He never expected both of their businesses to explode. He was well known in town and the first person to be recommended for an event. Now he couldn’t keep up with the assignments and could easily expand. The real question lay with his direction. Did he want to continue booking strictly weddings, engagements, and parties? As much as he loved immortalizing a couple’s love story, lately he’d been a bit itchy for more. When he was in school, studying during an internship, he’d thought about creating more of an art form and selling his photographs rather than strictly doing work for hire. But that was a bigger risk, and when the money was steady and you didn’t hate your job, was it wise to make a change?
He spun around and looked at the giant canvas on the wall behind his chair. He’d always hung one of Taylor’s paintings there so it could be on full display. Carter had seen the previous one during a photo appointment and had bought it. He evidently saw the same type of raw passion and fresh perspective in Taylor’s work that Pierce did.
The painting he looked at now showed a woman falling off a cliff, her nude body poised in the air, half-twisted around, so it wasn’t clear if she’d fallen or dived. Her eyes were closed, but her lips curled upward in a sneer, as if she were rebelling against God himself. Beneath her, the ocean roared, and a dark shadow of a man stood hidden in the waves, barely noticeable unless you studied the painting. It was a piece of artwork that fascinated him and challenged his mind to look deeper than what was presented. He wondered many times who Taylor was thinking of when she’d painted it. When he’d asked, she’d just shrugged and said it had poured out of her, with no deep, analytical story to share.
He felt poised on the edge of that cliff. If he pulled back from weddings, where would he want to concentrate his efforts? His summer was double-booked, but he could begin turning down new clients to give himself some breathing room. He needed time to figure out what he really wanted to photograph.
He glanced at his watch and jumped up, realizing he was late for his next appointment. He hurriedly locked up and got in his truck to make the drive out toward the lighthouse. One of Sunshine Bridal’s clients, Octavia, had begged him to take her baby’s pictures. He found babies to be delightful but difficult to work with, but he couldn’t say no to her. After he’d sat down with Octavia and her husband to go over their wedding pictures, she’d burst into tears of gratitude and made him pinkie swear that when they had their first baby, he’d be the one to do a portrait session.
Pierce never broke his promises.
He pulled into the driveway of the cheerful yellow Cape Cod, walked to the wraparound porch, and knocked.
Octavia greeted him with her daughter hitched on her hip. “Pierce, it’s so good to see you again. Come in.”
He stepped through the threshold, admiring the sunny, open space, the bright and beachy colors, and the comfortable furniture. A quick glance around showed no sharp edges, no breakable valuables on display, and endless baskets filled with toys, folded-up blankets, and carefully constructed play areas. “I love your place,” he said with a smile. “And this must be our princess of the day. Jasmine, right?”
“That’s right. Let’s just say I’m surprised I booked you for baby pictures so soon. The honeymoon worked fast.”
He laughed, and the baby stared at him with fascination, a bit of drool dripping from her open mouth. Wide brown eyes, a cute tuft of fine, dark baby hair, and chubby legs that pumped against her mother’s ribs. She was dressed in a frilly red-and-white polka-dot dress that made her look like a sweet baby Minnie Mouse. “Twelve months, right? You look great.”
Octavia snorted. “I’ve never been so tired in my life. Sleep is more precious than diamonds right now. Mel came home on his lunch hour yesterday just so I could nap for forty minutes.”
The idea of that type of love hit him right in his solar plexus. “He’s a keeper,” he said. “I’ve heard some new dads go for a drive to get milk and come home hours later.”
She grinned and walked into the kitchen. “Can I get you water? Soda?”
“No, I’m good, thank you.”
“Okay, tell me what you’re thinking of as a setup.”
“I know we discussed a more casual than formal portrait, which I love. So right now, I’m going to bring in some of my equipment, and I just want you to relax and get her comfortable with seeing me. Do what you’d normally do right now in your routine.”
“I put on Baby Einstein for half an hour while she’s in her playpen, but that doesn’t sound very photogenic.”
“You’d be surprised. Don’t worry, we’ll get what we need. Trust me.”
Octavia shook her head. “You don’t know Jasmine.”
He laughed again and began unloading his equipment, analyzing the space, and setting up some possibilities. “Do you have a beach blanket to lay outside for some shots?” he called to her.
“Sure.” She handed him a worn bright-yellow comforter, and he prepped a pretty spot under a large oak tree, half in the shade, half in the sun.
He stopped at the playpen and made funny faces at Jasmine, who seemed to easily take to strangers and gave him a toothy grin. With the handheld, he got comfortable with the light angles and caught various expressions on her face as she grabbed for his equipment and determinedly tried to climb out of her netting prison. After a while, she let out a shriek of frustration.
“I’ll move her to the play mat,” Octavia said. “Just let me know whatever you need, Pierce.”
“I will, but I don’t want you to worry about posing, or if she cries. This is just a natural extension of her environment. We’ll have plenty of shots to choose from.”
Octavia visibly relaxed. Pierce figured her new-mother drive to get the perfect shot was stressing her out more than him.
Jasmine immediately went for her basket of toys, loudly banging and pulling them out one by one. Each had an interest span of about two minutes.
“Octavia, why don’t you sit down with her and just play.”
He got some great shots of mother and daughter, and he marveled at their strong bond. He loved watching Bella with her six-year-old daughter, Zoe. Those were the times he was reminded that one day he wanted a family and ached to experience that type of emotion. But for now, capturing the moment on film was like a superpower. His job reminded him daily that he was an important part of the most special days in a person’s life. Knowing that Octavia trusted him in her home, to photograph her child, humbled him.