Immerse yourself in this engaging excerpt from the first section of Serving the Couturier.
The excerpt unfolds at the moment when Leah steps into Sophie's shoes as the new junior fashion designer, while Sophie is incapacitated due to a ski accident in Aspen. Leah, driven by her promise to keep Sophie's role secure, takes on the challenging impersonation.
On her very first day, she loses her personal sketchbook and becomes lost while trying to locate it. Intriguingly, it's Damien Laurent—the enigmatic fashion mogul and CEO of the company—who discovers the sketchbook, and finds himself captivated by the unique designs within.
As we delve into the story, Leah is on the precipice of her initial encounter with the esteemed fashion virtuoso. Enjoy!
Sophie would have straight-up dislocated something besides her hip with excitement if she knew what she’d missed. I mean, we’re talking about Damien Laurent here. The man’s practically a mythical creature in the world of fashion. The big D. The notoriously elusive mastermind behind Laurent Lumiere. It’s like spotting a unicorn in the wild!
And elusive is perhaps an understatement when describing this man. I didn’t even know what he looked like. I’d done my homework over the weekend, deep-dived into the cyber rabbit hole, expecting to dig up a photo or two. But nada. Zilch. Not even a blurry paparazzo shot! It was like trying to find Bigfoot. It was just his breathtaking designs that were left to speak for him.
The women who wore them became the faces of his brand, while Laurent himself remained a fascinating enigma. This entire spectacle—his unseen presence behind the grandeur of his creations—added to the allure and the mystique of Damien Laurent. But now, here I was, about to encounter the man behind the legend. The thought sent a flurry of butterflies dancing in my stomach.
I tagged along with Ashley, attempting to decode his fashion lingo while silently praying my nerves wouldn’t betray me.
Upon entering the conference room, Ashley suggested we sit together. Treena was already commanding the head of the table, so I silently agreed, sticking with the one familiar face. The room was charged with anticipation; it was like being in the eye of a very fashionable storm.
Across from me, a woman with flawless curls tossed her hair back, sending a knowing wink to her neighbor. As the room filled with light chatter, a poised assistant with a sleek black bob started handing out navy blue portfolios embossed with the Laurent Lumiere logo.
A hush fell over the room. “Please, hold off on opening these until Damien arrives,” she instructed, maneuvering her way to the front. She greeted a few folks with a warm smile. “For those who don’t know me, I’m Nora Salings, Damien’s right hand and occasional nanny.”
The room erupted into light laughter.
“And a full-time nanny at that,” said a voice, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to rise. In walked the handsome stranger from the office, helping me find the breakroom, a mischievous smile slowly spreading across his face. His piercing blue eyes locked onto mine, and he offered me a playful wink. Oh God, had he just winked at me?
“Damien, behave,” Nora lightly chided.
And that’s when it hit me. The charming stranger was Damien Laurent. Sophie had given me one job - to blend in, not ruffle any feathers. And here I was, making friends with the CEO on day one.
The realization sent a hot wave of embarrassment crashing over me. I struggled to collect myself, praying my faux pas wasn’t as transparent as it felt.
But that wasn’t the worst part. As the room dimmed for the PowerPoint presentation, I could hardly believe my eyes. There, on the screen, were my designs presented as Damien’s own. It was like watching a car crash - horrifying, yet impossible to look away.
He’d used my designs.
The room buzzed with excitement as the lights flickered back on. “You can open your portfolios now,” Nora announced.
My hands were trembling as I flipped through the familiar images in the portfolio, each one amplifying my anger. Damien’s voice droned on in the background, outlining his vision for the upcoming show.
He was planning to parade my designs - my labor of love - as his own in the upcoming show.
What the actual hell?
I had to bite my tongue to stop from blurting out the truth. Instead, I kept my silence, forcing a neutral expression onto my face.
As soon as the meeting concluded, I grabbed my belongings, muttering something about needing the restroom to Ashley. But the moment I was out of sight, I marched straight towards Damien’s office. This deception needed to be confronted, and I had no intention of backing down.
Waiting for Sophie Martin’s arrival was like waiting for a storm to break. I’d noticed the mix of shock and recognition on her face during the meeting. The sketches she’d crafted, the ones I’d unveiled as mine, had clearly stirred her up. And why wouldn’t they? After all, they were her works of art.
“Damien?” Nora’s voice jolted me from my thoughts. I stood by the window, my eyes studying the city below, Sophie’s sketchbook in hand. It had served as my muse these past few days, her innovative designs rejuvenating my creative spirit. But that was simply not enough. I craved a deeper connection to the source.
I turned towards Nora standing by the doorway, her eyebrows raised in inquiry. “Yes?”
“Sophie Martin is here to see you.”
“Let her in,” I commanded, my gaze drifting back to the sketchbook.
Nora stepped aside, her confusion apparent, and Sophie entered. Her gaze was unwavering, a spark of determination in her eyes. “Nora, close the door,” I said, adding a note of finality that allowed no room for protest.
“What did you make of the designs?” I asked before she could launch into what I was sure would be a fiery tirade.
Her laughter was sharp, cutting through the tension. “Considering they’re mine?”
It was impossible not to smile at her spirit. But what truly captivated me was the sight of her, chest rising and falling under her soft pink sweater. It was far more enticing than I’d expected.
Offering her the sketchbook, I ventured, “They’re brilliant,” my sincerity apparent in my tone.
Her eyes widened as she recognized her book. Slowly, she reached out to take it, her fingers trembling slightly.
“I found it a few days ago. I was captivated by the designs. I hope to incorporate some of your designs into our upcoming show,” I explained.
“My designs?” she echoed, her voice barely above a whisper.
Her vulnerability drew me in, those entrancing blue eyes holding my gaze. Clearing my throat, I replied, “Yes, as a source of inspiration. Naturally, I can’t use them without your permission, but I promise you, it would be worth your while. Are you interested?”
“Yes,” she breathed out, her cheeks flushed a charming shade of pink.
Her beauty was entrancing. I wanted to touch her, to see if her skin felt as soft as it looked. But it wasn’t time for that, not yet.
“Dinner tomorrow to discuss the modifications?” I suggested.
“Dinner?” she echoed, stepping back. “Why not here?”
“It’s complex and detailed, and frankly, I work best over a good meal. Plus, I don’t want to pull you away from your tasks here. Treena must be keeping you busy.” I tried to lighten the mood with a smile.
“Yes, that will be fine,” she agreed, still flustered.
Keeping things professional, I took her number, though the urge to explore more personal territory was strong. She left my office clutching her sketchbook, leaving a trail of her alluring perfume behind.
Once alone, I slouched into my chair, a feeling of accomplishment washing over me. I glanced at the portfolio again, admiring each design, and dialed my uncle’s number.
He answered with his usual gruff, “Hello?”
“Hey, Uncle. Apologies for a call out of the blue. Just wanted to let you know...” My finger traced over a beautiful gown sketch that had caught my attention the moment I saw it. I could imagine Sophie wearing it, her hair elegantly pinned up, eyes accentuated with dramatic makeup, and simple drop earrings as her only accessory. “I found my muse. The upcoming show is going to be nothing short of spectacular.”