But I was too logical to believe that line. I did like him more and more. So much more that my heart was dancing as we made plans to meet outside the hospital when my shift ended.
My mind was no longer occupied with the director. Good guys like William had a way of making bad guys like Brock fall from my head.
Keats had secured a table on the deck at Rosanna’s Hideout. I spotted him as I walked down the promenade, his mirrored shades covering his eyes. He seemed to relish playing the role of young businessman about to close a deal at lunch, like the rest of this whole town. At the entryway of the restaurant, a large potted fern had been conveniently placed. The owner of Rosanna’s Hideout must have known that the restaurant would benefit if paparazzi had an easy hideout from which to snap photos of the stars seated at the tables.
I told the high-cheekboned maître d’ presiding at the podium that I was joining Keats Wharton.
“Right this way,” the handsome and sure-to-be-aspiring-something man said, and led me to Keats’s table. Keats stood up, beamed knowingly, and held out a hand. An eager fellow, he gave me a big, gregarious shake. I’d texted him last night with a report on the success of the mission.
I sat down and Keats gestured to a menu.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said.
“I was going to order a pear and walnut salad, hold the walnuts. Are you sure you don’t want something?”
“I ate on campus,” I said, lying, but not caring. I had an energy bar in my backpack, but I was also skilled in holding out when it came to food. I could easily wait until I returned to my apartment that evening. Besides, you never knew who was watching, and I didn’t want to wind up like any of my subjects.
No eating on camera. No tables turned here, thank you very much.
When the waiter came by, Keats ordered his nut-free bed of lettuce and a glass of seltzer water, and I asked for an iced tea.
“Lunch of champions,” Keats remarked after the waiter left. We chatted about the restaurant and LA, then he rubbed his hands together and grinned again. “But enough of that. I’m dying to see what you have.”
“I believe you’ll be pleased.” I unzipped my backpack, and reached for the manila envelope with the printouts of the photos I’d taken. “Just a little sampler for you. I also have a draft saved in my email of the file transfer link. I’ll send it to you as soon as we’re all set.”
He undid the clasp on the envelope and gingerly pulled out the photos, looking around to make sure no one else was copping a peek at his ten thousand dollar investment. As he surveyed the images, his eyes widened and his lips curved up. His reddish cheeks grew even brighter. “Nice,” he said as if he were salivating on the word. He emitted a brief laugh, the sort of satisfied chuckle you hear in a movie when a hit’s been carried out properly and to completion.
“I believe we are all set, Jess.”
It was my turn to smile. A satisfied client was the only kind I wanted to have. “Great. I’m glad you’re happy.”
He tucked the prints back in their home as the waiter brought my iced tea and his seltzer water. He opened his tablet case, removed an envelope, and handed me the rest of the bills. I said a quick thanks out loud, then a silent hallelujah in my head, before I tucked the money into my backpack. I emailed him the link to the rest of the photos.
“Any idea where I’ll see them later?” I asked. “I’m always curious where the photos wind up.”
Keats’s mouth hung open for a few seconds, and when he finally spoke, he talked slowly, like he’d been caught off guard. “Um. Yeah. No. I don’t know yet. But I’ll let you know for sure.” Then he sped up. “Definitely tonight. I’m gonna get these babies out soon. Actually, scratch that. This afternoon.”
“I’ll just keep my eyes open. And keep me in mind for other assignments,” I said, because I’d happily work for Keats Wharton again. Turned out, he hadn’t been lying when he’d said the job was relatively easy. Almost too easy, but it paid easy money, too, and that was my favorite kind.
“You are at the top of my Rolodex at A Thousand Words, Jess.”
His salad arrived shortly, and we made painful small talk for the next thirty minutes. I feigned interest in the health benefits of chia seeds and the fine details of his workout regimen. When the check arrived, I offered to pay, but he waved me off. I excused myself for the ladies’ room. Grabbing a toothbrush from the front pocket of my backpack and a small travel-size tube of toothpaste, I proceeded to brush my teeth for the third time that day. When I finished I pressed my teeth together, and considered my pearly whites in the mirror. Nice and straight and clean, just the way a set of teeth should be. Everything was good in the world of dental care. At least one thing was under control and in order.