Miley stood in the middle of an attack of sheer panic, staring at her open closet. This wasn’t good. She had an hour to make an amazing dress appear out of thin air, and all she had been able to do was take out the only black dress she owned and tried to picture her wearing it to the type of functions Richard Hudson was used to attending. And in all of her scenarios, she ended up naked because that was better than the dress. Maybe she should go naked, at least people wouldn’t criticize her for her lack of taste in fashion.
For the millionth time since going back from Richard Hudson’s office to her job and trying to appear cheerful with every customer lined up to wrap their presents, Miley asked herself what had she been thinking.
Or rather, what had Richard Hudson been thinking.
At seven thirty, she had left her work, and had spent the entire walk home from the metro station talking on the phone to the people at St. Agatha’s, who had no news of a change. Unfortunately, they also didn’t have news that things were improving. A decision would have to be made and soon.
Maybe this thing tonight would help her keep her mind off of her problems for a while. Besides, she was seeing it as a kind of her night off after all the late and filled with worry nights she’d been living lately.
The only problem was she felt far from relaxed. She was now worried Richard Hudson would take one good look at her and regret his decision. Not that he had taken it based on her, being the efficient and practical man he appeared to be. He had used what he had in hand instead of wasting time getting a more suitable date. At least one who had famous designers’ clothes hanging from her closet that ranged from A to Z.
Hers had only one letter and it was a T.
Well, if he was displeased by her choice of wardrobe, then it was his fault. She had told him her problem and he hadn’t even showed like he actually cared.
Or, maybe she could find a way to contact him and……and what? Cancel? Yeah, right. Somehow she was pretty sure Richard Hudson wasn’t a man who appreciated a cancellation this late.
“Darn it Miley, you should’ve said no.”
But she had, hadn’t she?
Just then the doorbell rang and the blood in her veins froze.
Of course he’s already here.
Miley rolled her eyes up to the ceiling while she tried not to lock herself inside her room and ignore the doorbell. He was that kind of man. The kind that arrived really early to pick up his date.
Unless, he had sent someone to pick her up. Maybe she could ask the man to wait for her a bit, at least until she garnered enough courage to put on her simple black dress and hope for the best. It wouldn’t take long.
In avoiding the getting dressed part, Miley had worked on her hair and make-up. At least, that she knew she had done right. Working at Skyline she had learned a trick or two from the other sales clerks who sold hair dryers and expensive make-up. She even had samples of Bobby Brown which had been smuggled by Stacey when Carol had been distracted.
In her really old and tattered fluffy robe, Miley dragged her bare feet to the door and took three deep breaths. Only to have them leave her body in a gust of shock, as Richard Hudson himself stood impossibly handsome in a tailored suit and pristine white shirt and gray tie, his hair slicked back as if he had just stepped out of the shower and a large bag hanging from a finger over one of his shoulders.
When her eyes locked with his, it was to find his were hard, as if fighting a battle to keep any emotion from showing. If only she had the same kind of control, at least she would look as detached and aloof as he did.
Despite that, he was a man, and even if she wasn’t like the type of woman he was attracted to, Miley felt immediately self-conscious when those same green magnets lowered down to her old robe. She tried to hug it closer to her body since she was wearing the only decent pair of lacy underwear she owned and nothing else.
“Richard! I mean, Mr. Hudson. I wasn’t expecting you until nine.” Miley said, almost challenging him to reprimand her for not being ready.
“It’s Rick. Richard was my father.” It was clear he wanted to be his own person. Maybe he hated this time of year because of something that had happened between him and his father?
“Right, Rick. I’m sorry but you did say nine, right?”
“I did. But I recalled you said you had nothing to wear.” He presented her with the bag he’d been carrying and Miley let out a chocked out “Oh my.”
The name on the bag was one of those A to Z designers she was thinking about before, one that started with a V.
“You bought me a dress?”
“Yes. Go, try it on.”
Again that tone of command. Only Miley had nothing to argue with, with him. Hadn’t she been wishing for a kind of fashion miracle to take place in her own bedroom?
Careful not to make contact with his hand, Miley took the dress and stepped back, allowing him to come inside. Might as well get this over with, she decided, as she closed the door.
He stepped in and said nothing as he made himself at home in the living room, which Miley had thankfully tidied up this morning before leaving for work. Her room was an entirely different matter. Only he was not going into her room. The idea of Rick Hudson entering her room had her pulse bouncing up and down with expectation.
Which had to stop. If she was going to do this favor for him she had to stop acting like a stupid schoolgirl with a crush. The man would forget all about her by tomorrow and Miley would have to do the same about it. Because seriously, the chances of her seeing him again were as slim as Christmas lasting for the entire year.
“Do you want anything to drink? Coffee, water?”
“I am fine, thank you.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll just try this on.” Miley said, almost as if she was sure he had thought she was one of those size zero fans, women he most likely liked to go out with, and he had thought she would somehow be able to fit into such an abnormal dress size.
Once inside her bedroom she peeled the bag away from the dress in an almost religious way, trying not to damage what was beneath it by being careless. Glad the door to her room was closed, Miley heard herself say “Oh my God” as she stared at the black sequined dress sparkling under her bedroom lights.
It was absolutely unlike anything Miley had ever worn, in her entire life. It was a work of art, something that should be worn with the upmost respect. With shaking hands, she started putting it on, and let herself sigh as it slid down her body like butter, soft and sinfully delicious against her skin.
How had he guessed her size? It’s not like the coat she was wearing earlier today had highlighted her body. She turned around in the mirror above her dresser and noticed her back was visible by the oval shaped hole that began under the nape of her neck and ended above her lower back. Not too revealing but more than she had revealed, ever.
There were a couple of buttons that held the dress together at the nape of her neck but her hands couldn’t reach them. After bending her arms in impossible ways to do it, Miley gave up and decided she would have to as for help.
When she opened the door to her room and peeked outside, she saw Rick sitting on the living room couch, looking impossibly big and so out of place in such a small setting. Only he didn’t look like he was being miserable sitting out here waiting for her.
His eyes were inspecting the many framed photos she had on the coffee table before him and on the shelves of the tiny bookcase that was plastered right next to the window. They were all pictures of her and her mother, of her birthdays as a little girl, of the day she graduated high school and of the many Christmases they had spent living in this apartment, and of standing before the huge tree at Rockefeller center.
Without her saying a word, he left the photos and turned to the direction of her room. Those eyes roamed up and down her body and Miley wondered if maybe she had been wrong about it fitting her perfectly and he was seeing it in a different way.
“I’m glad I got the size right. It looks excellent on you, Miley.”
That was the first time he had called her by her first name and it sounded so intimate, as if they had known each other for more than just one day. It had something light bouncing in her stomach.
“It’s beautiful. You really shouldn’t have, though.”
“You’re doing me a favor. Of course I had to.”
That broke through her cloud of hope, like saying her name had meant he was starting to see her more than a mere convenience. Apparently, in Rick’s world, you did things because you had to, not because you wanted to. Miley nodded as if she agreed and then wondered how to put her request.
“Is something wrong, Miley?”
“No, not with the dress. Like you said, it fits perfectly. I just can’t get to the buttons on the back. I was wondering if you could…….” she cleared her throat and finished. “If you could give me a hand.”
His lips curved on one corner and Miley realized she should’ve tried to do the damn buttons herself. But it was too late to back out, just as it was too late to back out from this ridiculous night.
He stood up and went to her, and she turned around. Miley wasn’t aware she was holding her breath until his knuckles grazed against the nape of her neck and she let it out in a loud rush.
“Did I hurt you?”
Hurt her? If only he was giving her goosebumps as his skin made contact with hers, while he dealt with dexterity with the back of the dress. Then, Miley went utterly still as he leaned down and said against her ear.
“Like I said, it looks excellent on you.”
His hands were now on her shoulders and she thought of closing her eyes and leaning back against his back. Only before she could embarrass herself by actually doing it, he stepped back and said. “We should get going.”
Dizzy, like woken up abruptly from a deep slumber, Miley went back to her room to check her appearance one last time, still not sure if the woman staring at her back from the mirror was the same who had been wrapping Christmas presents all day long.
She put on a pair of black high-heeled sandals which didn’t look too shabby with the dress, and a small clutch purse that matched the color of the dress. She opened it to make sure she had put in her phone, in case there was an emergency. She prayed there wouldn’t be.
He was holding her coat by the time she stepped out, and he helped her wriggle into it before they went out into the hallway and off to a night Miley certainly would never forget.