"You're way too tense. Relax. I'm not going to roast you." Mikael exhaled sharply, letting go of her shoulders. He stepped back and assessed her posture.
"I never thought of that," Eve told him. She almost turned around until she realized their close proximity. With that distance, the perceptive model might see through her disguise.
She shuffled her feet instead—as if she tested each step. A teasing smile curled her corner lip. "I merely had the impression you skewer people."
Mikael's eyebrows shot up. It seemed that a certain someone gained a smart mouth. "Isn't that essentially the same thing?"
"No, it means you sta—poke at them."
He grimaced. He had heard similar comments before but rarely in this manner. Others preferred to spit at his face, telling him off so he'd fall from the pedestal he created for himself.
Or so that was how Jordan described it.
"Were you perhaps offended by my remarks?"
Eve's ears perked up at the question. She stepped back as she spun on her heel, widening their distance. Her expression betrayed zero emotion.
"No, I wasn't, Mr. Davis," she answered. "I know my faults. I know there are better models for Athon's campaign. I know some of them are more suitable."
Her head tilted to one side, not minding his calculative gaze. It held no malice unlike the ones she witnessed before from other people.
"If you attack me with these, I won't get offended at all," Eve said, her back straightening. Conviction laced in her voice. Not once did her eyes wavered.
"I know my place," she spoke softly, "But that doesn't mean I will be staying there. I refuse to give these people less than they deserve."
"So, please," she encouraged him. A small smile appeared on her lips. "Feel free to criticize. I will keep them in mind as I strive to do better."
Mikael kept his face neutral. Her steady gaze reflected an emotion he'd seen before. It matched the same amount of determination, blazing and strong. Any constructive opinion would only fan its flames.
She reminded him of his past.
"Walk one more time." He nodded his head once before going back to his position by the wall. "You might want to try walking a little sideways. There would be a lot of cameras and you'd constantly have to move."
Eve chose to ignore his attitude change. She squared her shoulders and walked back towards the kitchen. Her mind noted down his words about slightly angling to the side. Compared to before, she found this easier.
Her glide went smoothly.
Mikael let her pace around the room. Like the photoshoot, the rookie managed to do well enough. She just didn't have the right mindset. Her forward walks faltered a bit. His radiant blue eyes went to her shoes.
She was obviously not used to them—but, at least, her feet weren't wounded.
"There won't be much to worry about the event," Mikael informed her as she came back from the kitchen. "Just keep your back straight, your chin high and your shoulders relaxed. It's not a runway. All you need is confidence."
Eve stopped short. Her eyebrows scrunched in confusion. "But—"
"Luna will be presenting the models. Yes, that will happen." Mikael cut in. He pushed himself off the wall as the bedroom door opened. "Again, it's not a runway. The rehearsal was only about direction. When the spotlight is on you, focus on presenting yourself and not the brand."
At his words, Cale widened his aqua blue eyes. He shifted his attention between the two models. He had been listening to music while he dressed up for the occasion. It muffled out their voices from inside the bedroom.
"Such a friendly chat we're having here," he said, making his presence known. A bright smile spread across his face. He hit Mikael's shoulder. "Look at you! Acting like a senpai to your kohai."
Eve hid her snort with a cough.
"I knew you only had your period that day," Cale continued to tease. It always warmed his heart whenever he saw the male model look out for others.
Mikael leaned away from him and glared. "Cale, you're a wonderful human but sometimes you're annoying."
"What a coincidence! So are you."
"Let's go or we'll be late."
"Yo, yo, yo!" A voice called out from the front door. It was accompanied by a series of loud knocks. "What are you doing in there? Cale had you bent my model? Because I'd prefer if you kept it under wraps."
Eve opened the door. She stood the closest so she went ahead of the others.
Jordan stood outside in a bronze suit. The metallic sheen made his olive skin glow. His afro hair tamed for the evening, all pointing downwards instead of sticking out.
His bushy brows rose up above a pair of sunglasses. His lips revealed two rows of pearly white teeth.
"Oh, Ms. Evangeline! Good to see you," he greeted Eve and shook her hand. "You're the new resident here? I should have known. Cale must be spoiling you."
Before she could reply, Cale came from the living room and joined them from the kitchen. His eyes peeked over his model's shoulder. "Darling, I only treat people as royalty if they deserve it."
"We have to go. Stop stalling," Mikael interrupted. He headed straight for the hallway and joined his own manager. He looked at both sides of the corridor, checking for bystanders.
It wouldn't do good if strangers heard Jordan's comment earlier.
Cale merely shrugged and also exited the apartment. He gave Eve an air-kiss along the way. "See you there, Evangeline."
Jordan glanced at Cale and poked a thumb in her direction. "She's not coming?"
"Oh, no," Cale confirmed. He brushed off the concern with a wave of his hand. "Her date will pick her up."
"Date?!" Jordan exclaimed. He received pointed looks from his companions. As a response, he lowered his volume and peeked at Eve from the corner of his eye.
"Should have known she's taken."
Eve merely smiled. Her hand tucked a loose strand behind her ear. A pink tint flooded her ears and her cheeks. She should get used to this kind of attention.
"That's right!" Cale squealed. Then, he directed a finger at the two men. "I expect you both to help keep predators away from her. And I mean that for any gender."
"Alright, alright," Jordan agreed. If he hadn't he was sure another voice would have protested. He nodded towards the door. "See you later, Ms. Evangeline. Break a leg."
"Thank you," Eve replied, speaking up for the first time since she saw him. "Drive safely."
Cale sent her a wink while Mikael gave a silent nod. The three of them walked down the hallway, heading for the lift. Cale changed his flamingo suit with a plain rose gold. Miniscule glitters covered his coat. They sparkled under the lights.
Eve closed the door.
All she had to do was wait.
A black Jaguar XK rolled up on the driveway. The sleek obsidian paint reflected any light source. Like the convertible, its driver wore the same color—including the dress shirt. He got out of the car and walked around the hood.
A red tie hung from his neck.
Ambryan climbed up the front steps. His hands clutched the lapels of his jacket and flapped them, allowing in some air. The hot season wasn't merciful.
He nodded at the security guard and stopped at the lobby. The lights glinted against his gelled onyx hair. He fished out his phone, ready to send a message of his arrival.
Something the other person hadn't thought of doing when they first met face to face.
His thumb hovered over the send button when a voice intercepted his thoughts.
"Excuse me!" The receptionist called out. She rose to her heart, trying to get a better look at the guest. She had recognized the plate number and figured he was the one that she had been waiting for.
Violet eyes flickered towards her.
Their cold expression made her flinch. She cleared off the lump in her throat. "A-Are you perhaps Yan H?"
Ambryan scowled. The name seemed to be another one of his mother's handiwork. She had masked his name, fearing that a third party would expose his relationship.
"I believe so."
The receptionist nodded, accepting the answer. It seemed to be good enough. She couldn't peek inside the car but she thought that it was currently empty.
Noticing an impatient face, she pointed towards the elevators. "If you're here for Ms. Evangeline Reed, the owner of the apartment had green lit you to go up. You're free to visit her apartment. She's on the 10th floor."
Ambryan glanced over at them. He sent the receptionist a brief nod as he crossed the lobby. "Thank you."
He pushed the up button.
Just his luck, an elevator was on its way to the first floor. He tucked his hands into his pant pockets and waited patiently. His eyes watched as the numbers went down.
Then, the doors parted open.
Eh? Cliff-san? Why are you here?! ヾ(*’Ｏ’*)/
You're going to get me into trouble! Don't torture the readers!
Have a good day!
Other ongoing work: Trust and Believe in Love