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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Just Being Neighborly by Nicole Gestalt

Adriana closed and locked her letterbox, the few letters that had arrived this morning clutched in her left hand. She stopped as she passed the porters’ room as she always did, and leaned in to see if he was there.

Matt, she didn’t actually know his last name, had worked as a porter for as long as she had lived here. He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. She thought he rather looked like Father Christmas, and had often laughed with him about it. Matt’s children had grown up and left the city a long time ago, and he rarely saw anyone outside of the flats these days. His wife had passed on during the previous year, and since then Adriana had always taken a few minutes to pop in to say hello and, when she had time, share a cup of coffee in front of his little electric fire.

Matt wasn’t in, and she was just about to leave when she decided to check behind his desk. When a package arrived that was too large for the letterbox, Matt took them and placed them on a shelf behind his desk. Usually he would also drop them off to the flat it was addressed to, and could often turn up wandering around with parcels.

A large, brown paper wrapped box caught her gaze. She read the flat number and realised it was addressed to her mystery guy. It wasn’t marked with any recognisable return address, and she was a bit disappointed when she couldn’t work out what was in the package. Still, she thought, it wouldn’t do any harm to go and deliver the parcel. She could introduce herself at the same time. Glancing at his name she said it out aloud, allowing the sound to roll around on her tongue.

“Andrew Morganson.” She liked how it felt as it rolled off her tongue. Already her body was anticipating that this one act would lead to ones so much more personal. It had been too long since she last had a guy want to be with her, to make her feel wanted, full, and content.

Placing the package down upon Matt’s desk, she quickly wrote him a note letting him know she was delivering it, then, holding the package and resisting the urge to shake it, she began to make her way upstairs. On a whim, she ducked into her flat to make sure she was presentable. Normally she wasn’t too worried with looking pristine, but she wanted to make the first impression a great one. Once everything was to her approval, she made her way upstairs.

Adriana knocked loudly; the sound echoed and melted away into silence. Frowning, she paused. Maybe no one was in. Just as she was about to knock again she heard a key in the door, and held her breath as the door opened.

“Oh, hello.” A woman stood still, her hand resting on the doorframe. Deep blue eyes sparkled and Adriana was lost for words, partly in shock because a woman had opened the door, but also because she found herself captivated by the woman’s eyes. Snapping out of it, she held out the package.

“Hi! I live in the flat just below you. I hope you don’t mind, but I was down getting my mail and thought I’d bring this up to you to save Matt a trip.” She was gushing.

The woman appeared delighted by the package and took it from her.

“Why thank you, I don’t think we’ve been introduced before now. My name is Cassie Morganson, my husband’s Andrew, I would introduce you but he’s just gone into town for some bits and pieces.” She thrust out her hand and took hold of Adriana’s in greeting.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Cassie, I’m Adriana.” He was married. She knew that would have been a possibility. Her gaze wandered over Cassie, taking in her looks. Her auburn hair was swept up away from her face, enhancing her striking features. She appeared to be tall, young and slender, although her body was mostly hidden from view by the apron she wore. As if Cassie realised what Adriana was doing, she brushed down the apron.

“Sorry I was just going some baking and…oh the oven’s still on…one second.” Cassie turned and disappeared left down the apartment’s corridor. Adriana stood in shock, not sure if she had seen right or not, for it had appeared to her that Cassie, other than the apron––she was naked.

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