Haze - Deborah Bladon



"How long have you worked here?" His voice is cultured, deep and smooth. It's not uncommon to hear a voice like that in this boutique. I've worked here for six weeks now and at least twice a week a man with too much money and an insatiable need to see young women dressed in expensive lingerie will come waltzing through the doors.

"Welcome to Liore," I say softly as I glance to my left to where he's standing.

I have to look up. He's large, not just in height but in his shoulder's breadth. His eyes are a rich brown, his hair just as dark. His nose is sculptured and his strong jaw only adds to his exceptionally striking features. The suit he's wearing is dark blue, perhaps even black. It's hard to tell under the chandelier lights that decorate this opulent space.

"Isla." His eyes hover over my chest before they settle on my name tag. "It's nice to meet you, Isla."

"It's lovely to meet you…" I pause. It's not only because I've been instructed to grab the name of each customer to give them a personal shopping experience. I want to know his name.

"Gabriel," he offers with a light touch of his hand on mine.

The name is oddly familiar. As I work to place it, I see him peering across the boutique at my boss. "Is there something I can help you find, Gabriel? Are you purchasing something for a girlfriend, or perhaps, your wife?"

His expression shifts slightly. "I have neither."

That's a pity but it's not. This is exactly the type of man I envisioned in my mind's eye when I arrived in Manhattan. I graduated from high school less than two years ago and my dreams of attending Juilliard on a scholarship had vanished as quickly as my clean record when I broke one too many rules in high school.

"Is there something in particular that you're looking for?" I catch the faint wave of the hand of one of my co-workers across the aisle. I ignore it because when a customer is ready to buy, the store could be engulfed in flames, and I'm not moving an inch. The commissions here are the highest I've ever earned in retail and the secret to guarantee a big sale is to make the customer feel as though they're the only one in the boutique.

His eyes scan the various bras we have displayed before they move to the lace panties and garters. "If I asked you to try something on for me, Isla, would you do that? Would you take me into one of the change rooms with you?"

I've read the employee handbook. No, I skimmed it briefly while on my way to work that first day weeks ago. The number one rule is to never take a male customer into the rooms. Men who lead you into those quiet spaces are craving more than a private fashion show. I know that. "I'm sorry, Gabriel. That's against company policy."

He studies my face carefully. The dark shadow around my blue eyes looks hideous in the alarming bright light of the morning, but in here it's sensual and alluring. My shoulder length blonde hair is straight today, a sharp contrast to my high cheekbones. I'm here to sell lingerie and the light pink wrap around dress I'm wearing accentuates everything it needs to. He hasn't walked away yet, so he's still primed to buy.

He closes the short distance between us as he steps towards me. "You don't strike me as the type of young woman who follows all the rules."

It's tempting. Not just because of the extra money I'd find in my pocket. "I don't follow rules, Gabriel. If you want a private show, I can come to your office after work."

His brow cocks with the suggestion. "Is that something you offer to customers often?"

I've never offered it before. "I only offer it to the ones who peak my interest."

"I'll give you my card." His hand dips into the inner pocket of his suit jacket.

I take it from his long, elegant fingers and look down at it. I don't have time to read the details before my boss, Cicely, is upon us.

I turn to look at her but she's staring at Gabriel. Her hand leaps to his shoulder.

"Mr. Foster," she says slowly. "I see that you've met our newest girl. Isla, you're explaining everything we offer to Mr. Foster, yes?"

I look down at the card of Mr. Gabriel Foster, the CEO of Foster Enterprises and