A/N: Hey all! So this is the start of a new story that I have been trying to develop for a while now and I think I've finally found the path I want to go down. It will include fluff for days, meet-cutes on trains, and a skeptical Emma who eventually gives in to love. What could be better? Anyway hope you guys enjoy and thanks for reading!
The fleeting moments between sleep and awareness were always foggy and more than a little hazy for Emma, but today it was a rather peaceful experience. The sun was streaming through her bedroom window and the ambient hum of the city around her was clear but not deafening. Emma smiled at the calm and had a full ten seconds of feeling totally content until her eyes glanced to the bedside table and caught on the clock. 6:58 AM stared back at her in bright green digits and all it took was a moment for Emma to realize how bad that was.
"Oh shit! Not today. Please God, not today!"
Emma yelled more at herself than at any universal forces as she hopped out of bed without any semblance of grace or poise. It went without saying that oversleeping was never a good look but on a day like this, when Emma's new business was about to open its doors to the public for the first time, sleeping late made for a nightmarish situation.
The lack of time to prepare for everything today had in store was vexing to say the least and Emma cursed herself and her faulty alarm over and over as she tried to pull herself together. She felt caught in a storm of her own making, flying around her apartment trying to the best of her ability to get herself presentable and geared up for the hours ahead. Any other day she'd be less fastidious with her appearance and call it a day, but first days meant first impressions and those could never be undone.
As it was it would be an actual miracle if Emma made it to the train on time, but she had to believe that it could happen, at least that's what the voice in her head that sounded an awful lot like her best friend Mary Margaret was insisting. The second Emma gave up hope was the second she would face defeat, and such a fate was not an option, not today and not ever.
"Running late again, honey?" Her one friendly neighbor across the hall Mrs. Hubbard asked and Emma nodded.
"It wouldn't be a Monday if I wasn't." Mrs. Hubbard laughed and wished her good luck as Emma finished locking her door and waved goodbye.
The one saving grace was that her apartment was close to the station. It took a total of sixty seconds once outside the door of her building for Emma to race down to the subway and when she got down to the platform the train doors were opened and taunting her. She hurried forward, sneaking in right under the wire and once she was inside Emma let out a relieved breath. Later on she'd probably regret the sprint she'd just undertaken in these heels, but for now she was unstoppable, a superhero who had defied the limits of time and space to get here on time.
Okay Emma, don't get carried away. So you got the first thing on your to-do list done? There's a million things left to cross off.
The internal censure helped Emma collect herself. She found a seat along one wall of the train car and as she caught her breath she pulled out her sketchpad. It was always a good idea to try and jump right in to her designing and since mornings were far and away Emma's most creative time of day, she was hoping to find the answer to an unsolved problem last night's brainstorming had created.
She opened to the page where the dress she was currently trying to envision lay and found that despite what she might be wishing for, no magical designing fairies had intervened on her behalf and finished the train design or color scheme for this gown. This left Emma to try and sort it out herself. She tapped the end of her pencil against her lips and searched every last trace of charcoal on the page, hoping to find a spark of inspiration somewhere in the already existing lines.
Unfortunately it wasn't that easy. Minutes passed and Emma was nowhere closer to the answers than she was last night. The feeling of stagnation that came with no new ideas was impossible to avoid. She could feel the potential of this gown practically vibrating off the page, whispering from the sleek capped sleeves and slightly revealing v in front, but she just couldn't make it work. As an artist, Emma had faced this wall a million times before. Sketching couldn't always come easy. Sometimes the muses chatted away about beading and corsets and ivory satin, and sometimes they were quiet as church mice. Today appeared to be one of those days.
Emma was just about to give up and abandon the sketch until she had some coffee in her system and a little more clarity when the bell in the train car dinged to signal their arrival at the next station. Immediately Emma's pulse picked up and her body went on alert. Her eyes wandered up to the doors on the other side as they opened and she waited with bated breath until finding the person she was looking for.
And hot foreign guy is a go. She thought to herself as she bit back a smile. Her nickname for him was ridiculous, but who cared? Not Emma. It was a totally accurate description and she stood by it.
Emma knew she had to remain cool despite the flood of heat that shot through her at the sight of him so she couldn't let her gaze linger too long, but for now, while his eyes were elsewhere, she took in the familiar stranger. This was her one time of day when she let herself run away with fantasy and admit that she was affected by something (or rather someone) despite her constant protests to the contrary.
Today's suit was obviously custom made (just as all the rest of his were) and the lines were cut to perfection, highlighting the undeniable sex appeal of its wearer. It was a steely gradation of blue, not an exact match for his eyes but a shade that would make them pop if he looked up at her. The thought of such a moment made Emma cross her legs tighter to fend off the response sparking there. Damn, how did this guy always get her to respond like this?
It could easily have been the hair that looked like he'd been running his hand through it all night long, or perhaps the dark beard that went with it covering that impressive jaw of his. It could be the way he carried himself with a certainty that Emma admired. He had an appearance of totally authority, control that Emma didn't see many other people putting forth, and honestly it worked for him. More than that it worked for her, because the thought of the other ways he might exhibit that kind of control always sent her spiraling to fantasies that no one should be partaking in on an old, rickety train surrounded by dozens of other people.
But from her strong and mostly silent stranger there came moments of softness too. When he let an elderly person take his seat or he helped a single Mom keep the doors open long enough to get all her kids out safely Emma could see glimpses of the man underneath his aloof and alluring exterior. Those were the moments that hooked Emma in most; well those and the ones where he looked at her and she felt seen, like this man had a direct window into her inner most being, reading her thoughts which nine times out of ten were dirtier than she would ever admit out loud.
Emma didn't know if it was a blessing or a curse that this many months after first seeing him she still didn't know his name. Some nights he'd pop into her head and she'd imagine what it could be, but none of the ones she ever dreamed up ever seemed to fit. It would have to be a strong name, foreign like him, and unique. Basically if Emma found out his name was Chad she'd die a little inside, knowing that there was no justice in the world because a travesty like that had been allowed to exist.
In the few months that they'd been traveling the line at the same time, Emma picked up on other things about him, even if she didn't know his name. She knew, for example, about the foreign element because some days he took phone calls that all appeared work related. Those were always fantastic moments for Emma even if she had to hold herself back from her slightly creepy want to hang on his every word. It was just that the lilt of that accent mixed with the gravel of his tone did something to her. It was like music, a sultry, sexy kind of song designed to get her hot and bothered, but he never seemed to notice, and if he did he was polite enough not to draw attention to the instances when she openly stared at him.
Emma also learned from observation that he favored tea over coffee, rock music over popular songs, and Citizen NY over any other magazine. He always had a copy in hand every morning and he read every word, making notes sometimes in the margins. It always struck Emma as charming and relatable. She was well versed in how outdated her sketching may seem to some what with tablets and aps that let designers do everything online, but she preferred a pen or pencil on paper. Nothing else felt the same and changing the feel of her work was the last thing Emma wanted to do, not when she'd finally managed to cling to some success.
Citizen NY, as far as Emma knew, was an up and coming publication. She'd only heard of it in passing before spotting her favorite fellow passenger bearing a copy, but after the first week, she decided to see if any of it was even worth reading. She was shocked to find that it was. All of the pieces were varied, but at the heart of every article and photo series and opinion piece lay this city and the millions of people who made it so unique.
As someone who loved New York and the strange mix of anonymity and possibility that it offered, Emma appreciated that people were trying to capture that magic and do it justice. She'd started picking them up when she saw them at a magazine stand or in the aisle at the grocery store after that, and though her mornings weren't spent devouring it like his were, she read what she could when she got home at night.
"That's a nice picture."
The man beside Emma made the comment over her shoulder, startling her from her daydreams and she turned her attention to him. He looked to be ten or fifteen years older than her. If she had to guess she'd say he was in construction of some kind? At least she assumed that's where someone with timberland boots and a flannel shirt would be heading today. For all she knew though he could just be an older hipster.
"You do that for real? Like professional like?" Emma felt the eyes of her mystery man from across the car and she shrugged.
"Well you should. It's really good."
Emma didn't have anything else to say but luckily her neighbor seemed to be done with his sudden outburst. She was relieved for that. After all, most days she went the whole commute without talking to a single person. That was just the way the subway was. There was one person, however, who Emma wouldn't mind getting to know better, and she looked up through her lashes to see he was still watching her.
His eyes remained just as striking as they always were, Emma found, but from this angle, with the unforgiving light of the car finding his face with just the right amount of clarity, they were even more undeniable. She knew for a fact she'd never be able to recreate them, hard as she might try. If she could get the feeling and emotion behind that blue into a dress she'd be the best designer in the world, but as it was she was just struck speechless by it. She felt herself falling in, and only when the automated speaker sounded out again with the announcement that they'd reached her station for the shop did she look away, a blush creeping over her cheeks.
Emma stood quickly making sure she had everything and sneaking one more discrete look at 'hot guy' before exiting the train. As the doors closed behind her, Emma rushed up the stairs heading towards the store. She wasn't at any risk of being late since she'd caught her train but she had to get there because suddenly inspiration had struck and she needed to make sure she catalogued it before it flew away again.
As soon as she moved inside Bliss Boutique, Emma threw her bag down and leaned against the wall as she frantically tried to capture the image in her mind. Suddenly she realized that this dress was regal, an opulent show of grandeur and excess, fit for the wedding of someone insanely wealthy or crazy in love. This gown was all about the romance and it would be set off with delicate pearl beading along the bodice. She had the materials for that already, but Emma made an asterisk next to the sketch citing that the perfect fabric would come from Marie's on 37th in Sweet Cream Sunday, a shade of ivory of Marie's own creation.
"So he was on the train this morning?"
Emma's head whipped up to find her friend Ruby who was grinning at Emma's current state of manic drawing. Emma meanwhile cleared her throat and straightened up because her friend wasn't alone. In fact she was followed by all of the staff that had been hired for Ruby's segment of the business.
"I have no idea what you're talking about." The denial might sound firm to the untrained ear, but Emma knew Ruby would never buy it. They'd been friends long enough for Ruby to know every tell Emma had.
"Sure you don't, girl, and I'm an elementary school teacher with a passion for fractions."
Emma couldn't help but smile at that mostly because of how unbelievable that would be. No, if Ruby weren't helping to launch Bliss Boutique as New York's newest all in-house, one-stop destination for upscale weddings, she'd be doing something entirely different than teaching. Maybe she'd be giving people skydiving lessons or managing a rock band. With Ruby, one never really knew where the path would lead. Emma only could assume that it would be fun, and a challenge that she herself would never even think to entertain.
"You know I always liked math. I never really understood why everyone else didn't."
These words came from Mary Margaret who had popped up from her segment of the store across the way. As an event planner, Mary Margaret had always been a force to be reckoned with, but it was her weddings that stole every show and blew everyone away. That made sense to Emma though since her friend was in love with love. Mary Margaret's career path wasn't anything like Emma's, who was one day just an aspiring designer and the next had been picked by The Design Institute of Paris as the 'wedding wiz to watch.'
"Of course you would love math. That is the most Mary Margaret thing I've ever heard." Emma laughed at Ruby's teasing of their friend and decided to joke back herself.
"Really? What about that time she spent twenty minutes talking about the bluebirds she saw in the park last summer?"
Ruby grinned as the fourth member of their business venture stepped up to join them. Elsa was their resident baker and her storefront was still connected to all of this but far enough away from Emma that she wouldn't be forced to smell all the deliciousness her friend concocted on a daily basis. She did not, however, turn down the treats and coffee Elsa handed her now, silently thanking her friend before Elsa went on to continue to joke.
"Or the time she left the Davis wedding with an invitation from a bunch of old ladies to come learn how to make chicken marsala 'the right way' and actually went?"
"Hey! You know you liked that. It was fantastic!" All of the friends laughed at that, even Mary Margaret.
"Of course it was. You're just the only person who would get a recipe that way. No one else gets adopted by old Italian Grandma's for helping their granddaughter tie the knot." Mary Margaret shrugged at that as if to say she was totally fine with that before changing the subject entirely.
"So… it's a big day today."
That was an understatement to say the least. Today was the first day of what could be a life-long business for all four friends. It was an experiment to see if a model like this could really work. Would women be interested in a place where they could find their dress, their cake, and their event planner all in one swoop, or would they resist?
To Emma it seemed like a no brainer. Since stumbling into this line of fashion, she'd watched bride after bride after bride go through hell to get the wedding of their dreams together, and most of the time their family and friends had it even worse. This store in her mind seemed like the answer to that. But Emma also realized she'd always been different. Who knew, maybe it was fun for everyone else to go through those kind of hoops to find what they wanted. If that were the case though, they'd all be in for a rude awakening when this shop closed in a month after more than a year of hard work and hoping this could be all that the friends wanted.
"Emphasis on big. Elsa has four couples coming in for tastings on top of the regular bakery stuff, you've got your three pitches today for the Stevens, the Graysons and the Bhandaris, and Emma has ten consultations." Ruby's words made Emma nearly choke on the coffee.
"Ten?!" Ruby nodded. "I thought we were at six."
"We were… last week. But then that spot on Vogue's blog about your spring line went viral and we're booked solid. You don't have a free appointment all month and at last count we're already on track for the same next month too."
Emma knew that the feature was a big one for her as a professional, but in all honesty she'd mostly forgotten about it. Ruby was the one who organized everything (being the brilliant PR-inclined superstar that she was) and Emma just got the chance to talk for fifteen minutes with the writer about how to know you'd found the right dress. It was a simple conversation in the scheme of Emma's day but to see that it had gotten them all of this… well it was slightly overwhelming.
"And you didn't think you should tell me this?" Emma asked, not angry in the slightest, but feeling the pressure of a full workload that she hadn't expected.
"I told Tiana. She's got it all handled. You just keep being brilliant and designing dresses like that." Ruby nodded towards Emma's sketchpad and immediately Elsa and Mary Margaret rushed over to look before oohing and ahhing about the dress.
"Oh my gosh, Emma! This is beautiful! Like something straight out of a fairytale." Emma knew this was the highest praise possible from Mary Margaret.
"Seriously, Ems. I give you two hours from the time that dress is finished to the time someone buys it. It's that good."
Emma smiled, liking the praise even if she wasn't so attached to weddings themselves. Nevertheless, Emma had to admit there was something special in her work. She definitely did not believe that all of the love her clients claimed to have found was real enough to make them really happy, but there were occasional couples who Emma knew had found a kind of magic together. Those were the couples she saved dresses like this one for, and they were also the ones she had to be the most careful around. The last thing Emma needed was her friends seeing her soft spot for love when she was a vocal advocate for forever remaining single.
"All right ladies, I think it's time. Man your stations and get ready, because this is just the start."
The friends all laughed at Ruby's words before moving to their portions of the space. When Emma found her showroom and saw the employees she had hired in the past month led by her second in command and old friend Tiana, she had to take a moment to take it all in again. All of this was hers, an actualized version of a dream she'd had since she was a little girl, wanting people to see and wear and love her clothes. But more than the store and the dresses inside, Emma had to take in all the people. These worker's livelihoods were now her concern as well. She needed to make sure to deliver and to keep this dream alive, not just for her, but for all of them.
"Good morning, everyone." They all chorused back with happy smiles.
"Good morning, Miss Swan." She shook her head immediately.
She knew none of them would give in and call her by her first name, none of them except Tiana anyway, but Emma hoped someday they would. She didn't like the distance. Creatively she enjoyed the feeling of being a part of a team. She might be the lead designer here and the boss by all accounts, but one thing she'd learned about fashion was that it was better not to go it alone. She might be the start and the heart of each dress here, but input was always welcome, at least in her book.
"So Ruby told you about he schedule change?" Tiana asked after Emma moved from the showroom to her office and began to take off her jacket.
"She did. Ten consults in one day? You think we can manage that?"
"They're all first timers so thirty minutes each, leaves us enough time with lunch and an hour of designing." Emma made a humming sound at the thought that she'd only have an hour to sketch that Tiana immediately picked up on. "It's just the first meetings that need so much access to you personally. Besides, think of the money you get for these one of a kind consults."
Emma couldn't argue with that. She was lucky enough to have lines of dresses that the store was mass-producing and most of their customers would go that route. But people who wanted specialty dresses, ones designed by Emma in the moment and different from the already existing designs, came with a hefty price tag. Like a ten thousand dollar minimum price tag.
"You really think that people are going to pay that much?" Emma had spent years in this industry, but her roots as a kid in the foster system who never had two nickels to rub together still prompted disbelief that people would spend so much on a simple dress.
"Emma, you know the way this works. People will pay anything for a well-known designer. They could be wearing a potato sack and as long as Marchesa's label was stitched inside it would fly with them. But your dresses are worth it even without that. I told Ruby we should be charging more, and you know I am as frugal as they come, honey. That's how positive I am."
"Have I mentioned recently that I love you?" Tiana laughed as the murmurs outside grew louder, signaling that the doors of Bliss had opened for business.
"We've got this, Emma."
Emma knew that Tiana was right. All that they needed to find the success she was hoping for was hard work and a little luck, and as far as the former went, Emma was ready to roll up her sleeves. She never backed down from something that mattered to her, and she knew at the end of the day that as long as she put her best foot forward she'd be proud of herself and her friends for what they'd accomplished. They'd all come a very long way since that first day of college together, and all that effort was beginning to pay off.
The day was hectic in all ways, with back to back consults, a few kinks worked out in the showroom, and the occasional check in with other parts of the business, but all that stuff to do made the day fly by. Emma felt like she blinked and suddenly it was five o'clock. The doors to the boutique would remain open a few hours more, but as for Emma, her time was up. She was off the clock and done with what had to be considered a fantastic first day. She'd sold every single consult on preliminary dress ideas (though none of them impressed her enough to offer the one she'd drawn this morning) and by the time Emma was heading for the front door, Ruby was positively bursting with excitement.
"We are going out, all of us, to celebrate!" Emma was about to counter that maybe they should wait. It was only day one, after all, but Ruby would have none of it. "And before you make up some excuse, we're all going home first. You can still see your hot guy on the train."
Emma blushed but reminded herself that she wasn't as obvious as Ruby's comments made her seem. It was just a gift of Ruby's to know what Emma was thinking despite her walls.
"Let me guess: Graham's at seven?" Ruby grinned and nodded.
"Why mess with perfection?"
Emma shook her head as she got her jacket on, knowing half the reason they went to that bar of all the places in this city was that Ruby was into the owner. She made it her personal mission to flirt with him constantly, but Emma knew a day would come soon when Graham would take her up on all that she was offering. On that day Ruby would be eating her words, because underneath the 'he's hot as hell' reasoning, Emma suspected her friend felt more than just attraction.
"Oh and Emma?" Ruby called when Emma was about to leave. "You should see if hot guy wants to come with. What's the worst thing that could happen?"
Emma dismissed Ruby as she left, but as she made her way to the subway, her heart thrumming a mile a minute, she had to wonder. What would be the worst thing that could happen: his not being interested, or his wanting to get to know her too?
On the one hand she'd be mortified if he said no, but on the other she had this feeling, this niggling belief in the corners of her mind, that this man could lead to trouble. Because whoever he was outside of her fantasizing he wasn't just some guy she could forget. No, Emma knew deep in her heart that as much as she might try to deny it he was – or at least he could be – so much more if she only let him in.
Post-Note: So there we have it. This is going to be a bit of a slow burn in the beginning because I have been craving one of those for a while now, but I promise that there will be enough fluff and cuteness to hold onto in the coming chapters. I also am including Killian's POV as well and we will be seeing things from his side next chapter. I only have the first four chapters outlined at this point, but I'm considering making it longer. Let me know what you guys think, and thanks for reading!