Love Through a Lens
Ebook ISBN: 9781311558596
[ Contemporary Romance, MF ]
Rookie camerawoman Celine takes a job she doesn’t really want in the absence of any other options. But the experience flips her world upside-down—can she emerge from the project with both her career and her heart intact?
Celine gritted her teeth and hung tightly onto the straps of her backpack as she forced one foot in front of the other up the steep incline. Her heart felt like it was going to explode from her chest, and her lungs screamed with the effort of providing her oxygen supply. Really, she needed to stop, catch her breath, regain some equilibrium. But Edward was already way ahead of her, striding powerfully along as though their chosen path were perfectly flat. He had a huge backpack of his own, too, which didn’t seem to be slowing him down a jot.
But then, this was the difference between the two of them—or one of the differences, anyway. Edward Robson, mid-list British actor, was also a very keen outdoorsman, and probably did these kinds of walks all the time—with or without a camera being pointed at him.
Celine Patterson, however, was a different story altogether. Newly graduated from university, she’d struggled to find filming work in her preferred field—fashion—and so she’d had to cast her net wider. Incredibly wide, as it happened.
With hindsight, it was easy to see why she’d gotten the job with Edward—nobody else had wanted it. Not a damn soul. Traipsing around the Peak District wasn’t so bad, but add in heavy camera equipment, camping gear, food, clothing, maps, plans, GPS unit, satellite phone and makeup—for Edward, not for her—and a nice walk suddenly became a grueling trek. The money was poor, too, especially considering she was the only member of Edward’s crew. Could a single person even be called a crew? Or was she just a dogsbody?
She’d had no choice. It was this job or nothing. Crap money or no money. And, most importantly, this credit on her CV or no credit at all. She knew she had to start racking the credits and references up soon, if she wanted to get ahead in the highly competitive field.
So here she was, dragging herself up a heart attack inducing hill in the wake of an actor-cum-presenter. At least the project was interesting; they were checking out sites of myths, legends and ghost stories, that kind of thing. Edward was nice, too—kind, polite and pretty funny. Even better, it wasn’t raining. Overall, things could be a damn sight worse. She could be working with animals or children—or even both. And she’d heard many times over that they were the absolute worst.
She was still convincing herself that things weren’t that bad after all, when she glanced up and came to an abrupt halt as she realized there was a crotch practically in her face. Snapping her head up so fast it made her neck hurt, she made eye contact with Edward, who was standing a couple of paces farther up the slope, hence the awkward face-to-crotch angle. Her already hot face blazed with embarrassment. For once, she hoped the fact she was overheated would hide her mortification. The slight breeze that blew was doing nothing to lower her temperature.
“Are you all right?” he asked, his blue-green eyes soft with concern. “I’m so sorry, you must think me incredibly rude. I honestly thought you were right behind me—you being a young thing and all that. It was only when you didn’t reply to me or answer any of my questions that I realized I’d inadvertently left you behind.”
“I’m all right,” Celine replied, her chest heaving as she fought to regulate her breathing and slow down her heart rate while she had the chance. “Just not used to this sort of thing. A walk for me is a stroll by a riverbank, or hitting the shops. I’m sure my fitness level will improve as we continue with the project. Go ahead, if you like. I’ll catch up with you… eventually.”
Edward shook his head. “No, let’s have a rest. I could do with a drink and a snack.” Turning, he looked around, then pointed. “Let’s head there. It looks as though there’s a patch of flattish ground big enough for us both to sit down.”
“Okay.” She followed him again, but this time only for a few seconds. Edward helped her remove her rucksack—which was almost as big as she was—and then immediately opened it and began removing things. It was only when she saw he’d long since taken out the drinks and snacks that she queried what he was doing.
“I’m taking some of the heavier items out of your bag. If I re-jig things, we’ll still fit everything in, but you’ll have a lighter load. Would you mind making some tea for us both while I do this?” He indicated the miniature camping stove, metal cups and other tea-making paraphernalia.
“No, of course not,” she said. “But there’s no need for you to do that. I’m perfectly okay with carrying my share of the weight.”
“I know you are. But I’m not. You’ve enough to put up with on this crazy project. I don’t want you getting injured or ill on me—I need you. Not to mention my conscience wouldn’t take it.” He sat beside her, looked at the large pile he’d made, and began sorting it into their respective rucksacks.
Shaking her head, Celine lit the stove and set about making the hot drinks. “Sugar?”
“Yes, please. Three.”
She shot him a look. “Three?”
His eyes glinted with amusement. “Yes, three. What can I say, I like my tea sweet. And while we’re on this project I’ve got a good excuse—I need the energy. You should try it, it’s delicious.”
Wrinkling her nose, Celine nevertheless added three sugars to each of the mugs of tea. “Here you go.” She handed Edward his, then cradled hers, blowing on the liquid until it was cool enough to drink. “So, what did you mean when you said I’ve enough to put up with?”
Frowning, Edward took a gulp of his tea before replying. “I know this project isn’t ideal, Celine, not for you. For me, it’s wonderful—the melding together of several of my passions. But for you, it’s trekking through often unforgiving countryside with a shed load of gear and filming an old fart going on about big black cats, the ghosts of Roman soldiers and mysterious lights in the sky. And I know your wages aren’t very good, either. Believe me, if I could have offered you more, I would have.”
Gazing intently at the surface of the tea, she mumbled, “You’re not an old fart.”
Edward threw his head back and laughed loudly. The joyous sound rang across the lonely hillside for several long moments. Then he said, “But you’re not denying any of the rest of it!”
Looking over at him, panicked, she felt her cheeks heat once again. “I—I didn’t mean… I’m grateful for the opportunity. It—it’s going to be a great documentary.”
His lips twisted into a wry smile, and his eyes crinkled at the corners. “Celine, it’s all right. You don’t have to sugar coat it. For what it’s worth, I agree that it’s going to be a great documentary, but it’s going to be bloody hard work. I talked until I was blue in the face to get the producers to agree to take on the project, so you can imagine how I felt when I found out just how tiny the budget was. It’s ridiculous. A sane man would have told them to stuff it, but I was so desperate to see this program made that I agreed, without giving a second thought to how that budget was actually going to pay the other people involved. I really am sorry.”
Tucking a strand of her dark hair behind her ear, Celine shrugged. “It’s not your fault. I didn’t have to take it on, did I?”
“I suppose not. But I’m very glad you did.” He reached out and gave her shoulder a friendly squeeze before releasing her. Draining his tea, he let out a satisfied “ahhh,” placed the mug down on the springy moss beside him, then retrieved bags of crisps and cereal bars, handing them to her with a smile. “You’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t scrimp on rations. Only the best for my solo crew member.”
Returning his smile, she replied, “Thank you. And that’s great—I may be the only crew member, but I won’t eat just anything, you know.” She smiled again, to show she was teasing him.
They were quiet for a few minutes as they ate. When they were done, Edward held out his hand for her rubbish. Celine passed it over and watched him stuff it into a side pocket of his bag, surprised how quickly the two of them were getting used to each other. Hope flickered inside her—if they were already getting onto the same wavelength on day one, then maybe this job wouldn’t be so bad. Nothing was going to change the fact the pay was crap, but if she was having fun and gaining experience to boot, then it definitely wasn’t wasted time. Edward was a consummate professional, too, so she could learn an awful lot from him.
Feeling much more positive, she leaned back and stretched out her limbs, then turned to Edward. “So, before we carry on, want to tell me what I missed while you were talking to yourself?”
Smirking, he said, “Yes, okay. I was basically outlining the plan for the shoot. It’s been worked out logically—by me, since I know the area like the back of my hand, being a local lad. We’re starting out tough, covering the more remote and difficult to access locations. Obviously, any spots which are close together will be tackled on the same or subsequent days, even if they’re not structured like that in the final production. It’s just common sense, really. Minimize the mileage and time taken, start with the harder days and work our way along to the easier ones. By the end of this, we’ll be sleeping in B&Bs, showering every day—more than once, if we like—and eating hearty meals in country pubs.”
“Sounds like heaven. We’ve just got to get there in one piece.”
“We will,” he said confidently. “As long as I haven’t frightened you off.”
Celine shook her head. “Absolutely not. I’m looking forward to the challenge.” As the words filtered into the chilly morning air, she realized with surprise that she meant them. She had, of course, studied the filming schedule extensively before leaving home to start the project. But then, it had just been a jumble of place names and things she had no idea about. Now, knowing it had been planned carefully and logically, she felt much happier about it all, and was excited to actually see these places and uncover their pasts.
The fact that Edward was so enthusiastic helped, too. She wasn’t as eager as he, naturally, but his mood had lifted hers and given her a fresh burst of energy. “Okay,” she said, standing and brushing crumbs from her clothes, “shall we get this show on the road?”
“I’m ready if you are,” he replied. “Are you going to be okay?” There was that concern again.
Touched by it, Celine gave a gentle smile. “I am. I’m not saying I can keep up with you, or that I’ll ever be able to keep up with you, but I will be behind you… somewhere. Just make sure I can see you at all times, and everything will be fine. I can handle most things, but navigation isn’t my forte, so if you lose me, I’m buggered. Oops, pardon my language.”
Edward chuckled, his laughter lines showing again. “Firstly, no need to pardon your language in front of me. Off-camera, you’ll soon come to discover, I have quite the foul mouth. I hope that won’t be a problem.”
She shook her head, and Edward continued. “Secondly, I won’t lose you. That I can promise. No matter what happens on this shoot, my absolute priority is your safety and well being. Trust me.”
Despite not knowing him all that well yet, she found that she did trust him. Maybe it was because she’d been watching him on the TV for years and he’d always seemed so kind and capable. Perhaps it was just one of those inexplicable senses that people got about each other.
But whatever it was, she did trust him, and had complete faith that the shoot was going to be a success. Maybe it’d even change her mind about the type of filming she wanted to do going forward. Fashion was high-profile, glamorous and ever-changing, but documentaries actually taught people things. And, judging by the glorious landscape she’d seen so far on their climb, she, Edward, and the eventual viewers were in for a visual treat.
No point looking too far ahead, though. Before she could do anything else, she needed to get to the top of this damn hill.