All for love 3 series.., p.28
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.28

           Kris Pearson
 
Lottie took an elderly Polaroid camera from the table beside her and inspected it. “Now the clothes off and we see how the shadows fall.”

  Kate was appalled. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know if I can...?”

  “Ach—nobody sees,” Lottie said comfortably. “Katie, if you had studied at art school you would know this is not hot stuff.”

  Kate giggled unexpectedly at the description.

  “Leave the bra and panties on. And on the couch like before.”

  “The panties are very tiny,” Kate said, blushing, removing her jersey and the shirt underneath, and standing unwilling in her bra and trousers. Lottie looked up with expectation.

  “Ya—off,” she said. Kate slowly peeled off her jeans. Lottie didn’t blink. “And lying down... turning the head away...”

  Kate heard a click and a whir. “So—come and look.”

  The photo was all too revealing, but Lottie seemed pleased enough.

  “Again, Katie—and the legs stretched out more this time. Can you reach out and bend the other lamp down lower, too?”

  Another shot. Another short wait. “Good. You come and see?”

  Kate looked most unwillingly.

  “Ignore all the windows Katie, and half-close your eyes. See the hills and valleys and shadows? Is she a woman or not? Is different, ya?”

  Kate scrunched her eyes up and suddenly saw what Lottie saw. “Uh! That’s a real surprise.”

  “Okay, so we do the real thing. With the bra off and being very comfortable on the cushions...”

  Kate returned to the couch, removed her bra once she’d turned decently away, and settled down. She heard Lottie readying her painting gear. The house was warm... the lamps added heat of their own... this was not too bad.

  “Hello—what have you brought for us?” Lottie asked a few minutes later.

  Kate’s blood turned to ice.

  “Just some sandwiches,” Matthew said. “Katie had very little breakfast, and it’s almost lunchtime. I thought you could both do with them.”

  She lounged there, stunned, exposed, and embarrassed beyond belief. She dared not move and upset the pose for Lottie. Or display herself still further to Matthew.

  Neither could she possibly stay like this with him in the room. Obviously he’d crept up the stairs instead of using the elevator. The predator had caught his prey.

  She flinched as something touched her foot. She jerked her head sideways. He stood right there, far too close. And he gently lowered a soft concealing bed-sheet over her. She closed her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered.

  He stepped away, out of sight. She heard him set down a plate and glass for Lottie, then he moved back in her direction, pulled a hard-backed chair across, and sat, knees apart, so he could move in close. One hand held a half full tumbler of wine and the other a plate of tiny bite sized sandwiches. He propped a drinking straw into the tumbler and raised it to her mouth. She drank gratefully. He fed her the tiny ham and camembert sandwiches one by one, with sips of wine between each. She barely needed to move—the pose would not be ruined.

  “So what do you think of the studio?”

  It was such a normal question that she could have been walking through town with him instead of lying naked under a thin sheet.

  She did her best to find some insouciance. “Extraordinary. It must be wonderful for Lottie to have everything she needs so close.”

  “And quite a few things she doesn’t need.”

  “Yes. Well.” That had Kate at a loss for further words.

  “You can see why she needs her own Superwoman. She’s an artist, not an organiser.”

  Kate nodded silently, opening her mouth so he could slide the final tiny sandwich in. Matthew held it just out of reach. She glanced up at him. He ran his tongue around his top lip and she snapped her mouth shut.

  “I thought you were being nice to me now,” she hissed.

  “You’ll know when I’m being nice to you, Katie. You’ll know when I’m being a lot more than nice.” His reply was the softest whisper, inaudible to Lottie, fifteen feet away. He held out the little sandwich and she opened her mouth for him again. He tucked it in very slowly, pushing it home with his forefinger, intruding, invading, entering right into her body. She closed her lips around the finger and bit, quite hard.

  He smiled, tolerating the pain until she released him. He licked his finger clean. Still holding her eyes, he drew up the last mouthful of wine through the straw and swallowed it. She watched the muscles and tendons moving in his strong golden neck, thinking that she could strangle him for his game.

  He glanced across at Lottie, and apparently finding her turned away, bent and kissed Kate swiftly on her relaxed and unsuspecting mouth.

  She froze rigid. Made no sound. Didn’t move a fraction to draw any attention to what he had done. And continued to lie there stunned as he drew the sheet off her body again in a soft and devastating caress.

  He’d take a chance like that? In front of Lottie?

  The danger had a powerful effect on Kate. Every tiny hair on her flesh stood up. Her skin tingled and twitched. Her arms and legs felt lead-heavy—there was no way she could jump to her feet and flee.

  Her mouth burned, tasting of wine and surprise and wanting.

  The insistent throb was back in her belly—but worse—warmer and wilder than before. Her blood pulsed, thick and heavy. She felt it travelling around her body, making her heart pump harder, stiffening her nipples and preparing a welcome between her thighs.

  This was outrageous! She had no answer for such arrogance. Well—none that she dared acknowledge. If he really wanted her, she knew she now had very little resistance left. And she could never ever let him know that.

  Lottie moved her plate out of the way. Kate heard it scrape across the bench-top.

  “Can you get me that bigger canvas? The long one. I didn’t plan to do it so big, but she looks good, don’t you think?”

  “She looks beautiful.” Matthew said quietly. “And who’d have thought she’d wear sexy little panties like that? I had you down for white cotton, Katie.”

  She seethed, caught so easily when she’d scoffed at his gift. She stayed silent.

  He chuckled. It took no imagination to see the corners of his mouth kicking up, his icy blue eyes flashing with unholy glee.

  Anger and embarrassment surged through her. Would he never leave?

  She heard a chair drag across the floor, the rustle of stiff pages turning. His soft grunt of satisfaction as he found what he wanted.

  Something moved in the corner of her vision. She slid her eyes around. Matthew sat, tilting a big sketching pad on his lap, looking directly at her from quite a different angle to the one Lottie had chosen. His charcoal stick raced over the paper, capturing her curves. He regarded her intently, and rubbed a finger to smudge the black to a softer shadow. Eyed her again. Drew some more. Stroked and blended. Kate became acutely aware of his hands as the pad of his thumb shimmered along her thigh. Pushed at her buttocks with a lighter touch, shading and buffing her skin.

  She had no idea what Lottie was doing. Matthew had taken her over. He worked with absolute concentration until he was pleased with his sketch, then he ripped it noisily from the pad. He showed it to Lottie. She passed a quiet comment.

  Kate heard the scrape of the chair again, and then he stood right in front of her, and laid the sketch on the floor for her to see. She drew a sharp breath. Lottie might be turning her into an ambiguous stretch of countryside, but Matthew was a consummate draftsman. He’d drawn a flesh-and-blood woman, faithfully recording her long back and shapely rear end and the barely-there panties.

  “Great backside,” he whispered. “Butterfly would look very hot.”

  She squeezed her eyes shut to remove the devastating image from her brain.

  “This is still comfortable for you, Kate?” Lottie asked.

  Never been less comfortable in my life.

  “I’m fine,” she called back.
How’s it going?”

  “Will be good I think. Not too much longer now—hard for you to hold the pose, even lying down, and the sun will alter all the shadows soon.”

  Matthew sat again—much closer this time—and surveyed her in silence. Then he took up the charcoal and she saw he was roughing in her shoulders and breasts and tumbling hair. His face became serious as he concentrated. His lips grew sensuously fuller as he pursed them together, but his eyes stayed alert and assessing.

  Kate kept her eyes on his lips. Anywhere but his eyes, she decided desperately.

  He kissed me. Tasted me, teased me. With that sinful mouth.

  He saw where she’d fixed her eyes and flicked his tongue briefly out, drawing it down the centre of his top lip and back out of sight again. Kate felt a devastating slippery flick much further down her body. She wriggled and caught her breath. He grinned.

  She clenched her eyes shut and kept them that way. A short time later she heard him relax, sigh, and lay down the sketching pad somewhere close.

  “How did I do?” he asked in a husky drawl.

  She opened her eyes at last and stared at the black and white woman with the wet lips and peaked breasts and wild hair.

  He’d captured her more accurately than any camera. The desire was palpable, the wanting extreme. Did she really look like that to him? With drowsy come-to-bed-eyes? A mouth swollen already from kisses? And nipples demanding to be sucked and bitten?

  He hadn’t showed this one to Lottie. This was for him, as private at his tattoo, perhaps. And for her, to confirm the invitation of his kiss.

  Chapter Nine — Yours for a Thong

  Lottie’s wheels squeaked faintly on the polished timber floor. “Enough Katie—you do very well. I finish another time.”

  Did that mean she could relax? Could escape? Could try to recover her dignity? She sagged down onto the cushions, finally hiding from Matthew behind her curtain of hair.

  She’d not acknowledged his drawing. Would not. Could not. She was totally drained with the effort of holding still for so long, and from her pent-up emotions. She’d never survived anything like that before. Hoped never to have to again.

  She heard Matthew stand. The sketchpad rustled up from the floor. And a warm finger landed gently between her shoulder blades. As he stepped away he drew his finger slowly downward, slid it under the thong, pulled, and let the elastic snap back against her flesh. Her humiliation was complete.

  If Kate was a mass of nerves, Lottie seemed not to notice.

  “Come and see how you’re looking.”

  Kate knew how she was looking—hot and bothered, naked and knackered, mad as hell.

  She snatched up the sheet and wrapped it around herself; then stepped over to the easel in front of the wheelchair.

  Matthew had disappeared, and just as well, too. The studio was full of sharp objects, just right for skewering him.

  She surveyed the partly finished painting. She saw her hip, the slope of her back, the jut of a shoulder, a long thigh. Or did she? Translated into countryside colours she almost disappeared. But it was a softly contoured range of hills that Lottie played with—in contrast to her more usual dramatic landscapes.

  “I wouldn’t know it for a Janssen,” Kate said, relaxing a little now she saw the way she looked. She compared the painting with the photo. It was her and yet not her.

  “Can I rip the other one up?” she asked hopefully.

  Lottie nodded, and poked around on the table without finding it. “Maybe on the floor?” she asked.

  But when Kate bent and looked, there was no sign of the first photo. Still, the studio held so much mess you could probably lose the Titanic.

  She wriggled into her clothes again as a drained-looking Lottie took care of her brushes and palette knives.

  Kate drew a deep breath. If she was supposed to be looking after her famous charge, now was the time to start. “It’s probably time for your painkillers,” she suggested. “And shouldn’t you be resting, so soon out of hospital?

  Lottie gave her a faint smile. “Ya. I do that next, I think. For two hours maybe? And you wake me up with coffee?”

  Kate surveyed the messy kitchen area. “I’ll have a little tidy-up while you’re lying down. Just kitchen work,” she added, when Lottie looked alarmed.

  “The kitchen—okay, but not the paintings?”

  “I wouldn’t dare touch them.”

  She helped Lottie from the wheelchair onto the bed, brought her pills and a glass of water from the attached bathroom, and got to work. Collecting up mugs and glasses and plates was kitchen work—even if they were scattered out amongst the paintings. She restored a small amount of order, ignoring the dishwasher, and scrubbing energetically at long-crusted items. She presumed the plates and glasses Matthew had brought up to the studio should go back downstairs. She included them in her wash-up and carried them away. He was busy in his office—something whirred as she tried to slip by.

  “Kate.”

  Darn. Either he had eyes in the back of his gorgeous head or his hearing qualified him as a guard-dog.

  She stopped one pace inside the door.

  “I’m sorry you didn’t think my drawings were good.”

  She flinched at the memory of his eyes on her. At the wanton woman he’d turned her into. “Your drawings were excellent. I just wasn’t comfortable with the subject,” she replied stiffly.

  He looked at her for a long moment. “I thought the subject was utter perfection.”

  “Don’t. Please don’t. You tease me and make fun of me and it just makes things so difficult.”

  “What things?” His voice was dangerously quiet.

  “Helping Lottie. Being in the house. I’m only here until Sunday and then I’m gone.”

  ~♥~

  Fury flared in his heart. Dammit—she was beautiful and lively, and drawing her had turned him on outrageously. All of a sudden, he cared a little less about the possibility of her being a spy for Rob Pleasance. He threw caution to the wind. “You were by far the best person for the job. And Lottie likes you. When can you come back?”

  She shook her head.

  “Katie?”

  “I can’t. Just make use of me for the next few days and call it quits...” Her voice trailed off.

  “We’ll need to change your mind somehow. What will it take?”

  “What?”

  “We’re not without the means.” He waved his hand at the surrounding land.

  “No.”

  “My treat—anything you want.”

  ~♥~

  Kate stared at him, horrified to feel so tempted.

  I want you, but you’re not on the menu.

  “Chilli prawns, fried rice and a green stirfry,” she blurted, remembering the combination she sometimes chose from the Asian takeaway at home in Auckland.

  “You’d stay for that?”

  “No, of course not,” she said, back-tracking madly, aware how strange her request must have sounded. “Sorry. It just slipped out. I’ve never been offered the choice of anything I wanted before. It threw me.”

  He regarded her steadily and then nodded. “It’s a start anyway. Chilli prawns for dinner and we’ll see what else we can come up with.”

  She stepped a little further into his office and he swung his chair around so he faced the huge computer screen again. His finger hit the keyboard and the image in front of him disappeared.

  “Sorry,” she said, backing off, presuming he was working on something confidential.

  “Just playing,” he said. A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. “It’s amazing what you can do with modern technology. Photography’s come a long way from Lottie’s old Polaroids. One of these days I’ll persuade her to use a tablet in the studio. Come back in ten minutes or so?”

  Dismissed, she resumed her walk to the kitchen. She stowed the plates and glasses away, and then wandered out through the huge open doors. The weather was perfect. Cold, but so still and sunny the ai
r had no real bite.

  She sat down in one of the outdoor chairs on the wide paved terrace. The sun soaked into her shoulders, soothing and warm. The ordeal of posing in the studio receded a little. She supposed there’d have to be another session or two if Lottie asked, but she’d make damned sure Matthew was nowhere around next time.

  And really, it was flattering to have been chosen to model for such a famous artist. How thrilled her darling mother would have been if she’d ever known.

  Kate relaxed as she idly considered the surprising offer Matthew had made. Was he serious? Anything so she would stay? But even the enticement of huge wages... a trip around the world... diamonds to die for... wouldn’t convince her to remain where she’d found exactly what she wanted but could never have.

  She closed her eyes, enjoying the sun and the soft air.

  A warm hand settled on her shoulder and she jerked awake.

  “Doing your Sleeping Beauty act again?” Matthew asked.

  She glanced at her watch, alarmed to find she’d been dozing, and that almost an hour had disappeared. She stifled a yawn as she tried to gather her wits about her.

  “I thought you were coming back to the office?”

  She looked at him through half closed eyes, still trying to adjust to the bright light. He was more casually dressed today. Soft old black jeans hugged his narrow hips and long thighs. A dark grey ribbed jersey stretched across his chest and shoulders. The collar of his shirt was visible, one button undone. She wanted to undo the rest... see the rest... trace her fingers over the whorls and curves of his extraordinary tattoo. Still barely awake, she wondered if he and Lottie made use of the spa-pool every evening.

  Lottie! Kate had promised to wake her with coffee. She rechecked her watch and pushed herself out of the chair. “Sorry, I’m needed upstairs,” she declared.

  Matthew narrowed his eyes. “I’m next in the queue then. I have something to show you. Come back when you can.”

  She bolted. Absolutely bolted. Away from his too-gorgeous body and his too-sharp eyes and his too-clever hands.

  But she’d had no need to panic. Lottie was fine, awake but unworried. Kate set the promised coffee brewing and sneaked another look at herself-as-countryside. The painting was rough yet, but the bones of it were there. She wondered how much more detail Lottie planned to add. Would she leave it loosely daubed like a Toss Woolaston, or refine it until it was as polished and perfect as a Grahame Sydney? Somewhere in between, she hoped. The last thing she needed was to be rendered so photographically perfect she was recognisable.

 
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