I clutched the binder and iternary to my chest. My heart pounded so hard I thought others could hear it. Levi was going to help me take pictures. He was going to help me take pictures of people, at a wedding.
I didn't know which one was more anxiety-producing. The handsome cowboy with his shaggy black hair and dark grey eyes, taking pictures of people, or hoping that everything turned out great because these were once in a lifetime wedding photos. I searched in my pocket for a Tums. No luck. Levi walked to the archway where his mother was attaching balloons to it. His jeans looked good on his long legs. What was I thinking? Get it together, Katie. He was not my type. He'd never noticed me before, even when I had a huge crush on him in high school. Those were the days. My tongue swelled in my mouth and my throat closed up whenever he glanced my way. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I headed outside to my truck. The noon sun beat down on the asphalt and heat rose from the surface. It was going to be a scorcher this weekend. It was always hot in south Texas on the Fourth of July.
"I should've worn shoes," I muttered to myself as my flip flops slapped the pavement.
The heat started to burn the bottom of my feet. Finally, I reached my beat-up old truck. The paint was peeling from the doors and an old dent stood out on the tailgate. I pulled out my camera and checked the lens. Everything was in my bag. Annie was lucky I traveled with my camera at all times. The perfect picture could happen at any time. I slung the nylon strap over my head and opened the binder on the hood of my truck. There were pictures of people posing by trees, in long grass, by a waterfall, being backlit, and close-ups.
"She doesn't do anything halfway, does she?"
"No, she doesn't." The low timbre of his voice jolted me from my thoughts.
"Don't sneak up on a girl." My hand flew to my chest to contain my galloping heart.
"It's impossible to sneak wearing spurs." He set one booted foot on the tire of my truck and leaned toward the binder. The spur in question glinted in the sunlight. "She has a lot of ideas." He turned the page. "Are you going to get all of these?"
I shrugged. "I've to check out the park first and see what would work."
"Ma'am, I am at your service." He bowed low, sweeping his hat from his head.
He winked as he straightened to his full height. He was a whole head taller than me. Most men were as I was barely five foot three. The grey in his eyes was the color of storm clouds on a winter day. He gently touched my shoulder, jerking me back to reality.
"Katie, are you ok?"
"Yep, never better." I snapped the binder shut, grabbed my backpack from the passenger seat, and placed the binder in it. "Let's get started, cowboy."
I marched off to the grove of trees beside the pavilion. Levi's spurs jingled with each step he took as he followed behind me. I sighed. It was going to be a long weekend.
A few hundred yards away from the pavilion was a small stand of oak trees. Their trunks twisted to the sun while pale green lichen grew on their bark. These weren't the stately oaks of the east, but their wiry, scrappy cousins. They fought against drought, extreme heat, and pests. The trees intertwined in a complicated dance with their branches reaching out over an open space. I marked off the area and framed it out in my mind. I took a couple of practice shots, but without people, it would be hard to tell.
"Levi," I turned to where he stood, leaning against a tree. "Can you stand between the trees? I need to be able to gauge the lighting."
His brow furrowed at my request.
"The wedding will be in just over 24 hours from now. The light will be similar. Please."
He slowly made his way to the center of the trees and shoved his hands in his pockets. I snapped a picture. I groaned when I looked at it on the screen. It was awful.
"No, stand like this." I placed my hands on his shoulders to turn his body.
Electricity ran up my arms. A half-smile pulled at his lips as he watched me. A blush spread up my neck as I turned him this way and that.
"Now, stay like that.”
“Yes, ma’am.” A grin cocked on his lips.
I shook my head as I marched back to my spot and took some more pictures. The butterflies in my stomach danced. Keep your focus, Katie. I moved from side to side and changed the height of my shot. He flexed his biceps, placed one foot on an imaginary rock, fanned himself with his hat. His antics helped me to relax as I worked on getting the best exposures. I jotted down which ones worked well all the while trying to hide the growing amusement as he clowned around. He leaned against a tree and used his cowboy hat to cover his face, pretending to fall asleep. Soft snore came from him. I crouched down to get a different angle. A flash of red caught my eye.
"Let's go over there." I pointed to a rose-covered archway.
I strode down the path and around a bend. The archway stood at the end of the path. The scent of roses filled the air. A small bench sat under the arch. A bubbling of water drew my attention to a quaint water fountain. It was the centerpiece of this quiet sanctuary in the park.
"This is perfect." I blew out a breath.
I brought my camera up to look at it through the lens. I needed to back up to get enough of the arch. I bumped into a solid mass. His spicy scent washed over me as his hand grasped my elbow to steady me. My breath caught in my throat.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear. "Where do you want me?"
A shiver ran down my body as my stomach twisted into a knot. I twisted around to meet his eyes. He smiled down at me. The skin wrinkled at the corners of his eyes. His hat shielded his face.
"Under the arch." I stepped away from his touch and pointed to the bench. "Sit on the bench, please."
He settled on the bench, resting his boot heels on the seat. He winked at me before closing his eyes and leaning back on the seat. The angle was not right. It distorted the picture. I needed to get up higher. I stepped up on the edge of the fountain. The next few shots of the cowboy in the archway were almost perfection. My anxiety over the wedding gradually dissipated as I took another picture. As long as the handsome cowboy kept his distance, my heart might stay whole.
I closed my eyes to enjoy the sunshine as she capered about taking pictures of me under the arch. The smell of roses overwhelmed my senses. I brought my hat over my eyes as I pretended to be anywhere else but here. Somewhere I didn't have to drag my gaze from the beautiful woman engrossed in her pictures. Her nose wrinkled as she concentrated, her blouse gapped when she squatted down, and her jeans hugged her curves nicely. It was getting hard not to notice her, especially when we touched and it felt like my whole body was magnetized to hers. She mumbled to herself, breaking the silence. I cracked one eye open to watch her as she balanced on the edge of the fountain. If she fell in, it would make it hard to look away.
"Levi, wake up. I'm done here. Let's go over there." She hopped off the stones and walked to a large open grassy area
I groaned as I slowly got up and stretched. My watch read a little after 1:00 PM.
"Yes, ma’am," I called after her.
She waved her hand in the air and kept going. Man, she looked good, walking away. Curves in all the right places. I wondered if she has a boyfriend wherever she’s living. A jolt of jealousy shot through me. Why did it matter to me if she had someone? But it did matter. I jogged after her. My spurs jiggling with every step.