Coco lounged around the studio, nursing a beer, the glare behind her sunglasses daring anyone to comment on it. No one would. No one would dare. Coco Heather Adel was known to reduce people to tears for lesser offences. Coco’s scowl deepened at the thought, and she took another squig. She wondered how long it would take to escape her past.
The daughter of a high-profile designer and his retired model trophy-wife, she had followed in her mother’s footsteps on the runway and outshined her. Coco Adel was now one of the most famous names in the American fashion world. She’d spent countless hours on countless planes flying to exotic locales (some requiring more security than others, much more) and hours more in makeup just for the few seconds she would look perfect on stage. Her resume included modelling clothes, formal wear, swim suits, and lingerie.
And she’d done it largely independent of her parents. By the time she was sixteen, Coco was auditioning and travelling for shoots on her own. Heck, most days she was living on her own, her parents having only the barest legal control over her and largely uninterested in even that. One thing they did contribute to her was the most pivotal lesson of her career, the one that would shape her for years to come: don’t fight fair. Auditioning was a cutthroat process, and you had to take every advantage to win. Coco had learned that lesson well. She’d learned how gossip could turn friends into enemies. She’d learned an anonymous phone call or an emailed photo to the media could cause a scandal that could make someone un-castable. She’d learned her body was good for more than photos . . .
Coco scoffed. Eighteen. She’d been eighteen when she’d first slept with someone for a shoot. Actually slept with might be the wrong term, it implied a long night in a bed at home or in a motel; Coco had let the douche screw her on his desk for half an hour, and she’d gotten the job. Barely legal, and she was little more than a hooker.
She’d learned to cope with her new lifestyle: to drown her sorrows in alcohol, to hide her frustrations behind a mask of arrogance, and to revel in the envy and bitterness she saw in the eyes of others to keep from realizing what she herself lacked. Like that singer who took a pill in Ibiza, she spent years in a drug-like haze. Then her parents had died.
They’d died in a car crash; apparently, their million-dollar-limo’s security wasn’t good enough to stop a drunk driver from barreling into the back of it at almost 80 miles an hour. Maybe buckling up would’ve helped. Coco got a phone call from their lawyer informing her of the event. The last time she’d spoken to them was the New Year’s Eve Party almost six months prior. It was like hearing about a pair of strangers on the news.
Over the next couple of months, as she dealt with the funeral and her parents’ estate and far too much paparazzi (the parasites became even more eager for pictures and quotes when the news broke; apparently celebrities going through a tragedy were more sellable than successful and content ones), Coco began to realize just how horribly empty her life was. She had no friends to talk to about what it was like to write a eulogy for a pair of people she barely knew anymore; everyone who knew her hated her guts or was just a toady looking for favors. Or both. She found herself looking around her apartment and through her phone and not finding a single picture of her family. Finally sober, Coco looked at her face on a magazine cover and was disgusted by what she saw: a woman who thought of herself as queen of the world, with eyes that looked on everything she saw as so much dirt to be swept from her feet.
Coco was now in the process of divesting herself of her former life. She knew she didn’t want to be that person anymore, but who else was she to be? She had no other skills to fall back on; she’d taken online courses for business school, but she didn’t know any other business than modelling. Her bank account wasn’t empty—and the new, scaled down, low-key life style she was settling into helped with that—but it wouldn’t last forever. Besides which, she was industrious by nature; she needed to work. So, she continued to show up for shoots, somehow mustering up the will to finish her contracts before leaving her sponsors and agents behind.
But to do what? That, she didn’t know.
That was when Fate had intervened. Coco overheard yelling, and an accented voice apologizing profusely, along with the sounds of equipment being dropped. Before becoming an orphan, Coco would’ve just ignored the incident. Now, she got up and went to investigate. She found Cardin Winchester, one of the male models, berating a Rabbit-eared Faunus girl who was fumbling with a box of camera parts she’d dropped. The idiot was demanding she get him a latte. When he wasn’t calling her an animal.
“Buzz off,” Coco told him.
The jerk turned to look at her, and his frown morphed into a look of shock and fear, before he attempted to be charming. “Well, Ms. Adel. I’m Cardin Winchester. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? How are you doing this fine day?”
Coco’s first instinct was to verbally castrate the asshole, but she was trying to be better, even to bigots who didn’t deserve it. So instead of one of her traditional acidic retorts, she simply said “Cardin Winchester? Funny, I heard you were being replaced with Flynt Cole.”
“What?” Cardin glowered.
Coco shrugged. “It’s all the same to me, but if I was you, I’d talk to the guy in charge right about now.”
Cardin frowned and mumbled under his breath. “If I find out I’ve been replaced with that Jazz-playing, retro-styled . . .” He turned around and stomped off, ignoring the Faunus girl aside from yelling back “And get me my damn latte!”
Coco snorted. “Idiot.” Turning to the girl, she asked. “You OK?”
“Um, yes, ma’am,” the girl said in an Australian accent, Up close, Coco could see the stagehand was actually about her own age, just so much softer. She was pretty, but had dark circles under her eyes, as though she hadn’t slept in days. The Faunus continued picking up the fallen equipment. “Uh, I should get back to work. The boss will fire me if he thinks I’m slacking off.”
Coco frowned. “What’s your name, cottontail?” she asked.
The girl blinked. “Velvet. Velvet Scarlatina, ma’am.”
“Well, Velvet, tell your boss to assign your jobs to someone else, because I’m going to need you for the rest of the day.”
Velvet blinked but ran off to do as she was told. Her boss cussed a little, but didn’t say anything against it. It wasn’t the first time some needy diva had commandeered one of the hired help to act as their personal gofer. So, Velvet had scurried back to Coco expecting to be sent off for a latte like with Cardin. Or a mocha. Instead, Coco explained that she was done for the day, and Velvet could either go home and sleep or hang with her. After a moment’s hesitation, Velvet chose her.
Coco took her new friend back to her hotel, where two spent the day lounging on the pool sipping drinks. The Rabbit-Faunus was reluctant to talk about herself, but Coco kept needling her until she did. The model learned that the stagehand was from South Africa rather than Australia and had actually graduated the University of Johannesburg with a degree in photography, after which, she’d moved to the U.S. to work professionally, but she didn’t make much money because her artistic integrity didn’t fit with commercial needs. Now, she was taking jobs in all kinds of projects: fashion, advertisements, even glamour, although she rarely held a camera herself. After a couple hours in Coco’s company, Velvet had consumed enough Long Islands to start becoming honest about her feelings towards the industry, and they weren’t pretty. She was fed up with conventional, paint-by-numbers ideas of attractiveness and sensuality. Tired of all the makeup and cosmetic surgeries (her drunken rant about the guy who’d gone to Mexico to get the illegal cheek implants—“I’m serious; illegal cheek implants!”—was Coco’s favorite) that basically rendered photographed models indistinguishable from computer-generated images in her mind. And she was seriously hacked off with the system that chewed up and spit people out, reduced to privileged, broken shells of real people.
Coco sipped her Mai Tai as she listened to the surprisingly passionate Rabbit-eared girl rant and rave in an increasingly thick accent and realized that she agreed with more or less all of Velvet’s complaints. Heck, this was basically why she wanted out of the industry. The sun went down, and the two young women moved to Coco’s room, where they ordered room service for dinner, including a large bottle of bourbon.
Coco had a lot of experience with alcohol, but she was no heavyweight. Velvet drank less, but was also less experienced. The two continued to vent against the industry they were stuck in, until Coco proposed they go into business for themselves. They had no idea what they’d do together: There was a market salivating for artistic photographs, but it wasn’t exactly beating down the door for newcomers, and Velvet didn’t exactly have a name for herself in commercial photography but at that point they were too drunk to care.
“Coco that’s a great idea!” Velvet shouted, literally shouted, Coco hadn’t realized she could do that, then leaned forward and kissed her newfound friend right on the lips.
Coco was by now too tipsy to think strait, and acted on habit, returning the kiss with all the sensuality years of trading sex for contracts had taught her. Poor Velvet was too addled to resist, and that was without the drinks. The two retired to the model’s bedroom, where the shy, introverted but now very drunk Rabbit Faunus revealed her kinky side. She took out her phone and asked Coco if she could take pictures of them and Coco, after years of catering to the desires of others to secure what she wanted, muttered something to the effect of “sure,” and began ripping her shirt off.
The next day, both girls woke up groaning. Velvet may have cried a little, between the massive hangover and the embarrassment and the dead-certainty she was going to be kicked out of the hotel room and blacklisted forever by the woman sleeping next to her. Coco, however, had no such intentions. In fact, she had no idea what to do. She was twenty-five years old, and had been having sex since she was eighteen, but that had always been payment, services rendered in exchange for favors. In her entire seven-year sexual history, Velvet was the first person she’d slept with because she actually wanted to. A pleasant change of pace—magnificent, in fact, in spite of the hangover—but Coco had honestly no clue what they were supposed to do now. And, having no other idea, she asked Velvet to show her the pictures they’d made.
Maybe it was because of Velvet’s training. Maybe it was because Coco was so accustomed to posing for the camera. Probably it was a bit of both. Whatever the reason, the pictures were good. Really good, in fact, considering half of the collection were the world’s lewdest selfies, shot while drunk. The other half was better, though, the part that came first, where Velvet sat back and shoot Coco playing with herself for her partner’s amusement, since now Velvet had more control of the camera. Considering how drunk the camerawoman was, it honestly impressive and made Coco wonder what Velvet could do when she was sober.
That wasn’t the important thing, though. The important thing was that Coco and Velvet had finally found what their company could sell. Thus, Chocolate Bunny Productions was born.