Location: Heroine’s Bedroom (Morning)
I woke up with that condescending email Hunter sent me last night burning in my brain, only to realize I’d overslept . . .
. . . AND forgotten to pick up most of my best work clothes from the cleaners.
(No new coffee maker, either. Crap.)
Fortunately, one of my favorite dresses was still in the closet. It was a few years old, but I thought the lines and the fabric choice meshed perfectly, making it timeless.
(Hope this meets Mr. Snooty’s standards for work-wear!)
As I thought about it, the dress represented exactly what I hoped we could achieve with the new line.
(Maybe I can explain it to Hunter using this dress an example of the kind of quality and simplicity that should be at the foundation of everything we do.)
Location: Outside the Streetside Café (Exterior) (Morning)
Traffic wasn’t too bad (for L.A.), and it wasn’t like I had to clock in, but it bothered me to be late on only the second day.
As I hurried from my parking lot to the office, my mind was humming with a new take on my idea for the store.
Noah and Francis were coming out of the Streetside. Francis was waving frantically. His eyes seemed very large in his face.
Noah “You look like you’re dressed for success today.”
He pushed a coffee into my hand.
Francis “We saw you driving down the block and figured you didn’t have time to get one. Personally, I love coffee. All kinds of coffee . . . “
Francis “I love it too much. Especially since I can’t really drink it, y’know? But I love the way it smells, the way it tastes, the warmth of it in my mouth . . . “
Noah and I exchanged a look. Then Noah broke into one of his wicked grins.
Francis “I see you looking at me. I’m talking too much, which means Noah actually ordered me regular instead of unleaded . . .”
Francis “Which means I’m going to be talking too much and too fast. Like I am now. Am I talking too fast?”
Heroine “That depends, Francis. Are you training to be an auctioneer? ‘Cause in that case, you’re coming along nicely.”
Francis turned to Noah. He was obviously irritated, but his gestures were jerky and his rate of speech was so fast that it was pretty funny to watch.
Francis “I hate it when you do this to me, Noah. Hate it, hate it, hate it!”
Then he turned to me and I struggled to control the smile I felt rising to my lips.
Francis “He’s so damned charming, y’know. He’s like a magician with the sleight-of-hand. He gets you thinking about something and, next thing you know . . . “
Heroine “You’re drinking whatever he gives you.”
Francis “Exactly! This is what he does at clubs, too. She’s going, ‘Oh, doesn’t he have nice eyes, yes I’ll have another Cosmo‘. . .
Francis “Or ‘Ummm, this third Manhattan is so tasty and what’s that he’s saying about the pre-Raphaelites?’ and . . and . . .”
Francis “ . . . and, next thing she knows . . . or sometimes HE knows . . . it’s ‘let’s go to my place’ or . . . “
(Did Francis say “Sometimes HE”?)
Noah “I think [USER_FIRST_NAME] gets the point, Frank.”
Francis “Don’t call me ‘Frank’! I hate it when people call me Frank. Almost as much as I hate it when you prank me with caffeinated coffee! I’m going up.”
With that, Francis headed into the building at a rapid pace. Noah laughed as he vanished into the revolving door, but not in a mean way.
Heroine “He’s really annoyed.”
Noah “He is. But he’ll get more done this morning than three other over-caffeinated people combined, and he’ll brag about his productivity all afternoon.”
Heroine “So you’re just being a good friend, then?”
He read my ironic tone. His wicked smile returned. He touched my arm and I got a shiver.
Noah “Oh, absolutely. I can be a VERY good friend.”
Heroine “I just bet you can.”
(Whew! I felt that right down to my toes . . . and he didn’t DO anything!)
Location: Building lobby/elevators (Interior) (Morning)
By this time, we’d made it to the elevators.
A) “No Francis in sight. Where’d he go?”
B) “How is your team progressing?”
C) “Tell me more about Hunter.”
Heroine “No Francis in sight. Where’d he get to so fast?”
Noah “Must’ve taken the stairs.”
I looked at him, astonished.
Heroine “That’s . . . ten flights!”
His tiny little shrug, combined with a little “who, me?” expression cracked me. We shared a long laugh all the way up to our floor.
Heroine “How is your team progressing?”
Noah “We’re deep in the budget weeds. Kind of waiting on you guys for the basic branding ideas.”
Heroine “So, no thoughts on the direction you’d like to see?”
Noah “Oh, I have thoughts, but I’ve been told to keep them to myself and let you guys go wild.”
The elevator opened on our floor.
Heroine “Tell me more about Hunter.”
Noah “Not ‘Tell me more about yourself, you beautiful man?’ Ouch.”
Heroine “Oh, I get you already. Precocious flirt and man-about-town.”
Noah “There is no mystery left.”
The elevator doors opened on our floor.
Heroine “Oh, it’s ten after! Hunter’s going to be furious.”
Noah looked me up and down. Somehow, his appraising gaze was flattering, not arrogant.
Noah “Oh, I think when he gets one look at you in that outfit, he’ll forget all about the time.”
And then he was gone.
I was left pondering what a nice package Noah was, and how different he was from Hunter.
Location: Team office (Interior) (Morning)
If not for the change of clothes, it would be easy to think Hunter had never left his desk last night. He started in without even looking up.
Hunter “I’ve been here since eight.”
(Kind of unnerving to think he already recognizes the sound of my footsteps.)
Heroine “Well, I was taking mean-spirited emails from home until late.”
He looked up. He didn’t look surprised, exactly, but he took a little longer than he should have to say something.
Hunter “I see you read mine. Nice dress.”
Heroine “Thanks. It’s one of my favorites.”
Hunter “One of mine, too. That’s from the first line I designed for MH.”
I think I kept my jaw from actually hitting the floor, but I can’t swear to it.
A) “You . . . designed this?”
B) “It was also the only thing I had clean.”
C) “Huh. And I got it at a bargain sale.”
Heroine “You . . . designed this?”
Hunter “I did. It was my favorite piece from that line and it sold well.”
Heroine “I guess that proves you have good instincts. Or did a few years ago.”
Hunter “I still do.”
Heroine “Prove it. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Heroine “It was the only thing I had clean.”
Hunter “If you wore stuff like that to the office more often, I’d pay your cleaning bills.”
Heroine “Now you want to dress me?”
Hunter “Like it or not, I look good on you.”
Heroine “Well, your stuff from five years ago looks good on me. What about the stuff you’re working on now?”
Heroine “Huh. I got it at a bargain sale.”
(Did I actually hurt his feelings? After that snippy email last night?!)
Heroine “Well, let’s see if you’ve still got the touch. Show me what you’ve been working on.”
Hunter “I showed you mine first yesterday. Your turn.”
We went into the conference room to spread out. Our first big meeting with the rest of the team was tomorrow. A lot was at stake.
Location: Conference room (Interior) (Afternoon/early evening)
We spent the rest of day comparing notes and design ideas and agreeing on a few points, but mostly arguing.
Over lunch, we almost agreed on something. Then he said something dick-ish and I tossed pickle at him. We were at it again.
By 5:30 the office was clearing out. We were both wiped out, but still holding our ground.
Heroine “I don’t think this is your best work, Hunter. That’s all I’m saying. Look at this dress that you designed.”
I stood up and twirled around.
Heroine “This has style. It didn’t look like last year’s idea after six months, and it’s held its value to me as a dress that says ‘classy, yet contemporary’ for several years.”
Hunter “Yeah. That dress rocks. Would it be sexual harassment if I said you rock it?”
Heroine “Ahhh. . . . it MIGHT.”
Hunter “Okay, sorry. But it looks great on you, and I get to say that because I designed it.”
He rubbed his eyes. I sat back down, thinking about what just happened.
(Was that . . . flirting? Compared to Noah, he sucks at it, but still . . . )
Hunter “All right, so I’m coming around to liking about half of what you have on paper there.”
His free hand was squeezing his little stress ball like it was a nut he had to crack before he starved to death.
Hunter “I’m not sure we should go so heavy on the period elements. Those columns in the main entry bug me . . . and the patterned ceiling . . . “
Heroine “Fine. I’ll rethink those. But you have to rethink the whole late-Sixties vibe in some of your stuff . . . drop the psychedalia, please God.”
Hunter “Done. But I reserve the right to hate it when I’m finished.”
Heroine “So do I.”
He actually cracked a smile.
Hunter “You realize we’ll be walking into this meeting tomorrow with whatever we come up with between now and then?”
Heroine “That’s the definition of a meeting deadline . . . show ‘em what you came up with since last time. This is the first of many meetings.”
He started packing up his materials.
Heroine “We have good stuff. It just needs polishing.”
Hunter “Good is the enemy of perfect. But whatever. I’m too tired to argue any more.”
Heroine “We agree on that, at least. We have most of the day tomorrow.”
Hunter “Be here earlier than late and earlier than early, too. And wear that dress again, unless you have something else of mine in your closet.”
Heroine “I wouldn’t know it if I did.”
(Although I think I MIGHT, now.)
Hunter “If it makes you look like a club girl or the Secretary of State, it’s not mine.”
Heroine “And if it makes me look like a princess, or a movie star?”
Hunter “If my clothes do that for you, I can’t say so without getting sued or slapped, so . . . “
Heroine “I’ll use my own best judgment, then.”
Hunter “Then we’re both in trouble. See you tomorrow.”
He swept out of the room and, by the time I got my materials packed up, he was gone.
Location: Conference Room (Morning)
We both came in with some fresh stuff the next day, including another dress from my closet that I was pretty sure was another of Hunter’s from that first collection.
He didn’t mention it if it was, but he smiled when he saw what I was wearing.
Hunter “I’m reserving comment on your stuff, but mine looks like a pile of warmed over . . . “
Heroine “No. No, Hunter, that’s not true. Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect today.”
He grumbled something under his breath.
(Probably his “good is the enemy of perfect” mantra again.)
Heroine “We have a few weeks to refine things. We need to bring in the rest of the team before we can firm anything up.”
Hunter “I want us setting the tone, not them.”
Heroine “I agree, but that’s what they want, too.”
Heroine “Also, I’m glad you said ‘us” because that means you’re starting to think of us as a team.”
Heroine “But they aren’t ‘them’ . . . They’re our collaborators too. COLLABORATION. Ever hear of it?”
Hunter “Not since my last so-called GROUP project in college where I did all the work and everyone else coasted.”
Heroine “Hunter! Listen to me! This is a team of people who were ALL like you in college! Get it?”
He grunted. We went to our separate corners to finish up for the presentation.
(I just hope he heard that. What a . . . CHALLENGING man.)
Location: Conference Room (Afternoon)
Around four, all eight of us converged on the conference room. I hadn’t talked with Hunter since the whole blow up earlier, so it was a little nerve-wracking.
(This could be a big disaster.)
Alistair “The rest of us have been crunching numbers, setting up a resource pipeline, contacting designers . . . “
Alistair “. . . but we’ve been waiting for you two to give us the first glimpse of the direction our brand identity is going to take. Let’s see what you have for us.”
A glance from Hunter made it clear I should go first, so I did.
I laid out the broad concept – upscale but not out-of-reach couture, designed by in-house and commissioned European talents and marketed as timeless AND trendy.
Then I presented my initial design sketches for the flagship. Noah and Damon got excited about the possibilities for graphic elements for the website . . .
. . . Francis was jazzed about the look and anxious to see Hunter’s prelims. James sat, silent and focused as always. Tim beamed from ear-to-ear.
I turned the floor over to Hunter. And he proceeded to blow us all away.
(This is so different from what he had yesterday!)
The whole late-Sixties thing was gone. The skirts were still short, the faux-furs were still there, but muted . . . .
. . . the lines of the new designs were early-Sixties mod, but with Edwardian and even Victorian elements, yet without the excesses of any of those eras.
(The work is just STUNNING!)
When he stopped talking, we all just sat there for a minute.
(That . . . was amazing. A tour de force. I can see by their faces that Francis and Damon agree, but Alistair . . . )
Alistair “It seems we have a starting point for our new brand. You two should go see the new space tomorrow.”
He rose and left.
Heroine “So . . . . the meeting is over?”
Noah peeked out the door, watching Alistair’s retreat. As he came back in, he started to applaud. Francis, Damon, Tim, and even James joined in.
Damon “Guys . . . that kicked butt!”
Tim “Really wonderful work, both of you.”
Francis “There’s so much for us to work with!”
Noah “What are we going to call it?”
Francis “All the British elements . . . it’s like you drew from every English era since the rise of the Tudors . . . “
Heroine “Hunter thought we should call it . . .”
Hunter “No. I thought about it, and I like the name YOU came up with.”
He pulled a sketchpad out of his portfolio and tossed it on the table. There was the name I contributed, rendered in his strong, clean style.
Francis “MAJESTY . . . yeah. That’s perfect!
Heroine “But, Alistair was so . . . “
Damon “That was Alistair’s version of fist-bumps all around. He liked it too. A lot.”
I felt like celebrating, but Hunter just went back to his desk and dug in again.
Location: Breakroom with vending machines (Interior) (Evening)
Later, I went to the break area to grab a bottled-water for the road home . . .
. . . and found Hunter, his eyes shut, leaning against the window.
No doubt he’d been up all night working on the new designs. But exhaustion wasn’t what I saw.
He still had a coiled tension in his body, even in repose. For the first time since I met him in the café two days ago, I noticed how handsome he was.
(He looks like one of those Roman statues from Art History class. Perfectly symmetrical . . . great cheekbones . . .)
(Yeah. And he’s got that marble-statue arrogance, too. Which is too bad, because he is very yummy, now that I see him like this.)
(I am staring. I need to stop staring.)
He felt it. His eyes popped open and he gave me that level, intense look that I’d noticed in his eyes yesterday.
(This is pretty awkward, me just staring like this. I should open my mouth and say something and definitely STOP staring.)
Instead, I broke our gaze and left.
Even though I’d felt like celebrating earlier, all I did was go home, order Chinese, and curl up on the sofa. I couldn’t get that image of Hunter out of my mind.
Tomorrow, we push past what we’ve already got. Every aspect of the brand ID needs to be set by the end of the month if we’re going to be ready to commission work and start final construction and detailing.
Big day tomorrow: we see the flagship site. Bring your tablet, your sketch software, and any creative brainpower you have left after today.
Nice dress again today, btw. And yes, that one was mine too.