I told Ed yes. I didn’t even hesitate and now I’m getting ready to meet him, but I still have no idea what we’re doing. All I do know is Aiden asked Ed to help him out with something and I’m going to tag along, intrigued by how Ed is going to go big.
I scramble to get ready, not sure what to wear or if I need to do my hair, saying fuck it, I pull on a pair of black jeans and a t-shirt. I grab a sweater just in case the weather is cool and in keeping with my fuck it attitude, I slip my feet into my boots. And because makeup is my thing, I can’t leave without at least making myself look presentable.
I meet Ed at the pub, waiting around back for him, which feels totally weird. He offered to pick me up, but of course I declined. It’s not that I’m intentionally playing hard to get, relationships don’t come naturally to me.
It took a while for me to come around to Ava being in Lewis’ life, but as soon as she called me a cunt and wouldn’t back down, I knew we’d be friends for a long time.
It’s hard not to constantly feel like I’m being taken advantage of when it’s happened so many times in my life.
Lewis has been my rock and I know if Lewis trusts Ed, then I should too. Lewis knew there was something special in Ava when I couldn’t see past the idea that she was only into him for his money.
Ed hasn’t given me any indication that he’d make a shitty boyfriend. If anything, he’s already standing well above all my previous ones. Even if that’s not too hard. One was an alcoholic and when your best friend owns a pub, the two don’t mesh well or maybe they mesh too well. Another was a serial cheater. That was a good time. Or there was the one that stole all my makeup and sold it on eBay. Fucking weirdo. Ed doesn’t look like a makeup stealer.
And Ed’s a much better kisser than any of them. That always has my mind wandering to what he’d be like in bed.
I’m startled by the sound of a car horn as Ed pulls down the alley.
“I really wish you would’ve let me pick you up. Picking you up in a dirty alley doesn’t feel like I’m going big,” Ed says, through the open window.
My favorite part of this is that he doesn’t get out of the car to open my door. I have zero interest in allowing a man to control when I get into or out of a car. Wearing that faux mask of politeness and me then trying my damnedest to appear passive, it doesn’t work.
Mark one point down for Ed. I may even add this little omission as going big in my book.
“Not jumping out of the car to open the door for me was a step in the right direction,” I say, smiling at him as I take a seat in the car.
“Noted,” he replies, his hand giving my thigh a small squeeze.
I love the simplicity of his gestures, the naturalness of everything he does, like he’s not even trying. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. Cool, collected confidence. He doesn’t need me and I don’t need him, but we want each other. And there’s something so innately sexy about it.
“Where are we off to?” I ask, hoping I’m in for an exciting day. It’s been a while since this city surprised me.
“I met up with Aiden before I picked you up,” Ed begins, “and he asked me to scout some areas for his next film.”
“You sound surprised. Like the whole movie star, celebrity thing isn’t engrained in everything you do already. Rumor is that you’re the go-to makeup artist.”
I feel my cheeks heat up. Recognition isn’t something I’m used to. I like to be in the background with no one having any idea who I am.
“Yeah, but it’s different,” I reply, struggling to put into words what it’s like working with Hollywood’s elite. “I’m not on display. I’m just in the back room doing my thing.”
“I like your quiet confidence,” Ed says, smiling at me. It’s crazy the way his eyes seem to light up when he looks at me. I can’t help but wonder if I look that way when I see him. I certainly know my body feels it. With every word he says to me, it’s like fireworks exploding inside me.
“What’s the plan then?” I ask, dodging his compliment.
“I’m going to shoot some pictures and get them back to him. Let him see what they look like in all different kinds of lighting.” he pauses, looking over at me. “You don’t have any other plans today, do you?”
“No, Ed, you’re it.” I let my fingers graze along the back of his neck, loving the way my touch has goosebumps dotting his skin.
“Good, because I plan to monopolize your day and your night,” he murmurs, my heart kicking up a few notches at the idea of spending the evening with Ed. Possibly in the bedroom too. We’ll see how the day goes.
“Why did you need me to come with you for this? Just to keep you company?”
Ed’s tongue slips out wetting his lips before he glances over at me briefly. “Every artist needs a muse, Victoria and you’re mine.”
“What?” I ask, confused by his comment, my eyes narrowed as I try to work out what that means exactly. Obviously, as an artist myself, I have my dream clients, my muses that inspire my work, but I have no idea how I could be a muse to Ed.
“Who do you think will be in all the pictures?” he says with such a casual air to it, I almost miss what he says.
“Ed, you didn’t tell me this,” I spit out, not ready to be plastered all over Ed’s pictures as Aiden reviews them for locations.
“I did tell you. I told you just now and don’t even tell me you don’t want me to be in my pictures. That will break my heart, Victoria,” he says, playfully, his hand resting over his chest, his bottom lip pushed out, pretending to be hurt.
“It’s not that I don’t, it’s just…” I trail off, not certain how to tell him I’m not used to being in front of a camera. I’m not sure I’m the right girl for this job. I’m covered in tattoos, my hair color is currently an inky shade of black with purple streaks. I’m certainly not the definition of your typical print model.
“It’s just what?”
“It’s just, doesn’t Aiden want to see what someone who would be in one of his movies would look like at each location?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Fine. Someone who isn’t covered in tattoos. Someone who doesn’t look —”
“So fucking hot?” Ed says, filling in where he cut me off. “Victoria, Aiden asked. He asked because everyone knows you’re hot.”
I laugh out loud. He’s really laying it on thick. He has no idea how embarrassed I am right now and there’s no way Aiden Morrissey said I was hot when he lives with the most gorgeous actress on the planet. But whatever. Ed is trying to win me over and it’s working.
“Is this going big?” he asks and again he has me laughing. He might be winning me over, but it’s only with his over-the-top charm and all the compliments. But even I know this isn’t reality. No one keeps this kind of shit up and as much as Ed likes me, he can’t keep coming up with things to say that make me blush.
“It’s not going big. It’s doing what every other guy does when they want to impress a woman. Come on, Ed, you’re better than this.”
He lets out a low chuckle, glancing over at me for a brief second before his eyes return to the road. “You’re right. It is too much and I am trying too hard, but that doesn’t mean what I said isn’t true.”
I shake my head, brushing him off, but still enjoying the way he looks at me and how he makes me feel, my heart still racing just a little.
“Where are we heading first?” I ask, changing the subject, needing to get myself under control and needing to steer Ed in another direction before he says something too cheesy. The last thing I want to do is bail on him for being too sweet, but it could happen. I’m not into that kind of shit.
“Right here,” Ed replies, pulling off and parking the car. “We need to walk a bit, but I can see you didn’t wear those heels I fucking love, so we’ll be all good.”
“Which heels?” I ask, curious because my shoe collection is pretty substantial and when I am working, I do usually wear heels. I like to tower over my clients, making it easier to see how things are looking from all angles. Plus, heels make my legs look hot and I probably only have another five or so years before my feet are like fuck these shoes.
“The shiny black ones with the red bottoms,” he replies, smirking at me with a wolfish grin that has my imagination running wild. Oh, the things I could do with those shoes on that would drive Ed wild.
“Have you had some thought about me in those shoes, Ed?” I ask, my words dripping with seduction as he parallel parks the car.
“Are you asking me this because you want to see me fuck up this park job and have every guy on the street laugh at me?” He looks over his shoulder, trying angle the car into the spot, but having to back up and try again.
“I’m asking because I was hoping you had some dirty thoughts to share that might lead to more than just a kiss in a bar.”
Ed takes in a deep breath, a smile tugging at his lips even though someone is honking obsessively at us, Ed trying his best to remain composed. He pulls forward, fucking up the park job once again.
“I mean this in the nicest possible way, V, but shut the fuck up. My manhood is on the line here and this guy behind me is probably Tweeting about how this idiot lives in London and can’t parallel park.”
“Thinking about me in nothing but the black patent heels?” I wet my lips and wink at him, smiling as he shifts in his seat, probably needing to adjust himself.
“Any straight guy would be,” he replies, letting out a long slow breath when he finally gets the car into the space. “Next time you fuck with me like that, it better be in the bedroom,” he now adds, making me laugh. This has been fun and we haven’t even done anything.
We climb out of the car and Ed opens the boot, grabbing his photography gear, handing me a bag as he throws one over his shoulder.
Walking toward an empty street and the Covent Garden station, Ed turns onto a street lined with the most beautiful colored buildings.
“Neal’s Yard,” he says, holding his hands out as he looks over at me. “And I want you right there.” He points to the middle of the empty brick-lined street. “We need to get some good shots in before it gets busy and I lose this great lighting.”
“I’m not going to stand in the middle of this street while you take pictures of me,” I balk, and Ed shakes his head, not taking the shit I’m dishing out.
“Don’t be difficult, Victoria.”
“I dislike being the center of attention almost as much as I dislike people making hearts with their hands,” I deadpan with a totally straight face, which only makes Ed laugh.
“This is why I want to take your picture. Your face gives away everything you’re thinking. It’s fucking perfection.”
“I think Lewis calls is chronic bitch face,” I reply as Ed pulls out his camera and starts shooting. He hasn’t asked me to pose or turn to look at him, he just keeps moving, his finger poised on the shutter, clicking away.
“You want to see what I see when I look at you?” he asks, his words soft and simple but there’s something about them that makes my heart stop beating.
I look at him, his eyes focused on the small screen on his camera, he beckons me over with the hook of his finger.
Do I want to see what he sees? What if I don’t see myself the same way?