June swallowed. “Oh that. Yeah, I did. Listen, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but I’ve got this little project going, trying to maybe prevent some of the rumor-mongering regarding my brother and eligible females.”
“You mean the dating pool?”
Sharon tried to get up. “Oh, no. Not interested. No way, no how.”
June flopped down next to her. “Sharon. Seriously. We need you. Dan Friedman wants you to pull embassy duty. It’s perfect. You won’t need all the extra briefing and you’ll know how to handle yourself better than anybody. Plus, the whole point of the dating pool is that you’re just friends.”
“I’m not sure I want to be friends,” Sharon complained. “For crying out loud, I work for the guy. He’s my boss. How would that look?”
“Exactly. You’re there for a reason. It’s not about romance, it’s about work.” June sat back triumphantly.
Sharon groaned softly.
June touched her arm. “Seriously, Sharon. You’re safer out in the open this way.”
Sharon felt a cold chill. Mark had said the same thing once.
“I don’t get it,” she said finally.
June sighed. “Let’s just say that there’s less room for rumors to get started when you’re openly associating with my brother.”
“But don’t photographers and news people show up at embassy events?”
“They do, but nobody cares. Look what happened with Carrie Martindale. The whole reason that went crazy is that she denied she knew him. If it’s obvious you have a good reason for being with him, no one is going to give a damn.”
June held her arm. “Look, I get it about not wanting to be looked at and your privacy and all. It’s just one of those paradox things that being out in public with Mark is the best way to be ignored. Trust me, it’s the secret romance that they’re all looking for. And we do need you, Sharon. Mark’s whole thing is repairing our foreign relations. We need someone who can help him with that, not someone who might say something stupid out of ignorance.”
Sharon sighed. “There’s the trump card. Damn.”
“It’ll be public knowledge that I’m the one arranging Mark’s dates. That’ll make it even harder for any rumors to gain ground.”
“I suppose. I guess I’m in.”
June grinned. “Terrific. I’ll set you up for the Korean embassy bash on Wednesday.”
“So soon?” Sharon groaned.
“Hey, it’s repairing our foreign relations. Everyone’s been trying to get Mark to their embassy for the past three months. The South Koreans just came up in the rotation. Now, we’re talking cocktail length. From what Tanks says, all you’ve got is that blue number.”
Sharon flushed. “I’m afraid so. I do spend most of my time working, you know.”
June got up and sat down in front of the drafting table. “Blue is not a bad color for you, but I’m thinking mauve for some reason.”
“Why not?” Sharon said. “Something old-fashioned with puffed sleeves?”
June grimaced. “Yes and no. Tanks is about trends. That’s not a knock on her, by the way. That’s just who she is, and I love that about her. But you.” June looked her over again and Sharon could almost see the wheels turning in her head. “You are more about classic styling. But daring.” June clipped a sketch pad to the top of the drawing board and sharpened a pencil. “What do you love most about your body?”
“Me?” Sharon thought. “My eyes, I guess.”
“Oh, lord, hips, thighs, you name it.”
June looked her over again. “Nah. Your hips aren’t bad at all. Not according to your measurements. Your shoulders are a tad narrow. I noticed you don’t tend to carry a shoulder bag.”
“Can’t keep anything up on my shoulders.”
“Thought so.” June started sketching. “That’s good. We can go with the off-shoulder look. Hm. Sash around the hips?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding.”
June grinned and beckoned Sharon over. “Well, look at this. What do you think?”
The dress on the sketch pad was straight, but with a sash that encircled the shoulders and another that encircled the hips, and long straight sleeves.
“It’s beautiful,” Sharon gasped.
“I’ve got it!” June jumped up and rummaged through one of the armoires. “Mauve silk lace. I knew I had a sample in here. That must have been what got me thinking mauve.” She presented the roll of fabric to Sharon. “You like it?”
June held the fabric up to Sharon’s face. “It’s perfect for your coloring. I think I’ve got a fitting leotard in here. Would you mind if I draped this on you? The paint should be dry by the time we’re done.”
“It’s a way of making a pattern. I basically just pin and cut it right on you. It’s fast and it will fit like nothing you’ve ever owned before.”
“June, what are you talking about?”
“Indulging myself.” June sighed. “Look, Sharon, I don’t know if this will make sense to you or not, but I really love making clothes for other people. It’s why I do what I do. And one of my absolute favorite things to do is to make specific designs for specific people. It’s like that suit for Tanks. No way would that work on anybody else. And the glory of it was, I was able to get to know Tanks and to take what I knew about her and make that part of the design. And this dress is part of what I know about you. It is the most fun thing on the planet for me.”
“Okay,” Sharon said slowly. “I get that. It’s like when Sarah or Susan or my brother get going. It’s who they are.”
“It’s part of who I am.” June smiled softly. “I started in high school. My BFF. She was a little on the chunky side and hated that she couldn’t find clothes that fit and were cute. So I made stuff for her and it was so much fun. That’s why I went into clothing design. The only problem is that designing in a vacuum kinda sucks. I have to have somebody in mind when I’m designing or the result bites.”
“So will this dress end up in production?” Sharon grinned slyly.
“No! No way. This is yours and yours only.” June paused. “Something similar might end up in production.” She looked Sharon over again. “I could do a whole line around you. But nothing personal. I think Tanks is a little more profitable an inspiration. Clothes are about trends and she does that thing so well.”
Sharon laughed. “She does. You know, Al Eddington calls her Advisor Lite.”
June giggled. “And she’s one of the smartest people I know. Did you hear her on the gender ramifications of using sex to sell hamburgers?”
“You know how people talk about me having my finger on the pulse of the world. Tanks could run circles around me. I swear, she can spot what’s coming faster than Coop can. And what Coop doesn’t know, ain’t worth knowing.”
June nodded. “And I’ve known Coop for years. Come on. Let’s get you into a leotard.”