Perfection is a gimmick.
It’s something they use to sell you shit you don’t need. The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect marriage. Photos of that perfect life are all around us, but none of it exists.
I know better because I take those photos. It’s all a ruse to make us think that’s what we want. Behind closed doors, the house is a mess, the family is fighting, and that loving couple hates each other. I prefer a different city every week, laughing friends, and a variety of lovers.
Until Carl. I’m not sure what I want when he’s around.
Perfection is an illusion.
It’s something used to make you forget all the bad shit that happens in this world. It’s an unattainable dream not worth the effort.
I had the perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect marriage. Or so I thought. That illusion died with my wife and slammed me into reality. Aside from my daughter, business deals and making money is where my heart is now.
Until Rachael. I’m not sure what I feel when she’s around.
Cagney buzzed that the VIP had arrived. I stood up and smoothed out my jacket and slacks. I also took a moment to make sure the girls were still at optimum cleavage. Jimmy scoffed. “He’s married.”
I raised my eyebrows and looked at him. “So are you, but you still look.”
He shrugged, not denying the truth, and walked to the door. I was smoothing down the last of the wrinkles in my jacket when I heard his deep voice. I froze.
“Jim, thank you for meeting with me again.” I heard the door shut and heard him approach. I closed my eyes.
Carl Williamson was a man known to my family. He and my brother had fought for the same woman. Carl lost. He never stood a chance with his intimidating and aggressive tactics. He even used his daughter as a pawn to get Drew to go out with him.
I didn’t know who he was when I first met him. The only thing I needed to know was he was hot and I was in need of a hot man. At that time, being hot and single were my only dating requirements and I wanted to date Carl. It didn’t stop me from seeing him when I found out. A choice I later regretted.
Jimmy kept bringing him closer. “No problem. We’re just as excited to get started. This is the photographer you requested.”
“No. Fucking. Way.” I spun around and met Carl’s black eyes. It only took him a second to register what was happening and his eyes widened in surprise. “I’m not working with this asshole.” I started for the door.
“Rachael!” Jimmy grabbed my arm. He was surprisingly stronger than I had anticipated. “What’s wrong with you?” He tried to speak softly, but Carl heard him.
“I can’t do this.”
I couldn’t look at Carl. I already knew what he looked like. I didn’t need to see the man standing off to the side to know his shoulders were broad. I didn’t need to see the jet-black hair to remind me I wanted to run my fingers through it. I already knew he was the perfect height to offset my heels.
I could’ve bet money his designer suit fit his body perfectly, and was pressed as though he had just stepped off the pages of a magazine. And I didn’t need to see the look on his face to know his strong, squared jaw was set—hard. No, I didn’t need to see him again to remind me of all of that.
“You have to do this.” Jimmy started to drag me away from the door.
I wrenched my arm free of his grasp and from the corner of my eye, saw Carl take a step forward when Jimmy tried to grab me again. I placed my hand up to stop him. “Don’t.”
Jimmy held his hands up and backed away. “Just give us five minutes. I’m not sure what exactly went on between the two of you, but I’m only asking for five minutes.” I hesitated and Jimmy whispered, “Just think of the camera.”
I glanced at Carl and looked back to Jimmy. “Do I have to work with him?”
Carl answered. “Yes, you do.”
I could tell by the look on Jimmy’s face it was true. “Then forget it.” I turned and walked away. “I’m not working with an asshole.”
“Rachael,” Carl said my name as a command. It stopped me, but I didn’t turn around. “We can communicate through email. I’ll send you the list of prospects and you send me the photos, but you will answer directly to me.”
I turned at the sound of Jimmy whispering to see Carl silence him with the wave of his hand. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing that’s required for this job.”
Jimmy’s brows furrowed for a brief moment before he walked to his desk, shaking his head. “I don’t know what’s going on between you two, and I don’t want to know.”
“Nothing is going on.” I walked past Carl to Jimmy’s desk. “What were you whispering?”
“I had set up a test.” I still wouldn’t turn to look at Carl as he spoke. I watched Jimmy to see if Carl was being honest. “I didn’t know you were their best photographer. The test is no longer needed.”
“Of course it’s needed.” I finally turned to address him. “You don’t trust anyone, so I’ll take your lousy test. What is it? Stand on my head and get an impossible shot?”
It hit me then that both Cagney and Jimmy had said he was married. His wife had died over a year ago. I looked at the wedding ring on his finger. Carl noticed and put his hand in his pocket as I lifted my eyes to his. I stood there silent, just staring. I didn’t deserve an explanation, but one would’ve been nice.
Jimmy was either unaware of the tension or chose to ignore it. “He wanted family photos taken.”
“Jim.” He finally stopped staring at me and tried to stop Jimmy, but it was too late. He didn’t want me to take his family photos.
I couldn’t believe it. He was still hiding me as some mistress. I’m no one’s whore. I didn’t say a word. I just walked out. Jimmy was calling after me, but I ignored him and kept walking. I wasn’t going to stick around where I wasn’t wanted. Problem was I didn’t know where I was wanted.
B.L. Mooney started writing when the voices and storylines in her head ran out of room. They were getting too cramped and neither B.L. nor the characters could take it anymore, so she did the only thing she could do—she made room. She always knew she wanted to write, but vowed to make time for it later. Now that she’s made time for writing, most everything else falls to the wayside. That seems to suit the characters that keep popping up in her head just fine.
B.L. lives in the Midwest, and her other talents include in-demand cookies, a very dry sense of humor, and stealth eavesdropping. Some mannerisms, attitudes, or twists come from random sentences picked up while passing by strangers. So speak up the next time you have something to gossip about. You never know, it may just end up on the pages of the next book you read.
She loves to hear from her readers and you can contact her via email at AuthorBLMooney@gmail.com