“What does it matter how tall I am?” I paused. “And, yes, I am a size four, but I hardly see how that is relevant to ...”
Miles held up his hand to silence me as he took another step forward. “I’m done with the two of you now.” He barked at Nick and the leggy blonde. “I’ve got all of the shots that I need.”
Nick and the barely-clothed woman quickly disentangled themselves from each other and parted ways rather awkwardly. While she promptly collected her robe and scampered off towards the opposite end of the suite, Nick stood up from the bed rather slowly. He performed a quick adjustment to his pants, but it was glaringly obvious that he was more than a bit uncomfortable. I quickly adverted my gaze as he started to approach us; well aware of the fact that I was blushing almost as deeply as he was.
“Damn, Nicky!” AJ whooped as Nick leaned across Howie to retrieve his discarded t-shirt from the couch. “Were you having a good time over there or what?”
“Dude, you totally just touched my arm with your bulge!” Howie leaned out of Nick’s way and made a big production out of looking disgusted.
“He was asking her to wiggle around on top of me and shit.” Nick yanked his t-shirt over his head and glared at Howie before addressing AJ. “Just wait until it’s your turn, man. You try keeping it under control when you’ve got fuckin’ boobs in your face and ...” He stopped and looked at me as if he had suddenly just realized that I was standing there. “Oh, hey, Abby ...”
“Hey, Nick.” I could feel the heat coursing through my face as I forced myself to keep my attention fixated above his shoulder blades. My mouth pulled itself into a smile. “What’s, ummm, up?”
“Ohhhhh shit!” Kevin let loose an uncharacteristic stream of laughter at my comment. “What’s up? Priceless!”
Nick gave me a look of disbelief, but I could tell that he was trying hard not to laugh himself. He shook his head and rubbed at his forehead. “Not you too, Abby! I mean, I expect stupid comments from the fellas, but not from you! How is it possible that we’ve corrupted you already?”
“Yes, yes, erections are hilarious.” Miles interjected himself into our friendly banter with a massive eye roll.
“Not as funny as someone saying the word ‘erection’ in a room full of people.” Brian nudged his cousin in the ribs; successfully eliciting another round of laughter from the older man.
Miles, however, didn’t seem to find Brian’s comment to be particularly amusing. He whipped his head around and gave Brian such a scathing look that he immediately fell silent. After he was satisfied that Brian had gotten the hint, Miles returned his full attention to me. His painfully slender body was now positioned dangerously close to mine.
“Let's try this again. How tall are you?”
I sighed; giving in. “I dunno; five foot six or seven ... maybe.” I shifted my weight uncomfortably under Miles’s stare. “Why?”
“You have an excellent side profile.” Miles used his weirdly long fingers to turn me around so that he was staring at me from the side. “You’re so average looking that it’s endearing.”
“Thanks?” I raised my eyebrows at his backwards compliment.
“You’re going to make up for your rudeness by standing in for the model that you can’t find.” Miles reached out and pulled some of my hair over my shoulder. He stepped back and studied me for another minute. “Take your sweater off.”
“I’m not modeling for anything!” I practically shrieked. I grabbed at my cardigan and pulled it even tighter around me. “Have you lost your mind?! I’m a Planet Hollywood employee! I can’t just spend company time standing in for missing models. If you really need another girl, I’ll phone a local agency and get you another one.”
“So trivial.” Miles sighed. “You’re being paid to work for the band, right? It’s your job to make sure that this promotional shoot gets done. I’m going to cut your face out of the picture anyways. Nobody will ever know that it’s you. Besides, you’re the right height and the right shape. Well, I mean, technically your boobs should be a few cup sizes bigger and you could stand to drop down to a size two, but otherwise you’re really quite cute.”
I let out a hiss of indignation. I had never felt more self-conscious or unattractive in my entire adult life. “Well, I’m really not going to do you any favours now! If you’re going to cut out my face than why don’t you just use the same model for AJ and Brian? They’re practically the same height anyways. ”
For the second time since I had walked into the room, Miles looked at me as if I were completely clueless. “I need all of the boys to be with a different girl. I can’t have two of them mackin’ on the same chick. It will be totally obvious when all of the ads run side by side.” Miles sighed. “Listen, sweetie, if you don’t do this for me then I will let everyone know that you single-handedly fucked up the release of the promotional materials for what is currently the fastest selling residency in Vegas history.” He paused for dramatic effect. “What do you think that an announcement like that will do for your career as a residency coordinator?”
“There’s no need for that!” Kevin swiftly came to my defence. “Abigail had nothing to do with the arrangement of this shoot or with this ridiculous concept. If you keep threatening her then I will have absolutely no problem telling you to take your pictures and to shove them up your ...”
“Thanks, Kevin.” I beamed my appreciation at him before he could say something that he would eventually come to regret. “But, it’s fine. I can stand in for a few stupid pictures if that’s what Miles wants.”
Although it made me feel better to know that Kevin had my back, I knew that I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Unfortunately, Miles was a bigger deal on the Vegas strip than the Backstreet Boys would probably ever be. If Miles Hemmingworth spoke badly about you then your career was over. Period. End of story.
“Wonderful!” Miles clapped his hands as if I had just agreed without any kind of hesitation. “Now go on and take off that stupid sweater, so that I can see what I’m working with.”
The chatter in the room resumed almost immediately after I gave in to Miles’s request. Apparently, everyone else was allowed to be happy once Miles was happy. I begrudgingly removed my cardigan and deposited it on the arm of the couch next to Howie. I placed my hands on my hips and turned to Miles; hoping that I looked indifferent. In reality, I felt completely overexposed even though I was still fully clothed. I tugged at my black camisole and mentally cursed myself for choosing a skimpy tank with spaghetti straps and lace detailing.
“Stand up!” Miles ordered AJ out of the make-up chair. “I need to see how this looks.”
“Yes, sir!” AJ shot out of his seat and gave Miles a formal salute accompanied by a smirk.
Nick and Howie let out almost indistinguishable snorts of laughter, and I had to bring a hand up to hide my own smile. Miles looked less than impressed with AJ’s antics.
“Where is the girl who is supposed to be with him?” Miles pointed at Brian and snapped his fingers. “I don’t have all day, people!”
“Here! I’m right here!” A petite, young, dirty-blonde haired woman hurried out of the cluster of models and practically bounced into position next to Brian. “I’m Lucy.”
“I don’t care what your name is.” Miles deadpanned. He grabbed my arm and practically shoved me against AJ’s chest. “Grab her by the hips and then don’t move.” He instructed.
“Yes, sir.” AJ whispered his earlier statement into my ear. He brought his hands up so that they were resting lightly on my hips and gave me a private wink. “So, this is kinda awkward, huh?”
“Kind of.” I rolled my eyes. “This is definitely not in my job description.”
I raised my hands to AJ’s shoulders and bit at my lip to keep from laughing. He was now drumming his fingertips lightly against my hips as we both awaited further instructions. I could hear Nick and Howie whispering to each other in the background between their snorts of laughter.
Miles returned after a few more awkward seconds. He studied me and AJ with his fingers on his chin. “Since you’re not legally doing this under a modelling contract, I suppose that you’re not going to be willing to take your top off, are you?”
I had to stop myself from laughing directly into AJ’s face. “You’re lucky that I agreed to take off my sweater. You either work with the tank-top, or I’m out!”
“That’s what I figured.” Miles sighed dramatically. He considered the situation for a few more seconds before snapping his fingers at Lucy. “Come here and take her place.” Miles pulled me out of AJ’s grip and shoved me off towards Brian. “Go stand next to the southern one.”
“I wonder if he’s aware of the fact that Kevin and I are both technically the southern ones?” Brian quipped as I took up my designated position next to him. He took a sip of his coffee and gestured towards the tray holding the other cups. “I got you a decaf one; just in case you were here when we got back.”
“Better!” Miles’s announcement cut into our conversation. “So, so much better! I am a genius!”
I looked over to see AJ and Lucy sandwiched together. Miles was beaming at the two of them as if he had just orchestrated a perfect match on eHarmony. Somewhere along the way, Lucy had removed her top and AJ was practically drooling down into her insanely pushed-up, lace-wrapped cleavage.
“Yeah, this is real classy alright.” Kevin sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair and shook his head at AJ. “Channing Tatum is going to be able to reuse these posters for his Magic Mike show.”
I looked back and forth between the Kentucky cousins. “Howie said that you guys all agreed to do this shoot. Is that not the case?”
“We were a bit ... mislead.” Kevin grimaced. “I’m gonna have some serious words for Jenn the next time that I talk to her, that’s for sure.” He sighed once more. “But, technically speaking; yes, we did all agree to go ahead with the idea.”
“I just don’t want anyone to be, you know, upset.” I stressed. “Like your wives ...”
Kevin laughed softly. “The wives are used to the girls hangin’ around. Posin’ for a couple of racy pictures ain’t no big deal. They’re down with it; know that it’s a part of the job.”
“Most of them do, anyway.” Brian muttered. He looked up and caught my eye; blushing as he realized that he’d just criticized his own wife. “And those of them that don’t have learned to deal with it in their own way over the years.”
“You’re supposed to be the good one, right?” Miles broke into our conversation by hurling a random question at Brian. He, once again, placed his spindly fingers against my skin and dragged me forward. “The goody-goody Christian one?
“Sure.” Brian rolled his eyes. “If you want me to be the good one then I guess I’m the good one.”
“So snotty!” Miles laughed. “Anyways, the whole covered-up look will make perfect sense if you’re supposed to be the good boy. We wouldn’t want you to touch any boobies that don’t belong to you.”
“The last time that I checked, no boobies actually belonged to me.” Brian retorted.
Kevin literally chocked with laughter at Brian’s comment. He waved his hand in his cousin’s general direction to apologize before slinking off to join Howie and Nick who were now both perched on the arm of the sofa; seemingly enjoying the fact that Miles was giving everyone a hard time but them.
“You know what I mean.” Miles spun me around so that I was standing mere inches away from Brian; our noses were practically touching. “Yes, this will work.” Miles abruptly plucked the coffee cup out of Brian’s hand and dropped it directly into the trash.
Brian opened his mouth to say something about the coffee, but he promptly closed it again as Miles began to circle the two of us. I felt decidedly awkward. With AJ, the situation had been a joke. With Brian, the proximity was too much; too personal. We were both just standing there with our arms dangling at our sides and trying not to stare directly into each other’s faces. It was glaringly obvious that we were both anxious about the prospect of having to touch each other, and it was even more obvious that we were both trying to hide it.
“Okay!” Miles brought his hands together in one extra-loud clap. “Let’s get things back on track! Church Boy, you’re up!”