How far are you willing to go to start over?
Rook Walsh is homeless, jobless, and down to her last ten bucks when opportunity knocks her in the head and delivers a once in a lifetime opportunity. Internationally renowned photographer, Antoine Chaput, knows the minute he spies Rook in his studio that she’s got The Look. The dark and desperate look he must have to land the exclusive TRAGIC media contract.
Rook is paired up with top model Ronin, and he knows exactly what to do to make her blush for Antoine’s camera. Her luck changes in an instant and suddenly she’s got more attention and exposure than she can handle—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
TRAGIC is over and Rook is ready for the future—Spencer Shrike and the STURGIS contract!
It’s three months of body art modeling! That means three months of Spencer Shrike’s paintbrush all over her body, three months in front of Antoine’s camera, and three months of twenty-four-hour filming for Spencer’s Biker Channel reality show.
Wait a minute… what reality show? Maybe she should’ve read that STURGIS contract a little closer?
Sure, Rook’s bank account is overflowing, but Ronin is angry, Clare is trying to escape rehab, Antoine is a worried mess, and Elise is just trying to hold everyone together. Rook’s new family is about to fall apart before she even gets the chance to enjoy it.
Rook is chasing her dream—film school and a chance at a life beyond the one she ran from six months ago. But before she can become the girl she wants to be, she must deal with the girl she left behind.
Ronin is also chasing his dream—a family of his own and a life away from erotic modeling. And he too, has a past he’s trying to forget. A past that makes Rook question everything about their life together.
Lies, secrets, and shocking truths will rock the foundation Rook and Ronin have built. Can they put the past behind them and move forward together? Or is this just another too good to be true relationship that will crash and burn in the end?
The girl catches me staring and I hold my breath. But neither of us turns away. We stare, unabashed, until Antoine’s direction pulls her back into the shoot and she’s lost again—guarded and unhappy, frowning and resigned. She’s a blackbird sitting in a tree staring out at the world, daring the wind to come and knock her off the swaying bough.
She is wrecked, Elise is right. But she’s not down yet. The look on her face is defiant. When I look over at the clock it’s well past five. Antoine has been shooting her for almost two hours. Elise left a while back but whether she’s still here in the studio or up in her apartment, I have no idea. I lost track of her because my eyes are only on the girl.
Antoine does pretty well until the end. It’s clear he’s finished shooting and the girl is starting to look uncomfortable when he asks her what she was thinking about during the shoot. I cringe. No, you don’t ask them! You make them want to tell you, you idiot! I want to pull him aside and stop the crash and burn that’s coming, but it’s too late. She snaps at him and he pulls back when he realizes his mistake.
He turns the conversation to business and this is where it really gets interesting. She tells him she’s not a model and has no portfolio. I’m just about to laugh when she starts yelling about pictures as payment.
I look back towards Elise’s station and realize she forgot to explain the terms to her. We are so off our game today. One tragic girl has disrupted all the carefully laid plans and protocols we’ve had in place for years.
The tragic girl storms off yelling. Antoine walks over to me and we wait together as she rants to Elise.
“You better fix this, Antoine,” I say calmly, but inside I’m screaming too. “Pay the fucking girl, she needs the money.”
He snorts like a fucking Frenchman. “I do not pay for test shoots.”
“This,” I say, turning to face him, “was no test shoot and you know it. You’ve got hundreds of shots in that camera. Pay her and make sure she comes back or I won’t do the contract. I want her. I’ve put up with hundreds of stupid girls over the years for you and I’ve never asked you for a favor like this. I want this one, or I won’t do it.”
He fishes through his pocket and pulls out the cash that Clare never earned.
The studio door slams and we are all reminded that two models have walked out on us today.
“Elise!” Antoine calls, thrusting the bills out at her. “Catch her, pay her, and invite her back on Monday.”
Elise grabs the money and flies out the door.
“We’re in trouble, Ronin. She is trouble.” He turns a little to look me in the eye, something he rarely does unless he’s serious and wants me to consider his advice. “You should stay away from her, keep it professional. Or it might get messy.”
I shrug. “I’ll do what I want. And staying away from her isn’t even in the top million things I want to do with that girl.”
“Elise will hurt you if you ruin this one, Ronin. She won’t tolerate another Mardee.”
Fuck you, is what I think. But I don’t say it, I just sigh and we wait in silence for Elise to come back.
J. A. Huss likes to write new adult books that make you think and keep you guessing. Her favorite genre to read is space opera, but since practically no one reads those books, she writes new adult science fiction, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, urban fantasy, and books about Junco (who refuses to be saddled with a label).
She has an undergraduate degree in horses, (yes, really–Thank you, Colorado State University) and a master’s degree in forensic toxicology from the University of Florida. She used to have a job driving around Colorado doing pretty much nothing but shooting the breeze with farmers, but now she just writes, runs the New Adult Addiction and Clean Teen Reads Book Blogs, and runs an online science classroom for homeschoolers.