Lexi shot her a get-real look.
“Without your makeup,” Rubi amended. “Twenty-four with.”
“I still can’t believe you took me to a sex club. That’s over the top, Rubi, even for you. See if you ever get another thank-you drink out of me.”
“Maybe I won’t recover your crashed program next time.”
Lexi quirked an irritated smile. “Why are you being so pissy with me?”
“Desperate measures, I admit. When’s the last time you created a really fresh design?”
Lexi closed her eyes in dread. “I can’t believe you’re bringing this up now.”
“Three, four months?” Rubi asked, knowing damn well how long it had been, because Lexi showed Rubi every one. Often consulted with her on each. “And before that, how often between fresh designs? Really ground-breaking designs, Lexi? Another three, four months?”
Lexi slumped in her seat. “Nice, Rubi. Point out what a loser I am the night before I fly across the country to meet Martina Galliano to discuss the proposition of my career.”
A life-changing opportunity Lexi couldn’t think about too long or she’d hyperventilate. One of the most successful female designers still active in the fashion world, Galliano wanted to talk to Lexi about a partnership for a new line. The woman had the money and reputation to shoot Lexi’s company of couture wedding gowns into a stratosphere she could never reach on her own.
“There’s never a good time,” Rubi said. “You’re always too busy. You never want to talk about it. But it’s becoming a problem, and as your friend who loves you and wants to see you succeed, I’m telling you what we both already know—you can’t go into a partnership with someone like Galliano operating at half capacity.”
Lexi’s frustration mellowed. Rubi was right. Lexi was quick to anger lately. Easily frustrated. Creatively bound.
Her great designs came far too infrequently for a designer looking to break out. And Lexi had to twist her mind into a pretzel on crack to find them. Her creative side felt more like a desert than the lush tropical jungle it had once been.
The lack of sex in her life—for pleasure, stress relief, intimate human connection—only seemed to bunch the issues, like fabric gathered too tight. And the emotional snags keeping her from seeking a lover pulled the string taut.
Yes, she admitted, feeling like she should stand up and profess, My name is Lexi and I’m a sexual train wreck.
She’d never expected the weight of potential success to be heavier or more stressful than potential failure.
Rubi took the ramp to LAX like a normal Los Angeles, California driver.
“I know why you’re careful.” Rubi’s soft, serious voice drew Lexi’s gaze back. Her friend’s compassionate old soul had eclipsed the wild child. “You have real obstacles to cultivating a relationship. But your OCD has leaked out of your designs and overtaken your life, Lexi. And I’m not talking about picking up a guy like Jake. He is too young for you. And I don’t expect you to go to a sex club. Those were props to make my point.”
“A point that could have really hurt me,” Lexi said as they slowly passed the different airline terminals. “All it would have taken was one of those stupid photographers following us from the studio.”
Rubi waved a hand carelessly. “I made sure they didn’t.”
She slid up to the Virgin America terminal, and Lexi smoothed the knots from her hair as her mind turned toward her flight, her meeting, her future. All the stress her few hours with Rubi had released now coiled tight in her chest again.
She didn’t like this feeling. Didn’t want this sickness. And suddenly felt trapped—trapped by success. How had that happened?
“Now there are a couple of fine examples of men who could get your creativity flowing.”
Rubi’s voice pulled Lexi’s attention from the glass doors leading into the terminal. She followed Rubi’s gaze to the truck stopped in front of the Ferrari—big, dark gray, and dirty. Lexi’s blood stirred without even looking at the men. She knew exactly what kind of guys drove those trucks.
Then her gaze traveled over the two fine male specimens on opposite sides of the truck, talking over the bed. Both built as rugged and sexy as that vehicle. The one on the driver’s side was in his midtwenties. Golden, sloppy hair sticking out from under a baseball cap. Unshaven. Tank top and cargo shorts showing off tanned muscles. Just about six foot.
It was the other man who set Lexi’s body all out of balance. The one on the passenger’s side, who looked about Lexi’s age. His hair almost black and too long. His face dirtied with a couple of days’ worth of scruff. His tattered duffle sat in the truck bed near his hand, and his long legs filled out torn black jeans ending in scuffed black boots. The finishing touch—lighter fluid on a struck match—his muscled torso was covered in the sexiest black leather motorcycle racing jacket she’d ever seen.