CAROLINA PRESTON’S PENCIL GLIDED OVER THE paper like an Olympic figure skater performing an arabesque. Light, easy strokes, the effort behind the task not showing as she created her art, because it was all in her head. But soon, elegant lines appeared, shapes forming on the blank canvas as what she’d visualized became a flowing, sleeveless silk top, followed by a sequined mini. She added a cropped leather jacket to mix hard with soft, sketched in some killer high heels to complete the look, then paused to peruse the finished product, so out of breath her heart pounded.
Nice. Not perfect yet, but as she took a sip of chai tea, she cocked her head to the side and made a few adjustments to the sketch, exhilarated to create her own line of clothing.
It had taken several years of working for someone else, of feeling like a prisoner, unable to stretch her wings. But finally, this fashion season—she was going to fly.
As she worked on her next design, the figure morphed into a man. Tall, lean, his hands slid into his pockets as he modeled a pair of slacks and a body-hugging shirt. No jacket necessary as the clothes would speak for the body.
She loved menswear, and it would be part of her signature line. She could already picture it on the runway, worn by some chiseled model with raven-dark hair, steely gray eyes and—
No. She wasn’t going to go there. She stood, stretched her back,
and looked out the window of her Manhattan apartment. For November, it was decent, weather-wise. She should take a walk before the weather changed.
Her cell rang and she smiled as her brother’s name came up.
“Hey, we’re in town. Are you busy?”
“Extremely. I’m so glad you called. Come on over. I’d love to see you and Evelyn.”
She spent the next hour picking up the disaster in her apartment. She had drawings strewn around her work space, so she picked up as much as she could in there, then closed the door and concentrated on the living area. When the buzzer sounded, she let them in.
She threw her arms around her brother and squeezed him tight.
“You look great,” she said to him, then hugged Gray’s fiancée, Evelyn.
“Have you two been celebrating Gray’s win in the championship?”
Her brother didn’t even try to fight his grin. “Overly celebrating, I think.”
“It was a big turnaround from how he ended up last year,” Evelyn said as they took a seat in Carolina’s living room. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
“She’s just happy I didn’t crash into a wall.”
“Or go flying through the air, like last year.”
Carolina nodded. “Yes. I think you took at least five years off my life on that crash last year.”
“No injuries this year. We raced clean and won a lot, including the championship. Even better, bringing Alex on the team this year was the best move I could have made. He and Donny both ended up in the top twelve. I couldn’t ask for more.”
The pride in his voice was evident. Her brother had made a success out of Preston Racing.
“You’re doing so well,” Carolina said. “You must be thrilled.”
“I never thought it would turn out like this. When I started out, I just wanted to race.”
“I don’t know about that. You’ve always had ambition. And now you have Evelyn at your side, and she’s as ambitious as you. Maybe even more.”
Evelyn laughed. “That’s so true.”
“And how about you?” Carolina asked. “Staying busy with my dad?”
Evelyn smiled. “Incredibly. Living the dream here. And so is your father. He’s doing a remarkable job as the vice president of the United States, just as I knew he would.”
Carolina loved that Evelyn was so dedicated to her father. And so in love with her brother. “How’s the separation working out for the two of you?”
Evelyn’s gaze shifted to Gray. “Actually, much better than I ever thought it would. We make time for each other, no matter how difficult it is.”
“It helps that Dad lets us use the family private jet a lot,” Gray said with a smile.
“I’m glad you two reconciled.”
“Me, too,” Gray said. “Speaking of, will you be coming to Washington for Thanksgiving this week?”
Carolina blew out a breath, thinking about everything she had to do to get ready for Fashion Week in February. The event was the biggest opportunity for designers to show off their lines, and something Carolina had spent the last year getting ready for. “I don’t know. I have so much to do now that I’ve plunged into designing this line. And not a lot of time to do it before Fashion Week. It’s kind of mind-boggling.”
“I’m so happy for you,” Evelyn said. “I want to know everything, and I want to see it all.”
“Not much to see right now, I’m afraid. I’ve got a few things in production, but I’m still trying to decide what’s going to go into the line and what’s not, and selecting models.”
“Can you tell us the focus?” Evelyn asked.
“Right now I’m concentrating on mainly casual fashion for both men and women. I want to keep it along the lines of my own style. Fussy has never worked for me, and I don’t think it works for the average woman or man, and that’s who I want to clothe. I like movement and ease, and the way clothes make a person look and feel.”
She stared out the window, her mind whirling with the possibilities. “With a man, his body has always intrigued me.” She turned her attention to Gray. “Since you’ve played baseball and you race cars, I’ve watched you over the years. It’s helped me gain a keen understanding of movement.”
Gray laughed. “So, I’ve been your study guide for men’s fashion.”
Her lips curved. “Sort of. I’ve studied all types of men in various fields. Sometimes I’ll just go outside and sit on a park bench and watch men go by. But I keep going back to the sports angle. Surprisingly, I watch a lot of sports.”
“Why is that surprising?” Evelyn asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe I just surprised myself. At first I did it to watch the angles. All the sports are different, but the way a man moves is always the same. I think a man’s body is inherently sexy, and I want to showcase that in my fashion, especially from a sports angle, because I believe that will appeal to a lot of men.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Gray said. “So where are you on your models?”
She looked at him. “Well . . . if I could get you, that would be a definite plus.”
He laughed. “You want me to model for you.”
“Sure. You’d be perfect. You’re popular, and that will have a certain appeal.”
Gray wrinkled his nose.
Evelyn leaned back against the sofa. “Oh, this should be fun.”
“I also have a couple models on hold on the female side, but I need a few more guys, and I want to plug in to the sports angle.”
“Okay, I could see how that would work.”
Carolina grinned. “Great. So you’ll do it?”
“I’ll walk the runway for you if it’s just a onetime thing.”
“It will be.”
Gray nodded. “You could also ask Drew.”
Just hearing his name caused Carolina’s pulse to jump. For precisely that reason—and about a hundred others, she said, “No.”
“Why not? He plays here in New York, so he’d be the perfect sports figure to tap into. You’d have access to him, and you already know him.”
“Gray’s right. Drew would be ideal,” Evelyn said. “He’s good-looking, sexy, and immensely popular. He has a huge fan base. I can’t think of anyone who would be better to help launch your line.”
The problem was, neither could Carolina. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
But Gray was already pulling out his phone. She tried to think of reasons to have Gray stop the call. But apparently Drew had already answered.
“Hey, guess where I am?” He laughed. “No, not at a strip club.”
Evelyn shook her head.
“I’m at Carolina’s apartment in Manhattan.” Gray lifted his gaze to hers. “No, she’s not saying bad things about you. Not yet, anyway. We’re actually talking about her new fashion line and your name came up. She wanted to know if you’d be interested in being a model for her.”
No, she did not want him to be a model for her. Anyone but Drew. In fact, he was the last person she wanted in her head, or to see in person. He’d distract her in so many ways.
“You are? Great. Why don’t you come over?” Gray shot her an innocent smile, then gave Drew Carolina’s address. “We’ll see you soon, buddy.”
He hung up. “He laughed and said he’d model, but only if you promise he doesn’t have to go naked.”
She rolled her eyes and tried not to think about Drew showing up. “How about something to drink?”
She headed to the bar and fixed everyone cocktails. She sure needed one. By the time she served the drinks, her doorbell sounded, so she went over to the door and buzzed Drew up.