“Damn straight I would,” was his reply before he extended his hand. “I’m Ian. And you are?”
Disgusted. I quieted my internal dialogue and shook his hand. “Ally.”
“Ally . . .?”
“Andrews. Ally Andrews,” I said, glad I’d come up with an alias earlier. “You’d better get going. I’m meeting my dad here soon, and the last guy he caught slipping me a drink is still walking around with a limp.” If throwing out the dad card wasn’t enough to confirm I was barely or not-quite legal, nothing was.
“Fair enough,” he said. He stood, but he wasn’t leaving. I knew he wouldn’t. I’d been trained to make sure they never did. “Have you ever done any modeling or thought about doing any?”
I didn’t let myself roll my eyes. As much as I wanted to. “No and no,” I answered him. “And NO.”
“Well, you should. With a face and body like yours, it’s a tragedy to keep it all to yourself.”
“Am I supposed to be flattered or creeped out by that?” I asked.
“Flattered,” he said, forming a square with his thumbs and index fingers and peering through it with an appraising eye. “I’m a photographer. I make my living capturing the most beautiful women in the world.” He winked at me through the square. “And you fit into that category.” I shifted in my seat, staying quiet. “Come on. I can’t take no for an answer. Your face deserves to be on the cover of Vogue.”
Hmm, from what I’d read, it sounded like he liked to shoot more than just the face. Everything more. “I’ll think about it,” I said finally.
“Here’s my card for when you finish thinking about it and are ready to do it.”
Yep, do it was enunciated in just the right way.
“We’ll see,” I said, taking the card.
“Hopefully I’ll see you soon.” He flashed me one more smile and headed for the doors.
Mr. Hendrik would see plenty of me soon.
A TRENCH COAT, a pair of kitten heels, and a smile. That was all I was wearing.
After a couple of days, I’d called Mr. Hendrik. I told him I’d be up for giving modeling a try and asked if he still wanted to take my pictures. His yes reply was out before I’d finished my question.
So, tonight was the night. Not the night, but an important one. He’d scheduled the appointment for eight o’clock at his studio in downtown Seattle. That he’d set the photo-shoot so late told me he had something more than just playing with his camera on the agenda. He was rather confident in his ability to seduce a woman.
I was more confident in my ability to not be seduced.
The studio was tucked inside one of the historic buildings, and I saw why his wife had such a difficult time nailing his ass to the wall. The building had more security points than La Guardia Airport.
The night guard had to let me in, check me in, and escort me to the elevator. From there, an elevator operator made sure I didn’t get off on any floor other than the one the security guard told him I was going to. Once the elevator doors whooshed open, the operator pointed me down the right hallway. The hall was empty, and all of the offices I passed were dark.
Just as Mr. Hendrik knew they’d be. I wondered how many young girls he’d brought there, seduced, and sent packing a couple of hours later. Gauging by his level of self-assurance, that number must be on the high end.
Once I was outside of the steel studio door, which had no windows and no door handle, I contemplated whether I was supposed to knock or fiddle with the keypad and speaker just off to the side. I settled for knocking and waited.
I didn’t wait long.
The speaker buzzed to life. “Come on in, Ally. I’m all ready for you.”
I’m sure he was.
The door opened slowly, and I slipped inside. The studio was more like an apartment than a place where a photographer worked. There were sofas, pictures on the walls, and of course, an oversized bed with a mountain of pillows. You know, for when a man working nonstop hours needed a rest. Ehem . . .
“There’s the girl who’s going to grace the cover of every fashion magazine in the world,” Mr. Hendrik said after he’d come around a corner.
He was decked out in the same kind of outfit he wore at the hotel, but his hair looked extra messy. I didn’t need two guesses to know how it had gotten so mussed. If the hair didn’t give it away, the rumpled sheets and the condom wrapper I’d had to step over told the story.
I flashed him a smile as provocative as the way I was dressed beneath my trench coat. Mr. Hendrik liked his women young, but I’d also discovered—after I’d delved the rest of the way into his file—that his preference wasn’t for innocent young. He liked the opposite.
“There’s the guy who likes to give random girls martinis in the Four Seasons’ lobby,” I said, lifting my eyebrows as I meandered through the studio. “And what, by the way, were you doing there that night? Besides interrupting me in the middle of my homework.”
Ian smiled to himself. “Interrupting you from your homework. That was my only agenda for the night.”
I did an internal huff. Not according to the cocktail waitress who’d come up to me after Ian had left, warning me about him. From the sounds of it, Ian had discovered more conquests at the Four Seasons in the past couple of years than the place had rooms. The cocktail waitress included.
“Sure it was,” I said with sarcasm, continuing my inspection of the studio. I could tell from the way his expression dropped when I started looking around that he was disappointed I hadn’t been totally captivated by his presence.
He was handsome man, just like the majority of my Targets, but so much more went into being attractive to a woman. Or at least to me. The ability to keep out of another woman’s bed for instance.
I wandered over to the wall opposite the wall of windows to inspect the dozens, maybe even a hundred, framed magazine covers. All featured some beautiful young woman with empty eyes and perfect skin. It seemed Mr. Hendrik had had his hand in more Vogue covers than Giselle.
“So what got you into photography?” I asked as I zeroed in on a familiar face. She’d been a Client a couple of years earlier when her husband started having issues with that whole faithful concept.
“I’ve got an eye for things of beauty,” Mr. Hendrik replied, coming up behind me. He either didn’t know about or didn’t adhere to the “personal bubble” rule.
“That industrial steel door must have missed the memo.” I took a couple steps to the side and eyed the bomb-proof door. “Are you trying to keep someone from getting in or someone from getting out?”
I didn’t need to look at his expression. His voice alone was menacing in a way that would have given me chills if I wasn’t so used to that type of man and their menacing ways.
“You’d be at least half as creepy if you stopped saying those cryptic things,” I replied, trying to sound like a nineteen-year-old who knew she was in over her head. Trying to mask my uncertainty with overwhelming confidence.
Okay, so cryptic was going to be the theme of the night. Not exactly what I’d expected from the philandering photographer. He was an intimidator. He intimidated others because he’d been intimidated earlier in his life. He wasn’t brazen enough to exhibit that type of behavior when others were around, only when he was one-on-one. That opened another window into Mr. Hendrik’s psyche: He was a coward.
I did an internal groan. Cowards were the worst. Not that there was a ribbon for first place when it came to the filth I dealt with, but he would have captured the gold medal in Male Douchery if I could hand out one.
“So? Picture time? I didn’t get all dressed up for nothing.” Story of my Eve life.
“What do you want to drink?” he asked, ambling over to a table with an impressive collection of vodkas. “I always like to have a drink before we get started. It loosens us both up. Makes for better photos.”
Also makes it a hell of a lot easier to lure a girl out of her panties. Mr. Hendrik wouldn’t be luring me out of my panties that night. Mainly because it wasn’t Sheet night, but also because I wasn’t wearing any.
“I’m all right. I’m such a lightweight if I drank half a shot of that stuff, I’d be giggling and jumping on your couch like it was a trampoline.” I stopped in front of where he had the camera set up on a tripod. The set was nothing but a black sheet as a background and a barstool covered in red leather in front of it.
“Here. I watered this down with some club soda,” Mr. Hendrik said when he crossed the room toward me with a tall glass.
I took it and chanced a sip. Lying bastard. If that was watered down vodka, I was Miss Congeniality.
“Yum,” I said with a plastic smile before setting the glass on a table. That night wasn’t about letting him think if he got me drunk enough, intimidated enough, or impressed enough that he could get me into bed. It was about making him a slave to my every whim and word.
“So?” I lifted my arms. “Where do you want me, Mr. Hendrik?”
I didn’t miss his eyes automatically flickering to the bed. I moved toward the barstool to refocus him.
“Right there,” he said, motioning at the stool before jogging back toward the battalion of bottles. “Just get comfortable, and we’ll get started. And don’t call me Mr. Hendrik. Call me Ian. I’m not your social studies teacher or your best friend’s dad.”
“What are you then?”
He poured himself a tall glass of straight vodka. No ice. No club soda. Just a large glass of alcohol. Ian’s drink of choice told me he either wanted to drown out reality just enough, or that somewhere inside, he knew seducing an almost or just-barely legal woman was wrong. He needed alcohol to numb his inhibitions. He needed the eighty-proof courage that came with it.
How was that helpful? On Sheet night, I’d make sure he had a good drink or two in him. I was good enough at my job that I probably wouldn’t need alcohol insurance, but I liked to make sure all of my bases were covered.
Ian drained half the glass as he approached the camera. “Tonight I’m your friend,” he replied, giving his mess of hair a swift shake. It was the kind of a hair a girl weaved her fingers through and gave a swift tug in the bedroom. Like most of my Targets, there was something appealing about him. Something that made him like a moth-to-a-flame for women and, had I just been another woman to stumble into the artsy, mysterious Ian Hendrik, I probably would have been attracted to him. But I knew what flowed beneath the surface. I knew who he was and what he did. I knew he’d promised an eternity of faithfulness to one woman only to break that promise in as many ways as it could be broken.
Ian Hendrik was about as appealing to me as a vacationing in Antarctica.
“And what about tomorrow night?” I lifted an eyebrow and gave him an expectant look.
Ian grinned as he adjusted a few dials on his camera. “We can be whatever you want us to be tomorrow night.”