Authors: Lisa A. Olech
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #spicy, #model
Jagger couldn’t help but laugh as Zee’s ears turned pink to match her shoes.
Soon, they headed out to the parking lot. “I appreciate your taking the time to do this.”
“I don’t want you to get yourself stranded somewhere.”
Zee loaded her supplies and popped the hood while he retrieved the yellow handled screwdriver he’d used the other day.
“I wish I’d had your screwdriver this morning.” To prove her point she held up a palette knife with its tip twisted and warped.
“I’ll give you this one. You can start your own toolbox.”
“I can’t take that. Suppose you need it yourself?”
“I have several. Don’t want you killing any more knives.”
Jagger looked over the cable fitting, unscrewed the entire assembly and looked closely at the threads of the screw. “Everything looks spot on. It shouldn’t have come loose.” He put everything back together and secured it. He closed the hood and handed Zee his screwdriver.
Her fingers brushed his as she took the tool. In the sunlight, her eyes had these amazing silvery flecks. Her gaze held him captive. “It seems like I’m always thanking you lately.”
“Save it for when I do something really great.” Jagger wished she wouldn’t look at him like that. He’d love to give her a list of all those “really great” things he’d like to do to her. Like kissing every inch of her. He’d start at those two little spirals of hair behind her ears and not stop until he reached her ankles.
Zee graced him with a smile. “If I was more like Leah, I could come up with some flirty response to that.”
“I’m glad you’re not her. Don’t get me wrong. I like her a lot, but the way she looks at me sometimes.”
“Like you’re a six-foot parakeet at a starving cat convention?”
“Wearing catnip boxers.”
Laughter bubbled out of her like a fountain. “That’s Leah! I love her. She’s so…Leah.” She laughed again. “She does have a crazy crush on you, but don’t worry, she’s madly in love with a sweet guy named Ted. Your catnip boxers are safe.”
“And what about you?”
“Me?” After their laughter, the question seemed to surprise her.
“Any chance you’ve got a crazy crush on me, too?” He reached out and tested the softness of a stray curl and looked into those sterling eyes. Zee’s lips parted as she held his gaze. His knuckle brushed the line of her jaw.
A pickup rolled into the parking lot and slowed to fit into the space next to Zee’s car. Jagger tugged her closer to get her out of the truck’s path. The driver waved as he jumped out of the cab.
Jagger looked down. He still held tight to Zee’s arm. Her eyes were focused somewhere in the middle of his chest. They were so close. He ran his hand gently from her elbow to her shoulder and back again. “So?” He breathed in the scent of her hair. She smelled like those cookies his mother used to make with the strawberry jam.
Zee took a nervous step back. “I’m sorry, Jagger.” She handed him back the yellow-handled screwdriver. “I-I don’t have crushes.” She rubbed the spot where he had tugged on her arm. It was the same spot where Ed had grabbed her. “I have to go.”
Jagger wanted to beat his head against the tailgate of that damned truck. He was such an idiot! “Zee…”
She opened her car door and looked back at him. “Thank you. I appreciate all your help. Really. I just…” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’ll see you Friday.” Jagger watched George pull away.
The weight of Jagger’s body pinned Zee to the couch. She sighed with pleasure. Raising her leg, she cradled him between her thighs as he pressed himself against her. She moaned and arched her back. Fingers kneaded her breast. Warm breath caressed her skin. The slowness of his hands drove her mad with desire. Her clothes clung to the hot dampness of her skin. If he didn’t rip them from her and take her now… She whimpered in frustration.
“Jagger. Please. Oh God, I need you.”
He nuzzled the juncture between her shoulder and neck. Delicious waves spread through her. Her sex pulsed. Ached. Zee rolled her hips upward, moaning. She ran her hand through the soft fullness of his hair as Jagger kissed and nipped his way up her throat. He licked her chin and along her jaw. His tongue was rough as sandpaper. He smelled like…like fish? Was he purring?
Swimming to break the surface of her dream, Zee awoke with Isabella sitting on her chest. “Oh, Bella. Get off!” Zee shoved the cat away. Isabella jumped down and flipped her indignant tail in offense.
Zee groaned loudly into the dark. Her body still pulsed. She was hot and sweaty and horny as hell. If she went back to sleep, would the dream finish? Would Jagger…?
“Dammit!” Zee laid an arm across her eyes. What time was it?
No sleep last night and that embarrassing scene with Jagger earlier had her dropping her things and face-planting the couch as soon as she made it through the door. Her head had been pounding. She’d seen Jagger’s pitying face all the way home. She’d just wanted to close her eyes for a minute.
How long had she been asleep? Long enough to dream about him. Only this time it wasn’t his pity she was seeing. The image of his glorious body returned. In her dream she remembered running her hands over the play of muscle and skin. Laying a kiss upon the center of his chest, reaching down to grasp the hard length of his…
Good Lord, girl!
Zee pushed herself off the couch and whacked her knee on the coffee table. “Aaahh!” Pain and frustration radiated through her. She put her hands on her hips, bent at the waist and cursed. Loudly.
She fumbled to turn on a light. Blinking against the assault on her eyes, it took a moment to read her watch: 11:37. She’d been asleep almost seven hours. Now she was wide awake, bruised and frustrated as hell. Great. Zee’s stomach growled. Add starving. At least that she could fix.
A quick meal of eggs and toast washed down with a glass of wine had only served in easing her hunger for food. Her body and her mind still hungered for something else. Someone else. Too bad that wasn’t on the menu.
Moving into the dining room, the table cluttered with work, Zee held up a sketch of Jagger. It was one of the quick angry sketches she had done last week.
Zee sipped on a second glass of wine as she contemplated the drawing. Even though it was only comprised of wide slashes of charcoal, her mind’s eye could conjure the missing details. Evidently, her mind’s eye could conjure all sorts of things about Jagger.
She studied the drawing again. It wasn’t her usual style. It was heated and sparse, but she liked it. There was something about the impulsive outline. The rapid strokes of black across white needed no explanation or definition. It was pure emotion.
Zee moved the painting that stood upon her easel and replaced it with a fresh canvas. Looking back at the sketch, she wondered if she could get the same effect with paint. Her hands reached for her usual colors.
Perhaps it was the soft edge from that second glass of wine; perhaps it was her rebellious mood or her traitorous body. She couldn’t say, but she wanted new. Daring. Bold. Vibrant.
Out of the tubes of paint she grabbed bright cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, and phthalo green. She kept these vivid colors in her arsenal, but in years of doing portraits and nudes, these fat metal tubes rarely saw use. Their pigments were much too rich. They had the strength to overpower all other colors, so she’d always been taught to use them sparingly. Not tonight. Great globs of dark jeweled brilliance graced her palette. The decadent cherry red of the crimson looked good enough to eat.
Dipping the brush into the red, she swept it over the stark white of the canvas mimicking the line of Jagger’s broad shoulder. The garish fuchsia screamed at her. Zee stood stunned for a moment. She reached for a larger brush. No, that’s still not right. Dammit, she needed her knife. The ruined one.
Frustration welled in her. “Damn.” She drained her wine glass and retrieved the box from the fridge. Zee filled the glass again and held its chilled curve to her lips while she contemplated the misguided mess on the canvas. She looked over at the fat tin tubes and then back to her palette. She had plenty of paint. Placing her glass on the table, she reached out and scooped a dollop of the crimson onto the ends of her fingers. Following the sweep of color she just made, she smeared the thick tint over the canvas until she felt the rough texture of its surface beneath her fingertips.
That worked. Zee liked the effect, too. She smiled an impish smile as all at once she was back in kindergarten with her first finger paints. Scooping up more, she used her fingers and the back edge of her hand to imitate the strokes she would have made with her knife.
Paint pushed under her fingernails and oozed between her fingers. Cobalt stained her wrist as she pushed and spread the cacophony of color over the stretched fabric. She loved the feel of the paint as the smell of linseed oil surrounded her. When she dipped her fingers into her mixture of oil and turpentine to thin out a certain area, she smiled at the slickness.
Before her in vivid, gaudy color, Jagger’s body took shape. Zee’s breath caught as her fingers created the definition of his chest. Warmth radiated from the blue flesh shadowed with greens and purples. Her left hand soon joined her right in the sweep of a thigh and the curve of a hip.
The room was getting warm. She reached up to unzip her sweatshirt ruining the garment and staining her chest. Zee barely noticed. Purple fingers grasped her wineglass and smudged her cheek as she drank.
Grabbing still more tubes of paint, Zee added to the chaotic disorder on her palette. Fingered waves of light represented Jagger’s hair. Swipes of yellow joined blue to highlight the muscles of his chest and thighs.
Hours and too many glasses of wine later, Zee stood back in appraisal. Orange fingerprints added to the smears on her glass.
“What a mess.” Zee smiled at the familiar voice behind her.
“Thanks.” She took another swallow.
“I’m not talking about the painting. I think that’s…”
“I’m trying to think of the right word.”
“That bad, eh?” Zee finished her wine
“No. That good. It’s striking. Yes, striking is the word I was searching for.”
“No, sweetheart, you’re in love.”
“Ha! You must be drunk, too?”
“No. I’m old and wise. I see all.”
“Now I know I’m drunk.” Zee put down her glass.
“Can’t you see it?” Nana swept her hand toward the canvas.
“Of course I can see it, I painted it.”
“No, my darling girl… Can’t you see what you’ve really painted here?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It was getting embarrassing. She looked back at the painting and saw the foolishness. It wasn’t her. Nana didn’t know what she was saying. She didn’t love Jagger. It was the dream. It was the wine. She’d let her imagination get the best of her again.
Where was the rag? She used her ruined sweatshirt to wipe her hands. Now it matched the rest of the paint-smeared sweatshirts in her collection.
“I wish this Jagger was here right now. I mean, when you make love to a man, it’s best if he’s actually in the room.”
“Am I? Look again.”
Zee couldn’t deny the passion that spread across the panel in the vivid sweeps of wet color. It was sexual and wild. It was everything she was feeling. It was all the things she was not.
“So what’s your point?” Zee snapped.
“I have no point. I just wanted to make sure you saw it, too.”
Zee backed through the kitchen door and snatched the roll of paper towels from the counter. Standing back in front of the painting, she balled a large section of towel and stood poised to wipe it all away.
“If you destroy that, I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Don’t, Zee. I didn’t raise you to be a coward.”
“Are we still talking about the painting?”
“You know the answer to that.”
Zee checked the back of her hand for paint before she ran it wearily across her eyes. She took a deep breath and chewed at her lower lip. The taste of paint filled her mouth.
The sound of the ringing phone shot knives through Zee’s brain. She groaned as she rolled off the couch to scour the living room for the cordless receiver. She found it and nearly cried as it shrilled again in her hand.
“Hello?” She croaked as she blocked the offensive light of day by covering her eyes with her hand.
It took all she had not to press the disconnect button. “Ed.” She groaned.
“What do you want?”
“I want to see you.”
“I don’t think so.” She rubbed at her forehead. Too much wine. Brain broken.
“We’re never going to fix us if you won’t see me.”
Her eyebrows felt fused together. “There is no
to fix.” Had a herd of camels died in her mouth?
She held her head in her hand. It was futile to argue with someone who refused to listen. Were her ears bleeding? It felt like her ears were bleeding. “Ed, I have an excruciating headache. I can’t deal with you now.”
“Let me guess. PMS? It’s simple, Zee. Just say, ‘Okay, Ed, I’ll go out with you again’ and I’ll hang up.”
Did he just say PMS?
“Listen to me very carefully. I never want to see you again. Stop calling me. Stop dropping by. Stop coming to the school. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to talk to you. Leave me ALONE!” She groaned and held the front of her skull in place. Pain. Screaming brought pain. Zee squeezed the disconnect button and threw the phone. Before it could ring again, she rushed into the kitchen and shut off the ringer. She turned off the answering machine as well.
Zee found some aspirin, drank a huge glass of water, and crawled into bed. Isabella joined her as she pulled the covers over her head.
A loud pounding on the door woke her up. She wrapped a pink terrycloth robe around her and stumbled to the door.
“Oh, please God, don’t let it be Ed.” Zee looked out the peephole and saw Leah. Sending a “Thank you, God” skyward, she opened the door.
“Are you all right?”