Her Secret Protector(2)

By: Roxanne Snopek



The message was probably a hoax. Her website looked fine and – she took a quick scan through the rest of her emails – no other alarming emails. A scam, likely. And she’d fallen for it.

She went back to editing the Kauffman family photos, shaking her head at her unnecessary panic, glad no one was around to see it. Her mom’s tightly-wound overprotectiveness came out of love, she knew that, but it hadn’t achieved what she’d intended.

Thank goodness for Grandpa Nate, who’d always treated her like an ordinary person. The Jackson clan might be messy and sprawling, but as far as Carrie was concerned, it was preferable to the Logan side of her family.

Carrie pulled her thoughts away from the mine-laden subject of her family, focusing instead on the Kauffmans. Despite being a friendly bunch, the shoot had been a challenge. The dad and kids looked fine no matter how Carrie arranged them, but it was the mother who’d decide whether or not Forever Yours Photography was worth the sitting fee and unfortunately, no amount of editing could make Rita Kauffman look the way she wanted in photos.

Which was sad, because objectively speaking, the mother was very attractive, with lovely eyes, graceful bone structure and elegant coloring. The fact that she was overweight didn’t detract from any of this. However, her obvious discomfort with her weight did.

Rita Kauffman wanted to look younger and thinner, of course. That was a given. But something about the quality of her smile and the way she held her shoulders suggested to Carrie that inside that comfortable, respected, expected matron persona was someone… lush. Sensual. Open to life.

Carrie knew it was in there. The trick, the magic, was finding it.

No, she reminded herself. You don’t do those pictures anymore.

She switched to the set of candid shots she’d gotten of the boy on the swing, his head thrown back, his blonde hair flying in the breeze. Cute kid. Josiah. Then she pulled up the ones she’d taken of the mom as she watched her son. Lines softened, nerves lifted, eyes brightened. Pride and joy.

These, she thought, her breath quickening.

Time disappeared as Carrie cropped and framed, making the subtle adjustments in color and contrast that brought out the natural beauty of her subjects. Even days later she could feel the ease flowing between these parents and their children like an electric hum or sun-warmed lake water among smooth beach stones. There wasn’t much family resemblance; maybe the kids were adopted.

Perhaps that was the difference. Some people chose family; others – her own parents perhaps? – had family thrust upon them.

Ah, here was the winner. She pulled up a shot of Josiah jumping from the swing, frozen mid-leap, reaching for his mother at the same time she reached for him, the sun illuminating them like a blessing.

These were the images she loved best. The true moments, nothing posed. All she had to do was let them be, hovering quietly and unobtrusively around the edges.

Carrie was good at hovering in the background.

She pushed away from her desk, then reached up and stretched her arms, yawning widely.

A crash sounded from upstairs. Belinda.

Carrie jumped to her feet and raced up the stairs, still clad in her shortie pajamas. Feeding time at the zoo.

“Bad girl,” she scolded. Belinda blinked up at her from the kitchen table, below which lay the remains of a water glass. Six pounds of whiskers and attitude, and she ruled the house.

After finding shoes, cleaning up the glass, wiping the spill and feeding the cat, Carrie took a quick shower, got dressed and once more, went downstairs to work.

She checked her email again, then clicked onto her website, just to make sure. Still fine. Still lovely.

On a whim, thinking of the warning from GoDaddy, she Googled Carrie Logan Photography and hit Images. She probably should have done it right off the bat. There was one vault, after all, that she should have thought of immediately.

The response was immediate, overwhelming and devastating.

The coffee in her stomach curdled. She couldn’t feel her feet. A rushing sound filled her ears.

No, she thought, scrolling through the images while the mouse jumped and jerked in her hand. This can’t be.

But oh, it was. Pictures of herself, in all her glory. A decade younger, with different hair and cleverly shot with shadows and gauzy filters, but definitely her.

And mostly, but not entirely, naked.

*

The naughty bits were covered. As if that would matter.

Carrie couldn’t tear her eyes away from the screen as the images loaded onto her screen.

Password protected images. And not just of her, but of other women. She’d developed quite a clientele, in San Francisco. Goddess pictures, they called them. Or boudoir photos. Sexy ones for boyfriends or husbands, sweet ones of new babies at their mothers’ breasts, or those of courageous women preparing for mastectomies, wanting to remember their bodies before surgery.

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