Authors: Lynne Connolly
A Total-E-Bound Publication
©Copyright Lynne Connolly 2010
Cover Art by Lyn Taylor ©Copyright November 2010
Edited by Delaney Sullivan
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2010 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank,
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers.
This story has been rated
To the RNA.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association, whose encouragement and sheer love of the genre has never wavered.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following
mentioned in this work of fiction:
Venus: Diego Velázquez
Hayward Gallery: Southbank Centre
Pygmalion: George Bernard Shaw
Vogue: Advance Magazine Publishers Inc.
The strong male voice sounded too close to the curtain. “Are you okay in there?”
sat on the worn sofa in the changing room, shivering. She had never, ever felt this nervous about exposing her body before. Until a year ago, that was her job, something she’d done almost since she could remember, but now she had this dreadful hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She knew why, and despite the hours and hours of therapy, she couldn’t suppress it.
Try to think of your fear in terms of one to ten.
Eleven, she was an eleven. No, hospitals were eleven.
She took a deep breath and sat bolt upright, drawing the silk robe around her like a princess receiving a subject. “I’m fine. I’ll be out in a moment.”
“Don’t be long, or we’ll lose the light.”
She’d heard that before from photographers, but not here, not now. She lifted her chin, as ready as she’d ever be, and concentrated on getting to her feet without wobbling. That had once been second nature to her.
Now, not so much.
It didn’t help. But she’d known worse.
She stepped out to face her irascible artist.
glared at her, a frown marring his handsome face, his light eyes sparking fire. “It took nearly an hour for you to take your clothes off. It takes me five minutes.”
“You’ll have to show me sometime.” Her smile betrayed nothing of her inner turmoil. She knew, because she’d practised it in the mirror until she could do it in any circumstances—with jetlag confusing her, with flu raging through her, with starvation threatening to fell her. This time she only had nervousness to deal with, but it seemed worse than all the others.
He gave her a cursory glance and gestured across the studio. “Over there, please. I want to take some photos, get some idea of what I want.” He strode across to his easel and picked up a camera from behind it.
studio had three walls of glass. Nothing overlooked it except the lush greenery of the park beyond. Very unusual in this built-up city, but London still had its oases. This was one.
A very expensive one.
could afford it. Riding high on public approval, even the critics loved him.
She still didn’t know why he’d chosen her for this project, but it would bring her back into the public eye. It might seal her career tight shut, but she couldn’t feel sorry about that.
She walked over to a typical artist’s couch, a chaise-lounge with mahogany legs and a scrolled back, partly covered with a dark blue velvet throw. A screen stood behind it, starkly white, no doubt performing the same function as a photographer’s umbrella. She smiled.
“What is it?”
Having worked with artists before, or people who considered themselves artists,
found his abruptness odd, but not unique.
I haven’t seen one in a while.”
Why should he care?
“Is that when you had your accident?”
She gazed at him, meeting his hard stare, knowing he wasn’t looking at her as a person, but as a subject. That was why she’d chosen to take this job.
To be a subject, not a person.
“Yes.” And to get it over with, she answered the question everyone wanted to ask but rarely did. “I was coming back from a photo shoot when a car ploughed into mine. My mother was with me. She died, I didn’t.” She stared at him, dry-eyed.
The muttered word nevertheless sounded sincere. That surprised her. She’d met with curiosity, requests for her story and other prurient queries, but rarely sympathy. “Thanks.”
She sat up, legs tightly together, thinking of a pose for him. Without fuss, she undid the belt to her robe before letting the robe fall onto the chaise. As a statement, it fell far short. He glanced up, nodded and returned to his camera, presumably adjusting it for the settings he wanted. It made her feel more secure, that he didn’t stare.
Weird, but true.
After a moment, she stood, and turned around. Keeping her hips still, she pivoted at the waist and looked over her shoulder at him.
Try something else. Don’t pose, be natural.”
How? She couldn’t ask, because she was supposed to know. Photographers had asked her that before, but they’d meant, “Take some less obvious poses,” so she tried that. She lifted her hands and pushed them into her hair, as if she was doing a shampoo ad.
“No. Turn around, lean your head back, as if you’re stretching after a few hours at the computer.” His dispassionate voice reminded her of the world she’d left behind. It felt good.
She did as he asked.
“I like that. Imagine everyday situations, and respond to them. Shall I give them to you?”
It sounded like fun. “Yes.”
“You’ve just stepped out of the shower, and you can’t find the towel. You have soap in your eyes.”
She laughed, but complied, screwing up her face and reaching out blindly. She heard the click, then a few more.
“Now you’ve just remembered something.”
She clapped her hand to her forehead, and turned around, as if to run.
A few more innocuous poses and she found herself reacting to his requests with a spontaneity she hadn’t known before. He was good at this, taking close-ups and changing his position.
“Open your legs. Take a confident stance.”
Without thinking, she did so, only then realising that he was on his knees, shooting up. He could see her pussy, open and damp. She never posed for sexually explicit shots.
Topless, yes, nude, yes, but not open-crotch.
She backed off and closed her legs, feeling her pussy heat, wondering why she felt that way.
“I’m sorry. But you looked so good, so confident that I wanted to capture it. None of these photos will leave this room. I’ll download them to my laptop, which I’ll keep in here. It’s all in the contract. You can request their deletion when we’re done, or you can have copies, and they’ll be the only ones.”
She remembered. Her agent had told her that
might want to experiment with poses, and had therefore been very specific about what
could and could not do. He’d agreed without protest, knowing he wouldn’t get her any other way.
She was being oversensitive and she felt a hot blush sweep over her body, leaving a chilly reaction in its wake. Then she met his gaze and heated all over again.
Unspoken, the connection between them deepened. In her business, she never met anyone’s eyes unless they actually requested it. Photographers knew the effect they wanted, and instead of, “look at me,” they said, “look into the lens,” while designers rarely even acknowledged her presence. She was a body. She might have anticipated that, because he was an artist, he’d want more from her. But she would only give him what she needed to.
He stared back, his face completely still. A handsome, stark face, the features well defined, the skin glowing from, she guessed, a recent holiday. Or maybe he’d been doing some outdoor work. For sure, it wasn’t a fake tan of any description. His eyes, so pale, looked good against the glow. And he was sexy as hell.
The thought caused a sharp shot of arousal in her groin. She pressed her thighs together tightly, so he wouldn’t see the extra moisture there. Fuck, of all the times to lose it, this had to be the worst one. What a moment to rediscover her sexuality.
He blinked and looked away as if nothing special had happened. For her, it had. In that flash of perfect understanding, she’d seen right through to the assessing mind beneath, the eyes alive as so many weren’t.
Shocking, to see all that life barely under the surface.
“I have some paintings to show you. I want you to duplicate the pose. That’s why I thought of you. Models can do that kind of thing better than most. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?”
He picked up a stick of charcoal and turned to the large sketchpad he had mounted on a stand.
“No problem at all. Despite the accident, I’m fairly supple.”
“And you don’t have to keep your mouth still while I work. Talk to me.”
“Anything you like.”
Her mouth firmed. He wanted to know the sordid details, did he? Well, fuck him. She began to talk about wine. Her father, long dead, had been a wine merchant and she still remembered the yeasty, musty smell of his wine cellar. She had some bottles, inherited with the rest of the family’s belongings when her mother had died, because there was no one else.
Absolutely no one.
He interrupted her halfway through a description of the champagne-making process, as she was beginning to run out of material. “Do you miss your mother?”
How to answer that one? Tired of dissimulating, or making up socially acceptable answers, she told him the truth. “No.”
He didn’t stop the fluid lines he was making on the paper, but glanced up to meet her gaze and she melted all over again. Fuck it, when she took another pose, he’d see the way he turned her on. Even discussing her family hadn’t helped.
“You were inseparable, or so the papers said,” he said.
“You read the papers?”
He grinned. The expression transformed his stern features, added crinkles to the corners of his eyes and a mischievous twinkle, but the smile disappeared as fast as it had come.
Even more of a turn-on.
“I use them to mop up spilled water sometimes. Yes, I read the accounts, and I looked you up on the Internet when I decided to ask for you.”
Her negative needed qualification otherwise he’d keep at her. Fine, so she’d give him the truth, but not the emotion that went with it. “She was a typical stage mother. She registered me with an agency when I was five, and I did a few commercials. I went to a stage school and an agent from a modelling agency spotted me when I was sixteen. It wasn’t what she wanted for me, but it was near enough. I have to be grateful to her for chaperoning me, making sure I didn’t take too many drugs or go on the kind of crash diets that cause permanent damage.”
Her mother had exploited that aspect in the press to show how caring she was, but
the truth now.
“She was in it for the long term, didn’t want to see her investment damaged. In the last few years I took more control of my life, refused some jobs,
my commitments a bit. She went along with it when I explained that it put my price up, gave me an exclusive value. But she still tried to control everything I did.” She felt her surface crack. If she wasn’t careful she’d be pouring her heart out to him and she was fairly sure he was only asking to get some kind of artistic depth, not because he really cared.
Time she asked a question. “Why did you choose me?”
He seemed to be drawing her face, because he concentrated on her features, following the contours of her chin and cheekbones with his intent stare.
He returned to the paper. “You have an interesting face. And now you’re more than just a model, I thought it might be interesting to see what the experience has done for you.”
She said it without heat. At least he was telling her the truth.
“Sure I am.” He looked up and grinned again, and
found herself longing for that smile, fleeting and so attractive. “I have a few pictures here. Poses I’d like you to look at.”
He bent and picked up a book that lay at his feet and stood to take the half-dozen strides that separated them. She found herself shrinking back, his presence, so close, overwhelming. She’d felt it when he’d answered the door to her that morning, a presence that had rocked her back on her heels, vital and so alive.
So fucking sexy.
It didn’t take much adjustment to smile and force her pose back. He laid the book across her lap and sat next to her, not touching, but making her so aware she was naked while he was not. His lids flickered along her body.
“It doesn’t seem fair, does it?” With a swift, economical movement he stripped off the faded t-shirt he wore. When his head emerged, the grin was back. “Better?”
“I’m not sure.” It was impossible for her to feel embarrassment at nakedness, or so she’d thought, but she found herself gazing at him avidly.
Strong muscles framed a chest sprinkled with dark hair, which clustered towards the line disappearing beneath his low-slung jeans. Perhaps she had such a strong reaction because most of the male models she knew shaved or waxed, on the instructions of the designers they worked with. The underwear models waxed everywhere. She’d bet he didn’t and she loved it. She wanted to touch, to taste. To indulge, and suddenly it felt so long since she’d had sex.
He tilted that grin at her. “Do you want the rest off?”
Her response came too fast. “No!” If he did, she’d jump him and she didn’t feel strong enough right now. Not to fuck him, but to take his rejection. She’d been rejected too often recently. He just shrugged and opened the book.