Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(11)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(11)
Author: H.M. Ward

Emma watches me. She can tell I’m out of sorts, but she doesn’t mention it. Instead we talk about Cole and work and half-naked models. I tell her that I hold reflectors, move lights, and adjust things on set. I leave out that adjustments include things of a more sensual nature.

“So, Cole was with you today?” she asks, knowing it’s weird. “Anna, interns are treated like dirt, and you have the owner doing yours. You ever wonder why?”

For a second the only response I have is a half open mouth. “I have. And I don’t know. For some reason he didn’t want Sottero to have me. That much, I’m sure of.”

She nods at me. Although she hasn’t said it, the question—the reason she’s thinking—has crossed my mind as well. Maybe it was more than he didn’t want Sottero to have me. Maybe he actually wanted me. But that doesn’t make sense. I have next to no reputation, and the one I do have says I’m a pain in the ass, stubborn to a fault.

“So, next week you’ll be out East somewhere. How’d Edward take that?” she asks, and then adds. “You don’t have to say anything, if you don’t want to, but when I walked through the door, you looked like someone hit you in the head with a frying pan. I’d be a shitty friend if I didn’t ask.”

I snort, and pull my knees into my chest. We’re sitting on the living room floor. Half the bottle of wine is gone. Tucking a stray hair behind my ear, I stare at my glass, “He was okay with it. That’s not the problem. He’s always supportive, exactly the kind of guy a girl hopes for.”

She watches me. After a moment she asks, “But not you?”

Shrugging, I say, “It gets into things I can’t discuss with you.” I stare at my toes. Sighing, I finally just ask her, “You know I’ve only had two serious relationships. One was a stoner, and the other was—” I try to find the right words, but Emma choses them for me.

“A dick.” She throws back the rest of her wine.

I nod, “Yeah, so I don’t really know what to expect. I mean, if a guy was great in every single way but your bedroom preferences didn’t exactly line up, what would you do?” I stumble over the words as I say them.

She blinks once and stares at me. “If you asked me that before my third glass of wine, I think I would have puked on you. And I might now, anyway.”

I roll my eyes at her, “Stop it. Be serious for once. I need you. I’m not talking about your brother. I’m talking about me. I’m a freak, Emma. Guys seem to think that I’m this little goodie-two-shoes kinda girl, and I’m not. I want things... things that they seem to think are weird. What do I do?”

Emma seems intrigued. “What kind of things do you want that no one will do?”

I shrug, “I don’t know. Things.” I can’t say it. I don’t want to. But I know what I want, and if I’m with Edward, I’ll be three for zero, in terms of guys that make me melt.

“Okay, you’re a bad liar. But I understand if you don’t want to tell me. I’ve done some things that I wouldn’t tell anyone about either.” I glance up at her surprised. She shrugs, “The right guy makes just about anything sound sexy. But that’s not your problem.” She pushes her dark hair out of her face. “I wouldn’t throw away an entire relationship based on the sex, but staying in a relationship where you both want different things, I don’t know...” Her tone is leading, but she’s saying what I already know.

“It’s settling, isn’t it?”

“Seems that way,” she nods and reaches for my glass. She refills both our cups and the bottle is empty. She glances at her glass, “After I drink this, I won’t have any recollection of our conversation, so if you have to ask me funky sex stuff that involves my twin, you’d better do it now.” She makes a face and I laugh.

I hold onto her shoulder, “I can’t do that to you. Telling you that I want more than he’s willing to give is enough.”

“And that’s the problem that you’ll face with every guy,” she lifts her glass and taps it against mine. The crystal rings. “Cheers, Anna. May your future be filled with someone who can give you everything you need.”


“That’s not what I need,” Cole says in a huff.

He pushes past me and grabs a different white cloth from the prop closet. There are so many props. I have no idea how he decides which to use. He steps in front of me, takes the prop, and walks toward the set.

A model is sitting on a chaise with her back toward us. She’s wearing a tiny panty made of strings. It connects below her h*ps with a snake wrapped around a red crystal apple, the symbol of Evil Eve. Like Eve was in on it with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. I keep my feminist statements to myself, and follow Cole.

“The set is too smooth,” Cole explains. “Adding something like this will visually add texture and softness. You want the viewer’s eye to rest on the curve of her back, right where that apple is. The snake is the leading line that creates the flow of the composition. If you don’t put something in the bottom quadrant of the image, it won’t work as well.” Cole tosses down a fuzzy white rug. He bends at his knees, barefoot, and plays with it until it lies haphazardly, like was thrown there.

I watch him place the rug, but I am having trouble. Shaking my head, I say, “I don’t see it.”

He doesn’t turn toward me. Instead he lifts his camera to his eye and shoots. His fingers curve over the lens and the shutter snaps. Over his shoulder, he says, “You will.”

I don’t reply.

Cole shows me settings on the cameras and lights. He has me move things on set. Basically, I’m his beckon girl. He asks for something and I do it. As the day progresses, I’m starting to see what he’s doing. It comes together with the shoot from the other day. He works his way through the four sets, always shooting to show the model’s best assets while complimenting the teeny tiny lingerie she’s wearing. The trademark Le Femme sexy poses aren’t by accident. Every bit of them is Cole. It’s the way he sees a scene and makes it come together.


At the end of the day, I’m backing up the shoot onto his computer along the back wall of the studio. Cole walks up behind me after shutting off the lights in the massive room behind us. The crew and model have left. It’s later than usual. I want to leave, but the shoot ran late.

I watch the data transfer. As each thumbnail shows up on the screen, I look at it. I kind of like that panty after seeing it all day. It’s sexy, or at least I think it is.

I wonder how many things are sexy because someone told me they are.

Cole reaches past me, his finger pressing the screen. A thumbnail just appeared. He’s pointing at it, “That’s the shot before the rug. This is the shot after.” He leans in, not paying attention to how close he is, “See how this image makes you glance and look away?” I nod. It does do that, but I didn’t know why. “It’s because the composition is messed up. The flow is broken. There’s nowhere for the eye to rest or reenter the image. But this one,” he points at the picture with the rug, “is better. Since it’s white on white, the texture doesn’t detract from the focal point, but it lends to the overall image.” He turns to look at me. He’s in my circle of space, but I don’t feel the need to force him out. Although I haven’t been around Cole very long, I’ve already noticed that he isn’t a touchy person. He doesn’t seem to linger this close to anyone else. I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose.

“This shoot was more risqué than the one we did the other day.”

I nod slowly, “Yeah, I suppose it was.” He’s still too close. I arch a brow at him, wondering what he’s doing.

He grins, “You didn’t notice, did you? That she was wearing a piece of string all day?”

Thinking about it, I lean back in my chair. Cole steps in front of me and sits down on the desk. “I suppose not. Actually, I hated that piece of clothing this morning... but it grew on me during the day.”

His eyebrow rose, surprised, “Did it?”

“When I first saw it, I thought it was saying women are evil, you know the temptress bitch scenario.” He laughs even though I’m being serious. “Shut up. It’s real. Look it up,” I say, grinning. “Anyway, as the day passed, I thought it was sexy. I think that’s kind of amazing about this place—you get to define what’s sexy.”

His arms fold over his toned chest while I speak. There’s a gleam in his eye that I can’t ignore. It makes my stomach flip-flop when he looks at me like that. “That’s why I wanted you to work here. I knew you’d see it. Le Femme isn’t about making women into sex objects. You missed that before. When you first spoke to me, that was all you thought we were. But now you see it. Don’t you?”

I nod. Cautiously, I say, “It’s more about defining femininity and power. You showcase your ideals, putting them into pictures.”

I’d only been here for a few days, but there is a reason why I am the best in my class. I see things no one else does. When I find something I don’t understand, I want to know everything about it until I understand it fully. Right now, I feel that way about Cole. He confuses the hell out of me.

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