Adrien’s arm as he approached us. “Didn’t tell me a thing.”
My face burned but I smiled, Blanche’s thick French accent and infectiously happy smile made my heart melt. And her calling me her angel and her son an asshole reminded me why I liked her so much in the first place. She looked like she hadn’t aged a day, her pale blonde hair was pulled into a tight twist at the nape of her neck and she wore her signature pantsuit - in emerald green, a green that matched both his eyes and hers. I don’t think I had ever seen her in another type of outfit.
"Ma mere, I didn’t know she was in the city.” Adrien paused. “Or the country for that matter.”
I tried not to focus on the pained sound of his voice, or the way he suddenly wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Blanche, I’m so sorry, it was a business thing - I’m really just here on work.” I offered her an apologetic smile. I heard Ian clear his throat and I realized he was still here. “Where are my manners, Blanche, Adrien, this is my boss, Ian.”
Was it petty to put that much emphasis on the word ‘boss’ while I looked at Adrien? Probably, but I couldn’t help it. Ian stepped around me to shake their hands, and I watched him try to squeeze Adrien’s harder while staring him down with a tight-lipped smile. I rolled my eyes. Seriously, go piss on a fire hydrant. Blanche asked Ian what he did, and they launched into a conversation about designers. I glanced at the time, we really had to go but I felt like a dick interrupting them. My curiosity got the best of me as I sneaked another glance at Adrien, he was staring at my tits. Wait, no he isn’t - oh fuck. My necklace, the one he gave me, was currently hanging around my neck, resting just below my breasts. Ian’s sudden enthusiastic half shouting caught my attention. “--you could arrange a meeting with Donatella for me? I have no idea how to thank you, Blanche.”
Blanche waved her hand dismissively. “Any friend of Holly’s is mine as well, come along - she’s free now, I’m sure she can squeeze you in.” She reached around and stroked my hair before continuing, “Darling, I hope to see you again, much sooner.”
I hoped no one else saw her wink at me before I could say anything however, Ian had instructions for me. “Mitchell, you’re okay to get the prints, right? I’ll make sure I’m on time for the next interview but I’m not going to pass this up.”
I nodded helplessly as Blanche dragged him off, the idea of me getting a say was laughable at best. I couldn’t stall anymore as they disappeared down the hall, I slowly turned to face him, praying that it wouldn’t be as awful as my sinking heart told me it would be. Everything in me wanted to run; the resigned look on his face, the twist of my heart, everything was wrong. He looked tired and exasperated, the same look he had the last time I saw him. This wasn’t how we were supposed to meet, it was supposed to be in a cafe, while I was scantily clad - Adrien would bust in and save my honor from some creep and we would run off together. It was mostly plausible. Please don’t let me cry, not in front of him.
“Would you like me to turn around so you can sneak away and never contact me again?” Adrien’s voice was sharp and hostile. It felt like a knife to the gut.
I swallowed hard but couldn’t make myself speak; I didn’t know where to begin. We stood for a moment, not looking away and every second that passed brought me closer to tears. This wasn’t what it was supposed to be, not at all. His face changed in an instant, his features softening into what I could only assume was regret. “That was rude, I’m sorry--”
I interrupted him, “No, it wasn’t rude, you’re right to be mad. And I don’t know where to begin with the apology you deserve.” Silence, again. I had to go, I needed to get to Phillipe before he left his studio, but I was trapped under Adrien’s gaze. I just wanted to touch him, to make it real, to feel his hand on mine. His mouth twitched at the corner and my heart leapt into my throat.
“I didn’t think you could actually admit to being wrong.” The hostility was gone, replaced with gentle teasing.
Oh, Adrien, I missed you. I tried to laugh but it was strained, but I was relieved to hear him be so familiar with me. “I don’t think I could to anyone else.” Oh, dear God, did I really say that out loud? When he smiled this time it was wide and genuine, and it was everything I remembered it to be. “I really want to stay,” I began, trying desperately to figure a way into doing just that. “But I have to get this for him, or I will literally lose my job. It’s like, the one thing I’ve had to do today...” I trailed off as I looked at the time, I had to leave like five minutes ago.
“I can have our driver bring the car around if you’d like.” I wanted to believe that he sounded almost hopeful.
I couldn’t find the worlds and just nodded vigorously, a stupid smile spreading across my face. He led me out to the front and called his driver, in less than a minute the white Maybach Pullman pulled up and he invited me in. Unlike the Audi, back in New York, the Maybach had a partition, which was wonderful for back seat blowjobs and quickies on the way to family events. And for hiding my horrible embarrassment at knowing that was the last thing we did in this car. It was probably not the same car though; rich people are always buying more shit. He was silent for so long that I started to regret accepting the ride, I felt horribly awkward sitting next to him so closely, but unable to look at him for fear that I would cry. When he finally did speak my heart lurched at the mix of frustration and sadness in his voice, “I missed you.”
“No, let me finish.” He glared at me and cleared his throat. “I missed you. I called, and your number was disconnected, I emailed and you either didn’t get them or didn’t care. I waited and you never contacted me, do you know what that was like? It felt like you didn’t care at all, there were clothes and other items left behind, it was this awful reminder that I had no way to reach you.” He stopped and looked away.
I felt the first tear slip and I knew the rest wasn’t far behind. “I didn’t know how else to leave. I didn’t know how to make up after the fight, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.” I choked on the last word and scrambled for the tissues in my purse.
Then I felt it, his hand on my cheek, his eyes glittered with tears and I couldn’t look away if I wanted to. I don’t know who moved first, but in an instant, we were clutching each other like we depended on it. And then his mouth was on mine, and I didn’t care about anything else in the world. It was gentle, soft and chaste, and everything I wanted. The smell of his cologne, a deep earthy musk with citrus notes, the sensation of his stubble on my face, it was all so familiar. I pulled away first to dry my face, and he kept his hand on my cheek for another moment. I drew in a shaky breath and tried to calm my very on edge stomach. I laid my hand over his, he pulled it away and threaded his fingers through mine, this did nothing for my poor fried nervous system.
“I lost my phone,” I began, still blotting my face. “It was in a checked bag that got lost during a layover, and I had to get a new one when I was back home. I had no idea how to get a hold of you. And I never got any emails, if I did, I would have responded right away.”
His silence was almost unbearable, I just wanted him to say something, anything. We sat like that for what felt like an eternity, when the car stopped, he finally spoke again, “Your makeup is running, would you like me to pick up the package for you?” He looked so concerned, his voice worried.
I accepted and told him what to ask for before he got out, he squeezed my hand tightly. I stared down at my palm in disbelief, it was real, he was actually here. I’m sitting in his car, of course, it’s real. Mya was going to kill me when I got back. I shifted anxiously and reached for water from the storage under the seat. I hoped he didn’t mind me making myself at home in his car. I chugged the water, grateful for the cool relief on my nervous, dry throat. The door opened and Adrien got back in, parcel in hand. I thanked him and tucked it away in my purse.
“I would like to talk, somewhere private preferably.”
Oh. Whatever relief the water had provided was gone when he said that. I clasped my hands in my lap, trying to hide how badly they were shaking. “Do you have a place in mind?” I tried to keep my voice even, but it came out horribly high pitched.
He smiled gently at me. “We can go to the apartment, or I can have Jean prepare the private room at his restaurant, or anywhere else you would be comfortable with.”
The apartment, you’d really let me back in? I could bring him to the hotel, I had to go back there anyway, but his apartment was so tempting. I ran my tongue along my bottom lip, fighting the logical half of my brain. “We can go to your apartment, maybe we can go to the restaurant later...” I could feel the sudden heat in my cheeks as I finished. To my relief he didn’t laugh, or outright turn me down at least, he told the driver to take us home and we were off again. I stared down at my hands that were now clinging desperately to my skirt hem. He reached out and grasped my hand in his own again, this time, however, he raised it to his lips and kissed my knuckles gently. My heart started to pound in my ears, and I couldn’t breathe.
“I’m not angry, I promise, je promets.” Adrien’s voice was soft and warm, just as comforting as ever.
I met his gaze and offered the best semblance I could of a human smile. I watched as he stroked the back of my hand with his thumb lightly, it sent tingles up my arm with every brush. I pulled away suddenly and saw the heat burning in his eyes as I threw myself across the car into his arms. His mouth on mine wasn’t nearly as gentle this time. I didn’t care if the car flipped when we fell against the door, his arm around my waist, his hand clutching the nape of my neck, it was all that mattered. My mouth opened at his urging and his tongue pressed against mine, he tasted like whiskey, spearmint, and something else I couldn’t figure out. I heard something metal hit the floor and pulled away to see a silver case lying on the carpet. He was still smoking. That’s what that taste was, not the wretched taste of a chain smoker, but he dabbled, and right now I didn’t mind.
“I wasn’t finished,” he grumbled from below me.
I couldn’t help but laugh, I dropped back down on his chest, and he held me close while stroking my hair. The position wasn’t terribly comfortable, and I was half a foot shorter, I could only imagine how bad it was for him. Whatever discomfort Adrien had he didn’t voice, we stayed like that for the rest of the ride, while I reveled in the feeling of his fingers tracing patterns on the back of my upper thigh where my skirt had ridden up. Trying to de-tangle our selves proved to be a chore, but we made it and I only tripped once as I was getting out of the car. The La Figaro apartments were less than a five-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower, a stunning aged stone building, late French architecture and only five stories tall but wide enough to span the entire block. It was beautiful then, and even more now as Adrien guided me through the marble lobby to the lift.
The mirrored elevator walls showed us in startling clarity and my eyes met his in our reflection, I smiled, and his hand left mine to grasp my waist. I looked different, my hair was much longer and the weight of it pulled my curls into waves, in my heels I came up to his brow. I had put on some weight as well, college had done a number on me but it fit well, my breasts were larger, my hips fuller and thighs chubbier, and though he couldn’t see it, I was proud of how toned my stomach was. I wasn’t fretting about every blemish he might see, I knew better now that he really wouldn’t care. He didn’t look like a frat guy anymore, his jaw was more defined, his muscle had slimmed down but it suited him - and I could tell from his grip that he hadn’t lost his strength. I rested my head on his shoulder and he kissed the top of my head. It was like I never left. By the time we got into his apartment, my jitters were gone and replaced by an ache, in my stomach, in my heart, and everything south of my navel.
“Wine? I have plenty on hand, or if you want anything else?” Adrien asked, taking off his suit jacket.
“Wine sounds great, thank you.” My voice was surprisingly even as I took off my blazer.
It feels odd to undress in front of someone you used to bang. Adrien handed me the glass after I slipped my boots off, I sipped it as I paced around the living room. The apartment was stunning, rich red, dusted gold, and off white decorated the walls matched the classic furniture. The stone fireplace held a large gilded mirror on the mantle facing the sofas in the living room, gleaming dark hardwood had recently been polished judging by the lemon scent, and the galley kitchen off the entryway was unnervingly clean for all white. I ran my hand across the back of the couch as I looked out the windows, the Eiffel Tower was visible from every room and it was captivating. The white shag carpet under my feet was soft as I stood leaning against the sofa, my back to him. I rubbed my foot along the rug gently, thinking about how the entire place was just how I left it.
“I still have the leash we used when you got rug burn in here.”
I choked on my wine, very ungracefully. “Well, you certainly don’t have any subtly,” I remarked as I regained my composure. I turned around to face him, he approached slowly, deliberately. “You wanted to talk,” I mumbled as he reached out to cup my chin. His eyes were dark and heavy as he watched me closely.
“This is talking.” He kissed my cheek and I closed my eyes, it would be so easy, to just give in - to fall back into place.
“Adrien...” I whispered, unsure but not wanting to stop.
“The necklace is distracting,” he spoke directly in my ear. “I still see it as your collar.”
His words sent a chill up my spine in pure lust, but before I could say anything else my phone went off, I tore my gaze away from his and reached for it frantically. Ian. Talk about cockblocking. I answered; apparently, everything had gone well, and he was headed back to the hotel, and now he was looking for me. I told him I was catching up with old classmates and would be back soon. It was late, I realized with a start, close to eleven. I put my phone away and turned back to Adrien, the way his eyes roamed over my body made the world fade away, it was just us. It is easy, stop overthinking this. I took his wine glass and set it down, and my arms came up around his neck as our mouths found each other. “It still is,” I said quietly against his lips.