Wicked Design

By: Tina Donahue


Clover smiled wanly, appreciative at how great Jasmina and Lauren treated her. “Thanks for buying that.”

“I didn’t. Noah and Kyle did.” Jasmine flashed her perfect smile. “Since I’ve been wearing it, I’ve sold three more.”

“Seriously?”

“You bet.” Lauren grabbed Clover’s wrist. “Come in.” She pulled her inside.

Even with the frigid air-conditioning, sweat poured down Clover’s back. Desire urged her toward Van Gogh. Good sense told her not to revert to her inherent candor, jump him, and make a scene.

“Look who’s here.” Lauren spoke to the general crowd then honed in on Van Gogh. “It’s Clover.”

She wanted to run or die, maybe both at Lauren’s clumsy matchmaking. This was worse than Clover’s initial foray into asking guys for dates.

The waiting customers talked to one another or on their smartphones, oblivious to her presence. Van Gogh kept his head down.

Given the vein that had popped out on his temple, she suspected he would have ditched his client and bolted if he could have.

“This is new.” Jasmina stroked Clover’s bracelet. A wraparound design that covered her forearm, the leaves and petals in burnished silver. “It looks like a tat.”

That had been her intent.

Lauren studied the piece and frowned. “One of ours.”

Clover hid her arm behind her back, hoping they hadn’t patented, trademarked, or copyrighted the design. She couldn’t afford a lawsuit for stealing it.

Lauren focused on the parasol. “This is new, too. Wow, it’s gorgeous.” She took the thing and twirled it. The beads sparkled wildly beneath the fluorescent lights. Black lace and silk fluttered. “Can you make one for Molly?”

Molly, Lauren’s eleven-month-old daughter, currently did time in a playpen next to the front counter. She staggered around her enclosure, either practicing her walk or looking to make a break.

Clover wiggled her fingers at the little girl. She had Lauren’s blue eyes and her daddy’s dark hair.

Molly reached the mesh side and tugged on the padded bar. It didn’t budge. Her face turned redder than Van Gogh’s had earlier. She dropped to her butt and sucked vigorously on the pacifier Clover had designed for her. Dainty bumps simulating pearls surrounded tiny, jeweled lips in ruby red. Somewhat similar to Elsa Schiaparelli’s and Salvador Dali’s jewelry designs.

Jasmina tried out the parasol. Coupled with her low-cut tank top, short-shorts, long auburn hair, and the cute ribbon tat on her ankle, she resembled a pinup photo from the 1940s, showing the perfect woman that WWII soldiers lusted on in between combat. “Isn’t Molly too young for black?”

“I was thinking of pink or maybe yellow.” Lauren smiled. “A much smaller size, too. You can do that, right? Nontoxic materials, of course. She’s at the stage where she puts everything in her mouth.”

She’d tossed aside the pacifier to suck her toes.

“I’m sure I can come up with something.”

“Let’s talk at the counter.” Lauren led the way. Once there, she patted Clover’s hand. “How long have you been doing this?”

She’d spoken quietly.

Clover kept her voice down despite the music and other noise. “Designing jewelry and stuff? Since I graduated art school a few years ago. I know I’m not making a lot of bucks, but I’m still pretty young.”

At twenty-five, she had only five more years to go before everything would be over, her youth gone. Maybe her dreams, too.

She glanced at Van Gogh.

He shifted and stepped around his client, facing her.

Before he noticed her lusting, she looked away.

Lauren crossed her arms. Her white embellished T-shirt spelled out WORLD’S GREATEST MOM in red glitter. “Are you ever going to break the ice with him?”

Clover played dumb. “Him who?”

“Van Gogh. Who else?” Jasmina rested her forearms on the counter. “You’ll have to, you know. It’s not as if he’s going to make the first move. It’s been like eight months since you came on the scene.”

Closer to a year.

“I know this is hard.” Lauren stroked Clover’s arm. “No one’s shyer than I am. If Dante hadn’t pursued me, I’d probably be watching him and another woman by now. Molly would have been their kid. Lucky for me he’s so lusty.” Her gaze grew unfocused. Pink bloomed in her cheeks, the shade matching her jeans. “That man knows how to seduce and romance.”

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