As much as Tamara enjoyed sleeping in, there was no way in the world she was going to do so today. One of the reasons she enjoyed visiting Charlotte was the breathtaking views she bore witness to every day on the Dollar. Her camera became an extension of her arm every time she was here, and today was no exception.
It was barely past six, but she was already up, dressed, and heading out the door. Her camera was loaded and ready, with a spare roll of film in her pocket. As quietly as she could, she walked downstairs, mindful of waking anyone else in the house. Of course, the second she stepped outside and spotted the dozen or so people already hard at work, she instantly felt stupid. Just because six o'clock seemed like an ungodly hour to her, didn't mean the rest of the world felt that way.
Amused by her lack of knowledge, she shook her head and headed down the front porch, stepping into the sheer beauty of the great outdoors. Walking out the front door was like entering another world. She was amazed at the beauty around her. With camera in hand and at the ready, she took off in a southerly direction, heading toward the rear of the house where she knew the horses were sometimes freed to run to their hearts' content in the confinement of the fenced pasture.
Although she would rather eat a horse than admit to having a fascination with the large beasts, she couldn't quite hide her excitement at photographing the animal in its truest form, running with its herd as if it were as free as its ancestors had been. Horses galloping with the wind whipping through their manes were just something she didn't see much of in Los Angeles.
In fact, city life in general didn't often allow her to enjoy an unimpeded view of glorious sunrises or the simple quiet of the country. Nor did it afford her the opportunity to see a god riding a horse.
When she rounded the corner off the house, Tamara came up short and stared in surprise at Russell on a chestnut-colored horse, galloping around the dusty corral. The man and animal moved in perfect harmony, as if they were melded together. The hell he wasn't a cowboy. She'd seen enough Clint Eastwood movies to know the real deal when she saw it.
What surprised her most, though, wasn't the sight of the man on the horse, but the fact that she was able to recognize him, despite the several feet that separated them or the black hat worn low on his brow. He was the type of man whose very persona demanded recognition. And although she continually told herself that he wasn't her type, she still found herself drawn to him.
Damn it, she didn't do cowboys. That was Charlotte's thing, not hers. Tamara was more of a blue-collar, rough-brother kind of girl, not that that had gotten her very far in life. But still, she wasn't looking to take a ride out on the range, with Little Joe and Adam.
Then again, there was no harm in looking, or staring, or drooling, just as long as no one noticed. Not that she'd be the first woman ever caught salivating over a man in tight jeans and a hat. Wait a minute. She wasn't the only one. With a new naughty determination, she headed over to the corral with a purpose in mind. She was going to take his picture. Lots of them. And maybe, just maybe, if she was lucky, she would finally have something worth hanging in a gallery. And if Lilith hung her photos, people would buy them.
Praying the fence would support her weight, she climbed up on it and seated herself on the top rung. With agility she didn't know she possessed, she balanced her big rear end on the fence and took her hand off the wooden beam, wrapping it around the body of her Nikon to support the lightweight camera.
With her eyes on the prize, she took a deep breath, steadied her hand, and aimed, shooting several pictures in rapid succession. The action shots showcased the pure athleticism of the man. Of course, she couldn't help but also capture his rugged good looks.
Russell clicked his heels against the horse's side causing him to switch directions and head toward her. She took a few more pictures of him riding toward her before lowering the camera.
When he stopped a few feet away from her, she spoke, "Hey, cowboy."
With the tip of his index finger, he tilted the brim of his hat up, enabling her to peer deep into the emerald pools of his eyes. "Ansel Adams, my how you've changed."
"Something in the water."
"I'd say." He nodded his head at her camera. "Do you have a license for that thing or merely a learner's permit?"
"Full-fledged license." She raised the camera a bit as she spoke with pride about her baby. "I can parallel park this beauty like nobody's business."
"I bet you can." His upper lip twitched a bit as if he was biting back his laughter. "What are you doing up so early?"
Damn, he was cute. "Taking in the scenery." She brought the camera up more, aligned the viewer with her eye, and took a picture of him, before lowering the camera once more. "What about you?"
"Working my girl out." He ran his hand down the horse's dark brown mane. The loving way he caressed the animal made Tamara want to prance and neigh, just to get a sample of his touch. Wait! What! Did she really just think that? "Since I only get to see her on the weekends, I have to pay her a little attention so she doesn't get it in her head I'm stepping out on her."
"We wouldn't want that, now would we?"
"No, we wouldn't." He smiled in that irresistibly devastating way of his that just made her trigger finger itch. And if she, a dark-skinned, brother-loving, city-dwelling girl, wanted to pull his shirt up and wipe the sweat from his body with her panties ... while she was still wearing them, then other women with less crazy notions would simply melt.
The images of money and naked cowboys danced in her head. Inspired, she flashed him what she hoped was a charming grin, and said, "Why don't you do a couple of tricks for me on that pony of yours, so I can take some pictures? I'll immortalize you." She eyed him thoughtfully. "Anyone ever tell you you're too pretty to live?"
From the way his eyes widened, she could tell she'd shocked him. "No, I can honestly say that's never come up in conversation."
And they were the lesser for it in her book. "You should let me photograph you."
"You are," he said drily.
"No, I mean really. Like in my studio." Under bright lights while you wear nothing but your hat and a smile.
"Studio, with like cheesy backdrops and wagon wheels?"
"No wheels. No cheesy backdrops."
"Umm ... no."
"What are you afraid of?" she challenged. "I thought you mentioned something yesterday about your being able to"--she paused, as if searching for the right word--"handle me."
"Then what's there to worry about?"
Russell threw back his head and laughed. He took off his hat and slapped it on his thigh, stirring up the dust before slapping it back on his head.
"Do you really think you're going to back me into a corner and make me change my mind? I'm a lawyer, Tamara, or did you forget?"
"You're not a lawyer. You're a cowboy. The sooner you realize it, the better off we both will be." And the sooner she'd get her photos.
"Just when I'm out here."
"I don't think so." There was a lot Tamara didn't know about this lifestyle, but something told her that being a cowboy wasn't something someone just turned on and off at will. It was something inbred in their DNA, like eye color and male pattern baldness. She brought the camera back up to her eye. "Why don't you put that thing in reverse and unbutton a few of those buttons for me?"
"I'm quite sure you're treading the lines of sexual harassment here."
Tamara tilted her head to the side and studied him. "What's your point?"
"Good day, Ms. Tamara."
"Aww, come on," she whined, while with a flick of his wrist he put the horse back in motion and galloped away. "This isn't over, cowboy," she muttered, lowering the camera once more. "Far from it."
Tamara wasn't one to let anything stand in her way once she had her mind made up, and she definitely had her mind made up about him and her cowboy photos. Now all she had to do was convince him and the cuties around the Dollar to pose for her.
It was going to be a piece of cake.