When Raquel Davis, a successful, but jaded makeup artist first heard about personal trainer Javier Vasquez, she wasn't interested. Her marriage was crumbling and her friendships were becoming destructive. Overweight and lacking confidence, Raquel wasn't ready or interested in meeting anyone new.
Fast forward five years. Raquel is eighty pounds slimmer with much more confidence in herself. She has ended her marriage and traded in the flash of a diamond ring for the flashbulbs of the red carpet. But, despite all her material and career success, she wants something more.
Raquel has survived heartbreak, handled single motherhood, and thrived in the world of fashion, but will she allow herself to take a chance on love again? Although she is now use to wearing diamonds only on her ears, perhaps Javier will be able to show Raquel an accessory or two that she’s been missing.
She knew what she wanted. She knew what she needed. But she had no idea what she deserved.
Everything she wanted was unfolding before her eyes. Raquel’s very first line of cosmetics were actually being featured at a major designer show. For Raquel, seeing the logo of “RAQ & ROLL GIRL” on a backdrop at New York Fashion Week was still unreal. The day before, she had secretly staked out the place to catch a glimpse of the sign, but that feeling was insignificant compared to the actual moment of seeing it during a live red carpet.
Raquel leaned her head against the headrest to collect herself before greeting the photographers. It was February, 2002 and the weather in New York had been particularly kinder than it had been in previous years. Even the snowfall was gentler, a big change from the total chaos a few short months before. Raquel wondered for a moment if it was insensitive to be making such a big deal over material things. The city had recently been so devastated and so many lives were wiped away by an act of terrorism. But, she decided having something positive to celebrate, could make it easier for some to get through those bittersweet winter days.
Such things had always helped Raquel make it through her own difficulties. As a single mother, a woman of color, and as a woman who struggled with her weight, Raquel knew about challenges and what a person needed to get through them. She was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor in her life, helping her to reach the success that Raquel always wanted.
Mariabelle, Raquel’s mentor, was a multi-award winning artist and platinum selling superstar. She was the first celebrity to give Raquel a chance at doing their makeup. After a humble beginning doing makeup at a department store counter, a lot of hard work and a bit of chance allowed her to eventually rub elbows with some of the most influential people in the industry. That was how she met Mariabelle, the sweetest diva she had ever known. She was always so giving and willing to help others. Raquel admired her, for both her music and her character.
As a parent who traveled on the road, Mariabelle understood what it was like to raise a daughter on your own. Yet, she never allowed Raquel to make any excuses. Instead, Mariabelle would insist that Raquel show up on set and bring her daughter along. There was no use in her daughter growing up without her mother, nor a mother being held back from her dreams.
Though, no matter how famous her clients were or how many private jets she had flown in, traveling to do their makeup; Raquel wanted more for herself. She challenged herself to never become complacent with just being a makeup artist to the stars. It wasn’t enough for her to decorate the faces of famous personalities and international models. She knew that if she really wanted to make a name for herself, then she would need to set herself apart from the thousands of other makeup artists and pave her own path. She wanted to have her own brand. So, while other people waited for someone to open up a door for them, Raquel continued to build up her list of clients and educate herself in order to open up her own doors. Balancing work, world travel, motherhood, and school was difficult. But, Raquel was relentless. Eventually, she earned her degree in chemical engineering. Educated about minerals, molecules, and how particles react to certain elements, gave Raquel credibility. She was knowledgeable about her craft. She understood how to make a quality product and Mariabelle’s mentorship was the icing on the cake that helped her turn her knowledge and her passion for beauty, into a successful business.
Raquel was eternally grateful for that. Not many people had the same opportunities.
Though, there were many people who admired the lives of the rich and famous, but very few of them were willing to do the work that it takes to maintain that success. However, Raquel was clear about what she wanted. Her resiliency never allowed her to stop, until her dreams became her reality.
Before stepping outside of her limo, Raquel closed her eyes for a moment and said a quiet prayer. She opened her eyes and smiled at some of her celebrity friends she recognized walking the carpet. Raquel wasn’t a celebrity per se, but she was constantly associated with them. Her job afforded her the opportunity to work with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Yet in her eyes, none of them compared to Mariabelle.
As she stepped onto the carpet her ankles felt shaky. The adrenaline began to build inside her and her heart pounded like she had just ran a few miles. The excitement about all of the wonderful things she was accomplishing made her feel like she was about to step foot onto a golden cloud.
As the door swung open and the bright lights hit her, her journey to that point flashed before her mind. This was her first public appearance since her dramatic weight loss. Tainted by the pressure of her industry to maintain a certain size, Raquel had been on hiatus from major press events for the past year. There were only a few people who had seen her around, but now the entire industry was laying eyes on her. A couple of the weight jokes she’d heard echoed in her mind and she found herself heating up inside. Suddenly, her timid walk transformed into a power strut.
Normally, the most important attendees of fashion week enter the venue through a side entrance. But Raquel made up in her mind that people were going to see her. Her makeup was flawless and her black dress hugged around her curves like it had been painted on.
They were going to eat their words.
When she reached the backdrop Raquel took a long, slow breath. She closed her eyes as she adjusted her fur wrap and pressed together her lips—covered in a bold red hue—and wrapped her fingers around the tips of her loose curls.
When she opened her eyes, flashing lights shuttered at lightening speeds.
Raquel winked her eye, looked over her shoulder and blew kisses.
There wasn’t a nervous bone in her body and it felt good for her to stand there with confidence.
The business that had shown her how cruel it could be, was now reminding her that it could be sweet and fun again. Even if only for a night.
Raquel exhaled, looked up to the sky and whispered,
There were plenty of women who stood where she was and paved the way. Raquel’s success would do the same for the women who would come after her.
She blew out a few more kisses and waved hello to the press. She wrapped up her interviews quickly.
She had some faces to beat.
They sat with their drinks near the back of the coffee shop. For her a latte, and straight black coffee for Javier.
“So how’d you get into the business of makeup? Was this what you always wanted?” Javier asked.
She smiled. He possessed a certain innate charisma.
“Business?” she asked narrowing her eyes. “Impressive that you view my line of work that way. Most see it as me playing dress up.”
They shared a small laugh accompanied with coy stares from her and a more earnest stare from him. He was waiting for a real reply to his question, not some sly remark. She sipped her coffee while trying not to fall too deeply for the smell of his cologne.
“Uh, I grew up knowing that I didn't want a traditional work life.” Raquel tucked her hair behind her ears and tugged on the bill of her hat. “I wanted to be able to travel and make enough money to sustain myself all while doing what I love.”
He stared at her with reassuring eyes. He was actually listening to her. His focus was distracting and caught her completely off guard. Raquel knew how to respond to a man ogling her breasts, thighs, or her ample ass. But this was new ground.
“So how is that working out for you?” He leaned back in his chair to stretch. The bottom of his shirt lifted as he swung his arms above his head and took in a deep breath. He was unabashed by his slightly exposed abdominal hair and what looked to be the beginnings of a six pack. Raquel tilted her neck and rubbed the back of it. He pulled his shirt down and she caught herself and sat up straight.
“Yeah, it’s working out just fine. Thank God,” she responded.
He considered her for a moment before replying, “No judgment, but your ‘Thank God’ didn’t sound like praise; more like a plea if that makes sense.”
She set her drink down. “I wasn’t certain how far makeup would take me. I toyed with the idea of being a lawyer after college because it seemed like a natural progression.” Raquel recounted her undergraduate days of wanting to be a civil rights attorney who did her clients’ makeup. That was how she planned to reconcile her passionate, analytical, yet highly creative mind. But that dream never materialized.
She picked up her latte again, “I had to be honest with myself. Law sounded great but it wasn’t my true passion. This, is.” Javier stared at her and his stare made her feel exposed and vulnerable. She sipped her latte and thought of his cologne.
It was subtle, yet strong enough for her to catch hints of citrus, sandalwood, and geranium. Masculine, yet not overly powerful. It reminded Raquel of how she had first perceived him: refined yet confident.
“Hearing your success story gives me inspiration.” He flashed his smile. “I thought about being a lawyer too. But I was never good at lying.”
Raquel coughed. I’ll be the judge of that, she thought.
“Plus, I love what I do,” he said flexing his biceps as he rubbed his fingers through his hair, still wet from his post-workout shower.
He confessed, “I love helping people and personal training helps people in a really huge way.”
“Indeed it does,” she replied. She eyed him, feeling like a star-struck teenager having coffee with the most famous man on earth.
“You looking forward to some workout sessions?” Javier asked.
Nervously she smiled, “Yeah, kinda.”
“Why do you seem nervous?” He leaned forward and gazed at her face like it was a full moon.
“I’ve never really worked out with anyone besides my girls a couple of times.”
“So this will all be new to you?”
“Exactly,” she replied as she watched him lean back, scratch his stomach, and laugh. Her eyebrows arched, “Why are you laughing?”
Javier replied, “Cause’ you have no reason to be nervous.” Then, after a pause, he really looked at her. “You’ll enjoy everything we do.”
Raquel gulped and returned to rubbing her neck.
“I’ll give you a call and we’ll set up our first session. We’ll start talking about goals and all that when I see you again.”
“Sounds good,” she wished that she had ordered water with her latte because she was feeling really warm inside. Raquel thought only water could quench her thirst.
As they stood to say their goodbyes, he hovered over her and reached down smoothly to hug the sensitive skin between her butt and lower back. Javier was firm, but respectful. Before she even had an adequate amount of time to process his embrace, he had kissed her on her cheek and grabbed her hand. He escorted Raquel outside of the shop. He hailed a taxi for her, waited until she got in, and secured her seatbelt over her shoulder.
“Good meeting with you today.” He whispered.
She nodded her head in silent agreement.
Javier said, “Finally got to put a face to the name Mariabelle’s been bragging about for so long.”
Javier winked at Raquel as she started to blush.
He teased, “How many years has it been since she told you about me? Five?”
“Look,” Raquel tried to explain, but Javier silenced her by bringing a finger to his lips.
“No need,” Javier said, tapping the side of the cab door.
Raquel smiled, flushed with relief, and happy with hearing that Mariabelle had been bragging about her.
“I’ll see you soon,” she murmured with her eyelashes fluttering. He shut the door and waved as the cab pulled away. She slid down in her seat, exhaling, wondering what she’d just gotten herself into.
How did this high school teacher turn into a steamy book author? Well, honestly Von Powell has always been a writer; who recently started teaching. Growing up as an only child on Chicago’s south side encouraged Von to use his creativity to have fun when it was too snowy and cold to go outside or too hot and violent to play with his friends. Thus, as a child to keep himself occupied, he would draw pictures and create short stories to go with them. Encouraged by his teachers, Von decided that maybe one day after he finished law school, it would be a good time to write. However, when the time came for Von to attend law school, he deferred his offers and committed to serving for two years as a Teach For America Corp member. While teaching, Von realized just how much he loved to connect with people’s emotions and admittedly saw writing as a way to impact more lives. Von confesses that “not attending law school was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make.” Von turned down offers to attend law school in order to, “give back to others, especially young men who look like me and come from similar backgrounds.” The national education program, Teach For America, allowed Von the forum for him to make it happen. Ultimately, serving others was one of the best decisions Von could have made for himself as he smiles and says, “Working with my students inspired me to do what I love and follow my dreams. They’re a huge support system.”
Von’s debut novel, Every Woman Deserves an Accessory, will release digitally and in paperback November 25, 2014. Von promises that it will get readers flushed with fever, sweaty with anticipation, and laughing as they fight back the tears while reading.