Eve gripped Mikael's hand firmly.
Her hazel eyes bore into his radiant blue ones. She stared back, unwavered by his aloof attitude. When he narrowed his gaze by a millimeter, she merely blinked in return and widened her smile.
She had played this game many times.
"I'm guessing you have some critique on my performance?" Eve asked, pulling her hand back. Her head tilted to the side, adding coyness to her expression. "Don't worry. I'm prepared for the worst. There's always room for improvement, correct?"
"Hm," Mikael grunted under his breath. He tucked both of his hands inside his pockets. "There were some angles that weren't flattering. The pose was good but angled wrongly, it doesn't look as impressive."
"I do agree." Eve nodded, aware of her faults. She glanced up the ceiling and crossed her arms over her chest. Her mind relived the shoot. "There were also a few camera blocking."
"For you," he clarified. "But not for the product."
She arched an eyebrow. "So it's passable?"
Mikael considered her question with depth. His gaze remained intense and vigilant. "Not always but the star of the shoot is the product. If you block it, you can't be a model."
"Just like the main ingredient of a dish," Eve compared, thinking out loud. "The spices and other ingredients should compliment it, not overpower it. If that happens, the name of the dish and its main ingredient loses their significance."
She dropped her hand and shook her head. A sigh escaped her lips. She chuckled in order to lighten the tense atmosphere. "Well, hopefully, I do better next time."
"That would depend on you."
"True." She nodded, hoisting up her skirt. This was her chance to leave. She entertained both guests enough. "Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Sir Davis, and you as well, Sir Dawson. Will you excuse me? I would like to change."
"By all means," Jordan answered for both of them. He grabbed his friend's arms and took on step towards the door. "We also need to leave. We have to be up early tomorrow for a shoot. I look forward to meeting you again in this industry."
Eve forced herself to stay pleasant. "We shall see. Do have a good day."
Her feet escaped the scene before anything else could happen. She wasn't sure what came over her. She acted on a whim and stated the mistakes she noticed. It was whenever she felt off balance—whether from the pose, the lack of new ideas or the awkward position of one body part.
That clutch bag had stumped her after three poses.
. . . . .
A hand hit Mikael's arm.
"Ow!" He exclaimed, turning his head towards the source. "Luna, really?"
Ebony eyes glared in disapproval. Luna Athon had her nostrils flared. If possible, smoke would have risen out of her ears. "You thought she was that kind of model, didn't you?"
She shook her head and bared her teeth, jabbing a finger in his direction. "For your information, she had no idea about this shoot until she came here. She did not know it was for Athon Corporation. Don't associate her with those scheming people."
"I'm very disappointed in you," she huffed, walking away. She shifted her attention to the bags. They needed to be packed and transported. "I'll celebrate your return another time."
Mikael pressed his lips together, clenching his hands into fists. He didn't dare to say anything back. His eyes hooded as he spun on his heel. He stormed out of the room without a second look.
Any leftover good mood he felt had vanished.
Jordan jogged after him, waving goodbye over his shoulder. He couldn't do a proper farewell unless he wanted to lose sight of his model. Mikael had just made a turn when he stepped out of the doorway. He picked up the pace, almost running.
"So what?" Mikael spat.
"You're not going to take back what you said about Evangeline?" His friend pointed out, slightly taken aback, "She acted like a professional just now. Face it. You were wrong about her."
"Did she not get a high brand deal without proper training? Did she not get a shortcut?" Mikael asked sarcastically. His gaze focused on the exit. "Maybe her attitude turned out to be different but that doesn't mean I approve of the methods she took."
Jordan scoffed in disbelief. He slowed down and matched his friend's strides. "You heard Luna. She never asked for this."
"Oh, lucky her then."
"Are you jealous?"
Mikael stopped short. Lips parted open, he faced Jordan. Lightning flashed in his eyes. "Just because I disapprove of such things, I am now jealous? Is it not wrong?"
Jordan pinched the bridge of his nose. Then, he exasperated a sigh. "That's not the point. The point is how you treat Evangeline. You had misjudged her. What do you have to say now that you know the truth?"
Hard chocolate eyes stared Mikael down. Pride or not, his friend needed to acknowledge his mistake. His actions upsetted various people, including his close friends. It wouldn't be good if this happened again.
"Maybe she didn't ask for this endorsement," Mikael began to say, relaxing his fists. Jordan's heart swelled with hope… until he added, "But what about the next one? Or the one after that? Can you guarantee that she wouldn't?"
Jordan fluttered his eyes, gaping at the turn of events. "So she's like what? On probation?"
"More or less." Mikael shrugged. He continued his walk to the exit. "It would depend on her growth from here."
. . . . .
Relief flooded Eve once she entered the changing room. Her back leaned on the door. She could finally go home. Maybe if she asked nicely, Andie would make some hot chocolate. A yawn opened her mouth wide.
The preparation for Evangeline's profile was done.
She had said the name before she processed it.
Her eyes dropped to the floor. They clouded with nostalgia. Would it be too obvious if she kept the name? Would her boss make the connection? Her mother couldn't be the only person with that name.
Eve peeled herself off the door and unzipped the dress. She already introduced herself with it. There was no going back. She pushed it to the back of her mind, picking up her oversized white shirt.
When she opened the door, she found Avery standing near it. Her gaze swept across the room. Most of the crew had left. The studio had also been cleared. Luna and Cale chatted at the other side of the room.
"Eve," Avery called out to her, "Are you okay?"
She wore a concerned face. Eve immediately understood what it was about. She actually found Mikael's words as a source of comfort. The shower of praises had overwhelmed her. They almost seemed unrealistic.
Before this shoot, she had no training and no experience. It was nice that someone could be blunt about her performance—not that she'd need the advice someday.
"Mrs. Hathaway, it's not the first time I got the stink eye." Eve chuckled, smiling gently. It would be peculiar if she hadn't encountered something similar over the years. "Haven't you seen the women your son dates?"
"Ah, yes." Avery nodded, a faraway look in her eyes. She heaved a sigh and pouted at the young woman. "Why couldn't he have dated you instead?"
Eve gave her a skeptical expression. "Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of why I was chosen for the job?"
"Right." The madam's shoulders slouched. She remembered the scandals of the past. "The previous women loved to seduce his secretaries so they switched the gender."
"It also can't be someone gorgeous."
"But you are pretty though. Not flawlessly beautiful but..." Avery scowled. Eve had washed off the makeup but her natural aesthetic still glowed. "… how did you get the job?"
Eve bit her inner cheek. She averted her gaze. "I may have known that they wanted someone plain."
"So you changed your style of appearance?" Avery blinked, astonished by the dedication. Most applicants arrived with their best looks and clothes. Stunning women lined up at the door. Each one hoped for good news.
Safe to say, the hiring process went by smoothly and shortly.
"I figured with a more masculine kind of look… no one would think I'd be interested in your son," Eve revealed. The explanation wasn't the best but it was almost foolproof. The starting salary was too good for her not to try.
It had eased a lot of her burdens
Avery raised an eyebrow. "Are you? Interested in my son, I mean."
Eve shook her head. "Not in that way, no."
The madam wasn't convinced. She regarded the young woman with sharp eyes. "You were never attracted to him?"
"I do acknowledge that he is an attractive man." Eve snorted. Anyone with eyes knew he was. People had different types but beauty was universal. Appeal had to be acknowledged when appeal had to be acknowledged.
"Hmm." Avery decided to change the topic. She would know more later when the pair progressed. "Well, tomorrow the website will go live. Yan has a week to choose. I won't be meddling with your conversations so I can only wish you luck."
Eve's heart became restless. It drummed with irregular beats. The pulse under her temple followed the rhythm. The sound echoed in her ears. Her previous burst of courage now seemed like bravado.
Tomorrow would be the real challenge.
Would her boss really not recognize her in the photo?
"And, hey," Avery suddenly spoke, interrupting her thoughts. "Business aside, if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask me."
Eve broke out of her daze. She shifted her attention in the madam's direction. Her brown eyes met a face of tenderness. She couldn't help but smile with appreciation. Despite Avery's methods, she did them out of good intentions.
Hopefully, the results would be the same.
"I will keep it in mind, Mrs. Hathaway."
Yo, in the middle of writing this, I found myself on y.o.u.t.u.b.e watching the BTS's Dynamite Music Video. I have been jamming to it ever since. XD
I am not an Army but I think these boys can do almost any type of music. This one is just fun and light! It also took me three full music videos to notice that it's in English :O
Anyway, that is all XD
If this novel reaches TOP 10 in the NEW Power Ranking list by Sunday, Aug. 23rd, there will be double chapter updates next week from Monday to Friday (Aug 25 to 28). :D
Have a good day!
Other ongoing work: Trust and Believe in Love