When I look up, Victoria is still standing in the same spot she was when I started taking pictures of her, a strange look of indecision on her face now, almost like she can’t decide if she wants to see what I see or she’s too afraid to.
Smiling, I beckon her closer again, laughing when she lets out a huff and finally walks over. When she’s close enough, I reach over and slip a finger through the belt loop of her jeans, tugging her even closer.
“Come see what I see,” I whisper, my mouth at her ear.
She shivers a little and I notice goosebumps on her arm as I angle my body behind hers, turning the camera toward her and start moving through the photos I took. I start from the beginning; the pictures she didn’t realize I was taking and where she isn’t even looking at the camera.
In these shots, she’s standing in the middle of the road, looking over her shoulder, a light wind lifting her hair as the sun shines down around her. She looks fucking gorgeous, and shit am I glad Aiden gave me an excuse to photograph the woman I am so obsessed with like this.
Dressed in all black, she stands out amongst the colored buildings, but it’s more than that. It’s the way she stands there, right in the middle of the street, her couldn’t give a shit attitude so clearly on display. It’s one of my favorite things about her and I love that I’ve finally managed to capture it.
Victoria doesn’t say anything as I slowly flick through the images, showing her what I see.
Not until I get to the final one, my favorite, anyway.
In this shot, she’s still standing in the middle of the road, only this time she’s looking directly into the camera, directly at me. Her eyes are wide and bluer than I ever remember them being and her black and purple hair shines in the sun. But it’s the tiny smile that tugs at her mouth that really gets me.
It’s a smile that suggests she’s got a secret. A dirty little secret that she’s thinking about right at this exact moment as she watches me photograph her. As she watches me capture her like this.
And fuck me, it’s seriously hot as hell.
“Fuck,” she breathes out.
Smiling, I lean closer, my nose in her hair as I inhale deeply. “Gorgeous.”
“Ed, how…I mean how the fuck did you do this?”
Chuckling, I run my nose along her ear before reluctantly pulling back. “This is what you look like, Victoria. I didn’t have to do anything.”
“Bullshit,” she murmurs, her eyes still on the screen. “It’s not—”
“Yes, it is,” I say, moving around and tipping her face up to mine. “You, Victoria, are fucking gorgeous.”
She stares up at me, those amazing blue eyes locked with mine and her full lips parted ever so slightly and begging for me to kiss them. And fuck me, do I want to, so badly.
But this is it, this is the day I go big and hopefully finally get that yes I’ve been longing to hear ever since we started this game. So, I don’t kiss her, instead, dragging my thumb ever so slowly along her bottom lip as I smile and say, “Come on, let’s go.”
Our next stop is a pub, The Churchill Arms, which also gives us the perfect excuse to stop and grab some lunch and a couple of pints. It also helps kill some time, because even though I have a ton of places to photograph for Aiden, I also need to fill the day. Need to keep Victoria with me until it gets dark and I can finally unleash my go big plan on her.
“So, what’s this movie of Aiden’s about anyway?” Victoria asks as I take a seat opposite her, sliding a pint of lager across the table toward her.
I lift my Guinness and wait for her to tap her glass against mine before taking a sip. “It’s some crime heist thing,” I tell her. “It’s got some retro flashbacks to the nineties apparently.”
Victoria sips her beer, nodding. “So, is this the kind of photography work you’d like to do fulltime?”
Chuckling, I take another sip before putting my glass on the table. “I’d be happy doing any kind of photography work,” I tell her.
She raises a brow, smirking at me. “What, even weddings and all that sappy baby shower bullshit?”
Laughing, I hold my hands up, making that heart shape thing that I know she hates. “Totally, it’s just so…”
“Hashtag blessed,” she says sarcastically.
I burst out laughing now, sliding my leg out under the table until it meets hers. Curling my foot around her ankle, I tug hers closer. “Yeah, something like that. But seriously, I kinda like all photography, regardless of the reason. I like capturing those moments that no one else sees, the memories that people don’t even realize they wanted. The secrets that no one else sees.”
Victoria looks at me in a way I can’t read, as though she isn’t sure if I’m legit or just a total fucking idiot.
Taking another sip of my beer, I tilt my head to the side as I say, “What, too much?”
She shakes her head slowly, her eyes never leaving mine. “No, not at all. If anything, I wish I could see the world through your eyes. See things that no one else sees.”
Smiling, I say, “You want me to show you?”
I lean closer, sliding my hand across the table and brushing my thumb over the inside of her wrist. “You want me to show how to see the world like that?” I ask.
Victoria swallows hard, the movement drawing my attention to her throat. Fuck I wanna kiss her. “You can do that?” she asks.
Chuckling, I can’t resist giving her a wink as I say, “I told you, V, I’ve got skills you wouldn’t believe.”
This time it’s Victoria laughing, throwing her head back as she sits back in her chair and says, “Oh you are good, Ed, I’ll give you that.”
After we finish lunch, I take a bunch of shots of Victoria outside the pub, laughing at how much she hates being the center of my attention. People on the streets watch us and even though London is filled with celebrities, I can tell they are all stopping to look, wondering if they know who she is.
I spend a few minutes explaining some basic rules of photography to her, how I try to frame my pictures and how I constantly move around my subject, looking for that elusive shot, the one they don’t expect.
V takes it all in, seemingly genuinely interested in learning about it and I love that. Almost as much as I love capturing shots of her.
“Okay, let’s go,” I eventually say, as I take one last close up of her. “We’ve got places to be.”
Victoria rolls her eyes as she falls in beside me. “You know, I’m not sure I’d have been up for this if I’d known it was me you were gonna be photographing.”
Laughing, I throw an arm around her shoulder. “Like I said, V, every great artist needs a muse.”
“Or spank bank material,” she mutters.
I burst out laughing, pulling her closer as I lean down so my mouth is at her ear. “Oh well, yeah, there’s also that. Although trust me when I say I’ve got a pretty good imagination when it comes to that side of things.”
She turns to look at me, our faces so close that we are practically sharing a breath. A smile tugs at her mouth as she raises a brow. “Is that so,” she whispers.
Grinning, I lean in and kiss her forehead. “Uh huh.”
We spend the rest of the afternoon hitting up Camden Town and Reagents Market, before finally making our way up to Primrose Hill. It offers an amazing view of London, but it’s the view in front of me that I’m far more interested in.
I take a couple of pictures of V standing in the setting sunlight, her eyes on the city, before I eventually call it done. We still have one more spot to hit up, but we have some time, so I call her over to where I’m standing.
“You wanna hang here for a bit?”
Victoria looks around, her eyes scanning the park and the handful of couples that are enjoying the evening, watching the sun set.
Laughing, I grab her hand and pull her down as I take a seat on one of the park benches. “We have some time to kill, V,” I tell her. “Our last stop needs to happen in the dark.” She sits beside me and I shuffle closer, throwing my arm around her shoulders. I can feel the warmth of her body pressed against me and exhaling, I stretch my legs out, crossing them at the ankles.
“So, how’d you and Lewis meet?” I eventually ask.
She glances up at me with a curious look on her face. “At high school.”
“Huh, and you guys have always been just friends?”
She elbows me in the side now, smirking up at me. “Why, you jealous?”
“If you were more than friends, fuck yeah,” I tell her.
V laughs, shaking her head as she turns back to the view. “We’ve only ever been friends,” she says. “He’s like a brother to me, so going there would be gross.”
Now it’s me laughing as I say, “Good to know.” We sit in silence now, watching as the sky fills with streaks of red and orange, before finally getting dark. When the sun has gone, I squeeze her shoulder once before standing. “Okay, one more stop and we gotta go now.”
Victoria stands, giving me an amused look before grabbing my other camera bag and following after me. We make our way over to the West End, ditching my car and taking the last of the journey on foot. I only bring one camera with me this time, because this isn’t actually a spot I need for Aiden’s movie. This one is just for me.
I’m feeling weirdly nervous now, about how she’s going to respond to my go big gesture. When I’d met up with Aiden earlier this morning, it had actually been Julia who suggested it and to be honest it had surprised the hell out of me. I mean it was a hella good idea and it was definitely big, but no way did I think they’d be able to pull it off in such a short time frame. I guess being an Oscar winning actress who’s married to an Oscar winning movie producer and screenwriter, comes with a lot of pull.
I’m grateful though, especially as I had no idea what to do, and even though it is literally going to be a one minute window, I’m definitely making the most of it.
V’s hand is in mine as we make our way down to Piccadilly Circus. The place is buzzing with the usual tourists, everyone wanting a picture of the huge billboards and the statue in the middle of the traffic island.
God knows what the fuck they will think of the next part.
Leading V across the road, I walk us into the middle of the island, turning her so she’s facing the billboards and I’m standing in front of her with my back to them.
“You going to take some photos?” she asks when I don’t move.
“In a minute,” I say, checking the time on my phone.
My heart pounds in my chest, my pulse racing through my veins as I keep my eyes on Victoria, not wanting to miss a single thing. It feels like there is a strange electricity in the air, pulsing between us, and just when I feel like I can’t take anymore, the huge billboards behind me suddenly go dark as all the advertisements disappear.
I hear V gasp, as the people around us all murmur in surprise, everyone wondering if this is normal. Then the lights come back on and even though I know the billboards aren’t lit up with ads this time, I don’t turn around. I stand right here, watching V’s face as she takes in the words on the screen behind me.
I watch as her eyes widen in shock, her lips parting as she scans the screen, taking in my very public declaration, my go big gesture that is impossible to ignore. It feels like minutes, or hours, pass, but I know it’s only seconds before the lights go out again and my gesture disappears, only to be replaced by the usual advertisements.
Victoria’s gaze turns to meet mine and I watch as she swallows hard, her tongue poking out to wet her bottom lip. It takes every single ounce of self-control I have not to close the distance between us and kiss her.
But first I need an answer.
Squeezing her hand, which is still in mine, I ask, for what is probably the fortieth time since I met her.
“What do think, V? Big enough to earn me a yes?”
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