Chapter 1 - A Photo Opportunity. First chapter of a romance story.
| It all started with a hat. That was the first thing that he noticed the woman was wearing. You didn't see too many young people wearing them these days, but the maroon beret looked good on the lady who sat down not far away from him at the camera auction. Paul quickly looked back at his program as he realized that he’d been staring. He glanced at the items up for sale on the block and then put a nice smile on his face as he made a casual glance to his right and took in a sweeping look at the girl going from top to bottom. The hat of course, nice face, what looked like a good tan under the shadow of the hat, straight blond hair tucked into her coat, she was dressed conservatively in a wool jacket and that pressed out at her chest and curved in at her waist that showed she had a very feminine figure, she was wearing a similar patterned tweed skirt that a pair of finely shaped legs emerged from the bottom, and on her feet - cowboy boots. His smile dropped "Cowboy boots …" his thought process was interrupted by the sound of someone gently clearing their throat and he glanced up to see the girl looking at him. She raised a single pencil thin eyebrow and smiled. Paul nervously smiled back and quickly returned his gaze to the crumbled auction inventory sheet in his hand, not sure if he'd heard the sound of a chuckle from the girl, three seats away from him. "Probably rides horses and listens to hillbilly music" he thought to himself. That was all that was required for Paul to ignore the beautiful creature as the auctioneer walked up to the podium and banged his gavel to begin the sale. Paul sat up a little higher in his seat as the first item up was one that he was going to bid on.
Paul couldn’t ignore the fact that he had somehow subconsciously maneuvered himself into the position directly behind the girl in the cashier’s line. Paul strained to control the bile he felt rising in his throat and forced up his courage as he tapped the lady on the shoulder. "I hope you’re happy with the lens that you got?" he said shyly.
The girl turned around quickly. "I shouldn't even be talking to you," she replied icily before returning to her former position.
Paul was immediately lost in the beauty of her face but he still managed to mutter an "I'm sorry” to the back of her head. He looked down at his auction ticket and tried not to notice the slim legs poised in front of him. He closed his eyes for a second and the only view that would form in his mind was the brief image he had of this girl. Somehow, he knew that even if he never saw her again he would never forget her face. Paul’s reverie was interrupted by the sound of someone again clearing their throat. Paul opened his eyes to see the girl had turned around and was again looking at him frostily.
"Have you ever been to an auction?" she asked. Before Paul could answer, she continued with the same cool voice, as if she was speaking to a young child. "The idea is to bid back in forth. For example on the lens I bought, if you remember, I said three twenty five, you said three fifty and then I said three seventy five, you were supposed to say four hundred!"
Paul stared at her for a moment, speechless, as he was again totally lost in her beauty. When he didn’t answer right away, the girl gave a sort of ‘harrumph’ sound and turned forward again.
"Would you have said four twenty five?" Paul asked finally shaking himself out of his stupor.
She turned around again but didn't look him in the eyes as she replied "yeah."
"Then I don't see the problem" Paul responded.
She looked up at him questionably. The line moved forward and the girl and Paul shuffled a few steps.
"You were willing to buy it for four twenty five but, because I didn't raise the bet you only paid three seventy five. I saved you fifty dollars and you got a great lens." The girl looked at her feet for a moment.
"But I might have not" she said softly.
"I said, I might have not " she said a little louder looking up at him.
Suddenly Paul realized the reason for the coolness. "Oh, so you were going to leave me ... as it were ... holding the bag ... just like you now feel you are."
The girl still wouldn't look him the eyes. "I didn't really expect to pay that much” she opened the auction brochure. Her voice dropped slightly. “I sort of got caught up in the bidding process, besides; the brochure says the estimated retail price for this lens is only six hundred."
Paul suddenly felt sorry for the girl. He lowered his voice "If it will make you feel any better the brochure is wrong."
"What!" She said looking up at him.
Paul smiled and nodded. "I got a look at the lens before the auction. It's a Ziess macro lens, capable of 1 to 1 magnification. It's worth closer to twelve hundred dollars."
"You’re kidding" she said.
Paul smiled. "No, I'm not."
"Then why didn't you bid four hundred?"
"You need that question answered?" Paul replied softly. He smiled at her and she blushed beautifully.
“No” she said happily as she opened her purse. Paul watched her pulled her wallet out. The line moved again and Paul noticed that the girl was the next customer in line. "Thank God for credit cards," she said as she pulled out a Gold Visa card.
The smile on Paul's face faded quickly. "I guess you don't get to auctions very often?"
Paul pointed to the sign behind the cashiers windows.
"Cash or certified checks only!" the girl exclaimed. "You’re kidding!"
Paul shrugged his shoulders "This is a private auction; they don't have the facilities to handle credit cards."
"Great," the girl sighed "now what am I going to do?" she exclaimed. "Who would bring that much cash or who would know how much of a certified check to bring?"
"You bring enough to cover what you think you'll spend," Paul replied starting to see the disappointment on the young woman’s face.
The wicket cleared and the cashier called "Next please."
The girl looked at the wicket and then again, at the credit card in her hand "Well I guess that takes care of that" she said sadly.
"Look at me," Paul ordered.
"What?" the girl said confused, but she did as he asked.
Paul looked into her eyes for a moment before saying. "I'm not sure if I'm going to regret this or not, but … here goes." He gently grabbed the girl's elbow and propelled her to the cashier's wicket. "Where's your ticket?"
"What are you doing?" the girl asked as she handed him her stub.
"Hopefully not making a mistake" Paul replied. He turned to the cashier. "Items number five, eleven and ...” Paul glanced at the girls ticket in his hand "... twenty eight please."
The cashier moved off to get the items and Paul turned back to the girl. "I'll pay for your lens and you can get some cash on your card and pay me back. How much cash did you bring?"
“About a hundred I guess.”
“A hundred?” Paul repeated in surprise. “Was there anything that the bidding started at less than a hundred?”
The girl giggled slightly. “Yeah, there was a tripod; it started at less than a hundred.”
Paul thought for a second. “That was an antique; it ended up selling for sixteen hundred dollars.”
“So … it started at less than a hundred.” The girl defended proudly.
“Okay, you’re right.” Paul conceded happily.
They stood in a moment of awkward silence until the girl asked the question they were both thinking.
"Why are you doing this?"
"I'm a sucker for a pretty face" Paul confessed truthfully. He noticed that she blushed and she looked even prettier. "Besides they don't give Visa Gold cards to just anyone, so I'm assured of being paid."
"It could be stolen" the girl said. "Or at it's limit.”
He looked her in the eyes and said "I guess I'll have to trust you then, wont I?"
"Can you afford to buy everything?" she asked cautiously.
"Yeah," Paul said easily. "I was hoping to pick up a five hundred millimeter mirror lens and I came prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was the bidding starting at eight hundred dollars.”
The girl lightly bit her lower lip. "I'm sorry, but then under the circumstances I guess I'm not really."
She smiled and Paul saw that she had beautiful white teeth to go along with her clear complexion, her finely manicured eyebrows, and her soft blue green eyes. Paul made the connection between cameras and her and wondered if she was a model. The cashier returned and placed the items in front of her. "Please check each item for defects or marks. There are no guarantees or warranties expressed or implied. There are no refunds after the item is signed for." Her voice droned on, as she must have repeated these lines a hundred times.
"Could I get a separate receipt for each item please?" Paul asked.
The woman nodded. Her fingers flew across a calculator nearby. "The total comes to one thousand and seventy five dollars.”
Paul handed over his check.
The lady carefully went over the paper with an experienced eye "From a fifteen hundred dollar check. Do you wish the change in cash or in a return certified check?"
"I’ll take a check please" Paul replied..
While the lady went off to get the money, Paul and the girl examined their purchases. Paul showed her the markings.
"Oh my God! It is a 1 to 1 macro lens."
"Told you." Paul said
"I really can't thank you enough."
"Wait until you see my interest rates."
The girl stopped what she was doing. "What is your interest rate?" she asked suddenly concerned.
The girl thought for a moment. "It might be kind of tight but, okay I guess I can buy you dinner."
"No that's not what I meant. I meant for you to go out to dinner with me."
The girl looked at him skeptically. "Let me get this straight. You’re paying for my lens, temporarily, and the interest charge for this loan is you want to take me out to dinner?"
"Yeah, that sounds right."
"Where are the charges?" she asked.
"The charges are in the terror and fear you’re causing me right now, because you haven’t said yes yet." Paul said very nervously.
The girl smiled as she nodded. The moment was interrupted by the cashier returned with Paul's check and they signed the three release forms. Paul picked up the packages and led the girl out of the building.
When they got outside Paul stopped. "So ... when can you do dinner?"
"Is tonight too soon?" she hesitated "I'm afraid I'm pretty busy after tomorrow."
"No, tonight would be fine. What time?"
The girl hesitated. "That only makes it harder. I'm afraid I don't get off work till about 11:30. I hope that's not too late?"
Paul noticed the apologetic look on her face. "I'll manage." Paul said quickly. "Where can I pick you up?"
The girl pointed across the street. "I'm working at the Pony Club. That's why I came here, it was close" she pulled a card from her purse and wrote something quickly on the back. "If you come to the back door and show this to the doorman he'll let you in without having to pay the cover charge."
"Thanks" Paul took the card and shoved it in his jeans pocket. He held up the lens. "You don't mind if I hold on to this until tonight do you?"
"I thought you had to trust me?" the girl asked wide eyed.
"I don't even know your name." Paul replied.
"Oh, I guess I see your point” she smiled. "I guess we haven't been formally introduced. My names Sierra, Sierra Hamilton" she extended her hand.
"Paul Stewart" he replied taking her hand and shaking it gently. He held her hand as long as he could until he felt her gently pulling it back and he released it.
"Until tonight?" Sierra said sweetly.
"Yeah, see you tonight" Paul said and turned and walked away. When he looked back, she was walking towards the highway and the club. As soon as he reached the car, Paul grabbed his mobile phone.