Excerpt: Gibson’s Girl

Excerpt: Gibson’s Girl

Book 4: NY! NY! Series

Chapter One

There were six naked women in Gibson Walker’s line of sight. They were slender lissome women with long legs, smooth thighs, and pert breasts.

And all he could think was, Why in hell weren’t there seven?

He glanced at his watch, tapped his foot, ground his teeth.

“Where is she?” he muttered for the fiftieth time in the past half hour.

How was he supposed to shoot the photos for the brand-new fragrance Seven! if he only had six naked women?

“Can’t we start?” one of the naked women whined.

“I’m cold,” bleated another, hugging herself.

“I’m hot!” purred a third, batting her lashes at Gibson in an all too obvious attempt to make him hot, too.

But any temperature elevation in his body, Gibson knew, would have more to do with the heat of his growing irritability than with any woman’s seductive wiggle. To make that fact clear he glared at her. She immediately edged behind a light reflector to avoid his gaze.

“Gibson, my nose is shiny,” one of them complained now, studying herself in the mirror, tipping her head this way and that and making rabbit faces.

They won’t be looking at your nose, sweetheart, Gibson wanted to tell her. But he knew better. This was Art — in the eyes of marketing, at least. So all he did was say to the makeup girl, “Judi, powder her nose.”

Judi powdered the girl’s nose. She powdered someone else’s cheeks. Sierra, the hair stylist, fiddled for the thousandth time with everybody’s hair.

Gibson tapped his toes, drummed his fingers, yelled at Edith, the studio manager, to find out who the hell she was, this missing female.

Whose fault she was, he meant.

Given a choice Gib always picked his own models — ones he knew, ones he trusted to be reliable, professional, on time.

But he hadn’t picked any of these. The client had.

“We want a little of everything,” the ad rep had told him on the phone. “All beautiful, of course,” he’d added hastily, “but not all . . . you know, standard brand.”

Gibson had snorted at the time, but he knew what the rep meant.

Seven!, according to the ad-babble he’d been given, was supposed to appeal to Everywoman. Therefore Everywoman — albeit beautiful — was supposed to be in the ad. In other words, not cookie-cutter dark-haired, expressionless models with chiseled cheekbones and pouty lips.

“We’ll look through the head sheets and pick them,” the rep promised. “Some tall, some short. Curly hair. Straight. A variety of ethnic types.” Like it was somehow bold and daring. “And we’ll send them over.”

Fine with him. Gibson didn’t care who was sent — as long as they could tell time.

One of them obviously couldn’t.

He drummed his fingers on the desktop. He paced. He fumed. The girls fumed, too. They fluttered. The fluttering grew. Agitation was next. Then, who knew?

Gibson, who counted on setting a mood for a shoot, could feel the mood of this one turning grim.

And then, all of a sudden, he heard Edith say, “Yes, yes. He’s waiting for you. Go on right through. Go in.”

The door opened. Slowly. Warily.

As well it might, Gibson thought.

“About time,” he barked at the young woman who appeared in the doorway. “You were supposed to be here at one.”

She blinked round eyes so deep and dark a blue they were almost violet. Gib shook his head. The idiots in marketing strike again. They knew he was shooting in black-and-white. The eyes were wasted.

“M-my plane was late.”

“Plane?”  They’d flown her in? Was she some hotshot west coast model he’d never seen before? The latest L.A. superstar?

Gib’s brows drew down, and he studied her more closely, trying to see whatever it was they’d seen in her. He was the one, after all, who was supposed to be a connoisseur of women.

It was what he did — photograph women. Beautiful women. It was what he was famous for — the photographs — and the ability to recognize beauty and capture it so others could see it, too.

He looked closely now.

Miss Blue-Violet looked like a caricature of the 1950s version of “the all-American girl.” She was in her mid-twenties age-wise, he’d guess. Older than the average “flavor of the month” they usually came up with. She wasn’t especially tall, either. Average, he’d have said. Not average when it came to curves though. He’d seen roads through Nebraska with more curves than the typical model. This one looked more like a real woman as far as he could guess from what was camouflaged under her shirtwaist dress. 

Who the hell wore a shirtwaist dress on a job like this? Who the hell wore a shirtwaist dress in New York City in this day and age? With her wavy blonde hair and full lips, she looked, for all the world, like a sort of discreet, demure, buttoned-down Marilyn Monroe.

And there was a contradiction in terms for you, he thought wryly.

Maybe that was what they saw in her — the potential to burst out, to become something more. Sprinkle on a little Seven! and a woman could turn from the seven virtues to the seven sins.

Not a bad idea. A speculative smile touched Gibson’s mouth. He could work with that.

“What’s your name?” he asked her.

“Chloe,” she said with a flutter of lashes designed to indicate bafflement, as if she thought he should have known.

Gibson’s brows lifted. Was she going to be one of those arrogant ones, then? One of those models who’d done two or three jobs, maybe got a cover somewhere, and expected that she was now a household word? Gib had no use for prima donnas, even if their planes were late.

“Well, Chloe,” he drawled, “you’re here now, so take off your clothes and let’s get this show on the road.”

The blue-violet eyes seemed almost to bug out of her head. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. She only gaped at him. Her cheeks actually seemed to be turning red.

“What’s the matter?” Gibson said, entirely unsympathetic, “Didn’t the nice people tell you what you’d have to do if you came here today?”

“They didn’t say . . . they didn’t say . . . that.” Chloe gulped. She looked around wildly, blinking as her gaze went from one naked woman to the next.

Generally models who’d been around a while were entirely unself-conscious wandering around without a stitch on. Everyone had seen so many naked people that they were too blase to care. But now, under Chloe’s stricken gaze, Gib could feel their self-consciousness rising. Next thing you knew they’d be grabbing for their robes.

Gib ground his teeth. Then he pasted a smile on his face. “Well, I guess you can leave,” he said in saccharine tones. He leveled a challenging gaze at her. “I guess you can just get back on that plane and fly home again.” He paused a beat. “Or you can do what you were hired for.”

Dead silence. She seemed almost to stop breathing. Then she made a quick gasp. Her tongue touched her upper lip. Gib could read indecision on her face. He almost thought he could read fleeting panic there, too.

Hell’s bells, what had possessed them to hire this one?

And then, with one last desperate gulp, she nodded. “Where . . . where do I … ch-change?”