“She’s one of the most confident women I know.”
“Yeah, but even confident people constantly get chipped away at. She’s my best friend. I will take care of her.”
“Thank God, you’re here,” Elise said. “You are going to save this shoot. We have like an hour left, and I need to get this right. We have six outfits, and not enough time. Come on.”
Hunter was pulled into the restaurant. The windows were blacked out, and Payton was sitting there. The sadness on her face as she was alone really cut him deep.
Taking a seat in front of her, he took her hand. “Hey, beautiful,” he said.
“Hunter, you’re here.”
“It would seem they need an actual couple to make this romance real, and guess what, I’m right here,” he said.
“Mean nothing. They’re assholes for printing shit like that. Let’s prove them wrong, shall we?”
The smile that she gave him made him fall just a little harder for her. Tears were glistening in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I can usually handle things a lot better than this.”
“Having a total bitch call you a whore, you can be granted this little stumble, but only here, only between us. Tonight when I take you to my place after we stop by for some food, you can cry on my shoulder, and we can curse all the press. We could stop by an occult shop, and buy a voodoo doll. Stick it with pins.”
She was already laughing, and the tears were gone, fading with every passing minute. This was what he wanted with Payton. To make her laugh, to be the reason she smiled.
“I think Rick would like to join in with you. He liked Francine, and now he thinks he’ll never find a woman who will accept what he does.”
Hunter looked toward Elise, who was talking with Rick. “I don’t know. He’s probably looking too far away from home.”
She followed his gaze. “Elise?”
“Those two are getting on well. We could work something out. After all the work is done, and we’re free and clear. Set it up as a date.”
“I can’t believe we’re conspiring. You with your friend, and me with mine. Well, yours is family.”
“Elise won’t mind. Ever since she was a kid she has been designing clothes. I doubt she’s even gone on a date.” He kissed her hand, and smiled at her. “How has everything been?”
“It has been hard. Marcel won’t talk to me, and I can see that he’s not sure of my motives. Britney is fine. She has said that the press always gets the story wrong. Everyone else has just been ignoring me. Antonio hasn’t though, nor Elise and Rick. Without them I would have quit.”
“You don’t strike me as a quitter.”
“Being called a whore is the final straw for me.”
He didn’t get to say anything else as they were set up to shoot. Hunter was pulled away to get changed, and he liked the feel of the suit that he’d been asked to wear. Entering the main restaurant, he took a seat, and Antonio started shouting out instructions. Payton was lapping it up, and saw that he didn’t like being told what to do.
Once there were enough shots of one dress, they moved onto the next. Each one stationed at different points around the restaurant. There was one leaning against the bar, chatting, enjoying each other’s company. Another of him up close, holding her cheek as she smiled at him.
He felt part of her world, and wondered what other men thought. As far as he was concerned, he was fucking lucky seeing as he’d be the one to take her home at night. Once the set was finished, and they were done, he waited for Payton to finish changing and he stood outside of the restaurant just as Marcel was leaving.
“Don’t come back tomorrow,” Hunter said.
“You want to treat my woman with disrespect, that’s fine. You won’t be doing it on my watch.”
“I’m contracted for this shoot. You can’t take it away, or change it. I’ll sue.”
“In the small writing, it says that if for any reason at all that a shoot has to be changed or failed through lack of professional behavior, the contract is null and void. Today, I had to take your place. You are free to go.” The other model came out, not Britney but the other one. For some reason he thought her name was Claire. “Your contract has also been terminated.”
“We will sue and go to the press about this.”
“Do so. I hope you do. You will not work in this town again,” he said. No one hurt his woman. He would protect her, even if she didn’t think she needed it herself.
Over the next two weeks headlines kept appearing randomly. Some of them were about her and Hunter. Others were about her past lovers, and then of course it was leaked that she had been approached to star in a porn. Only the story was completely different. In order to become famous, the press claimed that she had been going into porn.