Be Mine Epilogue — Part 2
Aura sat up. “It’s last minute. I know. But Mark Rochas called me this evening, and he wants to meet me.”
Nathan’s frown shot to thunder. “Who the hell is Mark Rochas?”
“The Rochas Group? Mark and Cela Rochas? The husband and wife design duo who have the entire New York fashion industry eating out of their hands?”
He got off the bed. “Why does he want to meet you?”
“Nathan, really?” Aura stared at him in disbelief. “I suppose me winning ‘Best Designer of the Year’ isn’t supposed to lead to anything bigger?”
“You win an award. You pick up your trophy. That’s why we’re going to Milan tomorrow, isn’t it? Where does Mark bloody Rochas come into it?”
“If I want to expand my business into the states, I have to work with the best people there. And for goodness’ sake, it doesn’t get much better than a direct invitation from the Rochas Group.”
Nathan scrubbed his hand through his dark hair and went to glare out the penthouse window at London’s night skyline. “You want to expand…” He looked back at her. “It’s a little fast.”
“I’ve done the catwalk and season shows for four years now.” Aura swung her legs over the side of the bed. “This is the right time. Everyone in the industry knows me.”
“But you just got back from a week in Paris.”
“I know. It’s busy. The spring shows are just starting.”
His eyes narrowed. “Then summer. Then autumn. Then winter. Year after year.”
Aura frowned. “I thought you wanted me to make it big?”
“I want you to have the career that makes you happy.” He studied her, his brows knitted. “How long is this New York trip?”
Tomorrow was Friday, Valentine’s Day, and she’d be on a plane out to New York soon after her awards ceremony. “It’s a weekend trip. But I may have to stay on in New York a few extra days.”
A muscle jumped in his jaw, and his gaze flicked to her open case. “Just how important is this to you?”
“I need this if I’m to take my brand to the next level.”
“And if I say your family needs you more?”
“Nathan… it’s just a few days.”
“It’s always just a few days, Aura! You’re back home from Paris after a week away. I’m wondering why you even bothered. Why didn’t you just go straight to Milan?”
“Paris was something I had to do, just like Milan and New York. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to come back home to you.”
“But everything and everyone comes second to your design label.”
She jumped to her feet. “How can you say that? I don’t have a choice. New York is important. I’d never ask you to put something important in your business aside for me.”
“You don’t have to ask,” he said quietly.
She stared at him. “So you want me to say ‘no’ to any opportunity that comes my way?”
“I’ve never said that. Until now, your career and happiness have always come first.”
Her anger simmered down. He was right. He’d always been her biggest cheerleader, her strongest support. She stepped closer and reaching out, stroked his jaw. “I know,” she said sadly. “You’re everything to me. And if you really don’t want me to go to New York…”
Nathan shook his head. “It’s not my decision to make.” Catching her hand, he held it trapped against his skin. “Do you want to go?”
Aura hesitated. “It’s not that I want to go,” she admitted. “I have to. It’s what my work involves.”
“There’s never a ‘have to’. You always have a choice.”
He wanted her to choose to stay. But then she’d lose this once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with the best designers in New York. Say ‘no’ and they’d never call again. Egos were thinner than eggshells in her business. Nathan had no idea what he was asking her to give up.
She pulled her hand from his. “You don’t understand. I can’t just—”
“I understand.” His tone cut. “I just wanted to know where your priorities lay. And it’s not with your family.” And grabbing his shirt, he pulled it on.
Aura glared as he did up his buttons. “You’d do the same,” she said. “You even came home late tonight. Doesn’t everything come second to your work?”
“You don’t come second. And I didn’t need to come home at all tonight.” He tucked his shirt into his trousers. “And I didn’t need to rearrange everything just to be in Milan with you tomorrow.”
“So now I’m supposed to feel guilty because you agreed to come to Milan with me.”
Nathan picked up his jacket. “You wanted me there, didn’t you?”
“Actually, no.” Aura crossed her arms with a defiant glare. “If it means I’m responsible for the inconvenience of you having to reschedule your work, then no, I don’t need you in Milan.”
The corners of his lips tipped down, and shrugging on his jacket, he strode from the bedroom.
The full impact of her words hit Aura. She raced after him. “Nathan, wait.”
But his hand was already on the front door handle. He turned to her. “I’ve never asked you to compromise. I’ve been happy to do so for both of us until now.” He opened the door. “But it looks like you don’t need me anyway…” And he left.
* * *
Aura dropped the phone on the bed and glanced around the empty bedroom. But the hotel suite’s baroque beauty with its gold-trimmed furniture and hand-painted wallpaper couldn’t distract her from her loneliness.
Their first major fight in four years. Yes, Nathan could be stubborn, and there had been more than one time she’d tried shouting sense into him. But those verbal sparring matches had always inevitably ended with them in each other’s arms. He’d never walked out on her before. He’d never refused to speak to her like this before.
She closed her eyes. She shouldn’t have said she didn’t need him. She did need him. She needed him so much.
What would Nathan be doing now? She opened her eyes and regarded the silent phone. Would he be thinking about her? Probably not. He hadn’t called her back after all.
And getting up from the bed, she went to lean against the window frame. The Duomo stared back at her from a distance.
Was it really her fault? How had things changed so much between them these past four years?
Memories of Langley brought a faint smile to her lips. She’d been happy in her little sewing room, in her little house, in her little town. And the dresses she’d sewn there, one at a time, each one with its story sewn into its stitches. Those dresses had been one of a kind, just like the red dress she wore today.
She touched the soft wool crepe, and the fine cloth slipped between her fingers. Those days in Langley, a dress had been more than just a covering. It had been a story of hope. A story of who the woman was, her desires, and how she hoped to be seen.
But a fashion brand isn’t made in a single room in a little town like Langley. Her fingers fell away from her red dress. Fame and recognition didn’t come chasing. You had to chase them. That was the choice she’d made.
Though these four years, the higher she’d climbed the further she’d stepped from the days when one dress stood for the dreams of one woman. Now one dress was just a pattern to be produced in the hundreds and shipped out with her name attached.
Aura rested her head against the cold window glass and studied the golden city. The girl she’d been in Langley would likely look at her now and stare in disbelief at how far she’d come, and at how much she’d accomplished. But she couldn’t have done it without Nathan. And she couldn’t have done it without putting her family aside at times. Lately though, family had taken a back seat more and more often. Maybe the girl in Langley would look at her with pity.
She pulled back from the window with a frown.
It wasn’t her fault. She had no choice. If she stopped pushing now, years of hard work would have been for nothing. She would be a failure. Then what would become of her dreams?
Leaving the bedroom window, she went into the living area where her laptop stood open on the writing desk. Today had been busy. She’d arrived in Milan in the morning and then gone straight to meetings at two different design houses. It would have been perfect if Nathan had been waiting here for her afterwards. And it would have been heaven to know her Valentine’s Night would be spent in his arms and her weekend with her family. But dreaming wouldn’t make things right. She set her jaw in determination. Invitations in this business were never to be turned down. She had to do what she had to do.
She glanced at the gold scrollwork clock on the wall. Almost time. They’d be waiting for her video call.
And sitting down in front of the laptop, she signed into the chat app and waited.
Her gaze fell on the glossy magazine beside the computer. This month’s cover was all her—Designer of the Year. The lengthy interview inside called her an inspiration to all young upcoming designers. Aura gave a wry shake of her head. Some inspiration she was, sitting here questioning her choices and worrying about her future.
The laptop pinged and the chat screen opened full.
To be continued tomorrow…
Roses, roses everywhere
Ever wondered about the red rose?
It’s synonymous with love, isn’t it? And especially on Valentine’s day.
But did you ever wonder why the red rose became such a potent symbol of love?
Well, you can thank Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, for that. Legend has it that the first red-rose bushes sprang from the ground where her lover, Adonis’s blood had spilled. The bushes were watered by her tears.
When the Roman’s adopted Aphrodite as their goddess of love, in the form of ‘Venus’, they kept the red rose as her symbol. And then being Romans, they conquered most of Europe and spread the rose symbol everywhere. They spread a lot of other things too, but that’s a topic for another time.
But there you go; now you know what the red rose stands for. And the next time you receive one, bask in the love energy of Aphrodite, the original goddess of beauty and love.