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Authors: Susana Falcon

Tags: #Romance

A Half Dozen Fools (4 page)

BOOK: A Half Dozen Fools
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"Huh?" Judy looked puzzled, as if an allusion to business in the middle of her personal drama had thrown her off track. "What movie?"

"I don't know what it's called. But on my way to work this morning one of the techies told me it stars Kyle Langdon and Kiel Knight."

Judy frowned. "Kyle Langdon and Kiel...that's kinda weird, doncha think, the two stars have the same name?"

Elyse giggled. "Yeah, it is kind of funny, isn't it? Like, the male-female versions...yin-yang kind of thing. Well, anyway--what d'you think? It's a little warmer now. I don't mind standing out there. I mean, if you want me to."

Judy frowned. "There's no more flyers! We used 'em all up, last week."

The harsh tone of Judy's voice pointed up how badly she needed her elixir for blunting the morning edge.

"Okay, Judy," Elyse said in a soothing voice. "Only making a suggestion..."

"But just hold on a minute," Judy said. "I'm just sayin,' we have none left. You can give 'em out, but you got to get more copies first. We still got the original design from the last one I made. I always keep 'em on file in the folder by the register."

Relieved at an excuse to finally break away, Elyse agreed to take the original and have new copies made. Without a printer in the Make-Up Place, she'd become quite adept at jogging across the street to the copy shop whenever they were needed.

As Judy resumed her harangue against her ungrateful daughters, Elyse pulled on her overcoat and headed for the door. She passed through the retail area with Judy at her heels still talking a blue streak.

When Elyse stopped to button her coat, Judy veered behind the counter and snatched up the file by the register. Rifling through her flyer designs, she picked one out and placed it on the countertop. Elyse glanced at it while pulling on her gloves and grimaced. The hastily executed letters in black marker weren't straight, and the lips and eyes Judy had drawn were a childish scrawl. Elyse forced to keep distaste from showing on her face.

While Judy took cash out of the register drawer, Elyse looked into the spa area hoping Carla would look over. When she glanced up from the manicure she was giving, she wrinkled her nose in silent greeting. Elyse made a goofy face, and Carla chuckled in response.

Judy slapped money down on the countertop.

"I need the receipt, don't forget."

"Sure, Judy," Elyse chirped gaily. "Of course. Be right back!"

* * * *

A man in a baseball cap and flight jacket happened to be right outside the Make-Up Place when Elyse stepped onto the sidewalk. The name tag around his neck identified him as a member of the movie crew. Elyse made sure Judy wasn't watching through the window before she went over to him. He was coaching guys moving equipment into the alleyway through the iron gates, next door. When he glanced over, Elyse smiled.

"Hi. Is it okay if I watch for a minute?"

The man shrugged. "Sure." He casually explained how they were setting up the first of several shots in the alleyway just outside the building. Between lighting and angles, it could be pretty time-consuming.

"So," Elyse asked, "are you, like, in charge of all this?"

He chuckled. "I'm not in charge, no. Just an AD." He tapped his badge. "Second Assistant Director. I have my moments though."

Elyse nodded. "Cool." After a minute she thanked him. "I better get going--see ya later!"

He gave her a sly smile. "I'll be around here, someplace."

She wondered if he mistakenly thought she was hitting on him.

Crossing Fifty-Fifth, Elyse hoped to catch a glimpse of one of the stars, or at least their makeup artists. Craning her neck to scope out the nearest trailer, she tripped on the edge of the curb and merely scuffed the toe of her favorite black suede pumps.

The door to the old copy shop stuck terribly sometimes. Today, the inside bells over the door jingled and jangled while Elyse nudged against it. When she finally rammed her shoulder hard enough, the door unexpectedly released, and she tumbled ungracefully inside.

"Oh," she said out loud, "what an entrance!"

When she pushed the door to a close, the inside bells clanged loudly again. She looked around to see if anyone had caught her noisy arrival, expecting at least the gangly, freckle-faced kid who normally worked there. If there were no customers, he could usually be found leaning on the front counter absorbed in his droid. But the counter was devoid of both the freckle-faced kid and customers alike. In fact, the store was strangely silent with not a soul in sight.

Elyse figured the kid was in the back and would be out in just a minute. So she went over to her favorite section where tools of the artist were kept on display. There, shelf upon shelf of assorted papers and pads and pens and pastels and paints and brushes beckoned her attention. She feasted her eyes upon them until she remembered she was on a mission for the Make-Up Place. Tiptoeing up to the counter, she looked to see if the kid was in the office behind it. Instead of the kid, she was struck by the sight of a dark-haired man standing in the doorway.

With a stack of papers stuffed under one arm, he perused a document in his other hand. His face was cast downward while dark waves of hair obscured his features. This was hardly the freckle-faced kid she'd expected to see, so Elyse stood there staring. She was surprised when the man suddenly looked up and met her gaze, his dark pupils sharp behind black, trendy eyeglasses.

Time seemed to evaporate while Elyse stood there mutely gauging the stranger's presence. She thought he possessed an air of intelligence and intensity, although she wondered if he wasn't perhaps too handsome to really be all that smart.

Muscular beneath a rust-colored sweater and corduroy slacks, he had strong facial features and smooth, tan skin. His mussed hair looked as if he'd been running a hand through it, until he'd gotten caught up reading that document he was holding.

While he stood there staring back, Elyse had the impression she'd invaded his space. She smiled, awaiting the appropriate greeting of a clerk toward a customer. When he said nothing, she became self-conscious. Finally, she dropped the smile, cleared her throat, and aimed for a professional demeanor.

"Hello. Uh--where's the kid who usually works here?"

"Who's that?"

"The kid with the freckles? I think his name is Donnie."

"He isn't here today."

"Right, I can see that. I was just wondering...I mean, he's usually the one who's here, you know? And makes copies for me. Us. For the Make-Up Place. Usually... But, well, you're here, now, so of course, you can make them...obviously."

The dark-haired man raised his eyebrows in amusement. "Well, miss, I'll be more than happy to oblige you, and hopefully I'll be able to match the standard you've come to expect from the Copy Shop and our noteworthy employee, Donnie Broward."

Elyse decided to bypass the sarcasm in his voice. She puffed herself up and assumed a superior air. "Oh, so you
do
know Donnie?"

"Yes, I know Donnie boy, all right. He's been transferred to the upper West Side store, which is closer to where he lives."

Elyse swallowed, unsure about the host of emotions that had suddenly grabbed hold of her. Annoyance, intimidation, and attraction were among them, although she couldn't quite find a winner.

"Well, Mister Copy-guy-of-the-moment," she said tartly. "Maybe
you
could help me then."

The intensity of the guy's aura suddenly evaporated into laughter. "Mister Copy-guy-of-the-moment," he repeated. "Oh, that's rich! That's great." He came forward, slapped the stack of papers he'd been holding on top of the counter and reached out a hand. "Hi. I'm Keb Fineman. And you are?"

Elyse wasn't sure why, but she felt like smacking him. Gingerly, she returned his handshake.

"Elyse Wazinski," she said. "I'm the in-house makeup artist at the Make-Up Center. Over there, across the street."

She pulled her hand away quickly, in spite how pleasantly warm his palm felt against hers.

She cleared her throat again. "Just to warn you... You'll no doubt see me often enough over the course of time, making copies of these cheesy flyers my boss designs--not me. In fact, I have to wonder how many people actually come into our place based on the artwork, which you can see here. Of course, God forbid she ask
me
to make one, even though I taught art four years before moving to the city..."

Unsure as to why she was suddenly talking so much, she chuckled nervously. "Well, at least she leaves the faces to me! Anyway, here's the flyer."

The man examined the sheet she placed on the counter before him. "Mm," he mumbled, "I'd have to wonder, too..."

"What's that?"

"Nothing," he said quickly. "No, that's fine, whatever you want."

"What?" she asked defensively.

"Nothing," he said. Amusement shone in his expression, however. "Nothing at all, Elyse Wazinski. Ours is not to judge."

She couldn't tell if he agreed that her boss's work was schlock, or if he actually thought Judy's tacky design merited public display. Her inability to fully read him put her on edge, and she wondered if she'd said too much. She took on a haughtier air than she'd meant to in keeping defensiveness at bay.

"What did you say your name was?"

He tapped his name badge. "Still is. Keb."

"What?"

"You asked what my name
was
--I said it still
is
, Keb...joke."

Elyse scowled and wanted to make a clever comeback, but all she could think of was, "Keb? What kind of name is Keb?"

"My mother's foray into Egyptology while she was pregnant with me. Keb is, 'The god upon whose back all trees and foliage grow.' Or, something along those lines."

"How poetic. Or hairy!"

Keb looked deadpan at Elyse. "Which would you say?"

"What?"

"Would you say it's poetic or hairy?"

Elyse gulped and felt her cheeks burn, unsure as to why she was so embarrassed, all of a sudden. "Well, I'm sure I don't know. I mean, how could I?"

The grin that spread over Keb's face made her even more annoyed. She resented him enjoying the discomfort she was feeling. And, if she wasn't mistaken, he was laughing at her, too!

"Listen, if you don't mind, Keb, Egyptian god of forests and trees, or whatever? I have to make those copies for my boss, Judy, who's bound to wonder where in hell I am, if I don't get back, soon. Especially since I already spent time yakking with an AD out there on the movie set."

Something in Keb suddenly flared. His energy shifted drastically, as if his thoughts were now consumed in a psychic raze of fire. Elyse flinched, afraid he might burst into flames. She blinked, wondering what had set him off. In seconds, however, he resumed a placid countenance, the threat of combustion vanished.

"Right," he said slowly, "the Todd Dawson thing."

"The--who? Oh--the movie. It stars Kyle Langdon and Kiel Knight."

"I'm talking the director."

"Oh, right," Elyse said cheerily, "the guy in charge."

Again, something powerful flashed behind Keb's dark pupils. Waves of heat seemed to ebb off his body, and Elyse feared that whatever was going on in his head would annihilate him from the inside out. Again, he resumed a tranquil air, and the intense passion that had glowered behind his eyes softened to a warm and chocolaty glow.

"So," Elyse asked warily, "you know him, this director?"

"Nah," Keb said dismissively, "just something I read." He grinned and switched gears. "All right, Miss Wazinski. How many copies of this masterpiece would you like?"

Elyse chuckled. "A hundred-fifty will do. Don't want to flood the market and deplete its value."

He cracked up laughing, placed the flyer on the copy machine, and set it to action.

Once the copies were finished, Elyse paid and left the shop.

* * * *

As she crossed the street on her way back to work, Elyse was oblivious to Keb watching her through the panes of the shop's swollen door.
Exactly what I don't need.
Some pretty girl to come along and mess things up.

But he couldn't tear his eyes away. When her long, dark hair caught the breeze, he admired its beautiful luster against the day's grayish pallor and let his imagination go.

He pictured streams of sunlight drawn to the crown of her head, where it gathered with her own inner light to make her luminescent, creating a halo around her body. He envisioned himself reaching through that halo to plunge his hands into her thick hair, entwining it around his fists, urging her face toward his. His mouth twisted with longing as he imagined her lips kissing his, their mouths opening into each other, united in the heat of passion and need--

He stopped himself cold.

Careful, Fineman
.
You've got a plan to follow with no room for error. No matter how perky, no matter how cute.

Immediately, he practiced the deep breathing he'd learned from meditation during a lifetime of martial arts training.
Cleansing breath in--one, two, three--then out, slowly--two, three. Again: in--one, two, three--and out, two, three...

Within seconds his mind had cleared away all distractions, including that of Elyse Wazinski. He turned away from the door and went back to reorganize the files left in disarray from his uncle's hasty departure.

* * * *

Elyse blew through the door brandishing the flyers. Wrapped in a thick, black overcoat, Judy was standing by the retail counter talking to a slender woman in a mid-calf tube dress and matching brown boots.

"Here she is now!" Judy blurted loudly. "Elyse, meet Kiel Knight's makeup artist." Gurgling with excitement, she hissed, "Kiel is in the spa getting a bikini wax from Carla!"

Elyse glanced toward the woman. If she wasn't mistaken, the woman's half-smile was tinged with forced patience.

"How do you do?" Elyse said politely. "Sorry--let me take off my glove."

The fortyish woman returned Elyse's handshake and have her a gracious smile. "Hi. I'm Natalie."

Thin and lightly tanned, Natalie wore little makeup aside from lipstick and a bit of eye pencil, yet she was very attractive. Elyse admired her simple but stylish attire and overall look.

BOOK: A Half Dozen Fools
7.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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