“You don’t have to be a genius to see that this relationship will not last,” commented Marie as she and Caitlin sat in the corner of a trendy restaurant in the fashionable district of Chelsea. It was celebratory dinner party for the opening of Ava’s boutique in the area. She had invited Marie, her sister-in-law who had in turn invited Rachel. They were sitting having non-alcoholic drinks after a delicious dinner while the others were on the dance floor.
Marie’s remark was directed at Ava and her boyfriend, Reid, a businessman/artist. They had been dating for less than a year now. They were dancing but he seemed a bit uncomfortable. Clearly, he didn’t like the public display of affection but Ava didn’t seem to care. This was her way of letting the other women know that he was not available.
As Rachel watched them, she couldn’t deny that they made a very attractive couple. Ava had thick dark brown hair that tumbled down in unruly waves down her tanned back. She looked absolutely stunning in the strapless fuchsia dress. Several male eyes were on her but she only had eyes for Reid. Rachel’s gaze shifted to Reid. He was tall and very attractive. He looked amazing in the navy blue striped suit, navy blue shirt and matching tie. His thick dark brown hair was neatly combed as usual.
She remembered the first time she met Reid. It was at a mutual friend’s place. It was early autumn and as she came out of the cottage to go for a walk in the gardens, she noticed him standing among stalks of wheat which seemed rather out of place to her. She expected the grounds to be covered in green grass and surrounded by trees with changing colors. He was wearing a blue sweater over a checkered shirt and dark blue trousers. He didn’t notice her at first as she stood there just staring at him and thinking that he was drop dead gorgeous. Then, he turned his head slightly to the right and their eyes met.
Then, he went over to her, his eyes never leaving her face. She was wearing a black and white striped shirt and black pants. She hoped her hair looked fine. He held out his hand. “Hello, I’m Reid,” he said.
She smiled as he clasped her hand. “Rachel.” After he released her hand, she folded her arms. She saw the way his eyes slipped over her before they settled on her face again.
“Do you have a jacket?” he asked. “It’s a bit cool today.”
“It’s inside with my handbag,” she said. “I came out to go for a walk and forgot how cool it was. I’ll go quickly and get it.” She went back to the house and when she went back, he was standing where she had left him.
“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked.
She shook her head, smiling. “I would like the company,” she said.
“Did you come alone?”
“Yes,” she turned to look at him as they headed for the gardens. “Did you?”
“I came with Ava.”
“Do you know her?”
“Not very well. She’s my friend Marie’s sister-in-law.”
“Yes, I have met Marie. A very pleasant woman.”
As they walked he asked her questions about herself. She learned that he met Ava at a gallery where his artwork was on display. She suddenly stopped and stared at him. “Are you Reid Faulkner?” She asked.
He nodded with a smile.
“I’ve seen some of your paintings and they are amazing. They are so real. My favorite so far is of the homeless young girl. You did it in black and white. It was beautiful and haunting at the same time. It’s now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”
“I like to paint about current issues,” he said. “I’m more into realism than the other forms of art like impressionism and romanticism.”
“You captured the sadness in her eyes, the dirty fingernails and the hopelessness of her situation. Whatever became of her?”
“She’s in a homeless shelter for the youth now. When she learned that her portrait was in the gallery, she was over the moon.”
“That’s great. How do you do it—your painting, I mean?”
“I sketch and then, I paint. I don’t have to have the person pose for me.”
They continued walking and then they decided to head back to the cottage. When they got there, Ava was waiting in front and as soon as she saw them, she hurried over to Reid. “There you are,” she exclaimed, slipping her arm in his. “I was wondering where you had gone off to. Oh, hello, Rachel,” she said, her green eyes shifting to her and pursing her lips. The displeasure on her face was unmistakable. She tugged gently on Reid’s arm. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet. Excuse us, Rachel.”
Reid barely got to give Rachel a backward glance before he was whisked away. They hadn’t had a moment alone after that. Ava saw to that. However, she couldn’t prevent them from looking at each other every opportunity they got and on her way home, Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about Reid and how much she wanted to see him again. And couple months later, here they were in a Chelsea restaurant.
She turned now to Marie who was looking at her. “You were somewhere else for a bit,” she said.
“I was just remembering something,” she said evasively. “Why don’t you think their relationship will last?”
“She’s too clingy and men don’t like that. They don’t like to be smothered. Besides, I don’t think he’s as into her as she’s into him. It’s all in the body language, my dear. Look at him. The dance is over and he looks relieved. Why don’t we invite them to join us?” She waved at the couple as they parted and were heading back to their table.
Rachel’s eyes went immediately to Reid and her heart began to beat fast. She smoothed her hair down and rubbed the palms of her hands on the skirt of her blue elastic waist dress. Reid’s gaze went first to Marie and then to Rachel where they remained. Ava noticed and said, “Why don’t we go over to the bar and sit there or outside on the terrace where it’s a lot cooler?”
At that moment, Marie got up from her seat and said to Ava, “Why don’t we go and freshen up?” and she grabbed her arm and escorted her away before she could object.
Alone, Reid sat down beside Rachel. “It’s good to see you again,” he said quietly. “I was hoping that we would meet again. How have you been?”
She smiled and tried to act calm although she was nervous. He was staring at her, his expression was intense. “It’s good to see you again, too,” she admitted, sounding a bit breathless. “I’m happy to see you and I’ve been doing well.”
“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” he asked.
“I’d like you to come over to my studio,” he said. He took out his wallet and removed a business card. He scribbled something at the back of it and handed it to her. As she read the name and address of the studio, he added, “I’d like to paint you.”
She glanced up in surprise. “Paint me?” she exclaimed. “But why should you want to paint me?”
“You’re beautiful,” he said simply. “I want to capture that beauty.”
“I’m not sure,” she said, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. “I’ve never had such a proposition before.” He thinks I’m beautiful.
“Think about it. I will look out for you tomorrow. If I don’t see you, I’ll know that you decided not to do it and although, I will be disappointed, I will understand.”
“Thank you,” she said and she put the card in her handbag. She didn’t feel pressured now.
“If you like, you can still come to my studio just to see my work.”
“I’d like that,” she said.
He smiled and just then, Ava and Marie joined them. Ava’s eyes flashed at Rachel.
Marie said to Rachel, “I think we should leave now,” she said. “It’s getting late and I have a busy day tomorrow with the hubby and kids. Ava, congratulations on your new business venture. I’ve no doubt that it will be a great success. Reid, as always it is a pleasure to see you.”
Rachel got up and came round the table so that she was standing next to Reid. She could feel his eyes on her. She said goodnight first to Ava whose expression was hostile and then she turned to Reid, holding out her hand. He took it and her pulse raced when she felt him squeeze it gently. Their eyes held for a brief moment and then she turned and walked away.
On their way to her car, Marie remarked, “There’s something going on between Reid and you. I sensed it and I know Ava did too, that’s why she didn’t want to leave the two of you alone. So, what did he say to you?”
“He invited me to go to his studio tomorrow. He wants to paint me.”
“Wow, that’s a great compliment. I wish I had an artist ask to paint me. Well, are you going to do it or not?”
“I’m not sure…”
“I think you should do it. It might be fun and besides, it gives the two of you a chance to be alone.”
“But, what about Ava?”
“Ava’s history. I won’t be surprised if he breaks up with her tonight.”
“I don’t want to be the cause for their breakup.”
“It would have happened even if you weren’t in the picture. Don’t feel bad about it. Ava’s not the right woman for Reid. And that’s a fact that’s clear to everyone, except her, unfortunately.”
Rachel sighed. “She already doesn’t like me and now I’m giving her a good reason to hate me.”
“Don’t worry about Ava,” Marie advised her. “She’ll get over Reid in time.”
Rachel thought about it as she lay in bed that night and by morning, she had decided that she would go to the studio. It was on a quiet street and located on the second floor of a warehouse. The door was open and she went in. There was an easel with a blank sheet of paper on it. Framed paintings stacked against the walls. Bright light effused the spacious room. She could smell the paints and she smiled as she looked around. It was such a treat being in an artist’s studio and seeing his work. There were a couple of floor lamps, chairs, a stool and a table with the paints.
As she was studying and admiring the paintings on the wall adjacent to the windows, Reid came in. He smiled when he saw her. “Hello,” he said. “I’m glad you came. I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”
She turned toward him, thinking how sexy he looked in the black shirt and blue jeans. “No, I didn’t have any trouble finding it. It’s a really nice with lots of natural light. I was just admiring your work. Some of them, I recognized. Has Ava ever been here?”
“Once. Would you like something to drink?”
She shook her head. “Not right now, thanks.”
“So, what have you decided?”
“I’ve decided to let you paint me.”
He grinned, rubbing his hands together. “Splendid. Now, all you have to do is sit on the stool over there and try not to move. You can set your handbag and jacket on the chair over there. Thanks for agreeing to do this, Rachel.”
She did as he instructed and climbed up on the stool. As she sat down, she was glad that she had worn jeans instead of the long black skirt with the side slit. She watched as he mixed the paints and then stood behind the easel and got to work. After two hours of not moving, she was relieved when he set his brush down and stepped from behind the easel.
“We’re done for today,” he said.
She slid down from the stool and stretched. “How long will it take to complete?” she asked.
“Two weeks. You don’t have to sit every time because I know you’re busy. I have a sketch that I can work from.”
“I can come in the evenings after work,” she offered.
“That would be great. Are you hungry?”
“There’s a bistro around the corner where we can have something to eat or we can order take out delivery and eat here. Which would you prefer?”
They had Thai food delivered to them and they sat cross legged on the floor, eating and talking. It was dark outside by the time they left the studio. Before they parted, they arranged to meet again at the studio the following day. For two weeks, she went to the studio and sat for two hours as he painted her. Finally, the day came when she would see the finished painting. Excited, she let herself into the studio and closed the door.
She went over to the chair to put her jacket on it when Reid came into the room. She turned and her breath caught in her throat when she saw that he was not wearing a shirt. It was in his hand. He stopped short when he saw her. “You’re early,” he commented as he pulled it on but didn’t button it. He went over to where she stood. Flustered, she turned away.
She felt his hands on her shoulders turning her around to face him. Their eyes met and what she saw in his made her mouth go dry. Desire shone in their depths. “Rachel,” he muttered huskily. “You must know by now how I feel about you.”
The feelings churning inside her were on her face. “What about Ava?” she asked, trying not to look at his chest.
“I ended my relationship with her that night at the restaurant. She blamed you. She saw the attraction between us that night. I told her that I would have ended our relationship even if you and I had not met. I told her that we were not right for each other. I felt badly about it but I couldn’t continue pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t.”
“I feel sorry for her but, I can’t say that I’m sorry that you’re available now…”
“Oh, Rachel…” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her. She kissed him back, her arms going around his neck as she pressed against him. The sunlight flooded the room, bathing them in its warmth as they exchanged passionate kisses. “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.
“I love you too,” she whispered. She had loved him that day when she saw him standing there among the wheat, looking like he just had stepped out of the pages of GQ.
Several hours later, he unveiled the painting and her mouth dropped open when she saw. Moved to tears, she said, “It’s beautiful.”
His eyes were tender as he looked at her. “That’s how I see you,” he said quietly. “You’re beautiful within and without. This painting is going to be for my private viewing. It’s not going to be placed in any gallery.”
“Good,” she said, putting her arms around his waist. “I don’t relish the idea of hanging in public for everyone to gawk at me. Both the painting and I are for your eyes only.” And with that, she reached up and kissed him.