Tough Enough(7)

By: M. Leighton

Rogan leans around his vicious ex-girlfriend and smiles pleasantly at Mona. “Just Rogan, remember?” He winks at Mona and I think I can actually see her knees buckle a little.

“Rogan, then. Coffee?”

“No, thanks. I try to stay away from . . . artificial stimulants.”

Rogan’s eyes slide back to mine, bringing with them that undeniable heat. I don’t know what he means by that comment, but my belly tells me that it was deliciously wicked, that it was meant to stir, to incite. And, sadly, it does.

Victoria clears her throat and slithers off his lap, standing at his side and putting her body between us. In my mind, her taking steps to block me from his view confirms that his comment was meant for me. And she doesn’t like that one bit.

Mona’s smile is enormous and excited as she sashays past me, leaving me standing awkwardly near the doorway of my own makeup room. I’d like nothing more than to leave with my friend, but I can’t. This is where I work. I can’t very well walk out when I’ve got to get Rogan ready for the first shoot of the day.

Luckily, he takes care of part of the problem. “It was good seeing you, Tori, but Katie’s got to get to work on me. I’m sure I’ll see you around the set,” Rogan offers as he sits up straighter in the chair, suddenly a touch cool and very businesslike.

“Oh, we’ll be seeing lots of each other.” Victoria sounds smug as she bumps Rogan with a swing of her perfectly rounded butt before she turns to walk away. Her smirk is satisfied as she passes me. “See you later, Katie.”

Holy cow, I hope not! I think this, but I don’t say it. Like so much of what goes through my head, it stays firmly locked away. There, it’s safe. There, it won’t get me in trouble. There, it won’t let anyone know what I’m feeling. See the real me. Or get too close to her.

Rogan is watching me in the mirror when I turn my eyes back to him. “Ready?”

I hope he only means am I ready to get started with his makeup. If he means anything else, the answer is NO! In no way am I ready for a guy like him.

No. Way.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Rogan,” I say, just to be obtuse. I’m disgruntled and I have no idea why. Surely this man, this cocky, shallow man, can’t get under my skin.

Surely not.

“Just Rogan,” he repeats.

I nod and smile, but say nothing as I sling a drape around his shoulders.



Katie is quiet as she evaluates me with narrowed eyes, her gaze roving my face, pausing on my eyes and my mouth, on my scars and my nose. She then looks through first one drawer, then another, followed by another and another, collecting things as she goes. She glances back at me repeatedly as she decides what colors to use to . . . I don’t know what. Camouflage? Highlight? Hide completely?

When she catches me watching her, she looks quickly away and tucks her chin a little. I have no idea why the hell a woman who looks like her might want to hide. But it looks like that’s exactly what she’s doing. Like she’d rather be invisible in front of me.

The more closely I watch, the more I discover. For instance, I think she has a couple of nervous ticks—the way she licks one corner of her mouth, the way she pulls that sweep of hair tighter around her neck, like it’s a security blanket. I’d say she’d much rather I not notice things like that, but for some reason they make her all the more fascinating.

And, damn it to hell, I’m already fascinated enough.

Since becoming whatever kind of freakish sensation that I’ve become, all the women I’ve come across have been nothing but media whores. They want the attention. All the attention. They crave it. Crave the eyes and the notice and the limelight. But not this girl. She craves obscurity.

She’s different. And I’m ready for different.

When she’s finally ready to get started, I watch her swirl a brush in a pod of makeup. The action is so competent and smooth it’s easy to see that she’s done it a million times. She feathers something all over my face¸ giving simple, succinct instructions as she comes to certain areas, like my eyes and my mouth, when she mutters a soft, “Close.”

When she’s done, she sets down that color and picks up another, lighter shade. Before she leans in to me again, she tugs at her hair. Nervous tick.

She swirls this brush, too—a smaller one this time—into the packed powder before bending closer to my face. I get a whiff of her perfume. Clean and floral with a little hint of musk or vanilla. The cocktail is sexy as hell, like innocence with a sin chaser.

Just enough sin to make a man beg.

Katie’s tongue sneaks out at the corner of her mouth, drawing my eye. Her lips are just about perfect. They’re shaped like a lush cupid’s bow, plump and moist. Ready to be kissed. I can easily picture what they’d look like afterward—red and swollen.