The Obsession Page 60

“Was it having your own business, or mechanics?”

“It was both. Is. I like cars. If I wanted a car—and I did—I had to learn how to keep it running. I liked learning how to keep things running. I didn’t mind working for Hobart—he was fair. But I like working for myself better. You must feel the same.”

True enough, she thought—but she preferred being by herself as much as working for herself.

Still . . .

“I worked as a photographer’s assistant for about fourteen months after college. I thought of it like an apprenticeship. He was not fair, by any measure. Arrogant, downright mean, demanding, and prone to toddler-scale tantrums. He was, and is, also brilliant.”

“Sometimes the brilliant think they’re entitled to tantrums.”

“Unfortunately true, but I was raised by a chef—a brilliant one—and brains and talent weren’t considered excuses for arrogance, for pettiness, but gifts.”

“No throwing spatulas or frying pans?”

The idea made her smile. “Not in Harry’s kitchen—home or restaurant. In any case, I’d planned on two years with Julian—the photographer—but fourteen months was all I could take. One of the happiest days of my life was punching him in the face and walking off the shoot.”

He glanced at her hand—slender, fine-boned. “That’s an interesting way to give your two weeks’ notice.”

“Two weeks’ notice, my ass.”

She shifted toward him—he wondered if she knew she rubbed her foot on Tag’s back, keeping the dog in quiet bliss. “Major shoot. Advertising—shampoo.”

“Shampoo is a major shoot?”

“Let me tell you, friend, there’s big money in ad photography. The model has a yard of glorious flame-red hair—she’s a joy to shoot. This guy, he’s a perfectionist, and I’ve got no problem with that. He’s also a vicious little dick. I’m used to the verbal abuse, at this point. The blame-casting, the castigating, even the throwing of objects. All of which were present during this particular shoot. He actually had the makeup artist in tears at one point. Then he claimed I handed him the camera with the wrong lens, I’d had enough, and pointed out I’d given him what he’d asked for. He slapped me.”

Amusement faded. “He hit you?”

“Slapped me like a little girl. So I punched him, just the way Seth—my uncle—taught me. Nothing in my life had ever felt that good. I think I actually said that while he’s screaming—again like a little girl—and the other assistants are scrambling around. The model walked over, gave me a high five. He’s holding his bloody nose.”

“Did you break it?”

“If you’re actually going to punch somebody in the face, it’s stupid to pull it.”

“That’s my philosophy.”

“I broke his nose, and he’s screaming about having me arrested for assault. I told him to call the cops, go right ahead, because I had a studio full of witnesses who’d seen him assault me first. When I walked out I promised myself I’d never work for a vicious little dick again.”

“Another excellent philosophy.”

Had he thought her interesting? No, not interesting, he corrected. Fascinating.

“So you broke a guy’s nose, then started your own business.”

“Sort of. Seth and Harry were friends with the owner of a gallery in SoHo, and they convinced him to take a couple of my pieces. They’d have supported me—in every way—while I tried to make a living in art photography. But I knew I could hold my own doing stock photography, getting some work doing book covers, album covers. Food shoots—I already did them for the restaurant. And clip art—it can be fun and creative, and it can generate income. I needed to get beyond New York, so I took the leap. Car, camera, computer.”

She stopped, frowned down at her wine. “That was a lot.”

“A microcosm,” he countered, pleased she’d forgotten her reserve, distrust, whatever it was, long enough to tell the story. “It tells me you’ve got guts and spine, but I already knew that. You do album covers?”

“I have. Nobody major. Unless you’ve heard of Rocket Science.”


“You surprise me.”

“I haven’t even started. The band’s working on another CD.”


“We did one a couple years ago. Mostly for tourists, or when we do a wedding, that kind of thing. How about it?”

“You’re looking for a photographer?”

“Jenny’s cousin’s friend did the last one. It wasn’t bad. I figure you’d do better.”

“Maybe. Let me know when you’re ready, and we’ll see. How long have you been playing?”

“With the band or at all?”


“With these guys, about four years. Altogether, since I was around twelve. Kevin and I started a band—Lelo on bass, just like now.”

Obviously surprised, she lowered her wineglass. “Kevin?”

“Do not ask him to play his Pearl Jam tribute. Trust me.”

“Does he play the guitar?”

“You can’t really call it playing.”

“That’s mean,” she said with a laugh.

“It’s truth. Let’s eat.” He took her hand again, this time tugging her inside. “We did some local gigs—school dances, parties. After high school, we lost our drummer to the Marines, Kevin did the college thing, Lelo stayed stoned.”

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