Description: When photography student Finley is drug to a gallery by her roommate, she does not expect to fall head over heels for the photographer. FinleyxBam
Heels. They were some women’s dream. To me, they were a nightmare. Yes, I wanted to add a few inches to my five foot two stature. But was the pain of blister covered toes really worth it? I mean who knew how long I was going to be at this gallery opening anyway. My best friend Amber was forcing me to go with her. Yes, I was a fan of film photography, I was not, however, a fan of people.
“Come on you’re going to love it! Not to mention the artist will be there and he is a total babe” Amber informs me as we climb into the back of the cab. I feel so out of place in my borrowed black dress. I’m more of a jeans and flannel kind of gal. Growing up in North Carolina had somewhat helped me get my bearings when I moved up to Massachusetts for college. Photography had always been a pain of mine, even if my parents hadn’t approved of it as a career.
“How do you think you did on the final” Amber asks me as we pull up outside the venue.
“I honestly think I would have had better luck if I would have randomly selected my answers. I’m telling you Professor Foust has had it out for me the entire semester.”
“I’m sure you’re just over thinking it. You do have a tendency to do that ya know?”
She was right. I could make a mountain out of a molehill when it came to over thinking things. I couldn’t tell you how many nights I stayed up editing photos for hours at a time because I didn’t think they were good enough. Getting out of our cab I quickly regretted not bringing a jacket. Massachusetts in the fall was no joke, especially wearing this scrap of clothing Amber considered a dress. We quickly paid for our cab and walked as fast as our heels would let us into the building.
“Wild, Wonderful Alaska? Seriously, that’s the theme of the gallery?” Amber fusses as we make our way into the gallery.
“You didn’t know what the gallery was about and you drug me all the way out here?” I questioned my best friend as I looked around the main room.
“All I needed to hear was the photographer is hot, and has a lot of brothers in case him and I don’t work out”
“You know for someone who has a 4.2 GPA, you’re really not the brightest crayon in the box”.
“No, but I am your favorite color so you can kiss my crack”.
Before I can say another word, Amber is walking away on a mission to find the sexy photographer, and leaving me alone in a sea of people. Great, this is exactly what I wanted. To be surrounded by people I don’t know forty-five minutes away from campus. Putting on my big girl panties I brave the throng of people with hopes that I won’t have a panic attack.
I slowly make my way around the enlarged photos. The majority of them are black and white landscape shots. Some of them even appear to have been taken from the bow of a boat. I’m marveling the clarity of a shot of a massive dog when I feel someone at my side.
“His name is Mr. Cupcake, and he is not a fan of having his picture taken” a masculine voice comes from my left. I don’t even turn toward him, I’m too engrossed in the shot.
“It’s just amazing the clarity and contrast the artist was able to achieve with a film camera. I’m more of a digital girl myself, but I have to give him props, he knows what he’s doing that’s for sure.”
“Well thank you, It’s nice to know at least one other photographer came to my gallery.”
I look up at the man who is standing beside me then. He is a good eight inches taller than me with long brown and gray hair. He even has a feather braided into it. His eyes are dark and he’s giving me a dangerous smile. He extends his hand toward me, and I take it, mesmerized by the calmness that is radiating off of his body.
“The names Joshua, Joshua Bam Brown. What might you’re name be?”
“Finley. Finley Reagan McKenzie.”
“McKenzie huh, and if I’m not mistaken a natural redhead too. Guessing you have either Scottish or Irish ancestry” he comments looking me over with those beautiful dark eyes.
“I have both actually. My mother’s family originated in Belfast, and my father’s in Glasgow.”
“Wow, that’s amazing that you have traced that. I don’t really know much about my family beyond my parents and siblings.” he confides as he turns back toward the photograph.
“Cuppy was not happy with me that day. I caught him chasing one of my sister’s cats. Once I brought that rolled up newspaper out though he knew I meant business.”
I laughed at the image of Joshua chasing a dog around with a newspaper like a disgruntled neighbor.
“Were all these images taken at your home?”
“For the most part yes. Around our property, or out on our boat.”
“That’s your family’s boat?”
“Well Yeah, how else do you expect us to get back and forth to town?” Josh laughs as I turn toward him.
“How about drive like a normal person” I shoot back at him.
“Kinda hard to do when you live on an island babe”.
I cringe at the use of that nickname. If you want to flatter me, call me love or darling, not babe. I am not a talking pig from the nineties.
“Don’t call me babe, secondly, do you seriously love on an island?”
“Sure do, it’s my parents, and six siblings, and one sister in law. My youngest brother Noah got married two years ago”.
“Well, congratulations to Noah and his wife. What does you’re family do for a living”?
“A little bit of everything honestly. Dad and mom are both professional painters, my oldest brother Matt is a welder, Bear is a carpenter, Gabe makes furniture out of old pallets, Noah is a writer, Bird is training to be a vet tech in Hoonah, and Rhain is really big into fashion. Noah’s wife is in the process of publishing her third novel, and I’m the photographer.”
“Wow, that’s a lot to take in at once.”
“Yeah I know we’re a lot to take in at once. How did you hear about the gallery of you don’t mind me asking.”
My new host has started walking toward the next photo as he awaits my answer.
“My best friend actually, she kind of drug me here, to be honest.”
Joshua smiled as we stopped in front of an image of a massive bear.
“This was taken about sixty yards away from my parents home” he informs me as he places his hands in the pocket of his jeans. I glance down at my black dress and back up toward his casual outfit of jeans, a black t shirt, and boots. I mentally curse Amber as I register what he has just said.
“Wait, this thing was that close to your parent’s house!” is one again smiling at me.
“Yes, bears are common on our island. We see about six or seven a day.”
I’m about to respond when I hear my name being called. I quickly turn to see Amber jogging toward me, her heels are already off and in her hand.
“Come on Finely, I can’t find the photographer anywhere and my feet are killing me.”
“Well let me introduce you. Joshua this is Amber, Amber this is the photographer.”
I watch as my best friend sizes Joshua up, and I instantly know she’s not impressed.
“Well it was nice meeting you Josh, the pictures are lovely, but Finely and I need to get back to campus.”
I’m about to tell Amber off when Joshua beats me to the punchline.
“I believe Finley still has to see the rest of the exhibit. I can keep you company if you’d like.”
I can’t help the grin that is plastered to my face for multiple reasons. One, no one has ever told Amber off like that. Secondly, yes I would like for him to keep me company.
“Why yes, Mr. Brown that would be lovely. Amber, I’ll see you tomorrow okay?”
Before I know what’s happening Joshua has his hand on the small of my back and was directing me toward the net group of images. The were all taken from the families boat.
“Is that a whale?” Finley asked as she got a closer look at the photograph in front of her. The main focus of the shot had been the mountains in the background.
“I’m surprised you actually seen that, most people just see the mountain and move on” Bam laughed as he led her to the next image.
“Photography major remember. I always look for the rule of three.”
The evening seemed to be going by in a flash and before Finley knew it she and Joshua were back where they started with the portrait of Mr. Cupcake.
“Your work is really amazing! I’m really glad I got a chance to view it” Finley commented as she played with the end of her uncomfortable black dress. She had an amazing time just talking with Joshua about his work, she didn’t even realize there were only two or three other people still at the exhibit.
“Thank you, Miss McKenzie, it was an honor to be your escorts this evening. Not to mention being able to have an actual intelligent conversation with someone who knows photography.”
His comment made blood rush to Finley’s cheeks. What was it about this guy that was making her feel so comfortable.
“I hope I’m not being too forward, but I really enjoyed your company tonight. What would you say if I asked you to dinner tomorrow evening? Nothing so fancy that you would have to endure heels again, just something small so I can get to know more about you?”
“I would say tell me the restaurant and I’ll be there.”
Finley couldn’t help the joy that filled her when Joshua smiled at her answer.
“How about I pick you up at six, and we go from there?”
Finley reached into her pocketbook and found a scrap piece of paper. Quickly jotting down her address, she handed the piece of paper over to Joshua, who brushed his hand against hers.
“Until tomorrow night Miss McKenzie.”
“So you’re really going out on a date with this guy? You just met him, not to mention he was a little rude last night” Amber’s voice rang out through my dorm room as I buttoning my favorite pair of jeans.
“Yes I am really going on a date with him, and you were the one being an ass last night” I commented doing up the last button on my flannel shirt.
“What look are you going for exactly? Slutty lumberjack?” Amber snaps at me as I pull my hair up into a messy bun on top of my head.
“I’m going for the I have blisters on my feet from wearing stupid heels so I’m dressing comfortable look. I think I have it pulled off nicely.”
“Whatever, just don’t come crying to me when Mr. Photographer guy breaks your heart or knocks you up.” with that comment Amber buys her face in the latest issue of Cosmo, and I hear a knock come from our door. Taking one last quick look in the mirror, I grab the door handle and give it a turn.
He’s laughing the second I open the door. I quickly look down to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything important like shoes, or pants. Finding them both there I give him a questioning look.
“What’s so funny Joshua”?
“Please call me Bam, and nothing is funny Miss McKenzie, we are going to be twinning for the evening, however.”
I look Bam up and down and for the first time, I realize that we are both wearing dark jeans, a black band shirt, with a red flannel shirt on top. I can’t help but giggle at the sight of us.
“We’re going to look like a married hipster couple!” I state through my laughter. At least I like the band whose logo he is sporting on his chest. Bam’s arm comes from behind his back and he hands me a single white rose.
“Thought I would give you something to represent your Scottish ancestry” Bam comments as I take the rose from his hand, and carefully bring it up to my nose.
“Believe it or not, you’re the first guy who has ever given me a rose” I inform him as I step back into my dorm room welcoming Bam inside.
“Just let me put this in some water and we can go.” Bam is checking out the various prints I have hanging on the wall, completely ignoring the fact that Amber is ignoring him. Placing my solo cup full of water on my desk, I quickly drop the rose into it and turn to find Bam examining one of the shots I took at a local concert.
“You’re really talented when it comes to low light photography. The shot isn’t grainy at all.”
“Thanks, it was a show at a local pub one night. You ready to go?”
Bam nods and heads toward the door, he’s holding it open for me as I look back at my disgruntled best friend.
“Don’t wait up, I don’t know when I’ll be home”.
I’m answered with a thumbs up over her magazine. Rolling my eyes I walk out of my dorm and into the hallway, which is starting to fill up with the usual party goers.
“Sorry about Amber, she s just been in a bad mood the past few days”.
“I couldn’t tell at all” Bam lies as we head out of my building and toward a cab.
There’s a line wrapped around the restaurant when we arrive.
“Oh man, we are going to be waiting for hours” I comment, already feeling bad for my blistered feet.
“Nonsense, I’ve not only made reservations, but I know the owner”
Bam smiles as we get out of the cab and he takes my hand. Mine feels tiny and minuscule compared to his large callused covered one. My mind automatically goes to how that hand would feel in other places.
Stop thinking like that or you’re going to get yourself worked up my subconscious is screaming at me as we make our way to the front of the line. I try my best to ignore the sneers we are receiving from the other customers. Obviously, we didn’t dress up enough to be here. The bouncer type guy who is standing in front of the door seems to be having the same thoughts as he looks us up and down before staring at Bam.
“Can I help you sir? ” the guard asks with a look of boredom on his face.
“Ye, Joshua Brown, and Finley McKenzie” Bam’s voice is full dominance as he stares back at the guy, his hand now resting on the small of my back.
The guard rolls his eyes and brings a clipboard in front of his face. Three seconds later his demeanor has changed. He is now standing up straight, and unclipping the belt that blocks the entrance.
“Sorry about your wait Mr. Brown, right this way please.” Bam lets me walk in first and I am completely flabbergasted that we got in just like that, no arguing, name calling, or fighting at all.
The restaurant is beautiful, the majority of the art on the wall is black and white, which with the low light setting gives this place a very intimate feeling. We are quickly escorted to one of the tables that are set on a higher level, there may be three more couples up here, all of them seem to be lost in their own little worlds.
Bam pulls out my seat and quickly sit down, a little embarrassed at the attention he is giving me. No man has ever treated me like this and I honestly don’t know how to react to him. The moment we are seated the waiter is at our table, asking what we would like to drink.
“I’ll just have a sweet tea please” I speak up while Bam informs him a water Coke would be perfect.
“So how has your day been” he questions as we get comfortable.
“It was fine, I had class from nine until four. The stress of graduation is starting to kick in and I am trying my best not to pull my hair out.”
“Please don’t do that, I love your hair, not to mention I wouldn’t be able to pull…”
The waiter returns with our drinks and asks if we are ready to order. I quickly glance at the menu and order the first thing I see. Chicken tenders and fries. Yes, I am an adult but I am a big kid at heart. Bam laughs and orders the same. We both ignore the weird look we are getting from the waiter.
“Mr. Lundquist would like me to inform you he will be out sometime this evening to say hello” the waiter informs Bam as he takes our menu’s and leaves the table.
“Yes, the friend of mine, and the owner. I did some work for him when he was opening up the place. Took photos for his socials, menus, all of that stuff. Now you were saying graduation stress?”
“Yeah I have a little over a week before finals, and I am stressing so much. I need to make at least a B on my final project in order for me to graduate with honors, and I am worried it’s not going to happen.”
“Is there anything I can help with?” Bam questions as he twirls his straw around in his drink, but not breaking eye contact with me,
“Actually, if you wanted to look at the shots I will be presenting that would be awesome. The requirement is they all be black and white and let’s face it you have a knack for that.”
“I would love too, what’s the project about?
“It’s actually about poverty. We had to document what poverty looked like in our hometowns. So I had to go back to North Carolina for a weekend.”
“You’re not from Massachusetts? Bam questions as our waiter returns and places our plates in front of us.
“Nope, I moved up here when I was sixteen, and never turned back to that hell hole.”
I didn’t miss the way Bam’s eyebrows furrowed at my last comment.
“What did you have to do while you were back there?” he asks he begins to pour ketchup on his plate.
“Well, I actually lived and volunteered at a homeless shelter for the weekend. I was able to see how the less fortunate lived, and get my project done all without seeing my horrible family.”
I don’t miss the fact that Bam drops a piece of chicken at the mention of me staying in a homeless shelter. To be honest it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. That’s how I survived when I moved up north until I could get a job, and into college.
“Do you want to tell me about why you left at such a young age?”
I shook my head and took a bite of my chicken.
“I honestly don’t like talking about it. Maybe one day okay?”
Bam nods and quickly changes the subject. I guess he could see how uncomfortable I was. As Bam is about to speak a man with a beard and the most adorable smile comes to our table.
“Bam it’s so nice to see you again! How have you been? I heard about the gallery, wish I could have made it but this place would go into a frenzy without me” the man comments as Bam stands up to pull him into a hug.
“I’ve been doing good, the gallery has a few more days if you get a chance to swing by. This is my lovely date Finley McKenzie, Finley, this is Austin Lundquist”.
Austin takes my hand in his and places a kiss on the back of it.
“The pleasure is all mine ma’am. How is dinner? Is there anything I can get for you”?
“Dinner is wonderful Mr. Lundquist, and I do believe we are all okay here” I smile at this guy who reminds me of a huggable teddy bear.
“Excellent, if you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask, Bam it was good seeing you again. I’ll let you know where we’re redoing our menu so you can come down okay?”
Bam quickly nods his head and hugs his friend goodbye.
“He’s a hyper fellow isn’t he?”
Bam nodded as he once again took his seat and took a drink from his water glass.
“Yeah but he’s a great guy and he’s really passionate about his work. This is his third restaurant I think. I know for sure he has one in Louisiana and Arizona.”
I nod and go back to work on my dinner. I may not look like it but I can pack some food away, and as good as this stuff is I’ll be finished in five minutes.
The rest of dinner goes by in a blur as I sit and get to know Bam more. He tells me about how he got into photography, what his family has been up to while he has been out with his gallery, and then we get on the subject of books. This debate lasts all the way back to my dorm. I honestly haven’t laughed this much in so long and it feels so weird to be this happy. Our current debate, ebook vs paper.
“All I’m saying is that with an ebook I can have an entire library in the palm of my hand. Not to mention all the fan fiction that’s out there.”
At the mention of fanfiction Bam wrinkles his nose.
“I’m not really a fan of it, to be honest. I mean if the character is fictional I guess I could see it, but when the person is real. It makes it kinda creepy.”
I can’t hold back my laughter as the thoughts of all those fanfictions I wrote before college about me running off with various rock stars and actors I had crushes on all come flooding back to me. Yepp, that’s going to be a secret I take to the grave. Bam walks me up to my dorm room, stating that he doesn’t trust the delinquents who were filling the hallway earlier. I’m standing outside my door, digging for my keys when I feel a hand fall on my waist. I turn to see Bam is al close as he has been all evening. I can smell the Juicy Fruit he has been chewing since we left the restaurant. I can’t seem to make my eyes look anywhere but at his lips.
“Finley” he purrs my name, and I am instantly put under his spell.
“Tonight was one of the best nights I’ve had since I left Alaska. There’s just something about you I can’t get off my mind.
Breathe woman breathe! I think to myself as Bam steps closer. Our bodies are practically touching. I get the courage to look up and I’m not disappointed by the look in his eyes. Without thinking, I stand on my tip toes and bring my lips up to his. The instant they touch I feel a jolt of desire course through my body, and as cliche, as it sounds I want more of him. His hands quickly come up to cup my face, and the next thing I know I’m being pressed back against the wall, with this feral hunk of man on top of me. My heart feels like it’s racing a thousand miles a minute and I don’t want the source of the speed to stop. My hands go to the hem of Bam’s shirt and he quickly pulls back from our kiss.
I instantly stop what I’m doing as we both catch our breath.
“You don’t know how bad I want too. But not like this. I want to cherish every inch of you, and not in a dorm hallway.” he grins as he runs his thumb over my lips.
“I’m leaving for home in a week. Will you come with me?”
I don’t know what possessed me but as soon as the question is out of his mouth my arms are going around his neck and I am screaming yes over and over.
“The second my last final is over I am all yours, Mr. Brown.”
Bam grins and leans down for another kiss.
“I love the way you make my name sound” he smiles before our lips meet again.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or where I am going to end up. But I know one thing, Bam Brown is going to be at my side until the end.