Chapter 1: Meeting
Callum smiled as he sat in front of the camera, Ezran, Soren and Claudia to his side. “Hello, everyone and welcome to the first video of our new channel, Katolis Squad. My name is Callum Evans.”
“I’m Ezran Williams.”
“Soren Ricci,” Soren winked at the camera.
“And I’m Claudia Ricci.”
Callum nodded. “And we are going to be trying spicy snacks.” Soren and Claudia immediately paled. “We saw the video the Try Guys did and me and Ezran said ‘there’s no way half of that is that hot.’”
“Nope,” Ezran shook his head.
“And I know what you’re thinking, ‘what do you four know about spice?’ Well, first, Ezran and I are actually half-siblings. Our mom and aunt are half-Thai and half-Korean, and if you know anything about Thai or Korean food, it’s really spicy. My dad was mostly German and Irish, but he spent a lot of summers in India and the Sichuan area of China due to his parents’ work as translators. So, there’s that spicy food again.”
“And my dad is half-Jamaican and half-African-American. If you’ve never had Jamaican food, it uses a lot of herbs and spices to make everything on the flavor profile. My grandmother, in connecting to her roots, started getting really into traditional African cuisine which tends to involve a lot of chili and warming spices. Also, our aunt is married to a lovely woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so we’ve had lot of Congolese cooking as well. The ultimate comfort food in our house is probably a West African spicy peanut soup.”
“If you’ve never had it, go make some right now,” Callum nodded.
Soren gulped. “Claudia and I are terrible with spicy food. I am also mildly lactose intolerant so I really hope there is no cheese here.”
“Hate it,” Claudia said. “I like a good cake or ice cream.”
“Clauds is super into dessert.”
Ezran smiled. “As am I. My favorite flavor profile is sweet. I got our mom’s sweet tooth. While Callum’s got a thing for spice.”
Callum nodded. “My step-dad, Ezran’s dad, not only grew-up on Jamaican and traditional African dishes, he also grew-up with Brazilian neighbors who would bring traditional Brazilian barbeque, called churrasco, to all the neighborhood cook-outs. Well, let’s stop talking about it. Let’s get down to this. We have all ten items the Try Guys used-”
Claudia gasped. “Please tell me you didn’t get those rock candies!?”
“Of course, I did!” Callum set all the items on the table in the box he had put them before pulling out the candies.
Soren groaned. “NOOO. We’re gonna die.”
Ezran sniffed. “No, it’s a psychological thing where your brain is saying it’s on fire.”
“That doesn’t make it better.”
Callum smiled. “Let’s do this! First,” Callum took out the Cheetos, “Flaming Hot Cheetos. The Try Guys didn’t use the chili lime ones, which I find a shame, because there’s more flavor in those even though they aren’t quite as spicy.”
“I agree,” Ezran said as he opened the bag. “Chili lime is a classic flavor combination. Put it on mango and I am pretty happy.” The bag was passed and they all tried one. “Not spicy at all.”
Callum ate another. “Nope. They’re good, but there’s no real heat there.”
Soren groaned. “This is perfect for me. It’s got a bit of heat, but it’s not overwhelming.”
Claudia nodded. “I agree. I don’t want to go hotter.”
Callum shook his head. “For those of you who are wondering, Soren and Claudia are siblings and childhood friends of me and Ezran. Their dad and our dad are best friends. But, when they come over for dinner, our family has to seriously downgrade the spice level or else these two freak out.”
“And,” Ezran interrupted, “when we go to their place, we have to bring our own hot sauce. Well, that’s mostly Callum. He carries hot sauce in his bag.”
“That’s because mango chutney doesn’t travel well.”
“See, mango chutney is almost going into too hot territory for me. At least, the brand Callum buys is.”
“That’s because I buy authentic and get it shipped directly from a company that makes traditional chutneys here in the States. Next snack; Takis Fuego.” Callum held up the bag. “This time, we got the chili lime!”
“Chili lime!” Ezran pumped both his arms up.
Callum opened the bag and took one, passing it to Ezran before moving it on to Soren and Claudia. “What I taste most is that lime flavor, which is fine with me. I want it hotter, but I love lime, so I’m not complaining.”
“It’s not bad,” Claudia affirmed. “I actually do like this. Like you said, that lime is what’s really hitting, but the spicy is there.”
Ezran hummed. “Can I have the rest of the bag when we’re done?”
Soren blinked a bit. “I think it’s spicier than you guys are giving it credit, but it’s pretty good. I would take that lime flavor over the chili.”
“It adds to it, Soren.”
“Chili is pain!”
“Life is pain!” Callum retorted.
Claudia rolled her eyes. “Not another ‘Princess Bride’ reference. You watched it once and you wouldn’t stop quoting it.”
Ezran raised a brow. “‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’” Callum laughed, high-fiving Ezran as Soren and Claudia watched on.
“Nerds,” Claudia and Soren sang out.
“Proud of it,” came Ezran and Callum’s reply.
“OK,” Ezran said. “What’s next?”
Callum looked at his notes. “Pulparindo! Tamarind candy.” Callum handed each of them their own packet. “It’s kind of like a fruit leather.”
They went through all the snacks, Soren and Claudia progressively begging for milk as they went. “MILK!” Soren gasped on the Carolina Reaper jerky.
“You’re lactose intolerant, Soren,” Claudia coughed.
“You guys got soy milk?”
Callum nodded. “I keep some in the fridge in case Aunt Amaya comes over.” Soren ran for the fridge in Callum’s house. They weren’t planning on saying anything if the channel continued, but they were currently in Callum’s father’s childhood home. His grandparents rented it out to him for school because they had moved into a retirement community. He had completely renovated it and now had this room designed just for these videos. “You OK, Soren? We’ve got one last item, the Sonoran Spice Company’s Carolina Reaper Pebbles.”
“NOOOOO!” came Soren’s scream from the kitchen.
Ezran started laughing, taking a handful of the leftover Takis. “Come on, Soren! You’ve come this far.”
Claudia looked close to sobbing as she looked at the snacks on the table. “It’s so hot. I can’t taste my own tongue.”
“You can’t taste your tongue, Clauds.”
Ezran laughed at the two as Callum snuck a few Takis for himself. “For those of you at home, there is no denying that that jerky is hot. Callum and I just crave the heat while Soren and Claudia do not.”
Soren finally came back, sighing as he looked at the camera. “I’m gonna die.”
Callum opened the candy, pouring a few into his hands and passing it over to the others. Ezran took more while Soren and Claudia each only took two. “That’s all you want?” Callum asked.
“YES,” came the combined response from Soren and Claudia. The four put it in their mouths together. Immediately, Soren and Claudia freaked out, reaching for the white bread Callum had brought them earlier. Callum and Ezran coughed a bit, but, for the most part, they had built up a tolerance that didn’t make it as painful as if they had gone right to the candy.
Ezran nodded. “It’s hot. No denying it. But, I think the jerky was hotter.”
Callum nodded as well. “No doubt, jerky was a bit hotter. But I picked the candy last because of how the Try Guys reacted to it. I was wondering if maybe it was the hottest thing.”
“It’s too hot,” Claudia said around a mouthful of bread. “It’s like torture.” Soren whimpered in response, gulping more of his soy milk.
“Well, I guess that’s all the time we got. Please subscribe to our channel as we continue to, most likely, eat food or, maybe just do whatever we want. ‘Til next time.”
Soren turned to Callum. “Why do you get to do the sign-off?”
“Because this was my idea.”
“You almost killed me!”
Rayla snorted as she walked into the cheese shop with her coworkers. Maybe it was Runaan’s influence, but she was a bit of a cheese snob. Scottish food was mostly fried, but Runaan had grown up in England and spent a few years in France, leading to strong feelings about what made a good cheese, but she had not been impressed with any of the cheeses her coworkers considered ‘good.’ “I’m telling you, you have to go to an actual cheesemonger. The grocery is not good enough. At least go to a delicatessen.”
“Rayla, we’re lawyers. We don’t have time to go to a cheesemonger and have them select a variety of cheeses for us.”
“We do blue sky, fraud. We have time.” Rayla walked in, making sure her suit was still well-pressed. She didn’t like a wrinkled suit when she paid good money to get it dry-cleaned. When they looked around, they saw a group of four at a table, several cameras around them and a few people also there. Her cheesemonger, Marcos, was talking to them. She saw a jar of one of her favorites, Meredith Dairy Marinated Goat, on the table. “The kind they have on the table? It’s really good. Spreads amazingly on bread.”
One of the guys at the table, a young man with green eyes looked over and did a double-take. She made eye contact, slightly startled by just how green his eyes were. The rest of the table looked over at the group, a few jaws hanging open. Marcos smiled over at her, walking over. “Rayla! Sorry, we’re filming a video right now. Did you want to get your usual?”
“That’ll work. I was hoping to convert my coworkers to actually decent cheese because if I went to one more office party where someone brought an unaged cheddar and no other options, I was going to lose my mind.”
“Got it. Let me go get that cheese for you.”
Rayla’s coworker raised a brow. “Now what?”
“We go back to the office and try it. Because once it gets home, it’s not leaving my apartment unless it’s part of my lunch.” Rayla walked around the shop, ignoring the video going on until she heard some hissing. She turned her head, making eye contact with the boy from before again. He gulped, walking forward. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw one of her coworkers, Kasef, glare at him. “Back off, Kasef,” she muttered to herself.
“Hey,” the guy stuttered a bit as he made it to her.
“Hello,” she answered. His eyes went wider, probably at her distinctly Scottish accent. “Yes, my accent is real. I grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. Can I help you?”
The boy flushed. “Yes, actually. My name is Callum Evans. I’m an artist and I would love to paint you.”
Rayla tilted her head. It was a unique come-on. “What’s that video you're doing? Art?”
“YouTube. It’s a thing I do with my brother and my childhood friends. Being an artist isn’t the most lucrative thing if you don’t do graphic design. I do commissions and try to sell my art, but there’s always low points. YouTube helps off-set that.”
“Fair. YouTubers don’t really have a good reputation.”
“I know. We’re not involved in any of that drama or crazy stuff going on. Claudia does make-up, but, she mostly sticks within our circle of food YouTubers.”
Rayla nodded. “How do I know you’re an artist?”
Callum reached for his phone. “Here’s my Instagram and a couple of my sketches that I haven’t posted yet.” He handed her the phone for her to look through.
“You sure you trust me with your phone?”
“Not really, but I’m a stranger asking to draw you. Some level of give and take has to happen here.”
“I agree.” Rayla went through his art, humming as she saw the variety of subjects, though he tended to focus on people. There were a lot of pictures of the same three women. “You like drawing women?”
“That’s my mom, my aunt, and my aunt’s wife. You’ll also see pictures of my grandmothers and Claudia.” Rayla looked closely at a few of the pictures. She could see the family resemblance between him and some of the women, particularly in the jawline and cheekbones.
She paused on a picture of one of the women he looked like and another one of the three he drew often. They were smiling at each other, flushes on their cheeks. “This picture is beautiful.”
“Thanks. That was at their engagement party.”
“Really?” Callum asked, looking like he couldn’t believe she would say yes. She couldn’t believe it either.
“I have four parents. My biological parents are bodyguards for a member of the royal family and were travelling a lot so I was raised by their best friends, Runaan and Ethari. I got a lot of teasing as a kid for having two dads. If you can draw these two as unabashedly in love as you do, I’m sold on you as a person. I’m Rayla Burrows.” She stuck out her head, giving a slight smile as a he took it. “You have a decent grip.”
“My step-dad taught me how to do a good handshake. Can I have your number so we can plan this?”
“Do you have a studio?”
“Yes…in my house.”
Rayla paused. “Would it bother you if I asked someone I know to come?”
“Not at all. Whatever makes you comfortable.” They exchanged numbers and Callum walked off, looking back at her every few moments. Marcos finally came back with her cheese, smiling. As she walked out of the shop with her coworkers, she cast one last look at the group. Callum Evans…interesting.
Chapter 2: Can't Get You Out of My Head
Rayla groaned as her kick-boxing class ended. She was sore everywhere and just ready to go home and take a long bath. She had to work off all that cheese she ate at the office somehow. She waved goodbye to her instructor and walked out, not giving anyone a spare look. Ethari was always on her for not being friendly, but Runaan had taught her well that the world would leave you alone with a steely glare and a firm stance. Sometimes, she just wanted to be alone.
She got in her car and drove back to her apartment in silence. She wasn’t in the mood for whatever the latest pop song was and her most recent podcast on world legal systems was taking a break this week. She drummed her fingers a bit on the steering wheel in anxiousness. She was still buzzing a bit from the guy at the cheese shop.
Callum Evans….She had looked him up at the office and been intrigued by his background. Military and political family, intercultural background, but, also, a bit of a tragic life. Losing his father at the age of one? Rayla couldn’t imagine living like that. He had been honest when he’d said his group wasn’t involved in drama. They were, apparently, well-known in the YouTube community for keeping to themselves. Callum was a year younger than her by a year and a few days. Almost exactly the same birthday…. He had pretty eyes and Rayla wondered if that’s the real reason she had said ‘yes’ to him painting her. Also, he had a cut jawline and high cheekbones that made her want to lick them-‘WHOA’.
Rayla’s eyes went wide for a moment. ‘Jesus, Rayla! You met the guy one time and you have no idea if he’s not secretly some kind of pervert. Keep it in your pants.’ Maybe she was just horny. She hadn’t had sex in a year, not since she’d graduated law school. Her ex and her had mutually broken-up due to Rayla wanting to continue working in the States while she had wanted to go back home to Europe. Rayla didn’t do casual sex and she hadn’t had time to find a new SO. There were fraud cases left and right right now and it was going to keep her busy for the foreseeable future. She could do busy. She was only 26.
When she arrived at her apartment, she parked and rested her head on the wheel. She felt hot between her thighs. ‘You met him once, Rayla. ONCE. This is ridiculous.’ She leaned back in her seat for a moment. His eyes kept popping back into her head, open and honest. He was thing, but not a twig. Maybe had a bit of muscle on him…She was OK with a muscle head as long as they also had brains. She didn’t like it when she was with someone who couldn’t keep up with her intellectually. They didn’t have to like or understand the same things, but he had to understand her explanations. This wasn’t like her. She didn’t….think about jumping a guy so soon after she met them.
‘Callum Evans…am I seriously hoping he’s single?’ She got out of the car, slamming her door. She wasn’t doing this. She was NOT going to be a pining fool like in those stupid rom-coms her ex liked or those period pieces Ethari and Runaan adored. She did not pine. If she wanted something, she took it. And, right now, he was just a really good-looking young man and she was a horny woman who hadn’t had sex in a while. That’s all it was.
She told herself that again and again on the elevator ride up to her floor. She couldn’t stop herself from looking him up again when she booted up her laptop and finding his YouTube channel. He had a whole side channel devoted to art tips and his artwork. He even did something similar to a Bob Ross style tutorial for drawing. Rayla watched video after video until it was well past midnight. She didn’t even like to draw; she had an appreciation for art, but never enjoyed the creating part.
Looking at the time, she groaned. 1:31 AM. She had work in the morning and she had to be up at 7 to meet a friend for breakfast. The next video played without her consent, a spicy food challenge. She watched, fascinated, as Callum and Ezran complained at the lack of heat while Soren and Claudia had tears streaming down their cheeks. Callum laughed more in this video than he had his art ones. She slammed her laptop shut and got ready for bed, though Callum’s voice continued to replay throughout her routine. When she closed her eyes, a pair of green eyes kept haunting her thoughts. ‘Fuck. This isn’t good.’
Callum blushed as he looked down at the text from the woman he had met at the cheese shop. Rayla Burrows. She was beyond pretty. The moment he had seen her, his eye had refused to wonder away. Pure white hair, purple eyes, 5’7, maybe, without her heels. Her frame had been perfect, too. Hourglass figure, tight ass (as Soren had mentioned), long legs, C-cup breasts (Claudia’s assessment). He’d had to draw her. He already had three times. Callum looked down at his sketchbook. Her face was staring back at him, head slightly tilted, eyes looking right into his.
Her accent had thrown him for a complete loop, adding a layer to the already surreal package. She looked too perfect to be real, and her skin too fair, too….like a fae, maybe. Give her pointed ears and she would be a perfect match for the storybooks he and Ez had read as kids. Either that or she had stepped right out of a Lindsey Stirling music video. Maybe she was a fae. Even in her suit, it hadn’t been enough to throw off the image that she belonged in a forest somewhere, draped in soft fabric or by the ocean, among the waves. He would love to draw her like that. Surrounded by the natural environment and just at ease. Or standing in the water as the moon shone down on her. The moon…maybe that’s what she most reminded him of.
Either way, Callum had been out of his mind with nerves when he had asked her if he could paint her. Her stare had been intense and her posture indicated she could drop kick him with ease. He’d always been attracted to women who could kick his ass, though. She had looked through his art with a critical eye, but it had softened dramatically when she landed on the picture of Amaya and Janai’s engagement party. He had redone that drawing as a painting and it currently hung in their home, right above the mantle. That she had chosen that picture, probably one of his greatest works, to be the deciding factor had been a pleasant surprise.
When he had gotten her number and sat back with his friends, both Claudia and Soren had marveled that he had succeeded. Soren spent the whole car ride back saying how hot she was and asking if Callum thought she was into him. Callum wasn’t sure she had really even registered Soren. She hadn’t really paid them much attention until he had come over. And he only figured that because he had been unable to take his eyes off her the moment he saw her. Maybe, she was his muse?
Callum got back to drawing his, hopefully, last picture of Rayla tonight. Her hair had been up…how long was it? The side braid she wore gave him an indication that it probably reached to just under her bust undone. How did she make it look so elegant? Further evidence that she was a faerie walking among humans, in his opinion. As he drew, he kept coming back to her eyes. The vibrancy of them was offset by the lightness in their color. When had lavender looked like neon lights? Did that even make sense?
What did her laugh sound like? What did she enjoy? Would she like any of the content they made? Did he want her to? Callum finished the drawing and put it aside, taking his head in his hands. Why was she invading his mind like this? They had just met for a few moments and he wanted to draw her not date her. Well, he wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a date. But, there was no way a girl like that was single.
Callum shut his eyes and one image kept coming to mind; Rayla in the ocean, turned back to look at him as the moon shone down on her. It was beyond perfect. Like she was a Selkie or something out of the Gaelic stories his Irish grandfather had told him when he was little. ‘I’m in trouble.’
Chapter 3: Can't Focus
Rayla got up at seven, eyes heavy from the lack of sleep last night. “Noooo. UGH.” She turned to angrily glare at her alarm that had interrupted her rain noises. Aberdeen wasn’t the rainiest place in the world, but the sound of a rain storm always helped put her to sleep. Her mum and da always joked she was named ‘Rayla’ because she was born right when the moon shone through a stormy night.
Rayla went through her emails quickly, making a note in her phone to call both sets of her parents this weekend. She missed the days in Scotland when Runaan would speak French with her and talk cheese or helping Ethari in his jewelry business. Runaan ran the books while Ethari ran the artistic side, his work with metal and jewel placement both tasteful and modern while taking classic elements from Celtic art.
Her parents had yet to retire from being bodyguards, but they regaled her with stories of Africa and Asia and Australia, how kind people were, the different foods and cultures. Sometimes, she wished she could have grown up going with them. Other times, she knew they had made the right choice leaving her with Runaan and Ethari. They wouldn’t have had much time for her anyways.
Sighing, she rolled out of bed. She had a breakfast date with Corvus before she had to be at the office. God. She hated those pricks sometimes; a lot of old money lived in that office. She had thought she was leaving classism behind when she did her study abroad in the States for her law degree. Apparently, America just hid their classism really well instead of openly displaying it like they did back in the UK.
She lived well, was paid well, did better than anyone had expected her to do, probably. She had been more focused on athletics as a kid, leading Runaan to force her into ballet (‘you already know some French. It’s perfect!’), Ethari insisting on Irish step dance (‘Lain’s mother was Irish. It’s a world wide sensation, Rayla!’), and her own parents signing her up for kickboxing when she was in high school during their vacation from work. Her teachers had been frustrated that she was smart but didn’t ‘apply herself’ whatever that meant. She got good grades, did better in college, got into law school in another country, and passed the bar. She could apply herself just fine. She just liked to be active.
Rayla sighed as she stepped into the hot water of her shower. She had made a good choice buying this shower head. Slowly, she felt the burn that had started last night begin to build back up again. Green eyes entered her mind again, as well as a voice that she would love to hear calling her name out while she rode him. ‘Calm down, Rayla.’ She couldn’t meet Corvus horny. Rayla sighed, putting her forehead against the shower wall before starting to massage her breast. She tried to imagine it was Callum’s hand stroking her, dipping down to touch between her thighs where she ached.
Would his hands be soft or rough? There hadn’t been any obvious calluses when she had shaken his hand at the cheese shop. She moaned, dipping her fingers into her wet heat. Her thighs rubbed together as she tried to chase that elusive release. She didn’t have time for this. The more she tried to speed up, the more it just wasn’t happening. Growling in frustration, she tried to play with her clit, breathing deeply as she finally found a rhythm that was working. Rayla bit her bottom lip and sighed as she came, inwardly crowing with satisfaction. There was no worse start to a day than being unable to cum after a wet dream or being too horny to function.
She washed and dried off, stretching her muscles before dressing. The green pantsuit and black top showed off her toned figure without drawing too much attention to any one place. Her heels made her even taller and, hopefully, a little intimidating to jerky clients or coworkers. She grabbed her purse and went out the door. When she finally made it to her car, she leaned her head on the steering wheel. Had she really started her day off by masturbating to a guy she met YESERDAY?
She shook her head, driving off until she made it to the little café she and Corvus frequented. Corvus also worked in the same building, but for a different law office, specifically divorce. Rayla had no idea how he did it, but someone had to. She saw Corvus at their usual table, smiling at something on his phone. “Your boyfriend sent you a naughty text?”
Corvus smirked back up at her. “Nope. Just something about one of my latest clients. Well, their soon-to-be-ex.”
“Good news or bad news?”
“Well, considering it’s a custody case, it’s good for my client.”
“Abuse?” Rayla frowned.
“I would not be smirking if that was the case. No. Apparently, the ex has been mismanaging the children’s money. Lying about putting it in a back account for them and spending it on gambling debts.”
“You don’t call that abuse?” Rayla smiled up at the waiter who came over, ordering an earl grey, a coffee to go, and an omelet.
“Thank you,” Corvus nodded to the waiter. “I do, personally, but everyone views that differently. The children were never struck, no record of emotional, mental, or oral abuse. It seemed like it was going to go 50-50 custody, which tends to be the ideal situation, but my client was concerned about the gambling problem.”
“So best case scenario, gambler’s anonymous and supervised visits eventually leading to 50-50 custody?”
“Best case scenario. Probably won’t happen, but we can all hope.”
Rayla shook her head. “I don’t know how you do it. I didn’t do criminal law or divorce law because I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing evidence of child abuse all day.”
“It’s a lot. We try to spread those cases around as much as we can, because it gets to be too much when it’s all you see. When police reports come into play, it’s even worse.” Rayla nodded. “While you work for old money. Tell me, how’s Kasef doing?”
“Hitting on me, again. Got upset when I told him off for glaring at a guy in a cheese shop for asking me a question.”
“He comes down to our office on his breaks and hits on half the women there.”
“Believe me, I know. His father gets really upset about it.”
“How is Mr. Ahling?”
“Still insisting we call him ‘Mr. Ahling’ and not the proper ‘Mr. Patel.’ His health is starting to go downhill, so we’re hoping his daughter graduates soon and can start to learn how to take over the office.”
Corvus shook his head, smiling at the waiter with her when they brought their food. “Thank you. I’m telling you, join our office. You could be really good at gathering information.”
“Thank you, but, no thanks. I grew up believing in true love with both sets of my parents. I’d like to continue believing in it.”
“You still believe in love. I love my boyfriend so much we’re moving in together.”
“Well, congratulations to you both. You moving in to his apartment or is he moving into your’s?”
“Mine’s bigger and closer to both our jobs.”
They talked work for a few more minutes, keeping an eye on the time. Rayla sighed as she looked at Corvus. “I’ve got a favor to ask.”
“My hairdresser would love to do your hair. Those layers are cute, but maybe you need a new look.”
“Ha ha. My hair’s fine, thanks. You remember me mentioning a guy in the cheese shop?”
“Well, he asked to draw me. He said it’s cool that I brought a friend and I would like to bring you. I don’t really have any other friends in the city.” She finished her tea, opening the lid of her coffee to put some cream in.
“He seem legit?”
“I saw his art. He also runs a YouTube channel with his friends and little brother?”
“What’s his name?”
“Katolis Squad!” Corvus smiled, clapping his hands together.
“You know them?”
“Of course. They do a lot of food stuff. I found this café because of one of their videos. Also, my boyfriend’s a baker, remember? Ezran and Claudia do a series on baking and sweets and he likes to watch them. Callum Evans is also kind of known in the art scene in town and I’ve met his aunt a few times. Lovely lady, so’s her wife.”
“Huh. Apparently, I’m out of it.”
“You just arrived in Katolis last year. I grew up here. You remember my boyfriend’s beignets you liked so much?”
“Those were delicious.”
“Ezran’s recipe. His grandmother’s friend was from Louisiana and she taught him how to make them like it’s done in the French-Quarter.”
“Huh. So, you’ll come with me?”
“Sure. Callum Evans seems harmless, but since he already approved it, might as well take advantage.”
“Agreed. I can take care of myself, but, you never know.”
“Where’s it going to be?”
“At his house. He said he has an art studio there. At least, that’s what he implied. I’m waiting for a text from him to iron out the details.”
“Maybe he’ll ask to draw you nude?” Rayla flushed red at that, looking down at her almost finished breakfast. “Oh? Something you want to share with the class? A reason you were distracted during kickboxing last night, perhaps?”
Rayla glared up at him, taking a few harsh bites of her omelet. She swallowed, keeping eye contact with him. “He’s cute, I’m single, that’s it.”
“He’s single.” Rayla paused. “He broke-up with his last girlfriend months ago. She made a big Instagram post about it, saying they wanted to focus on their careers. Which was weird because no one even knew they were in a relationship.”
“So, he’s probably used to people trying to use him for fame.”
“Most likely. He keeps to himself.”
“I saw that when I went digging online. His step-father’s the governor and his mother was in the military for a few years, rising through the ranks very quickly.”
“Yeah. They try to keep their channel separate from all that, though. People are always asking them questions about it and they’ll either ignore it or say they aren’t a mouthpiece for Harrow Williams.”
“Fair. I’ll text you the details. I’ve got my coffee, gotta go.” Rayla put a $20 on the table and waved good-bye to Corvus, leaving to head to the office. Well, this just got even more interesting, didn’t it?
Callum rubbed his eyes as he looked up at the ceiling. All night, he had dreamed of Rayla. Her white hair down and around bare shoulders, purple eyes starting deep into his. ‘Come on, Callum. Make me feel good.’ He tossed and turned in his bed, suddenly thankful for the fact he lived alone. His cock was at attention and it was not going to be going down any time soon. Rolling out of bed, he took his sleep clothes off as he made his was to his shower. He winced at the cold water, but sighing in relief as his erection went down. He had no time to rub one out. He was already running late for his meeting with Ezran, Soren, and Claudia. They had to go over whether or not to actually hire a crew now that their channel had six million subscribers.
It would be a smart move. Claudia’s home-made beauty series was getting a lot of attention, as were her and Ez’s baking series. Soren and Ezran’s sub channel and Twitch channel was getting a lot of attention in the video game community for their let’s plays and commentary. Even Callum’s art sub channel was getting more and more attention. He was just worried about going bigger because, if they did, what if drama followed? It had been a PR nightmare when his ex-girlfriend had posted on Instagram about going their separate ways for their careers. Callum had asked her to keep it between them because he wanted to keep his personal life and his YouTube life separate. She had apparently felt that, after they broke-up, what he wanted didn’t matter.
As he quickly ate breakfast, he couldn’t get the idea of Rayla from his dreams or of her in a forest out of his head. Those eyes haunted his every though. ‘She’s a freaking fae. That must be it.’ Callum rubbed his eyes again, sighing. He sent a quick text to Rayla asking if she would be alright with her modeling for him in the woods outside of town. She would probably say ‘no’, but Callum needed to get this image out of his head and out of his system. He had just met her and she was distracting him already. Still, Callum wasn’t so sure he could ever get someone like her out of his system. Even if they had sex a week straight, he would probably still crave her. ‘Stop getting ahead of yourself, Callum. She’s probably in a relationship, you just want to draw her, and you have other things to focus on right now.’
All day, as the group discussed the benefits to do YouTube full-time, barring Ezran because he was still in college, a Scottish accent and a pair of soft eyes stayed in the back of his mind. Beckoning him to find her and take her under a waterfall in the forest. Would she scratch and like it rough or did she like to go soft and slow, like a wave?
Ezran snapped his fingers in his face. “Callum, focus.”
“Right. So, I think taking a step forward is a good idea….” He didn’t have time to be thinking about faeries in suits from Scotland.
Chapter 4: We Going To Do This?
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.