The Romantic & The Cynic

Sky Benson is a romantic. She believes in the happily ever after and Prince Charming on a white horse, mostly. And as a wedding photographer, she gets to live it everyday. She could use a few more adventures but who couldn't.

But her life changes with a phone call. Her friend, another photographer, calls to ask her for a favor. He needs someone to cover a job for him and he wants her to do it. She decides to, thinking of it as a romantic adventure she can tell her grandkids.

Then she meets Zayn, the mysterious boy who doesn't think the world has room for romance. Will she be able to convince him otherwise? Or will she become a cynic as well.

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1. Chapter 1: Exactly What You Do Best

Sky took off her glasses and rubbed her very tired eyes. She had spent hours looking through her latest batch of photos, adjusting contrast and colors, cropping and resizing. They were photos of a wedding she had shot a couple of days before, shining faces of a young couple beaming out from her monitor with their whole ever after ahead of them. As she worked, sappy love songs played in the background. They were the songs that put her in the mood to do this work, to believe in the everlasting love and happily ever after. Although admittedly, she didn't need a ton of inspiration. She was a romantic at heart and that was one of the reasons that she loved her job. She loved catching people at their most optimistic moment, when the love was all shiny and new and perfect. In her mind, that was how they stayed. It was how love should stay.

She had just finished the photos from the actual ceremony, weeding out the good ones and making them even better when her phone rang beside her, causing her to jump as an old Bon Jovi song blared out from it. She took a quick look at the call display and saw that it was her friend Jake, someone she hadn't heard from in several weeks. She slid the button over to accept the call and put the phone on speaker before setting it on the table beside her.

"Hey Jake," she said as he slid her glasses back on. "How is L.A. treating you these days?"

She heard Jake chuckle and the sound warmed her soul. She and Jake had grown up together in Texas, two awkward kids against the world. Or at least against their small town of Star. He was a couple of years older than her and had made it farther than she had since she was still in the state but each of them had been able to break free of the town and chase their dreams.

"L.A. is treating me very well, too well. That's why I'm calling actually." She heard him adjust his phone slightly and continue speaking. "How tied up are you for the next couple of months?"

Sky sat up straighter in her chair, stopping the photo editing she had been fiddling with and focusing on what Jake was saying. Jake was a photographer himself but he was based in L.A. and did more of the Hollywood thing. And when she said Hollywood, she meant celebrities. Famous, rich, hot celebrities. She often teased him about the rough life he lived and he teased her about how she lived in fairytale wedding land.

Sky quickly reviewed her upcoming agenda in her mind and knew that she had only two weddings over the next couple of months. It was the middle of November and the slow time of year for her profession. She was successful enough that she could take a bit of a break and then supplement her income between then and April with other random work during this time so she was curious as to why Jake was asking about her schedule.

"Nothing too heavy. A couple of weddings between now and January. Why?"

"I need a bit of a favor." Jake paused for a moment and Sky could picture him tapping a pen against his lips as he pondered just how to ask the question he was about to. "I got booked to do a job but I ended up having to back out. I was hoping you could come out and do it for me. You know, cover your good friend's ass."

Sky was surprised by Jake's answer, knowing that he would usually always stand by his word and never back out on a job he had promised to do. If she took it, she would have to ask him what happened when she arrived. She just hoped he wasn't dumping a problem client on her.

"And it's going to take a couple of months to cover that ass I assume?" She had only travelled to L.A. a couple of times, both of them to visit Jake. She had never gone there to work. "Just what is it? You and I don't usually shoot the same subject matter."

"I know but the only way they would let me out was if I got them a new photographer. I promised the people I was going to be working for the best and that is why I am calling you. You shoot beautiful shots no matter what the subject. I know I can trust you to blow them out of the water by the time you're done." Sky knew he was trying to butter her up so she would say yes but she also knew that he truly did think that she had talent otherwise he wouldn't be recommending her for the job. It was his reputation as well. "Please Sky, you would really be helping me out of a jam."

Sky truly was nervous about taking on whatever he was about to ask her for. While she knew that she was good at what she did, what she did was photograph brides and grooms and cute flower girls. That was not what Jake did. Jake photographed hot celebs as they frolicked on sandy beaches with their rescued dogs.

"Jake, what exactly is it that you are recommending me for?" She pictured him again, this time a smile of triumph over his face as he grew in confidence that he had won. She decided to make him sweat a bit more before she said yes or no. She needed him to work for it. "You have to tell me what it is before I say yes."

Jake sighed. "It's a simple job documenting a band as they record their new album. They want to put together a whole package for when they release it and they want to do it in stills instead of video. Exactly what you do best."

Sky knew that he was still holding out on her. He wasn't telling her why he was dumping the job, who the band was, why he was asking her instead of a colleague from L.A. who was used to this type of work. But Sky liked adventure, liked different. And her life hadn't had enough of it lately. Maybe Jake's call was fortuitous in it's timing. If he had called a month earlier, she would have told him she was too booked up. If he had called in a couple of months, she would have already started booking her spring and summer jobs. Now was the only time she could do this. But just because it seemed like providence didn't mean that she wouldn't make him sweat just a little more.

"If I take off now, I won't be able to book my weddings for next spring. This had better pay well if you want me to take that chance. And I have to be able to come back to do the couple I have already booked." It was a stalling tactic but a true concern. She worked for herself which meant true freedom to go and do what she wanted but that also meant that she had to save her money for rainy days. "And you have to tell me who it's for. It had better not be some cheesy boy band. You know I'm a rock girl."

Jake laughed. "I knew you would do it. Don't worry about money, these people pay. Give me the dates and I'll get them to fly you back and forth. And you'll find out who it is when you get here."

Sky hesitated for a second more. She noticed that he wouldn't tell her who the band was but she decided to say the hell with it. If the job paid enough to ensure she wouldn't suffer from being away from her home base for an extended period of time, then it couldn't be so bad. Besides, they couldn't be worse than some of the bridezillas she had dealt with already.

"Okay, get me the money and you've got a deal." Sky just hoped she wouldn't regret this.
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