The fashion show began, the least professional fashion show he’d ever seen, but the most moving and emotional. As Ally had told him, the models were all women who’d kicked drugs and reclaimed their lives, all beautiful in their own way. Some walked the runway with hesitant steps, others with proud confidence, others with shy embarrassment.
Jack’s attention was momentarily diverted by the photographer shooting each model as she came out, and he studied the man as he worked, checked out his camera. Then Ally next to him distracted him as she clapped, cheered and laughed. The pleasure she took in the women’s success humbled him. At the end, the models all came out, hugging, laughing through tears, and Jack, Ally and her friend Kim stood with the rest of the audience to applaud them enthusiastically.
When he turned to Ally, she was wiping a tear from her eye and he smiled at her with concern. “Hey,” he said. “You okay?”
“Yes,” she said with a laugh and a small sniff. “I’m fine. This was so good for me tonight. When I feel sorry for myself, working with people like Toya always puts things in perspective.”
He knew exactly what she meant, had gotten the same reality-check just that morning. At that moment, he felt the deep connection he had with Ally, a connection he had never felt with anyone else, and their eyes met and held in the crowded room.
“You’re so special,” he told her softly.
She smiled tremulously. “Thank you.”
He wanted to wrap her in his arms and never let her go. It took all his self-control to resist the urge, and he shoved his hands in the pockets of his cargo pants as he followed Ally and Kim out of the ballroom.
“There’s a small party after,” Ally told him. “Kim and I are invited as volunteers. We should make an appearance.” Her eyes questioned him. He realized he probably looked moody, scowling in his efforts to resist Ally, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched.
“Of course,” he said immediately, only too happy to watch her with her friends.
He accepted a glass of non-alcoholic punch and sipped it as Ally and Kim mingled and talked with other volunteers and the evening’s models. Ally looked so sophisticated, so confident, laughing and talking with the others, accepting hugs of thanks from some of the women she’d worked with. And yet, she hadn’t ditched him. She made sure to include him in conversations, introduced him to people, took his arm when she moved on and towed him with her.
Being in her world entertained and enlightened, and he wished he could be more of a part of it. He pushed gloomy thoughts like that out of his mind. He was trying to take one day at a time right now, deal with one issue at a time, and a relationship with Ally was not something he could even think about.
Later, he followed her into her house, feeling like a teenager on a date again, waited while she turned on lights. She turned to him and smiled. “I hope it wasn’t too much torture for you tonight,” she said. “Thank you for coming.”
“No. Thank you. You’re amazing.”
She flushed a little, dropped her eyes. “No, I’m not. I really don’t do very much. Not as much as some people.”
“There you go again, fishing for compliments.”
Her gaze flew up to his. “I was not!”
He laughed. “I’m kidding. By the way, what you do is just so...you.”
She laughed a little breathlessly. “Okay.”
He stared at her longingly, wishing for things he couldn’t have. Her eyes warmed and her pupils expanded. Was she thinking the same things?
Their gazes locked. A tension between them drew them closer and he wasn’t sure, but he might have moved toward her. Silent darkness surrounded them. His heart thundered his chest and he felt like he was in a dream where he wanted to move but was frozen. He wanted to touch Ally. He wanted to say to hell with all the sensible reasons he shouldn’t touch her, he wanted for once in his life so badly to do the wrong thing. Because taking her into his arms, holding her, ravishing her, would feel so right.
Extreme Close Up Chapter 14