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“You’ve been working on that paper for four hours!” Amber flung her hands up in exasperation. “What’s with the workaholic thing, Christie? You’re going to ace the class as it is. Why kill yourself?”
“Because,” Christie sighed, leaning back in her chair. “The exhibit Sophie put together is opening tonight and I want to have fun without responsibilities hanging over my head.” Amber’s brows lifted in incredulous surprise.
“You mean Jacob’s ex-girlfriend Sophie?” She tipped a caddish wink, pivoting on a heel to look deeper into Christie’s eyes. “You’re going to hang out with Jacob, his ex-girlfriend, and a bunch of stuffed shirt pretentious types at an art gallery? Oh shit, Christie. You’ve got it bad.” Christie clicked on a promising link that opened up an article about environmentally based water treatment projects.
“What? I like the museum.” The coolness of Amber’s breath against her neck disturbed a carefully arranged curling tendril of Christie’s blonde hair and she waved impatiently at her friend. “Honestly, Amber. Life isn’t one huge porn flick.”
“It isn’t?” Amber’s eyes sparkled. “And oh my God, you just said ‘porn’ and didn’t burst into flames.” With a gentle pat to Christie’s bare shoulder, the saucy roommate started toward her room “Keep this one, Christie. He’s got my seal of approval.”
Christie laughed and took a sip of her diet citrus soda.
“Thanks. Now I can rest easier knowing he meets your discerning and lofty standards.”
“Keep offering and one of these days, you might wear me down.” Amber laughed and Christie returned her attention to the paper she was trying so diligently to finish.
It was an atypically cool summer afternoon with brisk breezes out of the west. The fresh draft seemed to invigorate the inhabitants of their apartment complex. Athletic young men played basketball with a portable hoop on the sidewalk out front, and Christie’s neighbor downstairs was enthusiastically cleaning her apartment and blasting Goldfrapp much to Christie’s irritation. It was too lovely outside to shut the windows, but if she had to hear another song from that group, she would lose her mind.
Perhaps a large contributor to her anxiety was the fact that she hadn’t seen Jacob in a week and a half. He had an assignment covering a technology expo in town and after an entire weekend of interviews and notes, he was meticulously crafting an article. If it went well, he was hoping to get a gig covering an electronic music festival since the reporting would be generously mixed with all sorts of fringe benefits.
An unexpected call from Sophie to personally extend an invitation to the opening of her exhibition had come as a wonderful surprise. But she was flattered that Sophie had gone to the effort of inviting her, and fully intended on going even though she really wasn’t the type who’d usually attend such events.
She only hoped to be able to finish her paper, or a good deal of it, before she left. While she’d gathered almost enough information to put it all together, she didn’t want to have the work gnawing her during the evening and knew properly siting sources was always her great undoing.
At last she was making progress and got lost in the meticulous construction of the composition, flitting back and forth from open information windows as she put it all together and sited as she went. Christie wanted to maintain her straight A average and though Amber teased her mercilessly about it, she was nothing short of a perfectionist who wouldn’t settle for less if it were within her power. Even if this put free time at a premium.
So lost was she that when Amber approached and tapped her on the shoulder, she nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Jesus, Amber! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“I tried calling your name a couple times but you didn’t hear me. You were too busy getting your nerd on. Anyway, you wanted me to tell you when it was five o’clock so you could get ready. Well, it’s five o’clock. Go get ready. Forget this fucking paper for a while.”
“It’s a wonder I get to class at all living with you,” Christie sighed, sliding out of her chair and rising to her toes to stretch in a delicate arc.
“Give credit where it’s due.” Amber reached past Christie to turn off the monitor. “If I hadn’t dragged you, kicking and screaming, to that festival, you wouldn’t have ever met Jacob, and I’d still have to deal with your sexually frustrated ass.” Christie folded her arms, looking at her friend and roommate with soft eyes. She was right. If not for her, Christie wouldn’t have met a man who continually tested her and pushed her to challenge herself more than anyone she’d ever known, and that was something for which she’d always be grateful.
“I know.” She smiled, leaning forward to give Amber a quick hug. “Thanks. And don’t get used to hearing it, but in this case, you’re right.” Amber lifted one perfectly plucked brow, tossing her auburn hair out of her eyes.
“Yeah, casino şirketleri yeah. So go get ready or you’ll be late. That would definitely get noticed at a high brow event like this, and talk about fucking embarrassing.” Christie smiled.
The shower felt wonderful; a much needed refreshing of her body and spirits, and as she squeezed some tuberose-scented body wash on her sponge, she closed her eyes and thought about Jacob. She missed him so much her body ached, and she hoped they wouldn’t be forced to hang around the gallery until everyone else had gone home. Lately, their time together was rare and she craved him like an addict. Longed to feel his arms around her and his lips on hers, his lust for her bright in those expressive green eyes as she traced his tattoos with her fingertips or played with his nipple ring. And the feel of his tongue piercing against her clit…
Christie shivered, closing her eyes as she moved the sponge lower, lingering around her navel and abdomen before pausing and with a bright blush, letting it slide down over the trimmed curls of her mound, then further back over the sensitive flesh.
Christie wondered if Jacob would like for her to shave here, then wondered beyond that what his reaction would be. Though there really wasn’t time for that sort of tantalizing speculation now, the idea got a hold of her and refused to let go, drawing itself out into an elaborate fantasy of feeling him fully against her smooth pussy, the slippery contact of their union heightened by her bare skin.
With her blush deepening to spread to her earlobes, she longingly ran the sponge over her sensitive clit. Blindly, she reached for the bar that held their shampoos, soap, and other shower products. Giving in to memories of the night Jacob bent her over the balcony, she rubbed concentrated circles over her tiny pleasure bud until her breathing grew unsteady.
A long shuddering sigh escaped her lips as she threw her head back, spine arching as her perky breasts pressed against the tiled wall. It was cold and her nipples immediately hardened into irrepressible little peaks. She gasped, rubbing a bit faster as she felt her muscles begin to contract and the gentle warmth of her juices as they began to gather in her soapy and tender flesh.
A sharp wrapping against the bathroom door made her jump and she dropped the sponge, eyes flying open as she bent to retrieve it.
“Yes?” Christie tried to keep her tone typical and hoped nothing in it gave away her moment of weakness.
“I have to use the bathroom. Can I come in?” Amber’s voice called above the cascading water. Christie sighed, slumping against the corner.
“That color looks fabulous on you!” Amber exclaimed as Christie finally left her room, the pale lavender silk of her dress moving light as air around her like a couture cloud. “And your hair! Look at you! Official mistress of the up-do! You look totally posh, Christie. Jacob’s going to want to tear that dress off and thoroughly corrupt you! I’d be careful how I looked at him if I were you or he might just bend you over the buffet table or something.” Christie’s cheeks flamed. “All right. He’d probably have the decency to take you into the bathroom first.” Memories of Jacob fingering her on his bathroom counter assailed Christie’s mind and she turned beet red. Amber lifted her brows.
“Nothing. I don’t know when I’ll be back but-” Amber waved a hand dismissively, admiring Christie’s finger and toe nails painted the exact shade of lavender as her dress while Christie struggled to slip on a pair of dainty white gloves. The outfit was absolutely amazing, the pale hue truly bringing out her hair and eyes. “I won’t wait up. Hell, if you come home without Jacob, I won’t let you in.”
“Shut up.” Christie picked up her small white suede purse, lingered in the front doorway for a moment, and then reached for the knob. Amber followed, giving her a quick hug.
“You look gorgeous, m’lady. His mind will instantly be transported to the nearest gutter as soon as you arrive. No worries.” They laughed, and then Christie walked out into the quiet apartment hall, closing the door behind her and starting toward the stairs.
The Spencer Ash Art Institute was the place to show your work if you wanted to be noticed in this town. Founded in 1897 by Spencer Andrew Ash III, the gallery got pieces from Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, and Picasso on a regular basis, and local artists who managed to get their pieces exhibited there were assured of a promising career. However, Christie suspected it wasn’t just Sophie’s art pieces and winning personality that got her works introduced at lavish opening night exhibitions. Rumors abound about Dahlia and Spencer Andrew Ash VIII and their eccentric (to say the least) lifestyle. Young Spence was an intriguing man. Educated at Eaton like the long line of Spencers before him, he returned home with extremely casino firmaları dignified taste in ladies… And gentlemen, while Dahlia was an open and proud lesbian who took up with ladies from many circles much to the family’s chagrin.
Christie heard murmurings in her modern art class that the two oldest Ash sibs led an extremely interesting and varied life to be sure, and that their parents had pinned all their hopes for a proper continuation of the family line on Thomas, the midlife crisis baby of Lillian Ash, a woman now in her fifties who looked at least ten years younger.
Sophie was just bohemian enough to enjoy such a complicated arrangement, and Christie was working up the nerve to ask Jacob, since she was certain he’d know all the scandalous details. She even wondered if Sophie would come home from “work” ripe with the latest juicy tidbits of her escapades with her bosses while she and Jacob got it on. From the photos Christie had seen of the youngest Spencer Ash, Sophie would be one lucky lady if he, too, shared her bed.
But speculating on it was bad enough, and she refused to give in to such prurient ponderings because it simply wasn’t any of her business. Tonight, she was here to support a friend of Jacob’s… of theirs, and that was the end of it.
Thin wisps of clouds stretched across the deepening skies as Christie got out of her compact Saturn and stepped up onto the cobblestone walk before the gallery. It was housed in a lovely gothic stone building replete with gargoyles and the lot. Apparently there was quite a brawl at city hall when Spencer Ash III proposed to have it built after lengthy consultations with an architect. The family’s fortunes had greased the wheels of local government, and despite the city mayor’s outright objection, the art institute was built with the support of the entire governing staff except the very disgruntled and overruled mayor.
With such a colorful history, it was only fitting the institute had an equally intriguing and quirky staff.
So wrapped up in her thoughts was Christie that she almost walked right past Jacob, who leaned provocatively against a column smoking a clove cigarette and watching an evergreen Audi carefully maneuvering up as close to the curb as possible. When his gaze fell on Christie, his eyes widened and he involuntarily stood bolt upright.
She wore white sandals, little white lace gloves, a broad brimmed white hat trimmed in pale purple ribbon and flowers, and a stunning lavender gown that was scooped low enough in front to be sexy without revealing too much. The skirt was full and flowed to her knees, and when she saw him, she smiled and took off her sunglasses. Feeling positively filthy for the sudden and intense longing to tear her out of her finery and fuck her raw, Jacob put out his cigarette and went to her, embracing her so tightly he was afraid she’d wrinkle as he placed a chaste kiss on her cheek.
“God damn,” he breathed, inhaling the sweet and heady floral perfume she wore. “You look as if Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn had a love child, however that would work.” Christie smiled, her make up all soft shades of pink and rose.
“And you look like you’re going to an Emilie Autumn concert.” He grinned, shrugging in his black sport coat and dress shirt. She was amused to see he had forsaken his usual boots in lieu of proper dress shoes and pressed slacks instead of jeans.
“Nope. If she was going to be performing in the area, I may have to pass up Sophie’s show. But you know if I even dreamed of missing this, Sophie would threaten to kick my ass. Even though she knows I’d enjoy it too much.” He offered her an elbow and they strode toward the polished oak doors, looking like the most unlikely of couples as an authentic doorman stepped aside, opening it for them when Jacob flashed an actual engraved invitation on white parchment. Christie’s eyes widened. “Yeah, Sophie would beat my ass for missing this, but it would so be worth it. I can just feel the pretentiousness of this crowd already. I don’t know how Soph puts up with it.” He grinned, dropping her a bad boy smile and wink, his hair actually tamed into an unusual and rare smoothness today.
“Did those invitations come sealed with an emblem of the SAAIA seal?” Christie quipped as her heels clicked delicately on the black marble floor.
“As a matter of fact,” Jacob began, leading her through the vestibule with it’s series of parallel gothic-styled windows and crammed full of exotic floral bouquets; the fresh greens and heady blooms creating an intriguing perfume as they passed. “They did. I don’t exactly know how Sophie got Dahlia to go all out for this show, but I don’t even want to guess how much this cost.”
Soft Chopin met their ears as they stepped onto lush crimson carpeting so thick it swallowed sound. Christie’s grip on Jacob’s arm tightened in her nervousness, but he merely strutted along as if he owned the place. She supposed he probably felt as if he did while güvenilir casino he was with Sophie, and her cheeks warmed.
“Jacob! Christie!” Sophie’s call was distant, and the pair turned from the swags of velvet curtains, lavish spread of hors d’œuvre, and champagne fountain to see Sophie hurrying down a dim hall with recessed lighting, accompanied by a tall and willowy young woman so blonde and fair she looked almost elfin. “Dahlia? This is Christie, Jacob’s girlfriend. Christie? This is Dahlia Ash.” Christie felt the butterflies in her belly tie themselves into knots.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the young woman greeted, her diction perfect and polished despite her soft and rather childlike voice. “Sophie’s told me so much about you.” And as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she glided near Sophie, who looked stunning, to slip an arm around her waist, implying more than casual friendship with the gesture. “I’m so glad you could come. It’s lovely to see you again, Jacob.”
“Dahlia,” Jacob nodded, lifting one of the spare woman’s small hands to brush his lips over her fingertips. “Nice outfit, Sophie. I don’t think I’ve seen that corset before.”
“Of course you haven’t, silly. I just bought it with Dahlia the other afternoon.” The pair of women smiled knowing smiles, and then excused themselves.
Christie watched them leave, still taking in their polarized looks. Dahlia was wearing a pair of white Capri pants and a white tank, silvery hair swept up into a chignon and lovely fare skin set off by delicate platinum jewelry. Sophie, on the other hand, was all black satin and black velvet, flowing ink black hair left down and amazing cleavage shown off to great advantage with the help of a beautiful satin and lace corset and lace jacket, all the same dramatic black against her pale skin. Where as Dahlia’s makeup was light and minimalist, Sophie was theatrically beautiful, and when Christie’s eyes met Jacob’s, they knew what the other was thinking and both grinned.
“If I could get them on tape, I’d make a mint. That’s got to be the hottest pairing since you and I,” he murmured with a roguish laugh. “Come on. Let’s get some champagne and go be antisocial somewhere.”
They sipped their champagne and talked about her paper and his job, directing each other’s attention to this local political figure or that news and radio personality, Christie surprised and a bit embarrassed by all the lingering glances cast her way. The most recent of these unabashed glances being from the young and handsome brother of the mayor. Jacob watched her lower her eyes to contemplate her glass and bent to kiss her brow.
“You’re breath-taking, Christie. That dick that does the sports updates on the news gave me thumbs up and another gesture I won’t repeat in polite company. They can’t stop looking because you look perfect, and neither can I.”
“Thank you.” Christie tried to meet his eyes, but her blush only deepened. “I’ve missed you, and that’s pretty much all I’m thinking about.” He kissed her cheek, taking her gloved hand.
“I’ve missed you too, angel. I don’t want to snub Sophie, but to be quite honest; I can’t wait to get you home. Then you can tell me every dirty little thought running through your mind when I’m inside you. You know what that does to me.” His eyes closed for a second and he took a steadying breath.
The music grew softer and the muted babble of the guests quieted as she and Jacob moved nearer to the crowd. Sophie stood a respectable distance from Dahlia, but the two women exchanged a charged glance as an equally tall and thin young man separated himself from the gathering and moved to stand by Dahlia, pulling her to his side as he addressed the black tie assemblage.
“Thank you all for coming.” He cast a glance around the room, bright blue eyes almost hypnotic in their intensity, just like Dahlia’s. “I’m Thomas Ash, and Dahlia has been a gracious sister and allowed me to fill in for Spence on this very special occasion. Spencer couldn’t be here this evening because, being the unremitting collector he is, there was a last minute delay of plans with regard to his accompanying some art from Milan and he was unable to expedite the process.
“But tonight, we’re proud to offer the newest works of our most promising young artist, Sophia Marcus. She and my sister Dahlia have spent months putting this exhibit together, and it is nothing short of stunning. So, without any more of my chatting Sophie up…” he paused, turning to blow a kiss to Sophie, who threw one back. “Allow me to present the first piece, ‘In the Garden with Dahlia’.”
Gasps and applause met the first portrait of a nude Dahlia laying amid a field of pink lilies, one leg artfully bent to hide her own flower, arms thrown back in total surrender, pale blonde hair splayed out beneath her head. It was vibrant and seductive all at once, and Christie thought the setting couldn’t have been better.
As it turned out, every piece featured Dahlia in one pose or another, some clothed, some not, but all executed with obvious love and passion. And as more champagne was consumed, the discussions grew more relaxed and punctuated with laughter and commentary on the work.
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