Saturday, June 20, 2009

Drawn to You by Nona Wesley

Alan watched silently for a moment before scooting closer to better see her work. Unlike other artists with whom she was acquainted, Shay didn’t mind the occasional over-the-shoulder observation as she sketched out concepts for her strip. That Alan did it now, though, challenged her concentration...and her desires. Surely he had to realize how her body reacted to his closeness? Every warm, friendly hug received, every gentle tap on the arm in passing, caused her insides to quiver.

Nonetheless, a steady hand managed to produce a nice interpretation of a beach chair planted in the sand, with a few clam shells resting nearby for ambiance. For fun, she added a string of pearls protruding from the mouth of one of them.

“Something new?” Alan asked. “The Single Ladies going on vacation?”

“Perhaps,” she replied. “As much as I live vicariously through them, and I need a vacation, they might as well go on it for me.”

He chuckled and patted her free hand. Zing went the electric pulse through her veins, pumping her heart and prickling her nipples underneath her thick, corded sweater. Her drawing hand nudged slightly, nearly turning the pearl necklace into a noose.

“You ought to, you work hard,” he said. “You should be able to get away, even for a weekend. I mean, don’t you draw these far enough in advance to give you some time?”

Shay nodded, keeping her eyes on her work. I won’t look up. I won’t be hypnotized by those beautiful baby blues. “I work on a six-week lead time with the syndicate, which is easy on me since I don’t draw Sunday panels. Still, to maintain that, I have to keep working.”

If only she could. While the hilarious comic exploits of Tasha Trueheart and her sassy girlfriends enjoyed a healthy circulation and lucrative licensing contracts with greeting card companies and the like, Shay knew the score. Once the well ran dry, and the single ladies of Single Ladies could no longer maintain that three-panel, gag-a-day punch, she might find herself on permanent vacation.

She felt close to the end of a good long run, and it bothered Shay. She loved her work and the flexibility of her lifestyle, but how many more jokes about thong bikinis and men leaving up the toilet seat could be told with originality? Even the chicks on Sex and the City had the good sense to walk away from their Flirtinis at the right time, and Shay considered a sabbatical, but the strip was all she had now.

A man? She’d love a man. She’d love to have the man sitting next to her now, out of the chair and in her bed. With crumbling reserve, she panned her gaze over to the strong, white hand still touching her wrist. Alan saw her only as a friend, though. He probably had a slim, blonde trophy waiting at home, stretching under satin sheets and enjoying the fruits of Alan’s say nothing of his sexual prowess. Of course, Shay had never seen the man with the top button of his Polo shirt undone, but damn! Looking at his body, feeling his touch, she knew he had to be skilled.

She closed the pad, pulling gently away to pack her things. “I’ll think about it,” she said. No point in burdening Alan with her work woes—he had Ty and the business to contend with, and she felt certain he could relate, in a way. “I have a meeting in a bit, so I better motor. I’ll just top off in a to-go cup.”

“No, I’ll get you fresh one.” Alan stood and took her half-empty mug. He paused. “I forgot why I wanted to talk to you. I loved the strip that ran today.”

“Oh, thanks!” She searched her memory for the current storyline. Without her calendar in front of her, that proved useless, but Alan produced a rolled-up section of the newspaper from his back pocket and opened it to her strip.

He pointed to Tasha, sitting at a table in a coffee shop. Wired Down read the sign on the wall, and a cute man in an apron served Tasha’s drink. Every feature, from the salt-and-pepper hair to the shirt, buttoned up to the collar, represented a comic strip version of Alan. Only the baby blues couldn’t translate to newsprint.

“That supposed to be anybody I know?” Alan asked with a mischievous smile.

Shay gave the paper a cursory glance, keeping her demeanor nonchalant. “Hugh Jackman.”

“Well, he’s looking pretty damn good these days.” Alan winked.

Not half as good as you, my dear. “Must be the coffee. Good for the metabolism. I’ll see ya.” Shay nodded and ducked away before Alan could touch her again.

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