Excerpt: Misread Romance

“Come on assholes. Time is money,” Cody muttered as he wandered around the space Abigail had set aside for the photo shoot. True, it was his first paying photography job, and it wasn’t much money, but still. It wasn’t like these guys were the Rolling Stones or something. They were just some local wannabe emo punk band who’d managed to land a monster opening gig and now needed some promo photos for the posters and flyers. Who the hell called themselves ‘Lingering Cents’ anyway? “Something smells rotten all right,” he mumbled as he adjusted the lights one more time.

“That’s cents, as in dollars, not smells,” a bored voice commented behind him.

Cody turned to find one of the men staring at the backdrop with a bored expression on his face. He wore a leather vest that laced up the sides and back with a kilt that swung around his knees as he walked closer to the canvas.

Abby had given Cody a cheat sheet with the band member’s names and a few pictures so he would know a little more about them before meeting them. The Kilted One was their singer, Seth, even though the grainy headshot Abby had given him didn’t do him justice. Cody shut his eyes and counted to five to clear the improper thoughts from his head as Abby led the rest of the guys into the conference room they were using as a makeshift studio.

“Seth, guys, this is Cody. He’ll be your photographer today,” she said with a sweep of her arm in his direction. “And Cody, these are … the guys,” she finished with a shrug.

“Humph,” Seth grunted as he studied the backdrop.

“Don’t mind him. My brother gets pissed if we roll him out of bed before noon. I’m Jared, by the way,” a lean guy with long, blond hair said as he stuck his hand out. Cody shook it, and Jared pulled him close enough to wrap an arm around his shoulders. He turned to the others to introduce them one at a time. “Brendan, Zach, and Mr. Grumpy is Seth.”

“Nice to meet you all.” Cody shook hands with the others, but Seth kept his distance as he examined the backdrop Cody had set up.

“Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later,” Zach said as he stepped up to shake Cody’s hand. “I’m on bass. Brendan plays guitar, and Jared’s our drummer.”

“Thanks.” Cody was trying to keep up with them, but it was a lot to take in at once. He was glad he took the time to study Abby’s notes.

“You do this?” Seth asked from his spot in front of the background without turning around.

“Uh, yeah. Abby said you guys wanted something dark but light.” Cody ran a hand over the back of his head and looked at the canvas. Interpreting what ‘dark but light’ meant had been tough, but Cody liked the results. He had layered shades of copper and gray acrylics to resemble either sunset through the clouds or what could be interpreted as a pile of loose change. He hoped the band appreciated the subtle play on their name.

Seth nodded and finally turned to face Cody. He crossed his tattooed arms in front of his chest, and Cody couldn’t help but admire the way his leather vest molded to the muscles on Seth’s chest. “So, we doin’ this or what?”

“Oh, yeah,” Cody said. He cleared his throat and shuffled around the room. “How do you guys normally set up?”

“We don’t know. Aren’t you supposed to tell us?” Seth shook his head. “Abby?”

“Why don’t you line up like you’re on stage?” she suggested.

“Then they won’t be able to see me,” Jared whined, but his smile belied his complaints.

“And that would be a good thing,” Brendan said. “Why do you think we keep the lights out above you?”

“Because you don’t want the competition?”

“Yeah. That’s it.” Brendan rolled his eyes.

“Says the guy who always goes home alone.”

“Personal choice, man. Personal choice,” Brendan said with a smile, flashing dimples and a chipped front tooth. He slapped Jared on the shoulder and pushed him toward the backdrop. “Now get back there where you belong.”

“Fine, Pop. Take all the glory.” Jared walked up to the canvas and turned around, spreading his legs to balance his weight, and then he launched into an air-drum solo. His long blond hair flew in every direction as he whipped his head back and forth. Soon the others joined him, taking their spots and wailing on their imaginary instruments with gusto. They started humming bits of music, and Cody grabbed his camera. He started snapping pictures, catching the band in action. Sort of action, anyway. Then Seth stepped up to the front and cupped his hands in front of his face as he closed his eyes. Cody’s breath caught in his throat when Seth started singing one of their power ballads. He watched the emotions play across Seth’s face as he sung about lost love and personal demons. The sultry, gritty voice gave Cody the shivers. He jumped when Abby bumped his hip.

“Close your mouth,” she whispered. “You’re drooling.”

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