Today’s Friday Flash Fics inspiration was… well, inspiring. The pose of the fine gentleman in question, however, sent me back to my photographer character, Caleb, who has a particular gift of seeing more than he wants to if he makes eye contact with people. Caleb will eventually get a novella of his own, but these flash fiction pieces help me explore him before I get there.
Caleb gripped his camera like a lifeline. It helped with the not-drooling.
“I want to show off the necklaces we got from Third Eye. Any chance you could undo another button or two?” Phoebe said.
There is a God, Caleb thought, pretending to change a setting on his camera, and her name is Phoebe.
Caleb raised his camera and snapped a couple of candids while the model—Duke, because of course the man had a name like Duke—undid another button. The more-or-less-tuxedo, handmade by Phoebe and tailored to perfection, was partnered with a black kilt instead of tuxedo pants.
“Okay, try that,” Phoebe said, stepping back.
I’d love to, Caleb thought. He eyed Duke, doing his best to avoid making eye contact, and tapped the bottom of his own chin. “Can you raise your chin a little. And turn just a bit more to the left…perfect!”
He snapped a few photos, adjusted the lights again, and took another quick series. Duke wasn’t a tall man, but good lord he was broad. And the moustache and beard combo—not to mention the perfectly groomed chest hair on display—was a whole thing, and that thing was basically mouthwatering.
“Should I undo my hair?” Duke asked.
Caleb lowered his camera. “You’ve done this before,” he said, aiming the words somewhere at Duke’s moustache. It had honest-to-God curls.
“Only a couple of times,” he said, and raised both hands to undo the leather tie that held his dark hair in place. He shook out his hair, and Phoebe stepped forward to take the leather string from him.
“Well, you’re a natural,” Caleb said, putting the camera between the two of them again. For whatever reason, looking through lenses blocked Caleb’s…quirk, so he allowed himself a moment to look into Duke’s deep brown eyes. “Let me guess, book cover?”
“Yes.” Duke blinked, and the little surprised smile that crossed his face was captured when Caleb snapped a quick series of shots.
“I’ve done some cover shoots. You’re perfect for them. Did they at least use your face?”
“They only wanted my chest.”
“That there is a crime,” Caleb said, and felt his cheeks blazing. Why had he said that? Checking the screen on his camera for a couple of seconds, he cleared his throat. “Okay. I think we’ve got the tux and kilt covered.” He glanced toward Phoebe. “What’s next?”
Four outfits later, they were done. Caleb stretched, and watched the memory stick copy raw files to his laptop, just in case. He’d never lost a shoot before, but there was a first time for everything. Once he saw the files wink into his cloud, nodded, and closed the laptop.
And stared straight into Duke’s brown eyes.
“Do I get to see?” the model said, smiling.
Caleb stared at the ground, but it was too late. Eye contact. Crap. Had he made eye contact with anyone else today? He didn’t think so. That meant…
“Are you okay?”
“Sorry,” Caleb said. He swallowed, and re-opened the lap-top, turning it a little sideways. Duke moved to stand beside him, and Caleb opened the folder and clicked a few of the images, bringing up previews.
“Wow,” Duke said. “These are great.”
“Wait until I’m done with them,” Caleb said. “You’ll single-handedly help Phoebe nudge kilts back to the height of fashion.”
“Your lips to the universe’s ears,” Phoebe said, joining them. “I agree. These are fantastic.”
“I’ll have them ready for you by Thursday,” Caleb said.
“That’s great.” Phoebe waved. “And on that note, I am going to take my frocks home and then have Dennis mix me something sweet.” She waved, and by the time Caleb had gotten most of his gear put away, she was gone.
To his surprise, Duke was waiting. With his hair tied back again and back in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, he wasn’t as entirely intimidating. Only mostly.
“If you need someone for more book covers, I’d appreciate it,” he said. He held out a card.
Caleb took it. “Definitely. Once Phoebe picks which shots she wants for Urbane Myth, if you want, we can see what we can do with some of the other shots? There are some solid stock art sites, and if you wanted, we can definitely take more.”
“Great.” Duke smiled, and Caleb stared directly into his teeth. They were lovely teeth. Of course.
They parted outside the studio, and Caleb walked the rest of the way home trying not to freak out about the eye contact. It had only been a second. Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough…
He sighed. Of course it would. It never mattered before.
He worked on the photos until nearly one in the morning, until he was blinking and barely awake. Finally, he crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling.
“Nothing bad, please,” he said. His usual prayer.
He’d never been in this apartment before. It wasn’t large, but it was tidy. And blurry as hell. Whoever’s point of view he had, they were reading a large print library book, and even with the larger font, it wasn’t entirely clear.
This hadn’t happened before, though Caleb supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. Law of averages.
“Hey Pop,” Duke said, stepping into view, blurry though it was. He sat at the same table, on the other side. He had a bunch of white…something…in his hand.
“Those the bills?” The man’s voice wasn’t robust. Caleb’s point of view shifted, as the older man whose eyes Caleb was borrowing tried to see the mail in Duke’s hand.
“Only one bill,” Duke said. “We’re fine.”
It was said casually, and effortlessly, and Caleb didn’t buy it at all. He wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like he knew Duke well. But he didn’t believe him for a second.
Neither, it seemed, did “Pop,” if the snort was any indication.
“We’ll be fine,” Duke said again. It sounded more like a promise than a fact this time. Hopeful.
Caleb woke, and found himself rubbing his eyes until they cleared. Okay. Well. That wasn’t a rosy, awesome future, and who knew how far off it was, so…
So what was he going to do?
“The world is not yours to fix,” he said, still staring at the ceiling. Much like Duke’s pronouncement of everything being okay, however, it didn’t come off entirely confident. He groaned at himself, and then got up to make himself some coffee.
While it brewed, he eyed his computer for a few long seconds, then gave in with a sigh. Who was he kidding? Even if Duke hadn’t been freaking sexy-on-a-stick, he’d worry this to death until he did something. He called up a list of his clients, and created a blind cc list, heavy on the romance authors he’d worked with from all over the country.
I have a model that I think would you might want to consider, he typed. He attached one of the candid shots that he knew wouldn’t work for Urbane Myth. He added a few more details, suggestions of how best to use Duke, and then sent the e-mail before he could second guess himself.
By the time the coffee had finished dripping, he had three replies. One, especially, caught his eye.
He found the little white card and dialed.
“Hey, Duke, it’s Caleb. How would you feel about being the next Steampunk Romance bad-boy?”