Ten minutes passed with no sign of Edwin. Lark was starting to worry. Maybe he was in a car accident. She called his phone again. This time it went straight to voice mail without ringing, an indication that his phone was turned off.
“Hi, Edwin. It’s me, Lark. Where are you? I hope you’re okay. I’m at the restaurant waiting. See you soon.”
Another ten minutes passed. The waiter returned and Lark ordered another drink to ease her nerves. She had read the menu twice, trying to bide her time. Worry began to turn to disappointment and disappointment to anger at the thought of Edwin standing her up. Lark ran a company dependent on deadlines and she considered time to be a precious commodity. The thought of someone wasting hers was unacceptable.
Lark took the phone out of her purse and dialed Edwin’s number again. She was now fuming. She was going to give him a piece of her mind for not showing up for their date.
“Hello?” a female voice answered on the first ring.
“Oh...I must have the wrong number,” Lark said.
“No, Lark, you have the right number. Edwin won’t be joining you at Jean-Georges tonight or any other night.”
Lark’s mouth fell open. She was speechless. “Who is this?” she finally said.
“I’m Edwin’s fiancée. I read your text and listened to your message. I don’t know what Edwin has been telling you, but he’s taken. Please don’t ever call this number again.”
The line went dead before Lark had a chance to respond. She sat there, staring at her phone in total disbelief.
“Are you still waiting, miss?” the waiter asked, standing at the side of her table.
“Uh...no... No, I’m not.”
As the waiter rattled off the names of the gourmet entrées, Lark stared into space. She couldn’t believe the sudden turn of events. The words I’m Edwin’s fiancée kept reverberating in her ear. Lark was dumbfounded. She had totally misjudged Edwin’s character. He had lied to her about being single. Not only was he not single, but he was engaged to be married! His intention was probably to have no-strings-attached sex with her—as Darcy had warned—but he was taking the slow, drawn-out approach.
“Excuse me, miss... Would you care to order now?” the waiter asked after he had finished explaining the specials of the evening.
“I’m sorry,” Lark said, coming back to reality. “Can you repeat the specials?”
After the waiter reiterated his spiel, Lark ordered.
“I’ll have the salmon, medium rare. And can you bring me a glass of champagne?”
“Right away, miss.”
After the waiter brought the champagne over, Lark slightly raised the glass and whispered, “Here’s to the end of my online dating career.”
She wasn’t about to sit there crying her eyes out and mourning the loss of a potential relationship. As far as she was concerned, it was Edwin’s loss, not hers. Lark knew she had a lot to offer the right man, and obviously Edwin was not that man.
Chapter 2 (#ulink_c0a50278-c0e1-5463-9fad-8c338aefec29)
The Seventh Avenue offices of Randolph on the Runway—RR—were bustling with activity. The fall shows were over and the company was busy filling the last of the orders, designing a new line and preparing for the next round of fashion shows.
Being the chief operating officer and creative director, Lark was right in the thick of things. She strutted briskly down the corridor in a snug black pencil skirt, a white cotton shirt with huge billowy sleeves and a pair of pointy black stilettos. Her short hair was tucked behind her ears and her lips were painted blood-orange, her signature color, which was a blend of two different lipsticks. Lark spoke quickly to her assistant, Angelica, as she walked alongside her.
Although the fall fashion shows were long over, Lark had recently called some of the buyers she knew personally and had been able to convince them to purchase a few pieces. The sales numbers had been dwindling over the past few seasons and she desperately needed to increase revenue before the company drowned in debt.
“Do we have the final sales numbers yet from Patricia Taylor?” Patricia was one of the buyers whom Lark had contacted.
“No, but I’m sure I’ll have them later this afternoon,” Angelica responded.
“Okay, sounds good. What time is my next interview scheduled for?”
Angelica referred to her tablet and said, “Two o’clock.”
Lark had been meeting with some of the hottest designers on Seventh Avenue. She had let go of her lead designer and was having a difficult time finding his replacement. Most of the candidates she had met with either didn’t have the design skills or the right vision for her company. And with profits plummeting, she needed a designer who not only had major cutting-edge talent, but whom she could work with in harmony.
As she made her way to the conference room, she reflected back on the incident that had sparked the blowup with the previous designer.
Lark and Sebastian, the lead designer, who had been with Randolph on the Runway for years, had been in the company’s showroom scrutinizing the collection just days before the start of the fall show. He had wanted to pull the final piece from the collection, saying the hemline was dated and the gown didn’t fit in with his designs. Lark completely disagreed. She respected Sebastian’s opinion, but she felt strongly about her design. What started off as a civil disagreement quickly turned into a screaming match, with them going toe-to-toe, neither one giving an inch.
“This piece is passé!” Sebastian sniped, plucking at the rose-colored taffeta gown. “And who uses this fabric any longer?”
“No, it’s not passé. I designed this piece myself and I think it’s perfect for the grand finale.
“This gown gives the line a touch of elegance. I realize that taffeta is a material from a time long ago, but I want to re-create a 1940s-type feeling. A time of romance, and this gown depicts that era perfectly,” Lark said.
“Romance is overrated, and this gown’s above-the-ankle hemline is off-putting to say the least. Maybe you should stick to being the COO, hire a creative director and leave the designing to us professionals.”
“I have a degree from FIT in fashion design as well as an MBA from Harvard. I’m more than capable of running this company and designing a gown!” Lark sniped.
“Obviously your creative side isn’t as developed as your business side.” He took the dress off the rack and held it in his hands. “Look at this thing. The color is dull. The neckline is too high. Basically, it’s...it’s...just horrendous!”
Lark was quiet for a moment. “Why are you being so nasty, Sebastian? We’ve always worked so well together. What’s wrong? Are you having some type of personal issues? Did you and Peter break up?”
“He moved out, but I’m perfectly fine. My love life has never affected my work. Why are you trying to overrule me? I’m the lead designer. Or have you forgotten?”
His nasty remark incensed Lark. There was only so much more she could take from him. “And I run this company. Or have you forgotten?”
“Without my fabulous creations, RR would just be another wannabe design company manufacturing run-of-the-mill dresses,” he said.
Lark could feel her blood pressure rising. Not only was he insulting her design ability, but he was now also insulting the company her grandfather had founded. “That’s enough, Sebastian. This conversation is over!”
He clenched the gown in his hands. “No. What’s over is this hideous thing you call a gown. I’m not putting it in the show.”
“That’s not your call, Sebastian. As the creative director, the final word is mine,” Lark said, getting more frustrated by the second.
“Like I said before, you need to stick to management and leave the designing to the professionals,” he reiterated, further insulting his boss.
She took a deep breath in an effort to calm down. Their disagreement had gotten out of hand and it was time to put it to an end. She counted to ten in her head. Lark lowered her voice and measured her words. “Sebastian, the gown is going into the show...period. End of discussion.”
“If you put that thing in the show, it’ll ruin the collection. A collection I worked so hard to perfect, and I refuse to let that happen.” Sebastian began ripping the seams of the gown with his bare hands, destroying what Lark had created.
“Stop! What are you doing? You’re ruining my dress! You’re...you’re fired!” Lark screamed.
“You can’t fire me. I have a contract!” he said arrogantly.
“I can, and I did.” Lark exhaled. “Obviously your business side isn’t as developed as your creative side. There’s a clause in your contract that allows the company to buy you out at any given time—a clause that I designed, by the way. So you can pack up your things and leave today!”