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.


3. Chapter 3: First Impressions

Sky spent the next couple of days acclimating herself to L.A. and Jake's neighbourhood. Sunday, she did the basic things like find the nearest grocery and drug stores, and for her the most important one to her, the camera store so she could keep herself stocked up on what were her essentials.  Apparently, Jake thought that girls lived off of tofu, spinach and water so she filled the fridge and cupboards with her favourite foods like hamburgers, pop and chips.  She was one of those lucky girls who had to only moderately watch what she ate but was still able to keep her figure trim with some softly rounded edges that she liked.

Monday she took advantage of her last free day and hit the public beach that was a short walk from the apartment.  She had a feeling that once the assignment started, she would have few opportunities to enjoy the sand and surf that defined L.A..  She grabbed her camera and walked the edge of the shore, capturing the smiling faces of those around her and getting herself in the L.A. vibe.  She finished the day curled up on the balcony chair again, flipping through the shots she had taken and playing with different editing techniques that she didn't seem to have time to in Austin.

Tuesday morning, she woke up earlier than she would have liked but needed to so that she could be on time for her first day.  She slowly rolled herself out of the comfortable bed and went to the shower to wake herself up.  She lathered her long hair and let the warm water slide down her bare skin, erasing the aura of sleep off of her.  After a luxurious length of time in the water, she got out and towelled herself off, humming to herself as she went back to the bedroom to get dressed and put her contacts in.  She didn't want to bother with her glasses today.

She had spent the some time the night before picking out an outfit that she would be comfortable in so she could work but still felt like she showed a bit of style since she would be working with celebrities of some sort.  Jessica would be proud.  She had ended up choosing a pair of khaki-coloured linen shorts, sheer white long sleeved top with a pale khaki tank top underneath and a pair of gold gladiator sandals.  She slid a large opal ring on her finger and pair of small hoops in her hears before grabbing her purse, camera bag, shades and Jake's car keys and heading out the door.

One last perk of staying at Jake's was that she was able to use his car.  He hadn't wanted his baby to sit idle for two months so he had told her to go ahead and enjoy.  She hadn't driven it yet since she had walked everywhere she had went but today she was heading farther out with more stuff so she planned on driving it.  She followed his short directions to where it was parked and saw his black Mustang convertible perched in it's spot.  Her own car at home was a pretty basic four door, nothing like the one sitting in front of her.  She let her fingers trail over the smooth lines of the hood as she approached the driver's side and opened the door.  She slid in and turned the engine on, the guttural sound deeply satisfying. She shifted the gear stick into drive and pulled the car out of the spot and out into traffic.

Thankfully, the car came with a GPS so she was able plug in the address she had been given in the note.  It was for a place called Ocean Way Recording Studios and according to the directions she was currently being read to by an automated female voice, it was a half hour drive from Jake's apartment.  She had given herself an hour so she thought she had more than enough time to make her way through the big city traffic to her destination.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, Sky was cursing the accident on the highway and never-ending traffic that stretched out in front of her.  According to the very helpful lady that continued to give not very helpful suggestions for Sky to get there, she was only two minutes away but Sky highly doubted that as she crawled her way down the busy street she was now on.  She tried calling the number that Jake had given her but all she got was an immediate route to the anonymous voicemail.  Grunting in frustration, she threw the phone on to the passenger seat and tried to get her hair looking as cute as it did when she had left the apartment.  After another ten minutes, she was finally able to creep her way down the street and to the parking lot of Ocean Way Recording Studios. The lot was almost completely full and so it took another five minutes for her to find a parking spot that ended up being quite a ways from the entrance.  When she finally did, she took one look in the mirror, gave up on her flowing hair and pulled it back into a ponytail, grabbed her purse and bag and headed into the reception area of the studio.

She arrived at the desk out of breath, now thirty-five minutes late for her first day. She had never been late before and knowing that these clients had to be a big deal from all of the secrecy, she was now making a horrible impression.

"Hi," she said softly to the bleach-blonde girl who was sitting at the desk, a tag saying Melissa on her chest and a phone tucked to her ear as she snapped a wad of gum.  "My name is Sky Benson. I have an appointment I'm already late for and I just need to know where to go."

The girl looked at her with a sniff and continued talking to whomever was on the other end.  "Yeah, I know. I mean they came in here and everybody was all OMG, I can't believe that they are here. I mean, they are just a group of boys, you know? Nothing special."

Sky was not sure who Melissa was talking to or about but she was now another five minutes late and she needed to get her butt to wherever she needed her butt to be so she spoke a little louder again.

"Excuse me, As I said I am already late and I really need to find out which studio I need to go to."

When Melissa continued to not respond to her but talking on the phone instead, she moved around the desk and placed her finger against the phone button and pressed down.  "You know, there is a thing called a job that you are being paid to do and at this moment, I am late for mine so please look at your very informative piece of paper in front of you and tell me where I am supposed to go."

Melissa was about to speak again but saw the look in Sky's eyes and started to read through the paper in front of her.  "What was the name again?"

Sky lifted her finger and smiled sweetly. "Sky Benson, photographer."

"Let me see."  Melissa looked through the list and stopped in the middle of the page. "Benson, right there you are.  You're here for them." Sky tried to read the name on the sheet but Melissa's hand covered it, her face lifting as she looked up at Sky.  "You're in Studio C. Head up the stairs and take the first right.  You'll see the marked door on the left."

"Thank you."  Sky moved past the desk and followed Melissa's directions up the stairs, finding the right door.  Her hand rested on the cold metal handle as she took a moment to get her breath back under control.  She was a total of forty-five minutes late now and she wanted to make the best impression she could in spite of it.  She could hear a range of voices through the plywood door, all male and all excited.  As she finally felt like she was breathing at a regular rate, she twisted the handle and pushed the door open.

Sky's first impression when she walked in was of noise and men.  The room had about eight people in it, groups of them spread out amongst it.  Many of them were talking animatedly, with voices and hands filling the small space.  Sky immediately started to see the scene through the lens of a camera, a habit that she found very hard to break. As she looked around, she mentally took the individual shots, the lens clicking with each one.  One shot of the shaggy-haired boy and the suspender-wearing man laughing as they watched something on one of their phones that was held between them. A blonde haired boy and an older gentleman leaning over the control board and talking seriously about something that interested them both.

Her eyes continued to slide across the room and found the most intriguing vignette.  A dark haired young man sitting by himself, the only solo body in the room, his face tucked into the book in front of him as his hand held a pencil that skipped across the page.  Sky found herself curious as to what was on the paper, what image was he capturing from his own mind.  She felt her hands sliding towards the flap on her camera bag, gently lifting it and already setting the picture in her mind.  She was stopped though when she heard a voice from her side and it seemed to be directed at her.

"Either you're the extremely late photographer or a very prepared fan."  Sky stopped her hand and turned her head towards the voice.  It was chipped in its accent, possibly british.  She noticed that all of the noise had stopped and everyone was looking at her and the man who had spoken.

The person speaking to her in the accented voice was one of the younger men.  He had dirty blond hair that was short on the sides and gelled into a small spiky faux-hawk on the top.  He had warm brown eyes and was solidly built.  She felt like her tongue was glued to the top of her mouth as she tried to speak.  Everyone looked at her expectantly but Sky found herself unable to voice a word.  Finally, another person stepped forward, the one with the shaggy hair. His hand was extended and his large smile was genuine.

"I'm guessing that you are the photographer from the bag you're carrying."  His voice was also british but deeper and sexier.  "I'm Harry. You must be Jake's replacement."

Contact with Harry's hand as he gently took hers finally made her able to speak.  She felt her lips smile as she spoke, recognizing a nice guy in her midst.

"Hi," she said as she shook Harry's hand.  "You would be right on your guess.  Jake called me and asked me to take over the job when he got sent to London.  I am so sorry about being late.  I got stuck in traffic and there was an accident and I tried to call the number he gave me but no one picked up."  She dropped Harry's hand awkwardly and looked around the room again, trying to figure out why the young men seemed to tickle her memory as to who they were.  She took a look at each of them and when her eyes returned to the dark haired boy in the corner, it came back to her.  The article at the airport.  The story about how a certain rockstar's heart had been broken by his true love. The moody Zayn Malik.  These guys were the one and only One Direction. Crap.

"You look awfully young to be a successful photographer," another voice said as she tried to place each of the members in her mind.  This was Zayn speaking now, the sketch he was working on laid face down on the couch beside him as if he wanted to keep it hidden from those in the room.  His voice sounded dark and scarred as he spoke and Sky thought about the article.  Looking at the man in front of her, she had a feeling they had gotten it at least partially right.  "I was thinking that you would be older from how highly Jake spoke of you."

Sky had thought that this might be a problem.  Jake was about two years older than her twenty-three years and she looked younger than she was but she had confidence in her ability so she let the comment go.  Instead, she set her bags down and glanced at all of the men.

"I brought some work with me to show you but I really hope that Jake's recommendation will allow you to trust me, at least enough to start."  She didn't bother to mention their names or the band's.  They knew who they were and what they did and didn't need to be reminded.  And she knew that this was a pivotal moment between her and them.  The job she had taken meant that she would be around them during very private moments, when they were creating the sounds and music that they would release to the world.  They needed to trust her and allow themselves to forget that she was recording the moments for immortality.  And she needed to forget that they were celebrities if she was going to do any decent work.  "I am sorry about being late and I know it is not the greatest first impression.  But I know how to shoot great shots and I know that I can give you whatever you need.  You just need to give me a shot."

The group remained quiet for a moment, each of the men looking to each other for some type of confirmation.  She noticed that the most focus seemed to be on the one who had spoken first, the one she now recognized as Liam.  He stood quiet for a moment more before stepping towards Sky, his hands tucked into his pants pocket.  He didn't offer a handshake.

"Jake did recommend you very highly but we'll need to do a trial to make sure it will work.  Try it for a week. If it doesn't, we'll compensate you the remainder of the contract and fly you back to Austin."  He finally pulled his hands out now, holding one out to her. "Deal?"

Sky took his hand, noting it was not quite as welcoming as Harry's and instead seemed to challenge her, just like the words he had spoken.

"Deal," she said as she shook his hand and dropped it before she set her bags down on the chair beside her.  The bags she would not be taking back to Austin at the end of the week. 

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