Run to You

By: Lara Adrian

1




Evelyn



I’m late.

Dammit, I’m never late. It’s one of my unbreakable personal rules. Right up there with never lose control of any situation. At least, not on the outside. Yet today of all days, I’m currently eight minutes late and going nowhere fast.

As I speed through the rivers of afternoon Manhattan traffic, anxiety creeps up the back of my neck in a damp rush, making me regret that I decided to wear my dark hair up in a chignon instead of down around my shoulders in loose waves to hide the clammy sheen. I crank the A/C to full-blast, but it’s not going to cool my nerves. I haven’t experienced flop-sweat like this since the first time I stepped onto a fashion runway. A long time ago. Another lifetime ago, in fact. Still, my stomach clenches at the reminder, nausea twisting inside me.

And I’m getting later by the second.

I’d already been running behind when I left my shop on Madison Avenue to make the fifteen-minute drive from L’Opale to this private client meeting across town. Rescheduling was out of the question. I’ve been looking forward to this appointment for several weeks. In truth, I’ve been busting my ass to prepare for it as if my life depends on landing this client. Maybe it does. Either way, I’m not about to let a career-making opportunity slip through my fingers.

I switch lanes to avoid a slow-moving minivan with out-of-state plates and a bumper full of tourist decals. My turn onto West 57th Street is only a couple of miles ahead. I rush to make a light, only to slam my foot on the brake an instant later, wincing as the hood of my Volvo nearly taps the yellow taxi that’s veered out from the curb in front of me.

Shit. Nine minutes late now.

I can still hear Katrina, my design partner at the boutique, chiding me for insisting on driving instead of opting for the subway. And yes, as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. Never mind that I haven’t set foot near those subterranean tracks even once in the past five years. To be honest, I’m not sure I can ever again. But this appointment would have been worth it to try.

Who the hell am I trying to kid? This appointment is worth everything to me.

God, I hope Kat was able to reach Avery Ross to let her know I’m on the way. Absently, I reach over to the passenger seat for the phone in my purse and grasp nothing but air. It’s not there, of course. The vintage Chanel couture clutch--one of the few remnants of my former life--went missing sometime between my arrival at L’Opale this morning and the moment I was packing up my lingerie designs for today’s private consultation.

After several minutes of panic and fruitless searching, I finally grabbed my keys from atop my desk where I tossed them and left. I’ll have plenty of time to resume freaking out about losing my favorite little handbag and everything inside it when I return. At the moment, the only thing I’m focused on is getting my portfolio into the hands of my newest client who’s waiting for me in the executive suite of the Baine International building.

Assuming this meeting happens at all. The only thing worse than crashing and burning in front of a celebrated artist who also happens to be the fiancée of one of the most powerful men in the city--if not the world--would be losing the chance to try.

Hope pulls me forward as I turn onto West 57th where the gleaming, dark glass tower belonging to billionaire Dominic Baine dominates the skyline and occupies easily half of the block. I’m familiar enough with the landmark building even though I’ve only been inside a handful of times over the years, on random occasions when I’ve been in the company of Baine International’s chief counsel, Andrew Beckham, my starched-collared, career-driven, perfect older brother.

Andrew owns the boutique I manage, just one of many investments he’s made in me since we were kids, financially and otherwise. We may only be half-siblings, sharing a handsome father who gave us our shared creamy brown skin tone and light green eyes, but Andrew has been my rock for as long as I can remember. Especially in recent years. Even when I didn’t deserve him.

Since I don’t have time to hunt for on-street parking or a nearby public garage--not that I can pay for either one without my purse--I take a chance and swing into the underground lot beneath the Baine Building. Punching in the access code I’ve seen Andrew use on the keypad outside, I wait for the metal arm to rise, then slip inside.

As luck would have it--finally a little bit of good luck today--I spot several vacant spaces, although all of them are marked Reserved. I take the empty one that’s nearest the elevator. Killing the Volvo’s engine, I unfasten my seatbelt and reach back to collect my design portfolio and laptop from behind me.

I’m still leaned into the backseat foraging around when a hard rap on the driver’s side window startles me.

“Can’t park here.” A deep baritone, speaking in a clipped, authoritative tone.

I don’t know who the voice belongs to since all I see standing outside the car when I swivel my head is an athletic-looking torso clad in a crisp white button-down shirt. A black suit jacket is open just enough for me to notice a hint of the leather shoulder holster and pistol riding beneath the pressed fabric.