Runway: Chapter 1
Charlaine Harris owns these characters.
I’d been working as the runway booker at Merlotte’s Models and Talent for almost five years when I met Eric Northman. I was very good at my job and hoping to one day be a partner with Sam Merlotte, but all that came crashing to an end on that fateful night. Years of hard work flew out the window after my incredibly stupid lapse in judgment.
I’d started my career as a receptionist at Merlotte’s shortly after moving to Los Angeles fresh out of college. Armed with a degree in Fashion Merchandising from Shreveport University but having no clue what to do with it, I drove across the country to the land of sunshine. I spent almost all my savings on a deposit on a tiny single apartment in Hollywood and started looking for a job.
The day I met Sam Merlotte, I knew I’d found something special. Not only did he become a very good friend and occasional star in my personal fantasies, but he introduced me to the world in which I wanted my career.
Within a few weeks of my answering the phones, Arlene, the runway booker, left to work for Supreme Models, Merlotte’s biggest competitor for fashion shows. All twenty-five runway models left with Arlene, essentially putting Merlotte’s out of the runway business.
We still had a strong print department and our commercial department did well, but I knew we’d miss the steady bread and butter that runway brought in for the agency. I had no idea what Sam had planned—would he look for another booker? Close the department altogether? I just hoped that my job wasn’t in jeopardy with the agency’s loss of income.
Every Tuesday was open call day and from eleven to one any model could walk in off the street and present his or her portfolio to the agency in the hopes of gaining representation. Even though I was very green, Sam trusted me to glance at the books of the models and determine which ones could make it past the reception desk to meet with one of the bookers. I knew the height requirements, of course, and had a decent eye for good photos, but probably sent more than I should have back to the bookers’ table.
On the Tuesday after we’d lost our runway division to Supreme, a beautiful blonde model presented me with her book and introduced herself as Pam Ravenscroft. She was the right height and certainly gorgeous enough, but she didn’t have many photos in her book, even though the ones she did have were very impressive.
“I know I’m a little weak in print experience. I do mostly runway,” she explained as I flipped through the pages of her book.
“Oh, that’s great, but we recently closed our runway division.”
“I know. I’m with Supreme.”
That got my attention.
She continued, “Arlene Fowler’s my new booker, and let’s just say I’m not a big fan.”
“I’ve been working in L.A. for four years and all the biggest runway clients use me. But I really want to do more print.”
“We have a great print department, but I’m not sure what to tell you about the runway department. At the moment, we’re in limbo.”
Pam’s perfect lips formed a devilish smile. “That’s what I figured.”
My curiosity was piqued. “If you figured we were in limbo, then why would you want to come here and risk losing all your runway clients?”
“I have no intention of losing them. What would you say if I promised you that I could bring at least a dozen of L.A.’s top runway models to you? You could open a new runway division. Most of my friends don’t like Arlene and would happily follow me here.”
“Really? A dozen?”
“Probably more. Oh, and my brother is Eric Northman,” she added casually.
That really got my attention. Eric Northman was a supermodel based in New York. Tall and blond and drop-dead gorgeous. His day rate was probably more than my annual salary.
“Wow. I’m a big fan of his.”
“Well, of course you are. You’re female.” She laughed, but for some reason, I wasn’t offended. She had a way of making me feel like I was in her little inner circle and I liked it. “He doesn’t work in L.A. very often, but I could probably get him to come once in awhile for a few bookings. He’s not exclusive with anyone here.”
“Would you excuse me for just a minute?”
“Of course.” She was all smiles.
I ran back into the main room and found Sam at the bookers’ table on the phone. All four bookers sat at a big round table in the center of the room. Sam sat in the fifth seat. The bookers were all on the phones. I stood beside Sam and in front of the wall of models’ zed cards, hoping to get his attention. As soon as he hung up, he turned to face me.
“There’s a runway model here named Pam Ravenscroft,” I began.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of her.”
“She wants to do more print.”
“She’s a runway model.”
“I know. If we take her for print, she says she can bring us a dozen of Supreme’s runway models.”
“Is that so?” I could see the wheels turning in Sam’s head.
“And her brother is Eric Northman.”
Sam stood up. “Have her meet me in my office.”
I found Pam waiting patiently in the reception area with the other hopefuls and sent her back to meet with Sam.
As she passed me, she asked, “What’s your name?”
“Sookie. Sookie Stackhouse.”
“I owe you one, Sookie.’
“Not at all.”
I pointed to the open door beyond the bookers’ table and Pam sashayed through the room like she was on a runway. She turned back and gave me a wink as she closed Sam’s office door behind her.
I was saying a gentle “no” to the last model in the open call—a pretty redhead who was a good three inches too short—when Pam passed me on her way out.
“Thanks, Sookie. I’ll see you soon!” Pam said as she breezed by me.
I gave her a wave and went back to the redhead, handing her the sheet of L.A. agencies that I knew would all tell her the same thing. She was too short.
As soon as the redhead left, lunch was delivered. I paid the delivery guy from petty cash and took the sandwiches back to the bookers’ table.
“Sookie, can I see you in my office? Terry, watch the phones,” Sam said from the doorway of his office.
Terry was one of the print agents—the only one not on the phone.
I extricated Sam’s sandwich from the box I had set on the table and followed him into his office.
“Go grab your lunch, Sookie.”
I was surprised to be invited to eat with Sam, but did as I was told. As I sat down in the chair across from his desk, I unwrapped my food and took a bite.
“Great call sending Pam Ravenscroft back,” he said as he started to eat.
“You’ve got a good eye.”
“And a good head for business.”
“Thank you.” I had no idea what he was talking about.
“We’re taking Pam on, and she’s bringing us some of the other runway girls—some of Supreme’s biggest girls. And a few of their guys as well.”
“And, she thinks we can book her brother for an occasional L.A. trip here and there—nothing to sneeze at.”
“How would you like to be the new runway booker?”
I almost choked. “Excuse me?”
“I’m doubling your pay. You start tomorrow.”
“Really?” I couldn’t seem to suppress my huge grin.