Here's my blanket disclaimer for the entire story. All characters not created by me belong to Charlaine Harris. No copyright infringement intended. I'm just swimming in her fishbowl.

Chapter One

It could not have been a more horrible day. The photo shoot I had been working on turned to shit practically before it even started, and once it did, it went down hill fast.

I found it comical that even after ten years in the business, I was still surprised by how unprofessional the celebrities I worked with were. I'd shot every famous person you could possibly think of for all of the major rags, and their inconsiderate behavior never ceased to amaze me. Time was money, and if there were two things I cared about in this world more than just about anything, it was my time and my money. Apparently, those facts were lost on them, though.

I had waited for over an hour for my model to arrive, and then another hour and a half for the make-up artist to whip her up in to something that resembled a human. She'd obviously been on an all-night bender, and she looked like hell.

Pam, my sister and assistant, could sense the anger that was boiling up inside me and did her best to rush the make-up artist along, but to no avail. In an effort to calm myself while I waited, I checked and re-checked my equipment and then had the set director rearrange some of the props. None of it worked. I was as cranky as I could possibly be.

"Sit down, Eric. You're making me twitch with all that pacing."

"Lay off, Pam. I'm in no mood for your shit today. I have things I have to do, and that bag of bones is eating in to my time."

She smirked at me, which infuriated me even more. But I was glad she knew me well enough to at least understand when to shut the fuck up, because she didn't speak again until the model walked on set.

"Carolina, darling. You look ravishing today," Pam cooed as the nearly six-foot tall Russian blonde sashayed in the room, dressed only in 4 inch stilettos and a matching blue lace bra and panty set. I swear I saw my sister lick her lips. Sometimes it seemed that woman had more testosterone coursing through her veins than I did.

I loved my sister, but her taste in women was almost worse than mine. After so many years in the game, I at least had the good sense not to dip my stick in that muck anymore. Pam apparently hadn't received the memo yet. To be sure, most of the women I worked with were beautiful, but there was no substance to them. I'd had my fair share, so I should know. But for Pam, the one night stand with a gorgeous woman was just her thing.

After hours of delay, the shoot finally got under way, and every imaginable thing that could go wrong did. There was no air conditioning in the rented space, and the lighting equipment made the heat nearly unbearable. I was uncomfortable, and Carolina was sweating so much that we were constantly stopping for makeup touch-ups. Worst of all, though, was that my photographs sucked. I mean, really, really sucked.

"What the hell is wrong with you today, Eric? These look like shit." Pam was sitting in front of the monitor, looking at the photos that popped up as I shot. She wasn't wrong. They did look like shit.

Pam saw the pained look on my face, jumped out of her chair and walked over to Carolina.

"Carolina, my love, why don't you go take a break? Eric and I need to make some minor adjustments." Pam patted her on her ass on the way to the dressing area.

Once the Russian was out of earshot, Pam asked, "What's up with you? This is a gravy job. You can do this in your sleep."

I sighed heavily, and sat back against the wall, setting the camera to my side and pushing my hands through my hair. I bent forward, crossed my arms atop my knees, and rested my head against them.

"I don't know, Pam. I'm just not feeling it. I'm not feeling anything."

That was something I was not used to. No matter what else had gone on in my life, I had never let my work suffer. But at that point, I just couldn't seem to get it right. I had no idea what was wrong. I used to be able to look at something, anything, and capture it on film in a way no one else could. But suddenly, it seemed that a four year-old was more capable of taking an effective photo than I was.

I keep telling myself to pull it together. What man wouldn't be happy shooting a national lingerie campaign?

Me, apparently, was my internal reply. Shit.

I knew my friends thought I was going crazy. To the outsider looking in, my life was perfect. My work had graced the covers of nearly every major fashion and music magazine. I had a fabulous apartment in Gramercy. I had more money than any one person could possibly ever need. I could screw any woman in Manhattan six ways to Sunday if I wanted to. In short, I should have been happy, but I felt so…uninspired. Something was missing, but I simply couldn't put my finger on what it was.

"Look, Eric. Felipe is paying us a lot of money to do this shoot. You need to pull yourself together, even if it's only for today. I'll clear your schedule for the next couple of weeks if you want. Take a vacation, get laid, whatever. But you have to get through this right now."

Pam's was right. I had to do it. God, I hated it when she was right. I took a deep breath and pushed myself up off the floor. Once I felt I'd gained enough of my composure back, I told Pam to call Carolina back in.

I don't know how I did it, but somehow, we got the shots we needed and the shoot ended without any further interruptions. I was spent, and just wanted to go home and crawl in to bed. Unfortunately, I needed to head uptown to a friend's gallery opening. After I made sure all my equipment was stowed away and secure, I called Pam over from the dressing area where she was enjoying the sight of Carolina changing in to her street clothes.

"All set, Eric?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Make sure all my equipment gets back to my place. I'm taking the Canon with me to Sam's gallery opening."

"No problem," she agreed. "Oh, and Eric, I mean it. Take some time off. I've already cleared your schedule. You have two weeks to get out of whatever the hell kind of funk it is you're in. I suggest you use it wisely. You're turning in to a real pain in the ass."

Compassion really wasn't one of her better qualities. I was grateful, though, and told her as much. Then I left my sister to her Russian, and ran downstairs to catch a cab uptown.