Trashed / Page 44

Page 44


The night is long, and the flight even longer.

A week of filming in London, two weeks in Prague, and another two weeks in Tokyo and no call, no email, no nothing.

I stop in Manhattan on the way back to L.A. from Tokyo, and spend two days looking for her. I try the modeling agency, which I’d heard of, but they stonewall me. The receptionist won’t even tell me whether Des works for them or not. Short of causing a scene and possibly getting arrested, it’s a dead end.

Finally, I go home to L.A. and begin the long, painful process of trying to forget her.


Chapter 10

“Good! Good! Now turn this way. Great. One more. And now try to look aloof—pretend you’re too important for this shit. Good, perfect. Now turn away and look at me over your shoulder. No, don’t smile, just…look at me. No expression. YES!” The photographer spews a non-stop stream of instructions, encouragement, and sometimes meaningless babble, just signifier words like stellar and fantabulous.

I’m standing in front of an exposed brick wall in an old warehouse somewhere in the far lower end of Manhattan, wearing a tight pair of jeans and a flowing, low-cut top. There’s a huge industrial fan blowing from my left, making me look windblown. There are a dozen people all milling behind the photographer, some of them the photographer’s assistants, others for hair and makeup, and others from the clothing line. And there’s Rochelle, a glamorously beautiful woman about thirty years old with straight, fine blonde hair hanging just past her shoulders and hard, intelligent brown eyes. She’s always perfectly attired, usually in slim slacks of either black, brown, navy blue, or khaki, and tops of varying cut and color. She never wears dresses or skirts, and she never smiles. But she’s hideously, frighteningly efficient at her job, which is getting models from one place to another, making sure they’re ready for the shoot, and that they look their best. Since most of the models I’ve met are usually a little on the…flighty side, this can be a challenge.

She also acts, in some cases, as a buffer between the photographer and the model. Some of them are…yucky.

This guy, for instance. I can feel his gaze through the camera, feel his leering stare even though I refuse to look right at him, and refuse to interact with him any more than necessary. He’s middle-aged and balding with a shoulder-length ponytail, weak blue eyes, and a potbelly. But, apparently, he’s one of the best photographers in the business, and I’m lucky to get him.

He’ll make me look incredible…or so Rochelle and Sidney claim, at least.

I turn, pose, smile, don’t smile, smolder, and look mysterious. And then I change outfits behind a screen, assisted by two girls no more than eighteen and a flamboyantly gay man with black hair going silver at the temples. And then I pose again, smile, and repeat the whole process over again. Change, repeat. Change, repeat. Hours, and hours, and hours. I’ve been at it since seven this morning, and I’ve had three bites of a Caesar salad and half a bottle of water since then, and it’s now past six in the evening.

Judging by the rack of clothes, I’ve still got three or four outfits to go.

I stifle a sigh and change outfits yet again.

I hear Rochelle’s phone ring—which happens at least once every ten minutes—and she pokes her head around the screen. “Des, I’ve got to step outside and take this. You okay here?”

I give her a thumbs-up as Mark tugs a tank top over my head and then drapes a short-sleeved button-down sweater over my shoulders. I stuff my arms through and step out of the jeans. At that moment the photographer, Ludovic, steps around the screen. He acts surprised, like he forgot where he was going, but I see his eyes rake over me, calculating, hungry. Mark shoos him away, and the shoot resumes.

Finally, after two more changes of clothes, I request a break.

Rochelle waves me away. “Ten minutes. Ludovic’s time is more valuable than yours, dear.”

Yeah, but Ludovic gets to sit down and smoke cigarettes while I change clothes, and while the stylists check my hair and makeup. I get to stand there and be tended to, not sitting, not eating, not drinking, not even given a moment to breathe.

Quickly I head outside, grabbing the clear plastic box that contains my six-hour-old salad and the half-empty bottle of warm water. It’s all I’ve got till I get home, and I’m getting faint with hunger. I perch on an overturned milk crate around the corner and force the salad down my throat.

I feel him before I see him. “Here you are. I wondered where you’d went.” Ludovic.

I glance up at him and offer a tight, small smile, hoping he’ll go away.

He doesn’t.

“You’re a lovely girl, you know.” He crouches beside me, his back to the wall, and lights a cigarette. His eyes flick sideways and rove up my body and then down. “With the right help, you could go places impossible for you, otherwise.”

I ignore him and keep eating the flat, limp, disgusting salad.

“I’m doing a beach shoot next week. Down in Florida. I have spoken to Sidney about this, and she has arranged for you to be in the shoot. Many lovely girls, a big beach. A good time, I think.” He eyes me again. “Bikini shoot. You…you will be the sexiest, no?”

I have to stop eating now and respond. “A beach shoot? Sidney didn’t tell me about this. I’m not doing a beach shoot.”

He smirks, and his eyes latch onto my cleavage. “She has not told you yet.” His tongue slides across his lower lip, and he flicks the butt of his cigarette. “If you are nervous, perhaps we could do a…private shoot. Yes?” He grins suggestively.

I fight against the revolt of my stomach. “Let’s just finish this shoot.” I stand up and move toward the door.

He’s in front of me, too close, and he reeks of cigarettes and body odor. His hand grabs mine, forces my hand against his crotch. “Be reasonable, beautiful Des. You help me, I help you.” He leans close, his lips touch my neck. “I can make your career, you know. All you have to do is go with me, for drinks, and maybe some dessert in my apartment later. Yes?”

I back out of his reach, jerk my hand free, and suppress a shudder. I’m saved from having to respond by the appearance of Rochelle. “It’s late and I have a date. Come on, Des. Quit holding me up.” I don’t argue, god no. I’m grateful she showed up, and something tells me she did so on purpose, judging by the way she floats between me and Ludovic and herds me inside. “Come on, Ludo. Let’s go.”

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