"Taxi..!" Bella Swan signaled a yellow New York cab to pull over where she stood—just in front of Starbucks Coffee. She briefly grabbed a mocha frap to quench her thirst for she had to hurry over to somewhere and had no time to stuff her face.
She was clad in a white collared blouse—half-buttoned to reveal a black tank underneath—which had a chunky belt wrapped around it to show off her form in the baggy top, ultra-skinny black pants, and platforms. A black-framed Ray-Ban was perched neatly on her wavy brown hair, ready to shield her from unexpected sunlight.
Soon enough, a cab approached her. She smiled sweetly at the driver—the smile she reserves for her job—and stepped inside. "Maxi Studio, please" she told the guy. The cab revved up and joined the other cars on the road.
Bella took a sip of her drink and then felt for her cell from her enormous black hobo bag. She pulled out her Treo, punched numbers on the keypads, and pressed it to her ear. She waited for someone to pick up.
After three rings, someone answered. "Bella where are you?" Bella called her best friend and makeup artist Alice McCarty. "Papa Maxi informed everyone that the photographer will arrive in ten minutes."
"Tell Papa Maxi I'll be there in no time" Bella assured Alice. Then she peered out the window of the cab. "I'm only three blocks away now."
"Well, hurry up!" Alice said before hanging up. Bella stuffed her phone back into her bag and continued sipping her frap. She needed the caffeine—bad.
A few minutes—five, to be exact—later, the cab pulled over in front of a huge glass building. There was a gold plaque in front of it that said: maxi modeling studio. Bella paid the cab driver and stepped out. She eyed a metal trash can and threw her empty plastic into it before entering the glass doors. She was greeted by Tony, the forty-year-old doorman, warmly—like always. "Good morning to you too" she replied with a grin and approached where the elevators were. She pressed the button with the upward arrow and waited for the elevator to open. Her foot couldn't help but tap noisily on the smooth granite floor.
Finally, the elevator opened. She stepped inside and pressed the number 12. She was then surrounded by a calming music. Elevator music, she thought. When she got to the eighth floor, the elevator opened. A woman she knew stepped inside—looking intently at herself in her compact. The woman's name was Jessica Stanley—a friend of hers in high school. Jessica looked up from her compact mirror and practically screamed at the sight of Bella. "Oh, my God! Bella Swan!" she squealed, giving her a hug.
"I didn't know you work here" Bella commented, striking a conversation.
"I just started this morning" Jessica grinned. "I'm the new marketing associate of Maxi Studio"
Bella smiled. "Congratulations" she said.
"Thanks!" her high school friend screamed. "Although I should be congratulating you"
She arched a brow. "And why is that?"
"Your modeling career's blooming isn't it?" Jessica said. "That's big, Bella"
Bella couldn't help but laugh. "I guess." then she looked up to see what floor they were on now. It was already the twelfth. She clapped a hand on her friend and said when the elevator opened, "oh. This is me."
"See you around, B" Jessica chimed in before the elevator closed.
Bella turned around and made her way through the wide hallway. The walls were decorated with framed photographs of top models of the modeling studio. But Bella already admired them to the fullest when she first got here, so she didn't bother looking at them. She stopped in front a red door and pushed it open. She was met by the sounds of moving and fixing of equipment—and the screaming of her friend. "Bella, finally..!"
Before she could greet her best friend good morning, Alice grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her inside a dressing room. Bella put down her bag on one of the chairs and settled on the couch. Alice stood in front of her with her hands to her hips.
"And what do you think you're doing?" Alice questioned. She made a movement of 'shooing.' "Get dressed already! You're outfit is inside the bathroom"
Bella wordlessly obeyed and went inside the bland white bathroom. She took off her own clothes and slipped on the outfit she was supposed to wear for the photo shoot.
Although she wasn't sure if she could call it an 'outfit'—not when it looked like just a tiny strip of fabric. But she knew that in modeling: complaining is a no-no.
It turned out that what she was going to wear was a man's oversized button-down. It was cream in color. And she noticed that the top portion of it lacked buttons. Bella mentally groaned. She looked at herself in the oversized mirror and realized her brassiere was showing. "Alice" she called out.
"What is it?" her friend called back.
"No under-top?" Bella asked. It meant, in their bestie language, no bra.
"Yup" Alice replied. Bella sighed and undid the clasp. She folded it up and stuffed it under her pile of clothes. She didn't want something so privy exposed.
Finally, she stepped out of the bathroom. Alice looked up from her magazine and stood up. She was going to do her job now: put makeup on Bella.
"Papa Maxi said messy hair, smoky eyes, and pale lips" Alice informed her best friend as she started with the eyes. Papa Maxi is, obviously, the owner of the modeling studio. People close to him call him Papa Maxi… and the ones who are not-so-close call him Max Gerard.
"That's nice" Bella said. Alice was a fast worker. In a few minutes, she was already done with her magic… just in time because they both heard someone say that the photographer had arrived.
They both exited the dressing room to find Papa Maxi talking to the photographer Carl Matthews. Papa Maxi saw the two girls approach and then he grinned, looking like a proud daddy. "Ah, here's my pretty little model"
Bella smiled. She politely shook hands with the photographer and then brought her attention back to her boss. "Shall we start?" Papa Maxi asked.
"Yes," Bella said. Alice patted her back encouragingly and walked with the photographer to their places—behind the camera.
Bella settled herself in front of the camera and waited for directions. "Lie down on the bed, please. On your side" said the photographer. Bella nodded and lied down on her side on the white bed strewn with a messy white blanket. "Now lower your top on one side—show a little cleavage—as if you just got out of bed… in a sexy way"
Bella did what she was told. The photographer's eyes disappeared from behind the lens of his camera. "Now look seductive. Invite the people who will look at you." Bella did a pout and poised her hand through her dark mane of hair. She held this position in place until the photographer finished taking pictures. "Good, Bella" the photographer said. "Now do a kneeling position—show off you legs." Again, she obeyed.
A few minutes later, she was done with the bed setting. "That was fantastic, Bella" Alice commented. "You were so seductive. I bet guys will drool over you more when they see those pictures"
Bella let out a laugh. "Thanks, Alice."
They both reentered the dressing room. Bella was told to change into a new outfit for a different setting. She was told that she was going to be doing the next shoot with a famous male model. She didn't know who it was—and so did Alice. "Who do you think it is?" Alice wondered as Bella slipped on a black dress. It was very short—three inches above her knees—with a very low v-neckline. Again, it showed too much cleavage that she was comfortable with. Alice fixed her hair into a messy bun. Her makeup didn't change. When Alice was done with her, they both got out of the dressing room and approached the photo shoot again. And just out of the corner of her eye, she saw a tall figure talking to Papa Maxi. He was facing his back to her—making her only decipher that the guy had messy bronze hair. That was all.
"Papa Maxi, Bella's all done!" Alice chimed, making their boss—and the guy—turn around. Bella fought the urge to gape. The guy was terribly good-looking—super hot. He had green eyes and an irresistible crooked grin. She looked down slightly to realize that the guy was wearing nothing but a pair of black jeans—showing off a very pronounced six-pack.
"Let's start, then" Papa Maxi grinned, oblivious to Bella's hyperventilating. He turned to the male model and said, "Edward, please take care of my Bella"
'Edward' grinned at Bella playfully and said, in an equally irresistible voice, "I will." Then he approached her with confidence, reaching out his hand to her. "Shall we?"
Bella forced a smile—hoping it was as confident as Edward's. "Lead the way." The moment they touched, she felt electrified. She let him drag her to the shooting—which was changed from a bed setting to sofa theme—and silently wished she could pull this off without embarrassing herself in front of a total Greek god.
"Edward, let Bella sit on your lap now" the photographer ordered, gesturing the two with his free hand—the one he wasn't using to hold his camera. Edward, still holding onto Bella's hand, dragged her down to his lap when he settled comfortably on the couch. His legs were stretched wide—a casual stance, Bella noted to herself. "Good. Now Bella, wound your arm around his neck. Pull yourself closer to him." Bella nodded and did what she was told. She suddenly felt self-conscious when she realized her boobs were nearly touching Edward's face. She heard him chuckle.
"This is a good start isn't it?" he teased in a whisper. Bella blushed.
"Edward, put a hand on her thigh" the photographer continued to direct, oblivious of the tempting tension between the models. Edward slowly slid a hand on Bella's thigh, sending a tingle through Bella's body. "Good" then the photographer began clicking away.
After five shots or so, the photographer's face emerged from behind the camera. He rubbed a hand behind his neck and said, slowly, "okay. This is the part for the intimacy to come in"
Bella didn't like the sound of that. Edward didn't show any reaction. Behind the photographer, Bella saw Alice giggling silently to herself.
"Your position stays the same, but," the photographer paused—probably for a dramatic effect. "You guys have to smooch. Okay with that?"
"I'm fine with that" Edward suddenly said. Bella jerked her head down to look at him, her eyes incredulous.
"You are?" Bella couldn't hide the sarcasm. She practically grew up sounding like that. Edward looked up at her and flashed a crooked grin.
"I don't find anything wrong about kissing you," he said, teasing. "—Even though we just met and all"
"Positions please" the photographer said. Bella wanted to protest. She didn't want to kiss someone she only knew for a few minutes. No way.
"I'm not ready yet" she suddenly blurted out, earning her incredulous looks from her boss, the photographer, the staff, Edward, and Alice. She bit her lip right after the words tumbled out her mouth. "I mean, I need to prep up."
"Kissing doesn't need prepping up, Bella" Papa Maxi said, a grin on his face. There was a glint of sympathy for her. "I know you're nervous but this is the next step to your career"
Bella let out an almost inaudible groan. Edward unfortunately heard that. "Just do it with me, Bella. No harm with one peck."
Easy for him to say, she thought. He's not the one who's never been kissed.
"Let's try" the photographer urged. He disappeared once more behind his camera. Bella reluctantly looked down at Edward, his green eyes melting her. Slowly, she leaned down. Edward tilted his chin up so their mouths could meet.
And when they did, it was almost as if a sudden spark exploded inside Bella's body. She could hear the snapping of photos in background, but all her brain could concentrate on was the kiss she was now experiencing. Edward's lips suddenly began to move gently—then not so gently. It became urgent and full of desire. This was not a screen kiss anymore—it was the real thing. Inside her head, Bella was panicking. Oh, my God! He's really kissing me.
"Good" the photographer said. "More passion now"
Was he kidding?!
Bella wanted to react. But she couldn't find the nerve to break the connection between hers and Edward's lips. She was trapped.
Then, unexpectedly, Edward licked her bottom lip with his tongue. Oh, Bella was panicking NOW!
She wanted it to stop. Stop the madness! She screeched in her head. Stop, stop, STOP!
"That looks so hot, Bella!" Alice giggled. Bella ignored her best friend.
Finally, she had the strength to pull away. She put both her hands onto Edward's chest and pushed, breaking the contact between her lips and his. She blinked her eyes open and realized her vision got blurred from closing her eyes too hard.
Edward looked stunned too. "That was—weird" he said. Then he flashed a grin. "Didn't know you were capable of that"
Bella scowled down at him. "Pig" she snarled in a whisper before jostling him so she could get away from his touch.
Here's a sneak preview of chapter two:
Bella scowled at the picture taunting her. She wanted to tear every copy of it and burn it into ashes. She returned the magazine back into its display and prepared to turn away when a manly hand made a grab for it. In cheetah-speed, Bella snatched it away from the guy. "You can't see it" she said.
"Not even if it's me in there?" a familiar voice said, teasing. "I heard that people drooled over it. We make a great team, eh?"
Reluctantly, Bella looked up. Edward Cullen was grinning down at her, his eyes boring into hers again.
"We meet again" he said, his voice as every bit as irresistible as Bella remembered it had been…
A review would be much appreciated, people.