Home > The Protector(4)

The Protector(4)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas




I spin around, my bags whirling with me, creating what I know will be the illusion of a huge elaborate paper tutu. I smile when I see Heather hurrying toward me, her eyes bright and excited. Wrestling my hand up to my face, my bags bashing against my side as they lift, I pull off my sunglasses before the weight of my shopping forces my arm back down.

“Hey!” I sing, matching her excitement. “No work today?”

Heather’s happy face takes on an edge of repulsion, just before she throws her arms around me. I’m unable to return her hug due to the obscene amount of shopping bags in my grasp, and I’m not in the slightest bit sorry. She’ll love what I have to show her. “They fired me,” she spits resentfully, squeezing me to her.

“Oh, shit! What happened?” I ask as she releases me, flicks her glossy auburn hair over her shoulder, and rearranges her Chanel purse.

“Tuesday night. That’s what happened.” She links arms with me and starts leading us down Bond Street.

“Ohhh.” Tuesday night comes flooding back to me. Or what I can remember of Tuesday night. Champagne. Lots of it, and some questionable dance moves at our favorite bar.

“Yes, oh,” she counters, giving me a sideways smile. “I got to work on time yesterday, but I couldn’t for the life of me read the autocue. It was all blurred.”

I laugh, picturing her squinting at the monitors beyond the camera. “Being on form is kind of necessary when you’re live on TV.”

We cross the road and head toward a café like homing pigeons. I need an iced lemon tea pronto. “So what now?” I ask, letting all of my bags drop like lead from my aching hands when we reach a table.

Heather rests her neat arse on a chair. “Now I get to focus on our dream, Camille!” Her eyes dance excitedly. “Any developments?”

“We have another investor interested,” I tell her, trying to sound casual. I’ve not allowed myself to get excited about the potential of getting our clothing line off the ground. Not until we have a firm deal on the table. We’ve made that mistake already. We virtually had the pen on the dotted line when I noticed a clause that wasn’t mentioned in the negotiations. Something about making clothes up to a certain size, which basically meant that any woman with even the slightest curve or hint of an arse wouldn’t be wearing our fashion line. It was a deal breaker, and something Heather and I feel strongly about. We made it clear that our clothes should be available to every woman of every shape and size. The investors wouldn’t budge, and neither would we. “They sound keen.”

“Really?” She gives me a big, toothy grin.

“Really,” I confirm, unable to stop myself from matching Heather’s smile, but I’m so nervous. At the moment we’re just two pretty faces with bodies that look good in clothes. I love my job modeling, but the urge is fierce to prove to everyone, including my father, that I can be more than just a mannequin. I know Heather feels the same. Neither of us is willing to compromise on our dream, and on top of that, neither are we prepared to accept any funding from our fathers. Heather’s dad is minted, too. Not as minted as mine—granted, not many are, if any in London—but he’s obscenely wealthy, nevertheless. “We have a meeting with my agent tomorrow. She has a few things to run over with us.”

“I’ll be there!” She smirks and points at my bags. “What have you been buying, since the Camille Logan and Heather Porter fashion range isn’t yet available? You do realize that we’ll only ever be able to wear our own label when it’s available.”

The thought thrills me. Picking out fabrics, coming up with designs, creating good-quality, affordable pieces. Fashion moves too fast for women to spend a fortune on the latest trend. “Just a dress for Saffron’s twenty-fifth-birthday party.” I grab my purse from my bag. “And some fabric I picked up in Camden that I want you to look at. It’ll make an amazing dress.” I have the design in my head already, and I just know Heather’s dress-making skills will do it justice. “Iced tea?”

“Please.” She’s riffling through my bags before I make it into the café. Still feeling the strain of my overindulgence on Tuesday night, my skin less radiant and soft, I grab a bottle of water to accompany my iced tea and chug it down before I make it to the counter. I need hydration and maybe a facial. Jesus, I’m twenty-five, and I already feel like I’m past it where the social life in London is concerned. “I’ll have a regular iced tea and a regular lemon iced tea. Thank you,” I say to the girl across the counter as I go to my purse and pull out a tenner. “Oh, and the water.”

“Oh my God!” she gasps, knocking me back a few paces. “You’re Camille Logan, aren’t you?”

I feel my cheeks flush, and I cast my eyes up to her, seeing a face riddled with awe. It’s both flattering and embarrassing. “Yes,” I confirm, hoping she doesn’t go on to make a big deal of it.

“You’re even more perfect in the flesh!”

“Thank you.”

“I’m so jealous! Your life is perfect! I love you!”

My smile now is forced. Perfect. Yes, of course it is. She must be seventeen, if that. She has no idea. No one has any idea about the constant battle to keep my mind focused on my future and not my past, the overbearing father who tries to control my life, or the challenge I face almost daily in London’s social scene that’s driven by cocaine and champagne. These are private battles that will remain private. Too many of my struggles have already been broadcast to the world…and my father. “You’re very sweet.” I strain my sincerity, despite the fact that she is, actually, very sweet. Naive, but sweet. “I have a friend waiting outside. Would you mind?” I nod to the machine behind her, hoping my subtle hint will snap her out of her starstruck moment.

“Oh God, yes!” She flies into action, all in a fluster, and has my order ready in record time. Handing my drinks over, her face proud, she leans in a little. “I’m going to pay for these. Then I can say I bought Camille Logan a drink!”

“Oh, no, you really shouldn’t.” I shake my head, point blank refusing to accept her kind gesture. “I’m paying for the drinks, but thank you anyway.”

“No!” She places them down and steps back, out of reach so my tenner just floats in the middle of us over the counter. She adamantly folds her arms over her chest, a cheeky glint in her eye.

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