Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Bid for Love, Michelle Houston

As the price climbed, Erika felt her nerves stretch tight. Ryan had always had that effect on her, but not normally so unpleasantly. Anticipation of his return home from work would always leave her with damp palms, her breath coming just a little bit quicker. It was accentuated often by what she was wearing as she waited on him. Normally it was simple lingerie, or a leather bustier. But sometimes he would ask her to lie on the bed wearing a mask, her body completely nude, her limbs resting in the valley of padded cuffs, waiting for him to close them around her wrists and ankles.

Those were the days she longed for the most, the innocent seduction of submitting to his dominating ways, of feeling him stroke her body with a soft whip before the whistle of it sung through the air, and the crack of it landed against her tender skin.

It had been perfect.

When her grandmother had gifted her with the painting of the two of them laying together on a white canvas, no sheets or other decorations to detract from the passion of their embrace, she hadn’t had the heart to let the aging woman know a key item was missing, specifically a collar around her neck.

Shaking her head at herself, Erika returned her gaze to the auctioneer as she countered Ryan’s latest bid, taking the cost to eighteen-fifty. Knowing she could only go a few hundred higher tortured her. She was so close, but as the bids continued, and the price jumped to twenty-one hundred, she had to admit defeat. The auctioneer asked for twenty-two hundred, asked again, then looked at her and asked for twenty-one fifty. Raising her paddle, Erika accepted the bid, then held her breath as the bid was asked again for twenty-two hundred.

“We have twenty-two hundred from the gentleman in the back. Do I have twenty-three hundred? Anyone? Twenty-three hundred for this breathtaking Virginia Gleeson painting? No? twenty-two fifty? Anyone? Then sold for twenty-two hundred to the gentleman in the back. If you’ll come up front, please.

“Our next painting …”

Erika tuned out the auctioneer as he started in about the details of the next artwork. Gathering her purse and folder, she stood and walked to the back of the room. A warm hand wrapped around her elbow and jerked her to a halt.

“We need to talk.”

Looking into Ryan’s gaze, Erika felt her heart tighten. She wanted to scream at him for buying her grandmother’s painting, but the memory of how much she used to love him held her silent.

Bitterness swirled around her as she pulled away from him and opened the doors.

“If you want a chance at that painting, you’ll hear me out.”

Erika almost didn’t stop, but knowing how heart broken her mother would be if she ever found out there was a last chance to get the painting back, forced her to stop. Her mother had taken the loss of her own mother just a few months earlier very hard. It had renewed her determination that they find and acquire all of her paintings.

“Meet me in the hallway in five minutes.”

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