Home > The Contract

The Contract
Author: Stella Gray

Prologue

 

 

Brooklyn

 

 

Six Months Ago

 

 

I sit stiffly in my chair, pulse racing, and try not to overthink what’s about to happen.

Last week I had a great audition with Elite Image, but as days went by without a call back, I figured I hadn’t made enough of an impression with the agents at the casting call…until I walked out of my morning yoga class yesterday to find I’d gotten a voicemail from an EI assistant. When I called Elite back, the assistant told me that the CEO wanted to “personally” meet with me for an interview. I was floored.

I’d gone to plenty of agency auditions during my past two years in LA, and never once had I gotten more than the standard “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” before being dismissed. Could this finally be the break I’ve been waiting for? I wondered.

I’d been driving my best friend Mateo up a wall for the past twenty-four hours asking that same question over and over again. It seemed like Mateo’s career had exploded overnight, while mine had lagged slowly behind. I knew Mateo had a unique look, one that got people’s attention, but so did I—and it wasn’t like I couldn’t book a gig here and there. The problem was that I felt like I’d been treading water in the industry for years.

Part of me had already considered the very real possibility that a modeling career might not be for me. I’d even been researching college programs and taking some of those online “Which Career is Best for You?” quizzes, but every single one of them pointed me toward a job in entertainment or the arts, so I hoped and prayed that it was just a matter of time for me.

Now here I am at the Elite offices, first thing Tuesday morning, ready to find out if this is my rocket to fame or just another false alarm.

I’m in a gleaming black leather chair that likely cost more than my car, waiting on Austin Spears to sit down at his huge desk across from me. My excitement battles with sheer anxiety, a high of adrenaline coursing through me. I’ve been struggling so hard here on the West Coast, to the point that I’ve even considered walking away from modeling altogether. But it seems like my career is starting to look up. Why else would the CEO want to have an in-person conversation?

“Miss Moss, it’s a pleasure.”

Spears saunters in with a warm smile and my hopes skip up a little higher. I begin to rise from my seat, but he gestures me back into the chair and reaches down to shake with me.

“I’m Austin Spears,” he says, though of course I already know that. Even if I wasn’t in his executive office suite, his flashy designer watch, cologne, and tailored suit all scream CEO.

“It’s great to meet you,” I tell him, smiling back widely. “You can call me Brooklyn.”

“Perfect. I prefer Austin, myself.” He gives me a once-over, but it feels professional.

I’m glad I settled on a little black dress and heels for this meeting instead of the skinny jeans and bohemian blouse I’d been debating. He’s dressed in dark navy, his auburn hair slicked back to show off a perfect undercut. As he takes his hand back I notice that his nails are manicured, his skin, baby soft. This is a man accustomed to luxury. Money. Power.

I shiver to think about how a contract with Elite Image could propel me into that same world. I’ve been working my ass off trying to land a decent contract, to get my face out there in a bigger way than I ever could booking small-time gigs back home in Chicago. I’m ready for this.

He leans on the edge of his desk with his hands clasped in front of him, but I’m unable to read his neutral expression.

“Let me preface by saying that we were very impressed with your audition,” he says. “There’s something a little mysterious and inscrutable about you. We see a lot of girl-next-door types and a lot of pouting runway model-wannabes so it’s nice to get something different.”

I laugh along with him, but my heart is fluttering at the compliment. “Thanks. I just try to be myself.”

“Well, it’s working for you,” he says, leaning forward. “Here’s the thing. We have a huge campaign in the works with Maxilene. I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the company?”

“Of course. They’re one of the biggest cosmetics companies in the world,” I say with a nod, my heart starting to pound. “They’re on billboards, they have counters in every department store, and they have a huge international presence. I use some of their products myself.”

“That’s actually perfect,” Austin says. “Because we like your look for their campaign, Brooklyn. A lot.”

He moves opposite me and takes a seat in his chair. My pulse is racing so fast now, I can barely breathe. A contract with Maxilene would set me up for the rest of my entire career.

“That’s amazing to hear,” I manage.

Austin steeples his fingers. “Of course, we have a hundred other girls that would also be a good fit. Girls that we already represent. So…”

He watches me closely as he speaks, gauging my reaction, which is hard for me to contain. My initial excitement fizzles into confusion and uncertainty, and it’s difficult to keep my face from showing it. Just like that, any idea of an upfront contract with Elite vanishes. The saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” pops into my head.

Still, I try to keep my smile pasted on. “Why did you mention it to me, then? I mean, there’s no point in being coy—I’d love to work with you if that’s what’s on the table, but it sounds like you might have what you need already. Is there another reason for this interview?”

“Maybe,” Austin says. “But that all depends on you.”

“O…kay. Can you be a little more specific?”

This industry routinely chews models up and spits them out. I should be used to the ups and downs by now, but this is the strangest lead-on I’ve ever had. He’s still weighing me up though, seeming to be considering something, his head tilted to the side. A glimmer in his eye makes me think there’s a lot more to his decision than just my face.

“I saw on your resume that you’ve done a lot of work in Chicago,” he says, pivoting.

I nod, my brows drawing together. “That’s right. I started working when I was still in high school, so I stayed close to home for a few years.”

“Ever had the chance to work with KZ Modeling?” he goes on.

My scalp tingles a little. I’m not sure how to answer. Of course I’d dipped my toes in the KZ waters that one night with Luka Zoric, but it hadn’t ended well for me. I really want a contract with Elite, though, so I can’t get into all that. I’d only make myself sound naïve.

I bend the truth slightly. “I had the opportunity for representation, but I turned it down so I could come out here. I wanted to branch out. See new places.”

His eyebrows arch as he leans back in his chair with a knowing nod of his head. “Probably a good thing. You dodged a bullet there.”

“Yes.”

I know he’s referring to the prostitution scandal that rocked KZ, but I don’t need or want to get into the details or participate in any industry gossip.

“What do you think of them now?” he prods. “Have they really cleaned up their act?”

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