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First pages

Mademoiselle Maximum

Every day, it’s the same. A simple sheet of paper becomes a mountain, a white expanse that seems to grow until its boundaries engulf me. I should have been the first in class to make it to the top and plant my flag, but I’m trapped in base camp with a sketchbook full of scary white pages that seem to mock me every time I lift a pencil. Madame watches me from her corner, one brow arched.

The fashion design class was billed as “an opportunity to experience the art of self-expression in a creative environment.” I interpreted that to mean nothing more challenging than paging through fashion magazines while waiting to graduate next semester. I wasn’t expecting to slog through boring lectures on fiber properties and power-points on trending designers. And with today’s new technology, I shouldn’t have to confront a blank sheet of paper with only a pencil in hand. I fumble for my big eraser and prepare to fix a drawing so bad, that I forgot what the original design was supposed to be.

Tension hovers over me like a toxic mist. I was a successful gymnast. I don’t do failure well, but there’s no other way to describe my portfolio. I’ve made it this far using the only two options available to somebody who can’t draw: erase just shy of shredding the paper or rip the page out and trash it. I’ve spent more money on erasers than drawing pencils, if that’s any indication of my talent, and the only thing I know for sure is that I get angsty in a “creative environment.”

Marine sits next to me in Design Principles, her finished portfolio of trashy costumes a reminder that everyone has moved on except me. I page through my sketchbook, searching for one good design that would save me from having to pick up a pencil and draw another. The only thing stopping me from dropping the class is having to admit that I failed fashion design, with the added insult of attending summer school to make up for it. Besides, I don’t like to lose. Ever. I was on the South Carolina gymnastic circuit long enough to know that I could always run faster and jump higher than the next girl if that’s what it took to bring home the gold. I’ve got enough hardware in my trophy case to gratify the entire Olympic training team, so why drawing a sweet little prom gown on pressed paper is so stressful is anyone’s guess.

“Just rip it out and let it die,” Marine sniffs, her voice grating across my nerves.

“Thanks for the advice, Marine, but I’d rather find out how my profile is coming along. Since it’s all about numbers . . . and after what happened in Algebra last year . . .”

“I passed, Cami Carter, which is all that matters.” Her eyes slide over my sketchbook as if it has a disease. “You’re running out of paper. Better make the next one count.”

I’m fisting my pencil so tight that my hand begins to burn, but my competitive nature doesn’t allow me to rip it out while she looks on.

I’ve learned a lot about fashion design over the past two months. For example, a design can take all day to draw, yet only seconds to erase. I own more colorful, oversized erasers than a five-year-old, keeping them stacked as a barrier from Marine on our shared design table. Erasing is soothing. Calming. It’s cathartic to the point of making me forget how I ended up in this class in the first place.

She slides a messy worksheet around my erasers. “Here’s your profile, since you’re so worried about it.”

I scan her row of numbers, and my face freezes. “There’s no way,” I gasp in disbelief. “There’s no way I’m a 37.2.”

“You’re a 37.2, Cami,” is her unapologetic reply.

If I didn’t know any better, I would almost believe her. She doesn’t have the ability to gather eighteen measurements of me and fill this worksheet out with any mathematical sense whatsoever, given the fact that she almost ended up repeating tenth grade geometry. It’s a well-known fact that she can’t add fractions, yet I’m holding her version of my personal measurements in my hand. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t worry about her math skills when I’m in the same design class with her and can’t draw.

My best friend, Bobbie Lee, talked me into signing up for Design Principles, and since I wanted to have a little fun in my senior year at Hilton Head Island High School, I fell in with the idea without thinking things through. After all, how hard can it be to dash off some fun fashions in a cute art book? I could draft a darling little halter dress or a sweeping, diaphanous monument to Cinderella. Or borrow a page from Marine’s portfolio and come up with a trashy look all my own, like lime green shorty shorts designed to beautifully crawl up my butt paired with a sheer tube top sprinkled with brilliants. Whatever. Whatever I could dream up and put to paper. It’s just that I created a train wreck every time I picked up a pencil. I had no idea how my darling flirty skirt idea ended up looking like a shapeless tent on a ghastly looking stick figure nor did I take the time to wonder why the circular file filled up with a lot of the paper from my book. The rest of the class has moved on with patterning while I’m in last place with a portfolio that has eleven pages left in it, down from eighty-five.

“Seriously? 24.3?”

“Try looking in a mirror, Cami. My numbers don’t lie.”

“They might not lie as much if I were to ask for a re-measure,” I lightly threaten.

“You were measured with a zero tolerance for error,” she informs me, wearing her perceived authority over me like a coat of iron. She’s never forgiven me for taking up space in the class with a very limited ability to design anything. “And it’s not like you have an approved design, that you need to worry about the accuracy of your profile.”

Maybe I don’t have an approved design to model for the annual DP fashion show next spring, but what’s to stop me from handing in my portfolio today and rustling one up? At that point, all I’ll have in front of me is her measurement chart listing speculative numbers that would look just as good on a lottery ticket. It pains me to treat her random list of numbers with respect, since they are the basis for all the patterning I’ll be doing in the computer lab. A simple miscalculation can spill into a wrong pattern, which then picks up speed and throws off the entire look you originally planned on last September, only you’re wearing your mistake on your back as you walk the runway a week before prom.

This is all Bobbie’s fault! If she hadn’t gone on about all the hot clothes we’d end up with hanging in our closets, I might have been able to figure out that I wasn’t qualified to be a designer. Madame agreed to enroll me on the condition that she’d set the project standards a little lower for me, since it’s a second-year design class. It’s just that we didn’t realize at the time how low those standards needed to go.

“What! 37.8! There’s no way,” I choke out in alarm. Impossible. That sounds perilously close to thirty-eight.

I look wildly around in time to experience the hushed, prurient interest of the class, which unfortunately includes two guys in the back row. There’s no way in hell that’s the size of my behind! I’m a 36-26-36, thank you very much, not a 37.2, not a 24.3, and nowhere remotely near a 37.8.

“If you want a fantasy profile, then you’re going to have to make one up yourself. Go ahead and crunch your numbers down all you want, but good luck getting your own back shoulder-to-waist measure,” I hear her say.

We’ll never know what I would have said because the final dismissal bell rings out loud and clear. The need to get out of here starts to claw up my throat like a suffocating burn. I’ll deal with these preliminary measurements some other time - just not now. “Thirty-seven, my ass,” I grumble under my breath.

“Cami!” Madame calls out. “I need to speak with you for a moment.”

Uneasiness creeps across the back of my neck at the sound of her voice. Bobbie throws me a look of concern before filing out with the rest of the class.

I shuffle uncertainly to Madame’s desk, bringing my sketchbook with me. It was due last week, and I make a sudden decision to count that last design as done and hand it in. I’ll just bring my A-game to the next phase of the project: CAD patterning in the computer lab. The software for that won’t give me any of the nervous hives that drawing does, and I’ve always been handy with numbers. I should be able to catch up with the class provided she selects one of my designs to make for the show.

“Cami, I notice that I don’t have a portfolio from you yet. I don’t want you to get behind because we work on a special timetable to prepare for the show.”

“It’s done,” I assure her, pushing my sketchbook across her desk. “I finished my last design today.”

Her brow contracts as she pages slowly through it in a silence so tense, its brittle.

“Cami, I’m not sure I understand your fashion concepts,” she eventually says, the sound of confusion in her voice. “Take this design, for example. You indicate that this is a formal gown, but it looks like pants.”

“That’s not pants, Madame. I was trying to draw a hem length. These lines over here.”

“I see.” She looks at my drawing again, frowning in concentration. “Well, actually, I don’t. I feel you could do this project a little crisper, a little cleaner, if some additional effort were put into it. I’ll give you some extra time to get sketch tutoring, then I’ll look your portfolio over when you’ve had a chance to present your ideas in a clearer way.”

“Tutoring?” I gape.

“I suggest you see Mr. Sams in the art department. Ask him to recommend an art student who can help direct your design thoughts onto the paper in an appropriate way.”

I force myself to stay on the right side of panic. I should have ripped that last design out. I should have erased more. I should have forced the Draw feature on my laptop into working for me, even though we are expected to hand in a book of pencil sketches. And what about tracing paper? Why didn’t I buy a pad of tracing paper and switch it out with the pressed paper in my art book?

“You need to start over, Cami,” she firmly advises. “With a little help, I think you can do this. The portfolio is a major part of my class, and a poor grade will pull your good test scores down.”

How is it Marine’s skanky designs passed and not mine? Especially that one with the jeweled zipper angled across the backside of a stretch tube dress. Her look-book is full of her fashion vision, which I found out is just another name for Lycra, easy access garments, and metal piercings. At least my stuff is classy, even though I can’t draw it.

I burst out of the design lab on an uneasy breath, fingers quavering around my sketchbook. What would it take to wipe that last class from my memory like a ghoulish drawing that I could erase? There should be some way to forget that my designs are for crap, tutoring is required, and my personal measurements are in the hands of two guy clowns. And the number thirty-seven. I want to forget that, too. Ten primitive drawings are the sum total I have to show for eight weeks of fashion design. I could have accomplished more on the floor of a gymnastics facility with half the effort.

I find Mr. Sams looking at an art blog, clicking from one frame to the next in a tiny office in the art department.

“Mr. Sams, I’m Cami Carter. I’m in Madame’s Design Principles class.”

“Cami. What can I help you with?”

“Madame would like me to get some drawing help for a project I’m working on.”

“Do you need help putting together some sketches? Some design ideas?”

“Yes. She thought you could recommend an art student.”

“That’s no trouble. My best student happens to be here now, although he’s probably getting ready to leave. His name is Brody Cantrell, and he’s in the ancillary studio all afternoon. That’s the second room down the hall. He’s working on artistic applications in the afternoons this semester. If he doesn’t have the time, come back and let me know.”

“Thanks, Mr. Sams.”

I wander down the hallway trying to sort out how I ended up needing art tutoring. Is there such a thing? Art tutoring? I’ve never heard of it. I’ve never heard of anybody needing art tutoring except myself. Maybe big, busy places like LA or New York have that sort of thing, but I live on an island. An island that specializes in sandy beaches, resort hotels, and fizzy drinks, that is. I wouldn’t mind having a decent portfolio like everyone else does, though. Maybe a little art tutoring is a small price to pay for a trendy collection of hot designs, all loaded into a big, oversized book I could call my own. Who knows? It’s possible an artist could turn around my entire perspective in art – literally and figuratively.

I step into the studio and almost feel the temperature drop. An ugly painting glares at me from the far wall, its dark scenes reminiscent of another world, one filled with extra-terrestrials and silvery spaceships flying through a starry sky. An alien with no artistic talent must have beamed this piece of work down from the mother ship, and I hoover uncertainly in the doorway. I shouldn’t be in here. I can’t draw. I have a predilection for erasing that probably won’t be encouraged in here, but I’m a junkie - an eraser junkie that will be needing a fix at the first sight of a sheet of paper. My eyes search the room for an artist that will need more than a wing and a prayer if he expects any prize-winning drawings to fall from my pencil.

He’s standing next to a monstrous easel, watching me with dark, expressive eyes, darkness that’s at variance with the thick blond hair curling loose over his ears. God. He’s the hottest looking artist I’ve ever seen. Nervous energy hums along my synapses just looking at him. The silence between us swallows me whole and I forget I’m failing a fun fashion class. I forget I’m holding a sketchbook full of rank design ideas that Marine has been insulting me about for the last six weeks. I forget the number thirty-seven.

“Are you Brody Cantrell?”

Broody gray eyes rimmed in thick, dusky lashes skim my face before stopping suddenly at the tiny, round freckle near my upper lip. I know that’s what he’s looking at because I only have one freckle, and I know right where it is. He steps closer, the scent of paint enclosing me. “Hey.”

“I’m Cami Carter. Mr. Sams said I’d find you here.”

I glance at the painting one more time, its lurid surface casting a disturbing shadow over the two of us. Don’t tell me he did that. Don’t tell me he spent the last two months with a brush in his hand, carving out this garish piece of work, because it looks like something I could have done. It doesn’t look worthy of the frame that surrounds it.

If that’s his work . . . and he’s the best art student the school has to offer . . .

“I didn’t paint that.” His voice echoes, flat with disapproval. “Mr. Sams’ niece did.”

My lips part on a soft sigh of relief.

I cast my eyes around the room, taking in the creamy back of a canvas larger than I am through the fretwork of an easel. Sketchbooks, stacks of paper, and charcoal stills strung up around the room are nothing but a constant reminder of why I’m here.

Adrenaline dances on my nerves. “I need some help on a project,” I burst out. “Mr. Sams thought you might be able to help me with a few drawing lessons. It’s – it’s due soon, and it’s not working out so good.”

He assesses me from under hooded lids. “How many drawings do you need to hand in for this project that’s not working out so good?”


That’s when he sees my sketchbook and reaches a curious hand toward it. “You got started on it already? These your drawings?” Strange, twisted ribbons of paint streak across his long, white fingers and platinum rings like a messy tattoo, and I back instinctively away. Something tells me he’s not going to like anything I’ve got in this book.

“Let me see,” he persuades, his voice floating over my skin like a Carolina whisper. A raspy, sexy-as-sin Carolina whisper. “I just want to see.”

My stuff isn’t any better than the niece’s piece of work that hangs over his easel and my hands tighten around my book. If there is such a thing as the art police, I’d be given my Miranda Rights and cuffed right in front of her ugly picture.

He’s coming at me now, determined to look over my sketchbook while I hold onto it with a death grip. Do I really want to get involved in a conflict with my new drawing instructor already? We haven’t even settled on a lesson fee. He tugs the book from my hands while I’m trying to think up a smooth excuse for why he can’t get anywhere near it and end up bristling with annoyance. He distracted me. He distracted me with his ashy blond head, his hooded eyes, his broody stare, and now he’s got my drawings in his painted hands.

He gives each page in my art book his undivided. An ominous silence thickens with tension; speculation; confusion. The furrow between his piercing gray eyes deepens, and I hear the words “Sweet Baby Jesus” escape under his breath. “Why this teacher has you messing around with abstract geometrics is a mystery,” he says, looking at a backless, asymmetrical gown I spent all week trying to draw.

I look at it, searching for abstract geometrics. The only mystery I need to solve is how I ended up in an art studio, of all places, trying to justify my work to this brooding artist. And why didn’t I unload my sketchbook in the trash on the way here? The circular file is the best place for it, yet here he is, decoding my portfolio like an enigma that is destined to dance out of his grasp for all eternity.

“There’s what? Ten, eleven sheets left,” he counts, an undercurrent of exasperation darkening his words. “I can’t work with this kind of paper. Where did this book come from?”

Dark eyes glint down on me with suspicion. He’s getting critical of my darling sketchbook with the jumping golden retrievers on the cover and the tutoring hasn’t even started yet! I want to scoop up my sketchbook and bolt past the ugly painting for the door, but not before one last, good look at his thick, ashy hair tumbling loose and soft around his ears.

“I just need to do ten sketches,” I stress.

He looks from me to my sketchbook, then back to the freckle above my lip. “How long did it take you to do these?” he carefully asks.

“Six weeks.”

“Six weeks,” he slowly repeats.

“Yes,” my voice rises firm. “Six weeks.”

“Huh,” he says softly to himself, turning another page. “There’s a lot of paper missing. How did that happen?”

“I rip out what I don’t like.”

He takes a step closer, intrigued. “You trash your stuff? What you don’t like?”

“I guess.”

“Like this?” He rips out my latest design and I can almost swear he enjoys doing it. Holding it up to the light, he looks at it one more time, as if he can predict what it means but can’t summon the acuity to process it. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this challenged,” he murmurs, his dark, sooty lashes narrowing as he contemplates my work.

I exhale a shaky breath. I need to get out of here. I need to get away from the sketchbooks, the charcoal stills that parade around the room, the empty easels that look like the caricature stick figures found in my portfolio. This whole experience reminds me of opening my sketchbook to find a white sheet of paper glaring at me, a feeling so visceral I want to run for the safety of the science hallway. I was a gymnast – a good one. Nervous is not a feeling I’m familiar with, although I’m picking up a lot about it in fashion design. The marketing ad Just Do It is the best way to handle the bars at a meet with any degree of success and nervous wouldn’t be a good plan for somebody who wants to reach for the gold.

“Thursday after school we meet here, okay?”

“Um . . . okay.”

“I’ll take you to Cabals Arts. I don’t recommend getting art instruction for ten drawings with only ten sheets of paper in hand. The only positive I see is that your teacher hasn’t seen this yet. We can do better without exposing anybody to . . . this.”

“I can pay for lessons.”

“I’m working on something for the Charleston Art Expo right now, so I don’t have a lot of free time. I’ll give you one free lesson, and we’ll see how it goes. How does that sound?”

“Okay,” I agree. “Thanks.”

As I reach for my portfolio, my last design flutters past us across the worktable and I skim a hand out to catch it. I’m not fast enough. His painted hand covers mine, trapping the wrinkled drawing to the table, and for the space of a few seconds, neither one of us moves. He’s leaning over me and all I can see is a beautiful artist with dark eyes. His warm breath runs in feathery strokes down my neck and his raspy voice undulates from his throat in the Carolina way. I’m getting perilously close to sensory overload.

“I think it would be a good idea if I kept this,” he says. “You mind? It could be a reference point for any progress that’s made.”

As I make my way to the school parking lot with my nine rejected drawings, it occurs to me that I didn’t look at that oversized canvas to assess his own level of artistic ability.



I’m on the beach that night with my cell and my chocolate brown Boykin, Missy, back spraying sand from her hind paws as she lopes past me. The Palmetto Dunes Beach is lit up like a Christmas tree under the full moon, and empty too, because it’s November. Gone are the tourists, gone are the doggie leash laws, gone are the colorless, washed-up jellyfish until next spring.

Winter track will be starting soon. A light jog up the beach might go a long way toward putting today behind me while discovering how out of shape I’d gotten over the summer. Thick foaming bands of surf narrow, then lap in, as Missy chases something swirling at the water’s edge. If it’s a four-bark alarm, I’ll have to jog up there to investigate, only to find it’s a stick, a horseshoe crab, anything that’s washed up on shore and she wants my attention.

November and parts of December are always like this on the island – empty save Orion’s Belt overhead and the chilly sand under my flip-flops. I jog about two hundred yards along the shoreline and fall gasping onto the sand. How could this have happened? I was in top shape last May, placing in the four hundred at the conference meet. Missy stretches past me, her curly spaniel ears flapping.

Jason Derulo’s sexy voice vibrates from my back pocket. Good. Bobbie’s calling. Shouting for Missy, I cut down the sandy beach access alley, the better to hear. She knows there’s trouble about that fashion class she pushed me into taking and is probably calling to dig her way to the bottom of it.

We were Tumblebugs at Island Gymnastics years ago, and have been BFF’s ever since. She likes to think she’s the one in charge of me, but that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve spent years keeping a weather eye on her weaker sense of self-control or pulling her back from the precipice of some inadvisable jump she’s ready to take in the name of drama. There’s no avoiding her razor-sharp intellect, honed to a lethal precision over the years, but my smoother edges and questioning personality have a softening effect on her.

“What did Madame want?” she says, ready to get down to business.

“She had some doubts about my portfolio,” I puff out, annoyed.

“Doubts? About what? Why didn’t you let me see it first?”

“Considering what went down, maybe you should have.”

“What happened?”

“She didn’t like it, that’s what happened!” I scowl into the phone. “She gave it back to me. Then – get this – she said I needed tutoring.”

“No way,” she gasps.

“I had to find my way to the art department to ask some guy I don’t know how to help me figure out a fashion design class,” I huff, irritation creasing my words. “A class you talked me into!”

“I’ve never heard of anyone needing art tutoring,” she defends herself. “But it makes sense, though.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You’ve been secretive about your designs for weeks now,” she accuses.

“I have not. You imagine things.”

“Then why haven’t I seen so much as one drawing? Whatever happened with that filmy, academy awards-style gown you told me you were working on? What happened to that one?”

“That drawing didn’t pan out. I put it aside to revamp it, but before I knew it, portfolios were due.”

“I could have touched it up,” she offers. “And after all the talk about getting hold of a red carpet to walk on down the runway at the show.”

“All the carpet drama came from you, Bobbie Lee,” I remind her. “You envisioned my gown and took it to the two-yard line in your mind. None of this matters, anyway. My entire portfolio has been scratched, okay? My concepts ‘lack definition.’” This sounds caustic, even to my own ears, as I stagger up the sandy beach alley. “I require tutoring.”

“Nothing worked out? Not a single design?”


There’s a pause. “Then what’s art tutoring supposed to do for you?” she eventually sums up. “A few drawing lessons and you’ll have the portfolio of a lifetime? Ralph Lauren will be knocking on your door?” I can almost hear her mind whirring with ideas to rescue my project, saving the good and discarding the bad. “Maybe I should piece together a few of my old designs for you.”

“It’s not going to take Madame long to figure out you did my homework for me. Remember what happened to Landry when she tried to pass that Donna Karan off as a potential prom gown? She didn’t even hide the fact that she used tracing paper and Madame had a meltdown. The lecture in ethics and plagiarism when on to kingdom come,” I remind her. “Besides, you won’t have a lot of time once you get a design approved for the show. There’s patterning, fabrics, and I don’t know what all to start working on.”

“That reminds me. I got design approval today.”

“That’s great, Bobbie, really. Which one? The Vera Wang wedding gown?”

She’s involved in a bridal blog world that would have sent even the most hardened bride reeling, and I’m worried that an online addiction might take over if it goes on much longer. Meanwhile, one gorgeous design after the next ends up in her artists’ quality bound book, done in pen and ink and touched over in pale washes of color. Her final design result is one of the most exquisite bridal gowns ever committed to paper. It’s no wonder I never let her have a peek at my book.

“The wedding gown,” she confirms. “But it’s mine, not Vera’s.”

“Your design will take a lot of time,” I consider. “Are you still doing the under slip?”

“Of course.”

“And the sheer overdress with the crystal trim?”

“The crystals are the dress, Cami. I can’t very well make it up without.”

“And the calla lily threaded through the satin wrist wrap? I love the gown. You know I do. But to do all that and make a collection for me at the same time might be a bit much. I’d rather it was you helping me, but I better stick to the Brody Cantrell deal I made today.”

A longer, more serious pause stretches to the max. “What Brody Cantrell deal? Are you talking about that senior honors art student?”


“The blond hair?”


“The dimples?”

“There might be dimples, I wouldn’t know. He spent his time scowling at my portfolio while I was looking for a chance to escape.”

I hear a repressive sigh. “I don’t recommend it.”


“It’s a bad plan. We both know why.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We’ve been through this before, Cami. That whole curl-n-dimple thing you can’t get under control.”

“That has nothing to do with my portfolio, Bobbie.”

“Like hell! And Brody . . . he’s going to be designing dresses for you?”

“Um . . . I don’t know. He’s just going to help me draw up some stuff,” I weakly explain.

I can feel her suspicion crackling over our cell waves. “You don’t know anything about him. You know less than nothing about his academic standing, his lifestyle choices, or his artistic abilities, yet he’s in charge of your portfolio now?” Her voice rises like judgement day. “Be warned. You could end up with barely enough yardage to cover your assets. He’ll plan in some kind of wardrobe malfunction. There are people out there that can do that kind of thing – plan wardrobe malfunctions. You might not be able to sit down in one of his creations.”

“I’m not sure he’s designing anything at all, okay? We’re just going to an art store to get some paper. Besides,” I reassure her, “he’s not really my type, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Let’s keep it real, Cami. I had to go through that Nick Jonas experience with you in eighth grade. And we won’t even mention Bret Barmaine. Thankfully, ninth grade was a long time ago.”

“Why are you dredging up my past at a time like this? Besides, Brody didn’t promise anything except one free lesson. Which was okay of him, I guess. He made a big, diva fuss about seeing my portfolio, yet when he did, he started griping about the paper, the drawings, even the book.”

“What! He put down the sweet dog book I gave you?”

“Wanted to know where it came from, as if I went shopping in the underworld,” I grumble. “I’m backed into a corner on this one, but there’s no way out. Yet.”

“A sketchbook isn’t like a gymnastics competition, Cami,” she cautions. “You can’t fight your way out of this one in order to get the gold. Your best bet is to get along with him and hope he does most of the drawing.”

“I didn’t need him on top of everything else, that’s for sure. He took his time staring at me and not in a good way. I have Marine to deal with right now, and that includes her imaginary measurements of me.”

“You saddled yourself with Marine. I warned you when school started to sit at my table and things could have gone a little bit better.”

“I won’t sit in Madame’s direct line of sight,” I defend myself. “I don’t like that front-and-center table you chose, so I have to make do sitting off to the side. Marine just happened to sit there with her cell phone calculator she can’t operate and her books – that’s plural – of trashy designs she whipped up. She’s never forgiven me for breaking into an honors class with a beginner’s status. I apparently have no skills to show for myself, but I’m not so certain she does either.”

I hear a heavy sigh over the sound of the surf. “I have to tell you something. Prepare yourself. Max was writing your numbers down on his arm with a sharpie in the back of the room.”

“That clown!”

“You’re not the only one with a nightmare going on! I was reduced to asking Alexia if she thought I was a piece of lumber based on her measurements of me. She didn’t even have the decency to deny it.”

“Idiots! All of them! Besides, you have a small frame and delicate body shaping, Bobbie. You’re not a piece of lumber, no matter what she was hinting at.”

“At least you have numbers,” she says. “You’re shaped like those numbers, Cami. I’m just saying.”

“Maybe, but Marine took inches off my waist and added them to my butt. According to her, my backside is right there.”

“It is not right there,” she loyally defends me. “You know Marine can’t do math.”

“So, there you have it. Marine can’t do math and I can’t draw. So how far will either one of us go in fashion design?”

My day is winding down. Thankfully. I crawl home and fall onto my bed face first with my sandy dog trapping my legs down. If I want to worry about something constructive, the best candidate is that winter track is starting soon, and I’m appallingly out of shape. But for some reason, as I drift off with Missy’s furry breath on the back of my knees, I see clearly an ashy blond head, a pair of beautiful gray eyes, and a frown.


About me

Mademoiselle Maximum is a contemporary romance between an athlete and an artist. Written in the first person present narrative by a very creative designer with a Bachelor of Science in fashion, the manuscript seamlessly stitches fashion design, painting, and powerful girl athletes together under the tropical island sun.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
My daughter was a gymnast and track athlete who lived on Hilton Head Island. This story is loosely based upon her experiences.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
To know when to stop editing.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
I spent many of days reading romance novels in my early teens and I'm proud to be a bibliophile. I've read thousands of romance novels, biographies and non-fiction.