“T.J., we thought that a cover with something real hot would be the best way to rush in summer for the magazine.”
Teegan James removed the gold-rimmed glasses from his face and watched them dangle from his fingers for a moment, before he spoke to his three editors.
“What’s your idea of…hot?” T.J. questioned, pinning his senior editor, John Williams with a green stare.
“Uh…well that’s what we hadn’t figured out yet. We just wanted to know what you thought of the overall idea.” John said, as he fidgeted in his chair.
“Mmm hmm. Well, I’ll tell you what, when you figure it out see me again. Now if that’s all, I need to get something to eat.” T.J said, trying to hide a smile at his editors. He watched them leave the room quickly. Each of them sighed in relief since they didn’t have a solid lead for the next cover.
At twenty-seven, Teegan James wasn’t much older than his employees. Unfortunately, working since he’d been nineteen to begin a publishing company had made him lose some of his youthful spirit. The only child of very successful parents, Teegan went into debt a year and a half after high school to establish his company. It had all paid off in the end. T.J. was now one of the youngest publishers in the country. His latest publication was ‘African Kings Magazine’. The magazine was geared toward African-American males between the ages of 21 and 40. T.J. had worked long hard days to make sure that the magazine was a success, and it was.
The only ‘down side’ to the success was that it hadn’t left him much time to enjoy it. In addition, the long hours hadn’t given him a chance to have relationships. Not that the opposite sex didn’t work diligently to change the fact. T.J. had a quiet boyish quality, along with a seriousness that women found very appealing. His head of wavy hair was as soft as it looked and his lean muscular frame moved with a surprising grace. In addition, his extraordinary brown eyes with uncommon greenish flecks set off a very fair complexion.
A light knock on the door interrupted T.J. as he took in the magnificent view of New York City through his office windows. It was his senior editor, John Williams.
“T.J. let’s go grab some lunch!”
T.J. shook his head and pretended to be aggravated by the man’s bellow. He took a gray suit coat from the chair and headed toward the door.
“Maybe I’ll get an idea at lunch and you’ll be right there to hear it.” John was saying as he leaned against the doorjamb.
“Lucky me,” T.J. responded in a quiet, deep voice as he stared at John. He’d hired the boisterous twenty-three year old right out of college. Even though John had practically no experience, he reminded T.J. of himself- full of hope, energy and enthusiasm. T.J. thought if he could cultivate some of that energy, John could be a major force in the industry. Besides all that, John was like the little brother he never had.
“Where do you want to eat, man?” John said after they left the office and were descending in the elevator.
“I don’t care. Right now I could eat a bull.” T.J. replied, placing a hand on his growling stomach.
John laughed loudly as the elevator opened in the lobby. They were almost to the tall, glass doors when John grabbed T.J. by the arm.
“What?” T.J. straightened the wrinkles in his jacket’s sleeve.
John was absorbed in a magazine on the news rack. The cover carried the picture of a beautiful, young woman with exotic brown eyes that slanted at the corners.
“I think you asked me what I meant by hot. This is what I meant.” John said, turning the cover towards T.J.
“Girl! You are crazy!” Heads turned towards the three, beautiful women at the back of ‘The Coffee Den’, a posh restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan. Maybelline Anderson had just shared a story about one of her relatives, with her sister and niece and they’d been unable to contain their laughter. Heads turned earlier when the women first entered the restaurant, mostly in recognition.
Maybelline Anderson was being hailed as the most sought after model in the country. Not an easy feat for a twenty-two year old black woman. May decided, at an early age that she wanted a life beyond the tough neighborhood she’d grown up in. The youngest of two brothers and three sisters, May was determined to have and become more. After conning her way into a modeling session in Central Park one day, her life changed drastically. A combination of attitude, humor and toughness, May also possessed distinct poise and beauty. The camera loved her. At five feet eight inches with flawless, coffee-colored skin, she was stunning. However, it was her thick midnight waist length hair and her light brown slanting eyes that really made her unforgettable.
“Have you decided if you’re coming to the reunion?”
May eyed her sister skeptically. “I don’t know Syl. We got a lot of jealous people in the family you know.”
“I don’t know what they’re jealous of. You ain’t all that.” Sylvia drawled while her daughter Denise laughed.
“What’s so funny?” May asked, before bursting into laughter at her older sister.
“Anyway,” Sylvia continued, attempting to ignore the two younger women, “I know that there’ll be a lot of young, eligible gorgeous men there waiting to be snapped up and Lord knows you need a man.” She finished, daring her little sister to deny it.
“If the only reason you want me to come to the reunion is so you can set me up with some idiot with nothing but looks, you can forget it.” May said, staring her sister down.
“Hmph.” Sylvia directed her attention to her chicken salad.
May shook her head at her sister. She was always aggravated by her family’s attempts at finding her dates, but she loved them for trying. Besides, she wasn’t ready for another “serious” relationship. After her ‘love’ fiasco over two years ago, she decided to just dive into her work and she was glad she had. Her life was the way she wanted it and a man had no place there.
“May? May! Are you in here?”
May poked her head outside her bedroom door. She turned in the direction of the voice down the stairs. “Yeah T, I’m in my room!” She yelled her mouth full of toothpaste.
“Girl can’t hear worth a damn.” Tara Davis grumbled as she made her way up the stairs to the spacious bedroom of the plush Manhattan loft. Breathing heavily, Tara plopped on the large bed that dominated the room. “I’ve got some interesting news for you.” Tara smugly informed her.
“What?” May was wiping her face with a towel as she walked out of the bathroom.
Tara’s beautiful face, slightly plump due to her pregnancy, brightened mischievously. “Would you believe someone wants to interview you?” She asked.
“You know, I’ve spent the last four hours asking myself that same question.” Tara laughed, and then ducked the towel May threw at her head.
May gazed affectionately at her agent, who’d become one of her closest friends since she began her career. After college, Tara had come to work for her fathers’ modeling firm as an agent. When May signed on with the company, Tara’s father decided to let the young women work together. In the process, the two became very successful and very close.
“T, are you sure they want to interview me?” May asked, coming to sit on the bed.
“Well, who is it? Essence, Cosmo?…”
“Ever heard of African Kings Magazine?”
“I’ve heard of ‘A.K.M.”, but… isn’t that a men’s magazine?”
“So why do they want me?” May asked, still completely bewildered.
“Why do you think? The face of a beautiful woman on the cover, can sell a lot of magazines.” Tara pointed out.
“Mmm…and what else do they want on the cover?” May knowingly asked.
“I know what you’re getting at, but they really do want to interview you. Unbelievable as it sounds.” Tara joked.
“I don’t know T…”
“Come on girl, I think you should do it. Most men don’t think women use the brains God gave us and we won’t go into what they think of models. At least talk to them.”
“Well…okay. I’ll do it for you.”
“Good. You have a meeting with the owner of Uptown Publishing at one.” Tara said quickly, as she got up from the bed to hurry downstairs.
“Just doing what any good agent would! Don’t be late!” Tara yelled. She rushed out of the front door leaving May shaking her head in disbelief.
At ten minutes to one, May was angling her white Infinity into a parking space outside Uptown Publishing. Brushing a speck of lint from her wine-colored pant suit, May felt the coil at the back of her neck. Satisfied that everything was in place, she made her way inside the impressive high-rise.
May had to admit that everyone certainly stayed busy at Uptown Publishing. A flurry of bodies scurried about. Many stood off in various places engrossed in conversation over the materials they held.
Even the elevator was alive with conversation, which ceased when she stepped into a car that was filled with men. May thought she’d die from laughter, when they all attempted to push the button to the floor she was headed to.
The top floor was no less exciting. After making her way through a crowd of editors arguing over an upcoming cover, she headed towards the secretary seated at the far end of the corridor.
“Good afternoon I’m-”
“Maybelline Anderson! I’ve got every magazine cover you’ve ever done! I wanted to be a model once, but I thought it was impossible.” The secretary finished.
May smiled at the pretty girl. “Well, I’ve learned that nothing’s impossible in this business.”
“Would you mind if I asked for your autograph?”
“Not a bit and please call me May.” She said, taking a notepad from secretary’s shaking fingers.
The girl danced in her seat.
“There you go,” May said, finishing with the pad. “Look, I’m supposed to have a meeting with Teegan James, is he in?”
“He’s not back from lunch yet, but you’re welcome to wait in his office. He should be back in a minute.” The young woman said, slowly coming back to her senses, as she showed May inside the office.
“Thanks-What’s your name?”
“Brenda. Brenda Garrett.”
“Thanks Brenda.” May said, as the girl smiled brightly before closing the door.
May became somewhat subdued as she took in the dark surroundings of the spacious starkly furnished office. There was a cushioned sofa to one side, flanked by two matching chairs beside a large well-stocked bar.
There were several paintings and African masks on the paneled walls. An immaculate oak desk sat in front of the large windows that gave a spectacular view of the city. May’s attention returned to one of the paintings and she was so engrossed with one of them, that she didn’t notice the man who watched her from the door.
T.J. had seen many stunning pictures of Maybelline Anderson before. He stared at that magazine cover John had all during lunch yesterday, but he never expected her to look that way in person. She didn’t. She looked better. In fact, T.J. was speechless as he watched the gracious beauty walk around his office, unaware ofhis presence.
Now he was glad he had insisted on meeting with her first. The way the tailored, wine-colored pantsuit fit, didn’t hide her curves. Instead, it emphasized them. He took in her silky black hair trussed up in that coil and he wanted to pull the pins. His gaze wandered to her profile over the slanted eyes that were her trademark, down her nose to the high cheekbones and the full luscious lips. She was beautiful.
Get a hold of yourself, man. T.J. told himself as he softly cleared his throat.
The slight noise disturbed May and she whirled around to see a tall, very tall, very handsome man standing in the doorway.
“Jesus, you scared me! What’s with you sneaking up on people like that?” May exclaimed, placing a hand on her chest.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know I needed to knock before entering my own office.” T.J. strode through the door and shut it behind him.
“Your office? You’re Teegan James?”
“The one and only.” He softly confirmed. “Please Ms. Anderson, have a seat.” He gestured towards a chair in front of his desk.
“Miss Anderson, please. I’m only twenty-two and I hate being called Ms.” May said, still somewhat surprised by him.
“Twenty-two hmm? Well, looks can be deceiving.” The sarcasm was evident in his voice.
“You got that right.” May instantly replied, catching his tone. “Looking at this office, I wouldn’t have thought you were as young as you appear.”
“Oh? How old did you think I was?” He calmly asked.
“I think I’d be better off not saying.” She smugly answered.
“Alright Miss Anderson, let’s get down to business.” A muscle twitched wickedly in his jaw. “I assume that your agent told you about our wanting to interview you?”
“Yes she did, but I still don’t understand. Why me?” May asked in a bewildered voice.
I’m beginning to ask myself that same question, T.J. said to himself, but replied- “First, you are currently the number one model in the country. I don’t have to tell you how rare that is for a black model. Second, I’m sure that all male conversation halted the moment you stepped through the doors of this building. Those guys and thousands more like them, read my magazine every month. Simply put, Miss Anderson, I think you’ll make me a lot of money. Men are intrigued by a pretty face and even more intrigued when there’s a brain to go with it.” He finished, then sat back and regarded her with his cool, extraordinary stare.
“Well…you’ve said a mouthful Mr. James. Tell me something…are you intrigued?” She asked wickedly, deliberately trying to get a rise out of him.
“I didn’t know you before yesterday Miss Anderson, so I can’t answer truthful yet. I’ve only seen half the picture.”
“Half?” May asked, not understanding his meaning.
“Well, I can see you’ve got a pretty face, but I’m still not sure if you have the brain to go with it.” T.J, smoothly told her, a wicked smirk spreading across his handsome face.
May’s temper was quick, but never had it been roused so quickly. “You son of a-”
“Watch it Mabel. You don’t want me to take back the offer for the interview.” He said, his eyes gleaming.
“The name is Maybelline and I wouldn’t give your stupid magazine an interview if my career were going down a dingy toilet. I should’ve known better that to have a meeting with some…some Bouji publisher-”
“Bouji?!” T.J. left the black suede chair behind his desk. “Look, just because I wasn’t born in some New York gutter-”
“New York gutter?!”
“I’m sorry, was it in Brooklyn?”
May closed her eyes briefly, before whirling around to storm from the office. She let the door slam behind her.
T.J. couldn’t help it, but he laughed and for sheer spite ran after her. The hallway had quickly filled with employees. They were all trying to hear their mild-mannered boss arguing with the beautiful model.
May had just punched the elevator button, when she heard Teegan James’ deep voice coming from his office door. “Mabel what time can we set the interview for?” He sneered.
May slapped at a lock of hair that had come loose from her coil and shot him a murderous look. Then, she marched into the elevator.
T.J. closed his door as he laughed heartily. Everyone in the hall stared at each other in disbelief.
“Was that our boss?” Someone asked.
“I think so.” Someone else replied.
“But that man was laughing.” Brenda Garrett said in shock.
End of Chapter Three….