Funny Face: Chapter 4 by Lbilover

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Manips in this chapter by the amazing Hildigard Brown.



When Elijah arrived at the salon next morning punctually at ten o’clock, he felt rather like a Christian about to be thrown to the lions or possibly a martyr about to be burned at the stake. Lying in wait for him were Cate, Sean, Andy, and a tall, intimidating and supremely elegant gentleman with glacial blue eyes who turned out to be the fashion designer Ian McKellen.


“Well, so you’ve decided to grace us with your presence,” Cate said. “We’re honored.”


“Cate, I’m very sorry,” Elijah began contritely, but she had already forged onward.


“Yes, yes, I know, but we don’t have time for that now,” she said. “Ian, he’s all yours. We’ll be back after lunch for the grand unveiling. Andy, Sean, come along. I’ve got work for you.”


Instinctively Elijah turned to Sean, his only ally, and cast him an imploring look. Sean gave him a reassuring smile. “You’ll do fine,” he mouthed and made a thumbs up gesture. Far from believing him, Elijah wanted to beg Sean not to abandon him, but it appeared he was on his own. He watched the others disappear, which left him feeling even more like the hapless Christian. There was something rather leonine about Ian McKellen, come to think of it, with his full mane of silver hair.


The designer spoke not a single word to him, but, setting a hand to his chin and cupping his elbow in his other hand, prowled in a slow circle around Elijah. His face was expressionless but those glacial blue eyes missed nothing as they scrutinized him. Instinctively Elijah straightened as if Cate was pulling back on his shoulders again. He raised his chin, refusing to be cowed. He might not be a proper model, but he wasn’t ashamed of who and what he was.


A hint of what might have been a smile tugged at the corners of Ian’s mouth. Abruptly he came to a stop in front of Elijah. “I could wish you were a foot taller, but perhaps Sean hasn’t entirely lost his senses as I feared,” he said in the poshest of posh British accents. He snapped his fingers. His four assistants, who had been hovering in the background, sprang forward. “Let’s get started.”


~*~


Sean paced back and forth at the end of the runway. It was well past lunchtime, and still there was no sign of the Quality Man or Ian.


“What are they doing?” he asked as he passed Cate, who was also pacing but in the opposite direction. “They’ve been at it for hours.”


“There was a lot to be done,” she replied, to which sentiment Sean could raise no argument.


Just then there was movement behind the silver-gray velvet curtain drawn across the stage. Two of Ian’s assistants emerged from behind it, talking softly to each other.


“They don’t look happy,” remarked Cate doubtfully as they stepped off the runway and seated themselves on an elegant Chippendale sofa.


“They don’t look unhappy,” replied Sean, trying to be optimistic.


The other two assistants followed a few moments later and joined their compatriots on the sofa.


“I can’t tell. Do they look pleased?”


Sean shrugged. “They don’t look displeased.”


Finally Ian emerged from behind the curtain and strode purposefully toward them. He’d removed his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, a concession that proved what a task he’d been up against.


Cate said, “Maybe this is the grand finale.”


At last, thought Sean. He was on tenterhooks, dying to see Elijah and at the same time, almost afraid to see him. If Ian and Cate were disappointed, his was the head that would roll, and rightly so. “Well shit, I’m getting nervous.”


“You should.”


“Gee, thanks, Cate.”


Ian stopped on the end of the runway. “Sit down,” he ordered, pointing to Sean and then Cate.


Cate took a seat with unaccustomed meekness while Sean perched a hip on the edge of a marble-topped table. This is it, he thought. The designer, as Sean knew better than anyone, had a flair for the dramatic that extended well beyond his clothing designs. Either Ian was about to lace into him or he was about to be proven a genius. Sean fervently hoped it was the latter.


“My friends,” Ian proclaimed, stepping down from the runway, “you saw enter here a waif, a bedraggled kitten, all eyes and ruffled fur. We bathed and groomed him, but it is not a cat that has emerged.” He looked straight at Sean.


Oh shit. “It’s not?” Sean asked apprehensively.


“No,” Ian said. “It is a panther, blue-eyed, sleek, elegant… and deadly. Lights!” he cried, whirling round and raising his hands, like a maestro conducting an orchestra. Immediately all lights in the room dimmed save three spotlights aimed at the curtain. “Curtain!”


The curtain began to rise.


~*~


Behind the curtain Elijah had been waiting for his cue, nervously running over and over the final directions that Ian had given him.Look straight ahead of you, keep your face expressionless, don’t make eye contact with anyone, walk with easy, steady strides, don’t cross your feet, don’t move with too wide a stance, don’t swagger or sway, and for god’s sake, young man, whatever you do, don’t mince.


Fuck. How could he possibly keep that straight? He was probably going to trip and take a header off the catwalk right in front of Cate and Sean.


His palms were definitely damp and he’d have liked to dry them on his legs, but he was wearing black velvet pants and he didn’t dare risk damaging them. Until today he’d thought Cate the most terrifying person he’d ever met, but she had major competition in Ian McKellen.


Elijah had had some idea what he was in for after Cate and her crew got through with him, shaving his scruff, trimming his hair and even subjecting his (to quote Cate) ‘utterly disgraceful’ nails to a manicure. But that was nothing compared to what Ian considered necessary to whip Elijah into shape.


Uncle Ian had raised him to consider vanity the worst of all flaws (next to bibliophobia, that is). Elijah typically rolled out of bed in the morning, fished around in the clean laundry basket for the nearest available clothes, and pulled them on without a thought to wrinkles or color combinations. To say that he was unused to being fussed over was the understatement of the century.


Appalled when he saw the open make-up case that one of Ian’s minions had at the ready, Elijah had tried to expostulate, but he’d no more uttered the words ‘Uncle Ian says’ than he was silenced by a minatory stare from Ian McKellen who had clearly been warned by Cate of the existence of another Ian in Elijah’s life.


“Young man,” he’d snapped, “is your uncle a fashion designer?”


“No, he runs a bookstore called Embryo Concepts,” Elijah replied.


“Then what he has to say is of the supremest indifference to me, and you’ll oblige me in future by refraining from mentioning his opinion on anything unrelated to bookstores.”


Elijah had subsided. He’d stripped to his boxer briefs and stood meekly while he was measured from head to toe and everywhere in between, his dick about the only part of him not put to Ian’s measuring tape. Clothes were tried on him, clothes unlike any he’d ever worn in his life, and marked with tailor’s chalk so the alterations could immediately begin.


Then he was sat in a salon chair and worked on by Henri, the make-up artist, and Yves, the hair stylist. His hair was styled, gelled and sprayed, his eyebrows streamlined by a few discreet tweezer plucks, his skin, that Henri enthused over, calling it ‘complètement merveilleuse’, lightly covered in foundation and powder, his lips coated in clear gloss, and his eyes, that Henri said with reverence were ‘totalement magnifiques’, enhanced by eyeliner.


While Henri’s ravings had Elijah squirming inside with embarrassment, he managed to keep his calm on the outside, perhaps because he hardly recognized the Elijah staring back at him from the mirror. It was simply too weird.


Alain the dresser took over from Henri and Yves, and when they were done with him at last, Ian had looked long at Elijah and finally said, “I can think of a thousand models, male and female, who would kill for those eyes, young man.” He smiled, a crooked, rueful smile. “By god, if I were thirty years younger, I’d give Sean a run for his money.”


Not expecting the lion to mute his roar, Elijah had blushed and stammered in confusion, “But we’re not… he’s not…”


“Then he’s more of a fool than I took him for.” Ian had dropped his hand, stepped back and said brusquely, “Straighten up, shoulders back. It is time to practice your runway walk.”


Now the practice was over. He was about to go live.


“Lights!” Elijah heard Ian declaim like a Shakespearean actor. “Curtain!”


The curtain went up. Light dazzled in Elijah’s eyes. Count to five, Ian had told him, and then start walking.


One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. The sound of his heart almost drowned out his silent countdown.Four one thousand, five one thousand.


He started walking.


~*~


The curtain lifted.


And there, in a pool of light, stood Elijah.



Cate let out a long ‘Oh’ of satisfaction, but Sean was bereft of even so much as an ‘Oh’.


Elijah’s hair was swept up and back off his forehead. With his wide smooth brow uncovered he appeared older, sophisticated, no longer the boy but undoubtedly a man. He might lack the height of a true professional model, but no one looking at him could think anything else lacking. He wore Ian’s clothes beautifully, as Sean had thought he would, for his figure was perfectly proportioned.


Ian had chosen for Elijah’s debut a boxy black crinkled leather jacket open over a black knit tank top, narrow-legged black velvet pants and shiny black patent leather dress shoes. And in a touch typical of the designer, the lower half of Elijah’s face was concealed by a black leather bandana, knotted at the back of his head. It added a touch of mystery to the new Quality Man, and of danger, too, as if he were a supremely elegant highwayman.


What held Sean transfixed weren’t the clothes, however, but Elijah’s eyes, huge and lustrous above the bandana, their vivid blue the only trace of color in an otherwise black and white palette. He marveled once more at the singular manner in which they caught and held the light, even more apparent with his other facial features disguised. Sean’s hands instinctively moved, groping for the camera that was, alas, not hanging around his neck.


After posing in the spotlight for several seconds, Elijah started to walk. He held his head high and moved with the easy, confident grace of the panther Ian had called him, as if he outright owned the runway. Sean, tearing his gaze away to gauge the reactions of Cate and Ian, found them both nodding and smiling with approval.


A surge of emotion rose inside Sean, but it wasn’t triumph or self-satisfaction at having been proven right in his judgment. Rather, what he felt was pride. Elijah had to be nervous on the inside, but not a trace of those nerves showed on the surface. He’d risen to the difficult, demanding challenge magnificently.


At the end of the runway Elijah halted, and Sean rose and came forward, breaking into spontaneous applause. Cate, Ian, Andy and the others joined him. They surrounded Elijah, who pulled the bandana down to reveal a shy smile and cheeks crimson with embarrassment.


Cate said buoyantly, “Marvelous, Elijah! Why, I don’t believe it.”


“Cate, what did I tell you?” Sean didn’t bother to hide his smugness, knowing himself completely vindicated. “You look absolutely fabulous,” he said to Elijah. “How does it feel?”


Elijah’s smile widened. “It feels wonderful, but kind of strange, to be honest.” He held his arms out to the side and looked down at himself, laughing a little in disbelief. “This isn’t me.”


Cate walked around him. “The hair, the clothes… it’s perfection. You see how much we accomplish when you appear? Now dotry to stay with us for a while.”


“I will,” Elijah said. “I’m very sorry about…”


But Cate, true to form, cut him short. “Now,” she steepled her hands at her breast and started pacing, “Ian shows the collection on Friday evening. A few hours before, I’m giving a party to introduce you to the press. It is your great opportunity; it will be yourmoment.” She paused, dropped her hands and gave Elijah a pointed look. “You will be there, won’t you?”


“Yes, of course,” Elijah said.


“Sean, that gives you a week to photograph Elijah in the collection,” Cate went on. Her words were as sweet music to Sean’s ears. “I want marvelous pictures. Give me a lot of pizzazz! Now take him with my blessing and whatever you do, for God’s sake don’tlet him out of your sight!”


“Don’t worry,” Sean replied on a huff of laughter, “I have no intention whatsoever of letting him out of my sight.” His eyes met Elijah’s and what he saw there caused his heart to give another of those queer little lurches. He’s as excited as I am at the prospect of working together. It was the icing on the cake of success.


~*~


Elijah had taken to heart Sean’s promise not to let him out of his sight, so he was undeniably disappointed when, as they exited thesalon after Elijah had changed back into street clothes, Sean said, “I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock sharp.”


“But I thought you promised Cate not to let me out of your sight,” Elijah said lightly, trying to make a joke out of it in an effort to disguise his disappointment. He’d counted on having dinner with Sean and then after… well, who knew?


“Cate didn’t mean for her words to be taken literally, Elijah,” Sean chuckled, and Elijah’s heart cracked a little. “Besides, I’ve got a ton of prep work to do for the shoots.”


“I could help you,” offered Elijah.


“It’s nice of you to offer, but I already have an assistant, Marcel, to help. If you want to know, the best help you can give me is to have a healthy dinner and then go straight to bed.” Sean set a thumb and forefinger to his lips and whistled, short and sharp, and a cab pulled up to the curb as if it had been off-stage waiting to make an entrance, or had possibly been hidden up Sean’s sleeve all along. He opened the back door and gestured to Elijah to get in.


When Elijah was seated and had given the cabbie the hostel address, Sean bent down. “Sleep well, Elijah, and don’t worry about a thing.” He leaned in and brushed a light kiss across his mouth. “Trust me,” he said softly, “you’re going to knock Paris on its ass.”


Before Elijah had time to react, Sean straightened and shut the door. As the cab pulled away and merged into the flow of traffic, Elijah touched his fingers to lips that tingled just as they had after that other kiss in the bookstore, and wondered if Sean had been practicing Empathicalism again or if kissing Elijah was entirely his own idea this time.


It had begun to drizzle. Gaily colored umbrellas passed to and fro on the sidewalk as the cab crawled through the crowded streets. His trip to Paris so far hadn’t matched any of his expectations, Elijah thought, trying to sort through his emotions and put them in order. He had about as much success as he’d had straightening the shelves at Embryo Concepts after Cate and her minions finished ‘rearranging’ them.


He would never admit it to Sean, but his first experience meeting his fellow Empathicalists had been a crushing disappointment. He’d sensed from the beginning that those men were intent on using him, and it hadn’t required any particular skill at empathy to divine their motives either; he’d more wished to believe than truly believed that they understood his ramblings about Empathicalism. But in his exuberant naïveté he’d rushed to the café convinced that he’d find Professor Mortensen there, spend hours listening to him discourse on Empathicalism, and perhaps even work up the nerve to ask him a few of the many questions he had.


Instead, he’d spent those hours being taken advantage of, buying bottles of wine he could ill afford for three men who’d seen a sucker coming a mile away. If he was honest with himself, something his uncle had inculcated in him since the day he took Elijah in after his parents were drowned in a boating accident, the reason he’d been so furious with Sean was because he knew that he was right.


How ironic then that in complete contrast, his first outing as a fashion model had been the uplifting experience he’d expected at the café. He’d meant what he said to Sean; it had felt wonderful to wear those clothes – exhilarating, even fun. As a child he’d enjoyed playing dress up, pretending to be someone he wasn’t. And apparently he still did. He was well aware that his uncle wouldn’t approve. Uncle Ian would point out, rightly, that the circumstances were completely different; but even so, nothing could dampen Elijah’s delight at having so thoroughly astonished and impressed Cate and (for so he chose to believe) Sean as well.


Professionally, that is. Elijah sighed and watched droplets of rain chase each other down the cab window. His transformation hadn’t meant anything to Sean personally. That much was obvious, despite the kiss. He couldn’t wait to be rid of Elijah, had rejected his offer of help. It hurt, so much so that for an unworthy and extremely childish moment, Elijah considered not returning to the hostel, but going straight to the café and spending the night there, maybe getting rip-roaring drunk into the bargain. Immediately he was ashamed of himself for harboring such an idea. What sort of Empathicalist was he, anyway? Sean was counting on him, as were Cate and Ian. Whatever his opinion of fashion magazines might be, Elijah couldn’t deny that the people involved in producing them worked hard at their jobs. He’d witnessed their work ethic first hand. He owed it to them, therefore, to give them his very best.


If a tiny voice whispered that he had another motive, he ignored it.


~*~


Friday - Au Supermarché


The weather continued gray and gloomy next morning, the clouds spitting rain at intervals, but nothing could dampen Sean’s spirits. He’d been up nearly all night, loading plates into cartridges for the Deardorff and with Marcel’s help organizing the darkroom he'd rented for the duration. But who needed sleep when there was work to be done, and such work as photographing Elijah? He hadn’t felt this much anticipation over an assignment in years, if ever.


Yves and Henri got Elijah ready, doing his hair and makeup and helping him into his newly altered outfit for the day, a smart blue-striped seersucker three-piece suit, white button down and navy silk tie.


“Where are we headed?” Elijah asked. He, Sean, and Marcel were in a cab with the Deardorff, which Sean tended to think of as a personality in its own right, occupying a vacant seat. Yves and Henri followed in another cab with the rest of the equipment.


“Au supermarché,” replied Sean.


“The supermarket?”


“Don’t sound so surprised.”


“I am, though. Shouldn’t we be doing the shoots at the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe or something?”


“We’ll mix things up a bit. We don’t want the Quality Man to be boringly predictable.”


“Cate definitely wouldn’t like that,” agreed Elijah with feeling. “’What, no pizzazz?’” It was a very creditable impression of her voice.


Marcel laughed and so did Sean. “You’re a fast learner,” he said, inordinately pleased by this glimpse of slightly snarky humor in his protégé.


The cabs disgorged them in a somewhat rundown neighborhood in front of a store that was nothing in the least like the smart, upscale supermarket that Elijah had been expecting, but very much like the kinds of markets he frequented in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where he and Uncle Ian lived. This had the effect of making him feel at home, and insensibly calmed his nerves.


It was raining again, so Yves opened a large black umbrella and held it over Elijah as they walked the short distance from the cab to the supermarket entrance. Sean walked beside him with the carefully covered Deardorff cradled in his arms, while Marcel and Henri, burdened by the remainder of the equipment, followed after them. Elijah’s conscience warred with the reality that any offer of help would be turned down. It didn’t sit right, but what could he do? He was the star of the show and his only job requirement was to look good.


That they were expected became clear as soon as they walked in. It was nothing like the invasion of Embryo Concepts. Not only were they expected, they were welcomed with open arms - literally. A small dark white-aproned man rushed to meet them and embraced Sean, kissing him extravagantly on both cheeks, talking all the while. Sean introduced him to Elijah as Michel, and as Elijah shook hands with him, his dark eyes looked approving. “Ah, qu’il est beau, Sean,” he said. “Ravissant.” That much French Elijah could translate without difficulty, and he was put to the blush yet again.


Sean grinned. “Mais bien sûr,” he agreed.


“How do you know him?” Elijah asked a few minutes later, trailing Sean through the store. Sean was full of surprises, it seemed. He’d never have envisioned a fashion photographer for Quality Magazine shopping anywhere but Fauchon or some other upscale market.


“I spent a year in Paris after graduating from college,” Sean said. “I rented a room around the corner and I used to do my shopping here. I was pretty much dead broke at the time, but Michel never let me go hungry. I paid him in photos. I was shooting with a Leica camera back then,” he added, a nostalgic look on his face. “Manual of course. I still use it sometimes; it takes great photos.” He came to a halt. “Here we are. Sweets for the sweet.”


Elijah found himself confronting a long display case with rows of rectangular wire baskets filled with candy in brightly colored wrappers.


“But I don’t eat candy. Uncle Ian says…” Elijah caught himself, but it was too late.


Sean was unfolding the legs of the Deardorff’s tripod. “Okay,” he said without missing a beat, “it’s time for some ground rules. First and foremost: no mention of your sainted Uncle Ian, comprendre? Second: when we’re working, you aren’t Elijah Wood.”


“I’m not?” Elijah asked in confusion. “Who am I then?”


“That brings us to ground rule number three: you’re whoever I tell you to be. Now go stand over there.” Sean pointed at a spot in front of the candy display.


Obediently, Elijah did. “What do I do now?”


“You wait until we get the equipment set up, I check the light meter, and Yves and Henri make sure you look scintillatingly gorgeous.”


“Should I be pretending to be someone else while I wait?” Elijah asked as Henri dabbed at his face with a powder puff and Yves did something to his hair.


“Ground rule number four: don’t interrupt while we’re getting things ready.”


“Sorry.” Elijah subsided. Perhaps he should be morally outraged by Sean’s bossy behavior, but somehow he couldn’t rouse a righteous indignation. And there were compensations for having to stand idle while Yves and Henri fussed over him and Sean and Marcel fussed over the Deardorff, the lights and reflectors and other arcane equipment that Elijah had no name for. The compensations all involved Sean, of course, and the opportunity to admire yet again those deft hands that were, he privately admitted, becoming rather an obsession of his. In fact, everything about Sean was becoming rather an obsession of his. Now that he’d been awakened by the magician’s kiss, he couldn’t go back to sleep again. Nor did he want to.


“All right. We’re about set,” Sean said some half-hour later, raising the light meter around his neck and taking a final reading.


Elijah had a major attack of nerves. Oh my god, he thought, my face is going to be plastered on the cover of thousands of magazines and all over the Internet. I can’t do this. I’m no model. I’m a bookstore clerk. Even worse, he was the cynosure of all eyes: of the small crowd of people who had gathered beyond the lights to watch and of Marcel, Yves and Henri. Not to mention Sean, whom he very much feared to disappoint.


“Now, here’s what I want you to do.” Sean spoke in a calm and matter of fact voice. “First, choose a piece of candy. Unwrap it part way as if you’re planning to eat it, but don’t. Instead, hold the candy in your hand and give me a wistful expression. Got it?”


“Wistful expression. Right.” That didn’t sound too terribly difficult.


Sean picked up the remote shutter release for the Deardorff. “Ready? Go ahead.”


Elijah faced the candy baskets - and stood there, overwhelmed by choice, paralyzed by indecision.


“What’s wrong?” Sean asked after a few seconds.


“I… I don’t know which candy to choose.”


“It doesn’t matter. Pick any one,” Sean said.


Elijah heard a titter from somewhere behind the lights. He flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he said, turning round. “I guess I’m kind of nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before.”


Sean dropped the shutter release and came up to him. So did Yves and Henri, for more last second hair primping and powder applying. “There’s nothing to be nervous about. You’re going to be great.” He reached up by Elijah’s ear and made a plucking motion; when he withdrew his hand, he was holding a shiny copper one-cent Euro piece. “Well, look what I found in your ear. A lucky penny.” He offered it to Elijah with a smile.


Somehow, despite the hovering Yves and Henri, and the others watching in the background, as Elijah took the coin, warm from Sean’s fingers, he had a sense that the two of them were alone. Perhaps it was the intimate smile that seemed to say, You can do this, Elijah, for me. And just like that, he could. It didn’t matter who was watching. All that mattered was Sean, who believed that Elijah could do this, that he had what it took to be a good model.


Elijah put the penny in his pocket and smiled back. “Thanks,” he said, and he wasn’t talking about the penny piece.


“You ready to give it another try?”


“Yeah, I’m ready.”


“Good. Now remember, I want a wistful expression.”


Confronted once more with the candy display, Elijah didn’t hesitate, but quickly made his selection and started to unwrap it. It was some sort of caramel, he thought, but what it was didn’t matter, as Sean had said. What mattered was assuming the wistful expression that Sean wanted from him. Well, that was easy enough. All Elijah had to do was imagine how he’d felt in the bookstore after Sean left, that yearning for a life of the senses that he’d never known existed until then.


Holding the caramel in his left hand, he faced the camera. He grasped the edge of the display case in his right hand, and leaned on it slightly, as if it were his only anchor in a sea of memory.


“Perfect!” Sean exclaimed. There was a click, and then he said, “Okay, let’s get another one.”


Elijah held the pose. He was looking off to the side, but out of the corner of his eye he could see Marcel remove the used plate from the Deardorff then insert a new one. They were a team, Elijah thought, Sean and Marcel, and now he was part of that team. Would he ever really fit in, though? he wondered wistfully.


“Wonderful,” Sean said. “I like that expression even better, Elijah.” Then he frowned. “Wet your lips.”



Elijah lost track of time as they worked. Sean moved them from place to place in the store, had Elijah try different poses and expressions. He was a demanding task master, although he never lost his temper or showed the slightest impatience with Elijah or any of the crew. Nor did he waffle over where or how Elijah should pose, but had an unerring instinct for what would work best. The modeling actually started to become fun for Elijah once his nerves had gone, and he even tentatively offered a couple of small suggestions that, to his delight, Sean accepted.


They took a break for lunch, which Michel had prepared for them, and then it was back to work again.


When Sean announced, “All right, that’s it. We’re done for the day,” Elijah was startled. Was it really that late? As the tension drained from him, he realized that he was exhausted.


“Great job, everyone,” Sean added, but he was looking straight at Elijah as he spoke, and weariness disappeared, replaced by a glow of happiness at the approval in Sean’s eyes. He’d done good.


The glow lasted until they were outside on the sidewalk with the equipment piled beside them. It was past three o’clock, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. As they waited for the cabs to arrive Sean said, “Marcel and I are heading over to the darkroom. I want to get started on developing these negatives. Yves and Henri will accompany you back to the salon.”


Elijah returned to earth with a thud. The glow faded.


Sean slung an arm around Elijah’s shoulders, gave him a squeeze and said, “You’re a natural, you know. No one would ever guess that you’d never modeled before.”


“You made it all easy, Sean,” Elijah said, torn between joy at the praise and despair at the brotherly embrace. “Thanks for being so patient and understanding.”


Sean gave him another squeeze and removed his arm. “Let’s see if you feel the same after a week of me ordering you around,” he joked. “Here, I think you earned this.” With a flick of the wrist a piece of wrapped candy appeared in his hand, the same caramel that Elijah had picked out for the photo. “I’m sure your Uncle Ian won’t mind if you indulge just this once.”


But Elijah didn’t indulge. Instead, when he got back to his room at the hostel, he placed the candy and the penny on the bedside table beside the blue paper flower. Uncle Ian would probably prefer that he eat a barrel full of candy rather than fall in love with a fashion photographer. Unfortunately, Elijah was now pretty well certain that that was exactly what he had done.