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THE MAN THE OTHER SURFERS called Cash was about to bring Rina Calhoun to an orgasm and he wasn't even in the same room. Not in person, anyway.
She had to remember to thank him for that. Later. After she was done watching him fly through the deep blue waves in all his perfect, lean–muscled glory on the celluloid big screen. After she'd caught her breath and composed herself, since she'd already locked the door and turned down the lights completely, and after she'd made her own copy of this segment of the videotape to take home with her for those long, lonely nights.
Whoever said documentary filmmaking had loftier, more satisfying rewards than making money was definitely onto something.
Someone that talented on a surfboard, someone with that much…balance, well, such prowess had to extend to other areas, didn't it? The thought of that extreme talent translating into the bedroom made the small area, where she'd been working all afternoon, suddenly stifling. In spite of the air–conditioning. The film equipment, which included various industrial computers, always ran hot, but this was ridiculous. She pulled her long hair back and off her neck and fanned herself with the folder that held the contract and terms of the short documentary.
Where on earth did the cameraman find this guy? He was the best part of this footage, which was saying a lot since it focused on filming some of the biggest waves she'd ever seen and the surfers crazy enough to hang ten on them.
Cash's segment focused on demonstrating the evolution of the sport into something called extreme surfing. The cameras had followed him and others as theywere towed into the most dangerous waters she'd ever seen, and showcased them riding the waves out. And occasionally, wiping out. Hard.
Very, very hard chest. And arms. And abs.
She couldn't stop following his every single move. He mesmerized her by the way he swam, talked, moved as if he walked on water and owned those waves. In command and in control, the type of man she'd always fantasized about, but was never able to find in real life. Because, in the light of day and off the screen, most of the bad boys she'd met were really just plain bad, and did nothing to live up to their hype. The only thing they did tend to do was believe their own press. That was part of the reason she went for the calmer ones, with steady, regular jobs and steady, regular techniques in bed.
Which was why she was still unattached and unsatisfied. The perennial, hard–working good girl. And all work and no play was smothering her, until today.
She fiddled with the knobs on the control panel, bringing in sharp contrasts between the waves and Cash. She used a series of slow–motion special effects to make it appear that the wave was spraying the viewer the way it had apparently sprayed the camera screen. Zoot, the cameraman, must've been very close to the action on this one. And she could tell that filming Cash had been a last–minute decision, since Zoot's attention, and the bulk of the film he'd dumped on her, had been of jet skiers and body boarders.
This video was the intended fourth in a series of documentaries, all of which fell under the heading, Going to the X–treme: Bigger, Faster, Better. This portion of the series dealt with the extreme side of water sports. She'd been the editor for the entire series, which included segments on drag racing, parachuting and bungee jumping. But nothing she'd seen so far in her year on this project brought her as close to the edge as Cash had.
She didn't understand how something that dangerous could still hold the moniker of sport, but she had to admit that watching it was exhilarating. To actually be the one on the surfboard must be an adrenaline rush like nothing she'd ever considered experiencing.
She rewound the tape again, added a graphic and, save for the sound sweetening, she was done with the rough cut of the last segment. The most important segment, the piece that was always completed first, since it set the tone of the entire video for the editor. The piece that had to be shown to Vic for approval, because even though he trusted her, he was a control freak, and ultimately, the one in charge.
The doorknob rattled, and a voice called, "Are you alone in there?"
"Sort of," she called back, and propelled the chair on wheels across the short distance to unlock and open the door. Stella Taylor stood on the other side balancing containers that held their lunch and two sodas. She wore a bikini, a pareo and smelled like suntan lotion.
"Oh, good, I'm starving." Rina grabbed the food from Stella and placed it on a desk, away from all the equipment. did not want to edit X–treme videos for the rest of The money and the experience were both great, but all just a stepping stone to the big prize—the annual to you." Stella pointed to the freeze–frame close–up of Cash, and Rina cursed herself for not turning off the footage before opening the door.
"My karma's fine."
"Your karma hasn't been cleansed, so to speak, in over six months, and even then it wasn't properly shined."
Leave it to her friend to bring up her last relationship, which Rina could admit to herself was less than satisfying on many different levels. "I'll bypass the bad boys. You go for it." But even as she said it and motioned to Cash, her stomach tightened.
You're pathetic. "So you're telling me that this guy does nothing for you?" Stella asked, arms crossed as she continued to stare at Cash's image.
"I didn't say that. But he's not my type."
"Because he's not boring and predictable?"
"I prefer to think of my past boyfriends as stable."
Her friend sniffed indignantly. "Many of the men I've dated are stable."
"Yeah, sure. That's a word I associate with a grown man who skateboards off the roof for fun."
"I'll have you know that Dan did that because he was practicing a new stunt. Besides, we broke up and I know you too well. Whenever you want to avoid talking about your love life, you bring up mine. Nice try, though, but I think that surfer's definitely the one to break your dry spell."
"The only thing he's going to do is help me make this video the best one yet. And I thought you'd agreed to swear off bad boys to cleanse your own karma?" she countered, and Stella sighed with momentary defeat.
"Did you get the end done?"
"I did. And you've got to see it." Rina rewound the tape to the spot, as she'd done at least a hundred times in the last hour or so.
Stella glanced at the screen where Rina had paused the video on an image of Cash, full–on, staring straight ahead toward the camera and smiling. Then Stella stole the remote from Rina's hand while simultaneously pushing Rina's chair out of the way to get a closer view. "I can't wait to write this copy," she murmured.
"Hey, I'm not done editing yet." Rina snatched the remote back out of her friend's hand. "Besides, don't you have our grant proposal you're supposed to be finishing up?"
Stella sat down, opened her sandwich and still didn't take her eyes off the screen. "It's all finished. The only thing left to include is a copy of the most kick–ass piece of work we've got."
"It's this one, Stel."
"Nothing at all to do with the hottie on the board, right?" Rina grinned. "Maybe just a little." But she certainly wouldn't do anything about it. A fantasy never hurt anyone—it was when you got to know the guy that the fantasy was ruined. Keeping him on screen guaranteed that he'd stay the perfect man. It was easier that way. She didn't need to get bogged down in a bad relationship, couldn't afford to have her focus torn away now, when she and Stella were so close to realizing their dream of being their own bosses.
Rina wasn't the type to have her head turned by a pretty face anyway. Part of it was her inherent shyness, and the other part was the intensity with which she approached her work. It was an odd combination that didn't sit well with many men. Or any men, if her past relationships were a means to judge.
Instead of spending time looking for love and having relationships, she and Stella had been furiously dedicated to getting the funding to one day make the documentary that would put their partnership on the map. Rina had been involved in documentary filmmaking since she'd graduated college, and she'd taken internships while she'd still been in school. She'd met Stella on one of those jobs, both of them nothing more than glorified gofer for the gofers, but in between coffee runs and changing camera batteries, they'd bonded. And they'd learned everything they could about short filmmaking.
The main topic of their shared thesis for the grant proposal dealt with the psychology of danger, and showcasing the way that ordinary people were pushed to do extraordinary things. So getting a chance to work on this X–treme series was a fantastic wrap–up session for both of them.
"Your uncle would be proud of you, Rina." Stella smiled at her, put a hand on her shoulder, and Rina knew Stella was right. Her Uncle David had been the one to put the camera into her hands in the first place, the one to show her how and why pitch was important, the one to recognize her talent for drawing people out in front of the lens.
David had been killed by a land mine while filming a rebel outbreak along the Western Tanzanian border where it met Burundi when Rina was just fifteen. he'd also been one of the earliest journalists to embed with troops, long before the term was actually coined and the concept became popular.
Things were never the same in her family after that. Her mother tried to put her children in a protective bubble, especially after Rina's father died a few years later and her aunt went wild and ended up impulsively marrying a Navy SEAL who was as much, if not more, of a wild man than her uncle had been.
And Rina had done a little of both extremes, a little pushing of boundaries and then retreating to safety. And, as much as she wanted the grant proposal to go through, as much as she wanted to travel and see the world and meet extraordinary people—people who made a difference–and continue her uncle's work, she was scared.
One year behind the camera on projects that pushed men and women to their physical limits and beyond hadn't helped matters any. A good filmmaker had to keep an emotional distance from the subject on the other side of the lens, and her fear of getting involved, pulled in to any of that, helped a great deal on this project. Impartiality, being able to look at what the subjects were doing with a critical and non–judgmental eye, was crucial.
Rina wasn't sure what had happened when she saw Cash, but nothing would beyond watching the tape pretty often over the next few weeks, anyway.
Her uncle would have pushed her hard to get that grant as soon as possible to go into Africa and begin shooting the first segment in the proposal. And she was scared to death at the thought of moving forward like that, and of telling her mother her plans.
Cross that bridge, and a few oceans, when you get to it. Her uncle had been passionate enough about his work to put himself out there, at risk. When the time was right, she'd need to rise to the challenge. Until then, just getting to that opportunity took up her focus.
"My uncle would be out there on the board himself," she said.
"Maybe that surfer could show you a few moves. Loosen you up and remind you that there's more to life than what happens behind the scenes."
"I'll leave the wild–child act to you, okay?"