I cleared my throat. “You look…” Delectable. Edible. Mouth-watering. “Very nice.”

“Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “Hopefully I can get this finished quickly.”

He strode away before I could respond, moving towards where they were setting up the shoot.

I observed the whole process very much as an outsider looking in. An obsessed, infatuated, outsider looking in. But going by the similar, glassy-eyed female stares I noted wherever I glanced, I wasn’t the only one.

One lucky woman got the task of showing him where to stand and what to do. I didn’t miss the fact that she used every excuse to touch him. Could I blame her? Yes. But I found that I wasn’t even the slightest bit jealous. How could I be when James tried to withdraw from every touch? He was professional but very cool with the woman.

The woman was almost too thin, but still indisputably attractive, with dark hair and eyes, and Hollywood lips. She could have been anywhere from thirty to forty-five. It didn’t matter on her. Youth or the lack thereof was not where her beauty lay. Still, I didn’t feel even a stirring of insecurity as she put her hands on him. Instead, I almost pitied the awkward position he found himself in. He shot me occasional, uncomfortable glances as she handled him, as though he were more afraid of upsetting me than he was concerned about doing the shoot. It made me flush a little every time he did it, though those were the only looks he was sparing me.

The woman backed away from him finally, and the shoot began. When she began to call out orders to the crew, I realized that she must be the director. By the way she’d been acting, I’d assumed she was some sort of star-struck assistant. I supposed I knew better than anyone how Mr. Beautiful could turn even the most stoic woman into a love-struck fool.

Every move that he made suddenly became extra fascinating, and it had always been pretty damned fascinating to me. He didn’t smile, just moved his face by infinitesimal degrees, this way and that way, catching every perfect angle for the various shots.

His hands started at his hips but moved up to lace behind his head, drawing his abs taut and making his arms bulge in the most appealing way. It might have just been me, but his tie seemed to be pointing suggestively down, and I couldn’t help but notice how the pose stretched the Bianca on his chest, displaying it like a prize. It made me smile. He was insane, but that was becoming just another thing that I adored about him. It was also becoming apparent that I only had a passing relationship with sanity myself.

They took shot after shot as he shifted around at the director’s command. She called a halt maybe ten minutes in.

“Annie, get me some suspenders!” she barked.

A small blonde woman scurried back into wardrobe.

The two women were swiftly attaching suspenders to his low-slung slacks, which seemed wholly unnecessary, and very unprofessional to me, but what did I know? They resumed the shot quickly.

James had to pull one suspender to the side to show off his red ink, but no one stopped him.

I could see why they’d added the suspenders, though I’d thought it was a strange thing to do. It was sexy. Like insane sex on horseback sexy. Something about the business attire set against his tan oiled chest was obscene, bordering on mind-blowing orgasm just looking at him, sexy.

They took endless pictures of his every shift in posture and expression. Eventually they made him turn, taking shot after shot of his ripped back. He shrugged out of one errant suspender to show off the tattoo on his back.

I shifted closer to study it, still feeling a little shell-shocked every time I caught a glimpse of my face on his back. I knew from hearing several friends talk about it that tattoos scabbed over at first, sometimes marring the ink for weeks, but I could see no sign of that yet on this one. It seemed perfect, still looking like a painting on his back.

I still thought the tattoo was insane, though I was beginning to understand why he’d done it.

He was committed to me, for whatever crazy reason, and I was so closed off that he hadn’t been able to just come out and say it, and have me believe him. I was too damaged, too skeptical of everything good in life. This had been his bat-shit crazy way of trying to prove it to me. He was so like Stephan in that way, so willing to throw all pride aside for the sake of loving me. I knew in my soul that there was nothing Stephan wouldn’t do for me, and I was beginning to see that James had that same startling quality. What had I done to deserve such devoted men in my life? I couldn’t fathom it. It all just seemed to be good to be true.


Mr. Gorgeous

After an exhaustive amount of posing, James was led off to change into another outfit for the shoot. I couldn’t imagine why. I’d seen the shoot. There was no way they hadn’t gotten a good string of pictures out of it.

The director approached me as James disappeared into the dressing area. She smiled at me. It was a polished, professional kind of smile. I wondered if she’d been a model before she’d directed photo shoots.

She waved a hand at her own chest. “So I take it you’re this Bianca?” she asked, and I realized she was referencing the tattoo she’d just been staring at for an hour.

I nodded, not really sure how to respond.

She held out a hand. “I’m Beatrice Stoker. I’m the director.”

I shook her hand, and she squeezed hard, like it was some kind of a test. I gave her a half-hearted response, not interested in whatever way she thought she was testing me with such a strange action.

“Bianca,” I told her, even though she obviously knew that.

“You are one lucky lady, Bianca,” she said. Something a little too familiar about her tone raised my hackles just a bit.

I gave her very solid eye contact. “I’m very well aware of that. Trust me when I say that you can’t even imagine how lucky.”

She blinked, but didn’t seem at all put off by my awkward statement. I didn’t know what made me want to goad her, but more and more, I seemed to be having a hard time holding my tongue.

“Well, good for you,” she finally said. “About that, with Mr. Cavendish’s new tattoos being devoted to you and all, I had an idea for the shoot, if you don’t object.”

“Object to what?” I asked suspiciously.

She smiled that polished smile. “If you wouldn’t mind going through the hassle of hair, makeup, and wardrobe, I’d love to have you involved in some of the shots. More as an accessory to James than as a focal point, if you get my meaning.”

I didn’t. “You want me to be in the photo?” I asked, baffled. It was something I’d never expected.

“Well, he’s showing off tattoos that are obviously in your honor, so I thought it would be nice to squeeze you into a few shots. Nothing much. I’d just like to have you maybe hug him from behind, something very innocent and low-key. He’s been shirtless on our covers several times, sans tats. I thought it might be nice to show the reader what’s inspired his new passion for ink.”

I grimaced, uncomfortable with the idea. “You’d have to ask James. This is his thing.”

She nodded and strode off with a purpose, and I felt a little like I’d just thrown him to the wolves.

Sure enough, James strode out of the dressing room scant moments later, moving to me in swift strides, his brow furrowed. He was in a new mouthwatering getup with pale beige slacks, a bare golden chest, and the softest looking beige scarf I’d ever seen in my life wrapped around his neck until it formed a sort of X-rated cowl.

“What do you think of this idea?” he asked me quietly.

I shrugged, not sure what to think, and having a hard time focusing on anything but what I wanted him to do to me with that scarf.

“My first inclination was to say fuck no, I don’t want you exposed like that, but my need to shelter you from the world is obviously a moot point. They’ve gotten a look at you, so I think we should let them look at you on our terms, if that makes sense. So I guess what I’m saying is that, yes, I would like you to be involved with the shoot, if you’re comfortable with that.”

He sounded almost defensive as he mapped out his reasonings to me. It was so unusual for him to be defensive that I was a little taken aback. He looked so worked up in fact, that I decided to just put him out of his misery.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” I said quietly. It was a fact that there were already too many horrible pictures of me out there to even keep track of, so what would one not so horrible picture hurt?

He seemed stunned, and not altogether pleased, which I found rather perverse of him, but he just nodded.

After that, it felt like a whirlwind of activity as I had my hair, makeup, and nails done.

The dressing room was a total fiasco. There was just no other way to look at it. The wardrobe people, used to working with professionals, and hardly used to dealing with unreasonably jealous boyfriends, tried to go about business as usual.

Someone started to lift my skirt up and I just sort of yelped, surprised. I turned to look at the girl behind me. She was giving me an impatient look, just doing her job. And then there was James…

“Don’t touch her,” he told the poor girl, his tone bordering on mean. I hadn’t appreciated her familiarity, but I felt a strong stirring of pity at the crushed look on her face. He addressed the room at large. “Everyone out. She does not need an audience. Only one female dresser gets to stay.”

That one lucky female dresser looked like she’d just drawn the short straw as she rifled through clothes. She was the little blonde assistant that had been helping with the shoot. She pulled out a pair of jeans and gave me a dubious look. “I don’t suppose you’d agree to go topless? Everything would be covered, of course—“

“Out of the question,” James said. He sounded real putout about it, too.

She sighed, no more happy than he was about the whole situation. “Maybe I should just let you choose her wardrobe. Only her hands and maybe the top of her head will be showing, so it doesn’t really matter, and you’re obviously going to have an opinion about it.”

I thought she’d been sarcastic when she told him to choose, but he took her at her word, rifling through the racks of clothes with a purpose.

James didn’t waste any time choosing, at least. I rolled my eyes but had to smile as I saw what he’d chosen.

The stylist actually seemed pleased with his choices. “Ohh, that’s a nice idea. That would be a good way to have her compliment the shot.”

“She doesn’t need help dressing, but she does need privacy,” James said bluntly.

The stylist shot him an unfriendly look, but left in a hurry.

I studied James, half-expecting him to pounce on me. It was a natural assumption. We were alone now, and when we were alone…

He didn’t though, just started acting like he was dressing me. I didn’t need help dressing, but I knew that wasn’t the point. He wanted to do this, needed to do this. If I tried to analyze him, as I seemed to do with everything, I thought he did this because he loved to feel like he was taking care of me. He, being as much of a relationship novice as myself, thought that this was what couples did, something that made them closer. I was pretty positive that not many couples did do it, but odd as it was, it did make me feel closer to him, and more cherished.

Tags: R.K. Lilley Up in the Air Erotic
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