Home > A Crazy Kind of Love

A Crazy Kind of Love
Author: Mary Ann Marlowe

Chapter 1

Stalker. When you put it that way, what I did for a living sounded despicable.

Paparazza had a nicer ring to it. Slightly.

My editor, Andy, said I was too fresh to work the street. The way he told it, I still had the stink of human about me. Josephine, you have to figure out if you want to work in this profession or have a soul.

That Andy was a joy to work with. But I’d seen him in action, walking backward down the sidewalk, shooting pictures and asking questions, right up in the faces of people who behaved as though he was completely invisible. He still hadn’t let me live down the one time I apologized to a mark before taking her picture. In my defense, it was my first week on the job, and she’d just come out of the hospital with fresh bruises.

That was months ago, and I’d hardened up.

I’d been called “loser” and told to “get a real job.” One time, an innocent bystander intentionally blocked my shot of an incognito Jeff Daniels slipping through the airport unnoticed. In addition to ruining my chance to call it a day, said Good Samaritan accused me of being a vile parasite before sitting back down to ogle Jennifer Aniston in another entertainment magazine’s photo spread.

Most people assumed it was an exciting line of work. But while I clocked more celebrity sightings in a week than most people would their whole lives, most days, I simply leaned against a brick wall for hours, shoulder cramping, hoping the stars would align. Literally.

On other days, like today, a tweet would take me on a journey to Brooklyn where I’d narrowly missed getting a shot of Emily Mortimer rehearsing her lines in Prospect Park. Cursing the waste of the morning, I had no choice but to head back to the subway with nothing to turn in to my editor. But as I rounded a corner, I spotted Maggie Gyllenhaal coming out of the Park Slope Food Coop with her two daughters. I raised my eyes to the heavens in gratitude and then steeled myself for the kill.

I wore two cameras strapped across my chest bandito-style. When Maggie stopped to adjust her bags, I grabbed my work camera off my right hip and caught her in my crosshairs. I disengaged my conscience and prepared to pester this person whose only crime was to have achieved a level of celebrity that made people willing to pay money to read about her and invade her privacy. It was my job to cater to that need.

Centering her in the frame, I got off one shot just as some oblivious jerk crossed right in front of me, completely obscuring my line of sight.

I threw my hand in the air. “Seriously?” Aggravated, I angled myself around the interloper for a better view of Maggie, but as I peered through the eyepiece, my viewfinder filled with a plasma-colored blob that autofocus slowly resolved to reveal Mr. Oblivious now staring directly into my lens. I let my camera drop against my sternum with a growl of frustration, but my new friend didn’t register my impatience.

Rather, he moved in closer with a disarmingly friendly smile. “Who are you shooting?”

“It’s Maggie Gyllenhaal.” Still irritated, I spoke too loud, and a nearby woman gasped and repeated the news. My heart sank as the whispers grew, and I watched my last chance at a celebrity sighting disappear into a vortex of autograph-seeking passersby. A long exhale left my body along with my hopes of returning with anything Andy might want.

I glared at my nemesis, but even as I formulated a murderous plot, I became aware of how deliciously pretty he was. With his blond hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders, and tanned skin, he should have been holding a surfboard on a poster for a California travel agency. He really was too perfect to be roaming the streets without a chaperone.

But none of that mattered. He’d thrown a wrench into my morning, and I arched my eyebrow a fraction higher in reproof.

And yet, he continued to stare at me with a look of curiosity, as if somehow I were more interesting than the famous person half a block away. A famous person I still couldn’t see for the crowd surrounding her. He pointed at my camera. “Are you paparazzi?”

His fascination made sudden sense—he’d probably never seen the paparazzi up close and impersonal. I sucked on my teeth and considered the situation. “Look. I’m sure you don’t care, but you’ve cost me a candid shot of that actress, and that’s my bread and butter. The least you could do is give me a boost so I can maybe bring something back to my editor.”

His eyes narrowed for a beat, and he glanced down the block, then back at me, as he pieced together my dilemma. I wasn’t short, but I’d need to stand on a bench to see over that crowd. A slight smile played on his lips. “You want to climb on my shoulders?” He waggled his eyebrows salaciously.

The idea seemed preposterous, but desperate times and all. I’d gone to greater lengths for less in the past. And somehow I felt like this guy might be a good sport. He’d maintained a devil-may-care grin throughout this entire exchange. And I really needed that shot. I closed my eyes and swallowed my pride. “Would you mind?”

He dropped to one knee with the speed of an eager suitor, and I winced as his bare knee hit the concrete. He merely bowed his head and said, “At your service.”

I couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity. But then he lifted his eyes, and my laughter caught in my throat. Until that moment, he’d just been an annoying interference, but his smoldering gaze brought me thundering to reality. I took a half step away and drank in the beauty of my kneeling knight. Golden hair glinted in the late morning sun. Bright blue eyes shined with mirth and intelligence. Well-muscled biceps peeked out of a T-shirt that stretched across his broad chest. Thigh muscles flexed, and his smooth, taut skin cried out to be touched.

I swallowed.

He held a hand out toward me. “Come on, then. I don’t bite. Well, not in full daylight.”

I circled around him, hearing everything my mom would say in this situation. But this total stranger didn’t appear to be suffering from typhoid, and I hadn’t seen a gutted panel van in the vicinity, so I felt reasonably confident this wasn’t the way I was going to die. I laid my hand on his left shoulder and immediately yanked it away from the shock of how toned and solid he felt.

He twisted back and looked up at me. “You don’t need to be scared. I carry equipment all the time. I’ve only dropped a few.” His lips, lips I noticed for the first time, grew into a full-fledged smile, white teeth flashing like an ad for Crest, and I wondered if I could muster the nerve to climb on this beautiful man.

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