Will she let down her hair for the man of her fantasies?
Famous for her long, golden hair and beaming smile, Razel D’Punz is the hottest model in the industry. But although most women would kill to get ahead in this profession, Razel lives an isolated life; one she has learnt to accept...until she meets Matthew Prince, a new photographer in the business.
Refusing to let her mother/agent’s strict rules stop her from spending time with the man of her fantasies, Razel quickly discovers that one night with Matthew isn’t enough....
And neither is the life she is chained to. Something will have to change if she is ever to get her very own Happily Ever After.
They were two beautiful people. Both strong and healthy, exactly what she was looking for.
The male was at least six foot, slender, but his body was firm. His light brown hair was slicked back, making his jaw-line and chiseled cheekbones more defined. His eyes were firmly fixed on his partner as they attempted the triple spin.
The female—such a petite thing with snow-white skin and a dazzling set of white teeth. Her blue eyes shone as she gazed up at him from a slanted dip. Her golden hair was tied up with stray curls hanging around her face.
Such a beautiful couple. They will do perfectly. She waited for the show to end.
Gabriella stood in front of the dressing room door. The small copper star resting against the worn wood had lost its gleam; the scratched metal had seen better days. She moved her attention to the two sheets of paper pinned below it, one reading: Robert Burton; the other: Nina Hewson. The dancing couple from Arizona. A couple whose lives were about to change.
She knocked sharply upon the door, which opened immediately, bringing her eye to eye with the polite, green-blue gaze of Robert.
“May I help you?”
“You may indeed.” She walked past him into the small room.
The dressing room, like the rest of the broken-down theater, wasn’t anything special. The general necessities were there; a mirror, vanity table, railing for costumes, and two chairs that looked like they had been stolen from a high school classroom. And from what she could guess, the hideous, moth-eaten red fabric hanging from the wall toward the end of the small space was the door to the restroom. The faded floral wallpaper peeled in many places, and the room stank of sweat and cheap perfume. Her nose wriggled almost uncontrollably as the rancid smell swamped her. At the sound of the door shutting, she turned and focused her attention on Nina, who was standing and pulling her faded, pink silk robe shut.
She drank their beauty in almost hungrily, reminding herself why she was in the hellhole of a theatre in the first place. Robert moved and stood beside Nina, who had folded her arms across her chest.
Happy with her choice, Gabriella dusted one of the chairs and sat, making herself as comfortable as possible. This was the last place in the world she would ever choose to be, but for her plan to work, she would need working class people. Individuals hungry enough for fame and fortune that they would sell their souls to the devil himself just for a taste. Who could be more famished than a struggling performer; or in this case, a couple of performers?
So she’d had to drag herself downtown, forced to sit for two hours in the dump that somebody had a nerve to call a theater. No one in their right mind who cared about their career or their bodies would even consider what she was about to propose, but the information she had found on these two loved-up dreamers was enough to assure her that her money would be welcomed, even if it took quite a bit of persuading. And she was, after all, very good at persuading.
She placed her red purse on her knee and folded her hands. “May I just begin by saying that you are both simply marvelous dancers?” Her fake and flattering smile slid into place, and satisfaction stirred inside her as the compliment sank in.
Nina blushed as Robert nodded.
“Why, thank you.” His broad smile fluttered across his lips. “What can we do for you, miss?”
“I was wondering if you would like to make some extra money.”
They glanced at each other.
“I was thinking along the lines of ten thousand. How does that suit you?”
Excitement sparked in their eyes. She could see the slight twitches running through their bodies at the offer, and she imagined they either wanted to embrace each other in sheer delight or fall at her feet and kiss her Prada shoes.
Nina beamed. “We would be very interested.”
“Yes,” Robert agreed, although hesitation quivered in his words. “But firstly, who are you?”
“My name is Gabriella D’Punz. I am—”
“Gabriella D’Punz, the founder of Ivory Tower Modeling Agency?” Nina dropped her arms to her side and took a step forward.
Gabriella cleared her throat and purged the surge of irritation that pulsed through her at the girl’s interruption. “That is right, my dear.”
She fought the slight urge to smile at Nina’s conclusion. “You do not even know what I am proposing.”
Naturally, the girl would presume they were being offered a contract for modeling; why else would a modeling agent come to see them?
“But surely there is only one reason you would want to see us—”
“I’m afraid you have mistaken me, my dear.” Nina’s brow creased under her words. “Or should I say you jumped to conclusions. I am Gabriella D’Punz, founder and agent of Ivory Tower, but I have not come here to offer either of you a modeling contract.”
“Although you are both beautiful—I openly admit it—and you are at a reasonable modeling quality, well, you are such wonderful dancers. That is where your hearts are, and I wouldn’t dare drag you away from that passion.”
“Then what do you want?” Nina asked, slumping down in the chair facing Gabriella.
“I want a child.” She paused as their eyebrows dipped in uncertainty to where this conversation was heading. “You see, my husband is growing old, and I am unable to have children….”
“I…I’m sorry to hear that, but what has this got to do with us?” Robert asked.
“Well, I was wondering if you could help me.”
Nina lifted her shoulders, her eyes widened a fraction. “How exactly?”
Gabriella’s focus shifted to Robert; a small smile curled her lips as realization blossomed over his face.
“Haven’t you heard of adoption?”
“Yes. But I want a surrogate mother and in all honesty, I have had my eyes on you,”—she rested her gaze on Nina—“my dear, for quite some time.”
Nina shifted in her seat. “What do you mean?”
“I want you to be my surrogate.”
“What? No.” She shook her head. “No, I won’t do that.”
Robert stepped forward. “Why her? What do you mean; you’ve had your eyes on her?”
“I saw a show of yours a year ago. I became interested in you. You’re both beautiful and in good health. From what I have learned of your education, you are both decently smart. All the qualities I need in a child. I have considered adoption for years, but I never found a child I liked.”
Nina’s eyes grew bigger. “What, you…you’ve been spying on us?”
“No, not spying. I just have an interest. I also have an interest in your career. You’re not making very much money. You have no home. You’re living out of Motels, travelling up and down the country—”
“How dare you!” Robert thundered. “How dare you come in here and…and poke your nose in to our business, to ask—”
“There’s no need to get hysterical.”
“No need? I...I...Get out! I want you out!”
Gabriella sighed. “I see you are going to make this difficult. So, let’s just get down to it, shall we? How much money do you want?”
“What? This isn’t about money,” Robert snapped.
“Nonsense, everything is about money.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her silver cigarette pouch. “Everyone has a price. So name it.”
“No. This isn’t about money. This is about a complete stranger waltzing into our dressing room demanding a baby from us!”
“I have not demanded anything from you. Please keep calm.” She placed a cigarette in her mouth and put the pouch back in her purse.
“I will not! You have no right! No right to ask this! No right to go digging around in our private business!”
“I was not digging, and more to the point, I am offering you fifteen thousand dollars to have a child for me; for a woman who is unable to have children.” Gabriella pulled her lighter from her purse and lit the end of her cigarette.
“And that’s our problem?”
“I do not see what the problem is.”
“You wouldn’t, would you? You strut in here with your expensive clothes thinking you can buy people. Thinking you can buy a baby?” Robert's face grew redder with each word.
“Why did you choose us?” Nina’s voice was soft, tentative.
Removing the cigarette from between her lips, she blew out a cloud of smoke. “Because with your looks,—” Gabriella’s lips twisted into a smile “—you would give birth to a supermodel.”
“You’re disgusting,” Robert replied through clenched teeth. “Get out!”
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing. I get a child, and you get money.” She slipped the lighter back into her purse. “Money that you are both in need of.”
“Get out.” Nina stood up. Her hands balled into the material of her robe. “Please, get out.”
“Are you sure you want to turn this offer down?” She kept her attention on Nina as she stood. “Twenty thousand can really come in useful.”
Robert walked to the door and opened it. “Your money isn’t welcome here.”
She laughed, and glanced in his direction. “My money is welcome everywhere.”
“Why are you so insulted?” She tucked her purse under her arm. “I am offering you twenty thousand dollars to have sex and get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you will stay in my home as guests. My doctor will see you, take care of you, and then when it is time, he will deliver the baby. As soon as you are well, you may leave. You may leave twenty thousand dollars richer than you are at this very moment. You can get on with your lives, fulfill your dreams. Tell me what is so disagreeable?”
“You want me to get pregnant and sell my baby to you for twenty thousand dollars?” Lines creased Nina’s forehead.
“No! It’s wrong.”
Gabriella shrugged. “Who said it is wrong?”
Nina shook her head. “I won’t do that.”
“Not even for twenty-five thousand dollars?” Gabriella quirked her right eyebrow. “How much do you want?”
“Get out!” Robert demanded once more.
“Fine.” She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small ivory card, which she placed on the vanity table beside Nina. “Call me when you realize this is the best offer you will receive in your lifetime.” She walked past Robert and out the door, turning right toward the fire exit.
Gabriella heard the door slam shut as she took another drag of her cigarette. Then the shouting began. She pushed the fire exit open as her smile spread to her ears.
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Elizabeth started life wanting to be an actress because she loved entertaining people. She enjoyed nothing more than being able to make people laugh and to help distract them from reality for a few hours.
She studied Musical Theatre in college, but during her second year, her mind started to overflow with story ideas, so she began writing plays. Slowly, over the following three years, she wrote more and more, channeling every ounce of her imagination into the written word.
And now, here she is, years later, hiding away like a hermit in her little cottage in Cheshire, England, writing like crazy and loving every minute of it.