Callum gulped as he sent the text to Rayla. She was fully in her rights to reject a drawing session in the woods. Not only that, but he was asking her to bring her own clothes because he didn’t know her exact measurements. Was he asking too much? He read the text again. ‘If it’s not too much trouble, I was really imagining drawing you among the trees, like a faerie or an elf. If you have any flowy clothes that you are alright with getting dirty, please wear those. I’ll send you the location if you’re comfortable. If not, we can do the beach or my backyard. I just can’t imagine drawing you in a confined space like my studio. I don’t think it would fit your spirit.’
Callum internally screamed. Did he really send that? She was going to rescind her acceptance of his request to draw her, wasn’t she? ‘Her spirit’? He had met her once! What was wrong with him? It was true, though. That was something about her that, despite the suit and the situation that they met in, made him feel like she would be more at home running barefoot through the forest or relaxing by the sea.
Either way, now all he had to do was wait for her to reply back. If she rejected the offer, well, he didn’t want to think about that, because that meant he probably was never going to see her again. Meeting her once was enough to make her haunt his every thought for the past three days. While he and his friends had finally ironed out how they were going to go full-time with YouTube, she had been right in the back of his mind.
He had looked up her name and ran across a few things. She really was the daughter of two bodyguards of the British royal family and her adoptive fathers ran a famous Celtic jewelry shop in Aberdeen, the designs being a mix of traditional shapes and styles and new materials. She did dance for years as a way to channel her energy. There was even a video online of her at sixteen doing a ballet routine to a Kylie Minogue and Madonna compilation. She had inserted traditional Irish step dance in a way Callum never would have thought worked but it did. Maybe that was because of the sheer joy on her face as she moved. That made her departure from dance all the stranger and it’s also where information about her basically stopped. The most recent thing he found was that she worked for Patel and Associates Anti-Fraud Law Office.
A lawyer…his faerie was a lawyer. It certainly explained the suit but it was almost absurd. Here he was imagining her running through the trees and she was surrounded by paperwork in her daily life. Did she enjoy it? Did she like spicy food? What was her type?
Callum hit his head against his desk. He needed to stop letting his mind drift to her and whether or not she could ever be interested in him. There was no way someone like him was her type. She couldn’t hide just how toned her long legs her in her suit. She probably worked out often while he was a lazy twig that indulged in sleeping in too much. Also, she was a lawyer. A lawyer falling for a YouTuber/artist? Yeah, right.
A stray chip hit his forehead. Callum looked up to glare at Soren. “What?”
“You thinking about that hot girl at the cheese shop again?”
“What? No!” Callum could feel the blush creepy up on his cheeks and all the way to his ears.
“It’s fine if you were. She was smoking hot. I never thought I would find white hair hot, but DAMN.”
Claudia hummed in acknowledgement. “I’m calling it now; she’s Bi or Pan.”
“What makes you say that?” Soren mumbled around a bunch of chips.
Claudia winked. “Gaydar.”
“Maybe some of that, too,” Claudia shrugged.
“She’s got two dads,” Callum mumbled.
Soren, Claudia, and Ezran all turned to him. “Does she now?” Claudia asked.
“Yeah. She told me at the shop. It was the painting of Aunt Amaya and Aunt Janai that made her accept my offer. She was raised by her parents’ friends, hence, two dads. They run Gael Jewelers in Aberdeen.”
Claudia immediately pulled out her phone, probably to look them up. Shortly after, she whistled. “Wow. She comes from a really good-looking family. Her mom is a totally MILF.”
Soren rolled his eyes. “Claudia, you can’t just-” Claudia shoved the picture in his face. “MILF alert.”
“Mm-hmm.” Claudia scrolled through. “Ethari and Runaan and are also incredibly attractive. Damn. What is in the water in Scotland?”
Callum rolled his eyes. “Guys. Let’s focus. Do we need a production manager?”
Claudia shrugged. “My vote is you're in charge of creative for group projects, we run our own channels, and we hire an editing assistant.”
“We also need a social media manager. Ez can’t do it all on his own while he’s in school.”
Ezran nodded. “It’s nice that you guys do your own channel stuff, but, sometimes, it would be nice to have some help.”
“Do we need a strong social media presence? We have YouTube and Twitter. Isn’t that enough?”
Ezran scratched the back of his neck. “Maybe? Claudia’s got a large following on Tumblr ever since she came out during one of her make-up tutorials. Her super casual ‘my ex-girlfriend taught me how to do this and this is the first time I’ve done this eyeliner look since we broke-up’ just made her blow-up and our channel gained thousands of followers over-night.”
Callum nodded. “We gained a lot of followers after I did that art tutorial with Janai, too. A lot of people just went gaga over her and I see a lot of requests for her to come back on the channel.”
“Which is where a social media manager could come in handy. Maybe they could track requests so we don’t have to?”
Soren sighed, taking another handful of his chips. “We also need someone to help us with events. Getting us into them, working booths…being famous is hard work.”
“We aren’t famous, Soren.”
“Beg to differ. I get stopped all the time.” Soren flexed his arm. “And it’s not just because of these guns.” The other three in the room rolled their eyes.
“Himbo,” Claudia coughed, no-so-subtly.
“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! Stop using words I don’t know!”
“Stop being a himbo.”
Ezran and Callum shared a look, snorting at their childhood friends’ teasing. Soren and Claudia couldn’t go five minutes without teasing each other or making a serious situation humorous. “Can’t take them anywhere,” Callum whispered.
Ezran nodded. “Bait is better behaved.”
Callum eyed the frog in the glass bowl Ezran took with him wherever he could. “He’s glaring at me again.”
“Because you won’t stop thinking about that girl.”
“It’s not my fault she won’t leave my head. You saw her, Ez.”
“Yeah, she’s beautiful, but she’s not running through my head like she is your’s. Are you even ready for another relationship? After Melissa-”
“Melissa was a nightmare. She constantly asked to be introduced in our videos. I didn’t know at the time, but you were right, she approached me because she wanted to piggyback off our growing fame.” Callum ran a hand through his hair. “I was an idiot.”
Ezran put a hand on his shoulder. “I wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say that Melissa really hurt you and I want you to be careful. You didn’t even like her that much, if I remember correctly.”
“She was nice, pretty, liked some of the same things I did. But she didn’t really inspire me to be better or push my art. She only encouraged the YouTube thing, not what I actually like.”
“She is why we got almost fifty thousand subscribers in one week, though. That story broke and you had to give that little video and it really stuck with people.”
Callum remembered that video. As a way to quiet down any questions, he had made a short video detailing how they had met (in a coffee shop), why they had never gone public (he had wanted to keep his private life and his YouTube life separate), that she had met his family but they kept it hush-hush (impossible not to meet Ezran after knowing Callum for a week), and that the break-up had not been mutual. Callum had broken-up with her because he had felt that it wasn’t working because they wanted different things. Melissa pushed the YouTube thing, and there was nothing wrong with that, but, if Callum was going to be known for social media and videos, he wanted to be proud of what he put out into the universe. He loved his art more, and, if he could, that would be all he did. Melissa had wanted to do sponsorships and Callum hadn’t. They just had different values and desires and no one else was owed this knowledge, but Callum had been forced to do damage control because people would not stop asking. “Yeah. I was really surprised that that happened.”
“People value honesty. I think it comes across in our videos and your art tutorials that you are not in this for the fame. We’ve done meet and greets and you are just awkward as anything. Melissa showed her true colors on her own with posts afterwards.” Callum didn’t even want to think about how Melissa had tried to monetize their break-up. It had been bizarre to see her sponsored by a make-up wipe company to tell her side of the story, which basically confirmed everything in Callum’s video, but with the caveat that she had wanted him to reach new heights and that YouTube and not his ‘lame art’, as she had put it, was the way to do that. Their fans had not taken kindly to that and Melissa had lost thousands of followers she had gained overnight in even less time.
“Social media is weird, Ez. No matter what, we have got to stay away from the drama. We do not want to be involved in any of that.”
“Yep. That’s why I think a social media manager could help. A good one.”
“I’m all for it if that’s what keeps our noses clean.” Callum straightened when his phone alerted him to a text.
He opened it to see it was from Rayla ‘The woods? OK. I’m still bringing my friend. When’s good for you? It would have to be on a weekend for me because of work. Sorry about that.’
“Holy shit,” Callum whispered.
“What?” Ezran looked over his shoulder to read the text. “That text sounds weird. Callum-”
“I know, Ez, but she didn’t say ‘no’. She didn’t reject me.” Ezran raised a brow. “You know what I mean.”
“You’ve got it bad.”
“I just need to draw her to get her out of my system.”
“Either that or she is your muse. Poor Aunt Janai. She was having so much fun being your muse. So was Khessa.” Callum chuckled. Khessa, Janai’s older sister, did enjoy modeling for Callum. His exhibit on women of color had been a smash hit in part because of her always accepting when he asked. She had once modeled with a crown while sitting on a throne and that particular piece now hung in her house in her living room, showed off to everyone who came over. Callum smiled as he remembered that exhibit. His crowing achievement, to this day, was the portrait of his mother, eyes softened, and an easy, loving smile on her lips. People thought of her as this rough former military general and tactician who once taught at military academies. They didn’t know that she had a sweet tooth or that her relationship with Callum’s father had led her to leaving the military because she saw that the push for peace was more important.
She was now known for her discussions on US-South Korean and US-Thai relations because both her parents were immigrants and her own history in South Korea. Sarai and Amaya had both spent half their childhoods in South Korea in Korean schools, helping Sarai learn how the rest of the world saw the States. She and Amaya and joined the military because it helped pay for university, but both found they were really good at it. So good at it, they extended their contracts before finally leaving to focus on family and peaceful negotiations. Callum was proud of his mother’s work and was proud of the picture showing the softer side of her so many people didn’t see.
He shook his head and sent a quick text to Rayla that next Saturday worked for him if it worked for her. This Saturday was in a few days and, if things went how Ezran wanted, they were probably going to be doing interviews all weekend for a social media manager. “Let’s get a social media manager, Ez.”
Rayla smiled at the text. The woods was a bit of a strange option, but she was excited. She hadn’t had a chance to go running through the trees barefoot in years. She was going to have to ask Corvus if he was willing to head out early so she could do so. She mentally thought of her wardrobe and realized she didn’t have anything flowing that she was willing to get dirty. She was going to have to go thrift store shopping.
Was she really going to go buy a dress so a random artist that she had met one time could draw her surrounded by trees? Yeah, she was and she was going to look so good she was going to haunt his mind like he haunted her’s. His voice followed her and she had watched all of his videos in three days. She barely slept because she wanted to hear him more or see him smile or laugh. She felt like one of those stalkers who was convinced a famous person was in love with them, but she had met him in real life. He had approached her, he had asked to draw her. Either way, she wanted him to be tongue-tied when he saw her and, hopefully, she was going to quell some of the fire that refused to leave her belly since they had shaken hands.