The rest of the morning moved along at a snail’s pace. Although the fantastical visions, not to mention feelings, were still fresh in her mind, now Joanie had a new dream – one of becoming a famous fashion designer. At the moment, men were as far from her radar screen as they could possibly be. Mind you, it’s not that she wasn’t interested. Although many of the men in the industry were gay, she was regularly wooed by male suitors, either photographers or wealthy philanthropists too old for her, but fun for a night out at a lavish fashion soiree. Once she went out with Ryan Freemont, Hollywood’s newest heart throb ten years her junior.
But working and living in the design world was a rollercoaster lifestyle, one meant for younger singles. One night stands were the norm for most men, and although Joanie had partaken, even initiated some in the past, that had been a phase. At heart she was an old fashioned girl. She was tired of the dating game. Besides, at twenty eight it was time to get serious. It wasn’t necessarily the white picket fence and the two kids she was after, but it was more than a wild fling with some big-shot. For her it was about love, passion and the man she felt was meant for her – Peter.
They were expecting her. Joanie was ushered to a cozy window seat that had been reserved under Jake’s name. She was punctual. He was fashionably late, but it gave her time to settle in and touch up her lipstick. Luckily, that morning she had put on one of her own creations, a body-hugging taupe Lycra dress with brown lace over-jacket. Understated but classy. She added a deep purple Swarovski crystal broach set in gold, for an added punch of sparkle and color, and wore gold hoop earrings. And of course her favorite Manolo Blahnik three inch faux-leopard sling-backs adorned her size six feet. Shoes, Joanie felt, made ones outfit complete.
She was just taking a sip of water when a tall, strikingly handsome man swished past her and presented his hand in greeting as he settled comfortably into the seat beside her. Joanie swallowed. For some reason she hadn’t expected Jake to be such so attractive.
Joanie couldn’t help but notice he was wearing a personally tailored dark blue, double-breasted suit with a thin deep purple necktie, sterling cufflinks, and tasteful black Italian leather shoes. Cropped stylishly short, his sandy blonde hair had a touch of grey that gave him an air of sophistication. While his neatly trimmed sideburns enunciated his masculine jaw-line, they also supplied the necessary edge his rugged good looks called for. His eyes blazed bright blue, his smile brought warmth to the room – and to Joanie’s cheeks.
“Hello Joanie, I’m Jake. Very nice to meet you at long last.”
Why did that sound so familiar? Flashbacks of the morning’s erotic dream came to mind. A flush ran through her again. Was it the tone of his voice or what he said that made her feel so warm? She couldn’t put her finger on it so she brushed the questions from her mind and focused on what was in front of her – her gorgeous lunch date.
“Hi Jake. Nice to meet you too, but I must admit, it was quite unexpected to get your message this morning.”
“Well, I hope not to disappoint.”
Joanie shifted uncomfortably in her seat and smiled nervously. Are you kidding, she thought. You couldn’t disappoint a room full of devout nuns.
“No, not at all. So, you never told me, who gave you my name?”
“Oh, that would have been the good man who is your boss, Thomas Carlyle. His lover is my good friend Matthew. Matthew and I work together. That’s the connection.”
There was a pause while Joanie processed this new information.
“Oh, excuse me, didn’t you know about Matthew? Sorry.”
“That’s okay. I mean, I knew about Carlyle, or, you know, that he is, well…”
“Yes.” Joanie felt foolish now.
“Anyway, he thinks very highly of you. Carlyle that is. He couldn’t say enough about your work.”
Joanie sat there, stunned. Jake had just covered for her. Most men she had spent any amount of time with would have teased her incessantly for missing the beat on the gay boyfriend. In her industry, you just didn’t slip-up like that. And this was Carlyle they were talking about. He had been her boss for the past four years, and was considered her good friend. Of course she knew that he was gay, but why hadn’t she known about Matthew? Joanie realized at that moment that no man had done that before, just smoothed over a blunder and let it gracefully pass. No man except Peter, that is. Her admiration – infatuation – for Jake grew on the spot. The fact that he was not too bad on the eyes didn’t hurt either.
Their lunch lasted three hours. Once the ice was broken and precursory matters were out of the way, Prosecco was ordered, along with a light lunch; fresh Fanny Bay oysters, sautéed scallops in a light lemon puree, and filet mignon, all of which was served and portioned-out throughout the afternoon. Half way through the bottle of Prosecco their bodies leaned in closer to one another, searching for some intimacy amidst the bustling lunchtime business crowd.
It started with a slight, accidental brush of her hand by his, as he reached over to fill her glass. Once the bottle was replaced in the ice bucket, he absentmindedly stroked her wrist while he described what he’d heard of her work. Brilliant! He had said. Refined taste with a twist of the eclectic. We love it. They talked and laughed, their emotional contact increasing as the luncheon went on. Butterflies, like in her morning’s dream, fluttered around in the pit of her stomach. Was this for real? Then he took her hand in his, fingering each bump and bone. He kept talking, as if it were an everyday occurrence, as if they had known each other for months, years. The way he stared into her eyes with such relaxed intensity gave her shivers.
“Some more Prosecco, Monsieur?”
The middle-aged waiter stared directly at Jake, patiently waiting for his response.
“I think not Jean-Paul, but maybe a small sampling from your patisserie, and two espressos please. Do you drink coffee Joanie?”
Joanie looked at Jake, then up at Jean-Paul.
“Oui Monsieur Jean-Paul. That would be lovely Jake. Thanks.”
They both smiled broadly.
Jake and Joanie lingered over their coffee and flaky pastries as long as possible, exchanging stories and talking design. As it turned out, Jake wasn’t a designer. He was an art investor, mostly dealing with fine art, often buying and selling rare pieces. He had started dabbling in fashion design because of his sister, who encouraged him to broaden his horizons by supporting her in her modeling career. In less than a year, Jake had researched and began following young, new talent in the industry of fashion design, and he found that he liked it. Not only was it easy for him to maneuver in a world mainly run by women, but, just as he had an eye for fine art, he had an eye for fine fashion. Having not one but three sisters, who he adored and who adored fashion, certainly helped.
Jake had stumbled upon Joanie by accident when at a preview party exhibiting the work of notable New York designers. Only one of Joanie’s pieces was on display, a long sleek, lime-green cocktail dress with plunging neckline that tapered down to the waist, where a handful of individually sewn crystal beads erupted into the shape of a sunburst. All it takes is one – one fabulous piece of art, one classically designed dress, one amazing woman. After reading her bio, seeing her photograph, and talking her name around, Jake fell hook, line and sinker for Joanie. Her unique artistry was only a bonus.
And Joanie could hardly catch breath when Jake asked her if she wanted to meet him for dinner after work. But that afternoon, Joanie didn’t make it back to work.
...to be continued next Tuesday, April 5th...