Home > The Hot Shot (Game On #4)(6)

The Hot Shot (Game On #4)(6)
Author: Kristen Callihan


“Woodson isn’t participating,” Rolondo points out. “Wife put her foot down.”

“Woodson is a kicker. I’m the quarterback. I say no, fans get disappointed. Besides, I already committed. Backing out wouldn’t be right.”

It’s too late, anyway. James strolls out from behind the partition. “Mr. Mannus,” he says, all business now. “Let’s get you ready.”

“Great,” I mutter.

I follow him to the changing area, and he gestures to a table covered with lumps of fabric, ranging from pale beige to dark brown. “If it makes you more comfortable, you can wear one of these.”

I frown down at the lumps. “These?”

James picks up a light brown cloth and shows me.

To my utter, fucking horror, it’s a thong. A man thong. “Oh, hell no.”

“Why do you all say that exact thing?”

“Two guesses.” I can’t even imagine the shit the guys would dole out to any poor fuck caught wearing that nightmare.

“We’d edit it out,” he assures, his lips twitching.

“And you think that’s why I’m objecting?” I glare at the thong in his hand.

He tosses the thong back with the others. “To be honest, I’m with you. I’ve tried one on. I don’t know how women stand it. Thing feels like the world’s worst wedgie.” He glances at the thongs, and then me. “Then again, it does great things for a tight ass.”

I don’t know if he’s hitting on me or not. Something in his eyes tells me he wouldn’t object if I offered to model one for him. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had a guy try to flirt with me. Probably not the last either. Athletes and sex go hand in hand.

“As long as it isn’t my ass in one,” I tell him with a shrug.

He gives me a wry smile. “Right then. There’s robes or towels you can use after you strip down. When you’re ready, just head for the studio space.”

He leaves me to undress. The silence in the little space presses in on me. The laughter of the guys rings out, but it only serves to put more distance between them and me. I tug off my shirt, and try to shake the sensation of being exposed.

This is bullshit. Rolondo is right, I’ve never had a problem with people seeing me in the buff. I’m proud of my body. I’ve worked hard to perfect it and it works hard for me. But right now, I’m not asking it to perform a task. Right now, I’m expected to put it on display.

A year ago, I would have fine with that. Hell, I’d probably have preened like the fucking cock of the walk. Fame and adulation can swallow a person whole, until it’s all you think about. Until you believe its bullshit.

Funny how personal tragedy can strip the veil away so fast, it will make your head spin. I’m no longer blind to the bullshit, and, frankly, part of me would have preferred maintaining my ignorance. Because now I feel empty, and that yawing space inside me keeps growing.

“Jesus,” I mutter under my breath. “Just buck the fuck up and do your job.”

I undo the button of my jeans and tell myself that none of this matters. Then James shows up to oil my skin, “So that the camera can pick up every swell and dip.”

I really hate this day.

 

* * *

 

Chess

 

* * *

 

There’s an old saying: the camera never lies.

Photographers know this isn’t true. The camera—and by extension, a photo— lies all the time. We make it lie through manipulation. What looks one way in real life can appear completely different in a photo. Light and dark, negative space and angles, so many things come into play.

The concept of beauty changes with a camera. Some ordinary people come alive behind the lens. Something about the way the light hits them, and suddenly they are utterly beautiful. Haggard, craggy lines can be wondrous. And utterly breathtaking faces can fall oddly flat.

It is my job to find the story in a face, in a body.

I remind myself of this as James leads a sullen Finn Mannus into the studio.

From under my lashes, I watch Mannus move. There is no doubt about it; the man is put together well. So very well. Perfectly proportioned, bold features: a high-bridged, straight nose, a precise jawline, and sculpted lips.

That mouth. It’s the kind of mouth that makes you think about kissing. Lazy, languid, deep kissing. Frantic, tongue-fucking kissing.

That mouth annoys the hell out of me; quirking like he’s on the verge of a smug smile, or about to say something snarky. Except for right now.

Right now, his lips are pressed together so tightly, they nearly disappear. He glances my way, and our gazes clash. It is totally unnerving the way my heart kicks in response. And unwelcome. This guy is a jerk. I’m not supposed to get breathless when I look him in the freaking eyes.

I can tell myself that it’s because Mannus has beautiful eyes. He does. Deep-set, shockingly sky blue eyes, surrounded by long, dark lashes. The color is so intense, it’s almost unworldly.

But I’ve seen pretty eyes before.

No, it’s something else. Something about the way he focuses on a person. The power behind his stare is immense. Given that, when he opens his mouth, it’s all smug teasing and easy charm, his direct, serious gaze doesn’t seem to fit.

I look away first. He’s too pretty for my taste. I like quirky. Faces with strange lines. Glossy perfection doesn’t interest me. But I’ll have to find something in Finn Mannus’s face that tells a story.

Or maybe I just go with focusing on the body.

Wearing a white towel low around his trim hips, his skin slicked up baby oil to catch the light, most of that impressive body is on display.

Mannus doesn’t have the super lean physique of a model. He is built in bold, tough lines. Somehow both cut but solid, defined in places, with big slabs of muscular bulk in others. At six foot four, he towers over both James and myself, his shoulders wide enough to blot out the sun.

His pecs twitch as if wanting my attention. They have it. Unlike most models I work with, he has an intriguing smattering hair over his chest and abs. After seeing so many smooth chests in my profession, it feels almost illicit to look upon him, as if he’s somehow more undressed. My hands itch to glide over his torso to feel his textures.

I give myself a mental slap. Objectivity is needed here. View him as art—just as you would any other client, you hussy.

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