D E A L
Whoever said it was impossible to drown in green eyes is a liar.
"You did what?" the bald-headed man yelled. "I gave you no authority to do such a thing!"
"I'm an adult," the brunette stated calmly. "I can do what I want. And last I checked, I'm the one earning the big bucks here, and technically that makes me the boss of you." Honey brown eyes narrowed to slits as she stared her manager down.
"An adult who can't reason like one," Tom muttered. And in a calmer voice he added, "Love, you are a rising star. An unbelievably big one. You've amassed a huge crowd of fans, but also a big crowd of stalkers and psychos-"
"I get it," Cleo rolled her eyes. "You've given me the same speech over five times now."
"Nine times," the blue-eyed man emphasized. "Nine times a bodyguard quit. Nine times I've looked for any willing agency to guard your ass. Nine times you manage to piss off each and every one! This needs to stop."
"I'll stop when you stop," the singer said, her voice going low. "I have a private life, dammit. I don't need anyone following me around like a puppy. I can handle my fans on my own. I've gotten good at disguises too." She paused, then softly added, "You know exactly why I don't want bodyguards."
Her manager slumped down on his seat, his disheveled look ending up being even more so. The wrinkled shirt he put on was untucked and his slacks had coffee stains on them. Cleo noticed how similar their outfits were and was relieved to find herself sporting a cleaner and more decent look.
"I know, and I'm sorry mija," he replied in almost a whisper. He knows about the traumatic experience she had to go through, but he couldn't risk losing another loved one.
"Please, I don't want to anymore," Cleo was tired. Tired of everything.
"Then I'm sorry to tell you this," he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his mahogany desk, folding his hands together and looking at her sadly. "I'll have to quit my job. I can't risk my reputation when a client of mine ends up being raped in a dark alley. The entire music industry would think nothing of me but a careless man. And should anything happen to you, it's going to leave a nasty mark on my career. I'm sorry."
Cleo was speechless. He was and always will be the best in the music industry and it still amazes her everyday that he chose to work with her. It was because of him, her album sales were going through the roof. It was because of him she'd gotten to where she is now. However, that's not just it. Overall, he was like a father to her and she just couldn't imagine working with anyone else to pursue her dreams.
"What? No, you don't mean that," she said, and then sighed in defeat, knowing he probably did. He is a dear friend to her, but he's also a manager and he had a family to provide for. In order to keep the closest thing to a father she had, she knew she needed to forget or ignore her past. "Fine, I'll keep a bodyguard."
Tom started to grin, proud of her for overcoming her fears and he started to rise and give her a hug but she held up a finger.
"On one condition," she cut in and he frowned. "He only stays for two weeks. If he annoys me or does anything stupid again, then I'll annoy him and make him quit himself." She tried to bargain and looked satisfied.
Her manager sighed. Anyone could annoy Cleo. She could just look at their faces and be annoyed. Her bargain didn't even make sense, but that was Cleo being her and he decided to go along with it.
"One month," he said and when she tried to speak he raised a hand to cut her off. "Give him one month and if he 'annoys' you and you get him fired or to quit, then I'm out."
"What? No," she repeated. "I don't want you to be out. I'm saying if he gets annoying then I can fire him and you can find me a new one until we get someone who isn't so bad."
"You're telling me to find you a new one for more than the nine times I already have?" he said, exasperated. "Where do you get your logic from anyway?"
"You, probably," Cleo shrugged and Tom chuckled with affection. The tension in the room lightened up. He never planned to stop working with her but if this is what it's going to take for her to be safe then he'd gladly go along with this lie.
"One month, Cleo," he said sternly and the brunette threw her hands up.
"Fine," she almost yelled, then almost childlike, "Or three weeks...?"
"One month." he said with finality.
"Fine!" she yelled, then her voice went back to normal in thoughtfulness. "You know, I've said 'fine' so many times, I should be a parking ticket."
"If only you were that easy to deal wi- AH!" he dodged the banana she threw at him.
"I'm not that difficult," she huffed.
"Dear, you define the word 'difficult'."
That night, back in her hotel room, the brown-eyed young woman hummed as she shaved her leg. Cleo would occasionally look at the mirror as she shaved, studying her reflection.
She was blessed with her Cuban mother's full lips, and it was the envy of every woman in Hollywood. Her full lips, hair of rich mahogany brown, and slim angular face shape were all passed down to her from her mother, her grandmother, and the older generations of the Lavyan women. Her mother always told her that Lavyan Lips were the weakness of every man around them; the shape, color, and fullness nothing short of perfect.
Her eyes and nose, she got from her dad.
"I may be ugly," her dad joked. "But your mother can't resist these honey eyes."
Her mother would roll her eyes, "Cleomandra, do not listen to your papa. He's the handsomest man I know. It's more than just his honey eyes. You both have beautiful eyes, my loves."
And they were indeed honey.
When the sun hit her golden orbs, they shined and twinkled, further accented by her naturally full, long eyelashes. They were such a golden brown the most asked question she got in interviews was, "Are you wearing contacts, or are those real?"
And finally, her mother's personal favorite about her, her nose. Her mother called her father "Cinderella" often, because his nose had a small, almost unnoticable hook in the end that made it upturn a bit, just like Cinderella's dainty nose. And it too, had been passed down to Cleo.
Cleo was stunning, sexy, smart, and rich. But as she stared at her own reflection, she wondered if that's all the world would ever see her to be.
"Dumb ways to die," she sang to herself as she handled the razor and resumed shaving, keeping her leg propped up on the edge of the bathtub. "So many dumb ways to die."
The doorbell rang and she groaned.
"I shaved one of my legs and, oh my god, it feels like shaving one of my eyebrows," Cleo muttered as she got up to open the door. "It feels so weird."
She stomped across her hotel room, the razor still in her hand.
"Tom, I told you-" she stopped mid sentence. It was physically painful trying to stop her jaw from dropping.
"Adiona. I'm your new bodyguard," the husky voice sounded effortlessly seductive.
Whoever said it was impossible to drown in green eyes is a liar.
Also, screaming probably wasn't a very impressing way of saying hello.