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Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

Craig was sitting facing the computer when Stevie walked into his office. She had slipped on a light denim jacket before she left her house and she was glad she did. The office was freezing.

She sat down. Craig turned to face her.

"There've been some developments in the murder case," he said, reclining in his chair with his hands behind his head. "The police have traced the calls that came into our newsroom. Apparently they came from the dead women's cell phones."

Stevie's heart began to beat faster. This was big news.

"The police tapped our phone lines in case he calls again," Craig continued.

"Do you want me to write something for tomorrow's paper?" Stevie asked.

"Well, we can't." Craig sat up in his chair. "The police asked that we not report that information, and we have agreed not to, for now. However, they have identified the latest victim. That we can write about. But not you."

Stevie sank in her chair. Craig smiled. "Let someone else write that. I have a bigger story for you."

After talking to Craig, Stevie felt a little better about giving up some of her claim to the murder investigation coverage. She went back to her desk and began to gather stuff she would need for her new assignment.

"So are all our conversations going to end up in a police file somewhere? Because quite honestly, I don't think I want the boss finding out how many times my husband calls in a day." Margie popped her head back over the divider. "Where are you going?"

"I've got to take a road trip for a story," Stevie said, slipping the manila envelope and other items into her bag. "Want to come?"

"What? And leave all this?" Margie said, waving her hands around the room.

Stevie laughed. "I have to do some errands first. I'll call you later."

In her car, Stevie pulled out the envelope and looked at the business card. Berry Street. Well, Jason Mullen, let's see how good of a photographer you are.

Stevie pulled up in front of an older brick home that had been converted into office space. She was kind of surprised that there was no sign saying this was a photo studio. Someone needs to tell him about advertising.

She again felt the butterflies in her stomach as she climbed the steps and opened the studio door. A little bell tinkled as she entered. A voice called from the back of the studio, "I'll be right out."

There were photos hanging all over the walls in the studio. Close-ups of building architecture. Landscapes. Kids and dogs. Stevie slowly walked from photo to photo, admiring the masculine view of each frame. One particular photo caught her eye. It was of a woman who was obviously naked except for a white sheet purposely wrapped around her slender body. She was lying on a white bed. Her skin was pale. The only real color in the photo was her brown hair, which was tousled and fell over one eye. Her eyes sparkled and her mouth curled into a smirk that made the observer believe something more was happening than just pictures.

"She's my Mona Lisa." The voice startled Stevie. She felt herself blush as she quickly turned to face Jason, who was standing in front of a small table with an amused look on his face. He was wearing a blue denim button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He was again wearing jeans, and his hair looked windblown. "She looks like she's been up to something, doesn't she?"

Stevie turned back to the photo. "It's a great shot. An old girlfriend?"

Jason smiled. "I try not to mix business with pleasure."

"So when you snapped my photo at the crime scene, was that business or pleasure?" she said, pretending to still be looking at photos. Stevie couldn't believe what she was saying. It was so unlike her. But she was finding that being around Jason made her feel not quite herself. It was a feeling she could get used to.

Jason laughed. It was a good hearty laugh that made his smile fill more than half his face. "Now that sounds like dinner conversation."

"Dinner conversation?" Stevie said, facing Jason.

"Yeah," his look turning cool and serious, "conversation we should have over dinner."

Stevie's pulse quickened as she felt Jason's eyes burn through her. Suddenly the tiny studio became quite warm as she matched his stare. It was the first time she had really gotten a good look at the photographer. He hadn't shaved, which only added to his rugged look. She guessed that he was a little older than she and quite possibly Italian, based on his facial features. And, of course, there were those dimples.

"Well, I'm working the next couple of days, but you can call me." Stevie gave him her phone number and prepared to leave the studio.

"What do you like?" he yelled as she headed out the door.

"Italian," she said without looking back.

Jason smiled.

By Terri Richardson, assistant managing editor for features.

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