Exhibitions Ch. 04byannanova©
It wasn't my intention to have such a lengthy wait between chapters, yet we all know how the song goes... 'Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.' There will be one more chapter which takes Anna and Van away from the city. Thanks, as always, to my wonderful editor for helping me with the details, and to the great Lit readers who've been so patient.
© annanova, 2013
"Seriously, can you believe how well the show went?"
Anna hadn't been able to stop chattering about her first international photography exhibit. She had slowed a little over breakfast, but not by much.
"Yes, babe," Van grinned. No matter how many times she said it, he was still excited for her. "You might have mentioned something about it this morning."
She laughed at his tone and turned to watch the passing Quebec countryside. They were following up on an offer from Antoine, the manager of Galerie Lamarque, the location of the photo exhibit.
"Okay, maybe I'm going a little overboard, but I have another show coming as a result of this one and I sold five of my pictures. Five, Van, five! Antoine said that hardly ever happens... especially for someone that they'd never heard of."
The late spring sun warmed the car, somehow even making his laughter sound happier to her ears.
"I was standing right behind you, Anna, I heard everything he said." Reaching over to squeeze her thigh, he smiled before casually tracing the delicate line of her chin. "I'm proud of you. I know you've been working toward this for a long time."
She laughed at his statement, recalling what he'd been doing during her discussion with the gallery manager. "You were standing right behind me and listening? Yeah, sure you were," she teased. "I kind of think that your ears have migrated because you seemed to be more occupied with my ass than my conversation."
His grin spread into a full smile. "Well, you can't blame me for that... you kept teasing me with it, and you have such a great ass."
In her excitement about the show, they'd arrived early. Two of the young assistants had been stunned into near-submission at the view of Anna's hem fluttering around her thighs in the draft of the closing door. She had turned to take her lover's hand, so the men caught a glimpse of the sweet crease at the junction of her ass and thigh.
Hearing one man gasp, Van smiled while squeezing her hand. "See?" he whispered. "It's already working."
Antoine swooped in and the young men snapped into preparation mode. He caught Anna's free hand and gave her his usual greeting of a kiss on each cheek, before standing back to take a good look at what had so distracted his workers. "My dear, you're not supposed to compete with the art on the walls," he laughed. Spinning her like a dancer and watching her hem rise again, he continued to laugh and told Van, "She's enough to make me wish I could give you a run for your money."
Simple yet elegant, her dress flowed enticingly over her beautiful body. Extending to just below her exquisite ass was a semi-sheer sheath in cream overlaid by a slightly longer, finely-knit coverlet that clasped over one shoulder, leaving the other bare. Also in cream, decorated in a paisley design of teal, green and gold, the tapered material vividly described her sensual curves while lending an evocative touch of her Celtic heritage to the Urban Sophisticate oeuvre she maintained for professional events. With the classic silver heels she'd purchased earlier that day providing the perfect complement to her smooth, sculpted legs, she knew she was ready to impress.
Once the show started, the gallery was packed. Thrilled for Antoine at the incredible turn-out, Anna was a little nervous, too. It was her first international showing and following the call she'd received from the Forbes Erotic Arts Gallery, she recognized the opportunities opening before her.
She just had to be brave enough to take them.
"There you are, ma belle." The manager handed her a glass of champagne, toasting the exhibition's success. "But... where is your handsome man?"
"I think he might be assigning himself the job of my promoter," she giggled. "I saw him in front of 'Masques' a few minutes ago, talking it up to a few people."
"That will be an easy job for him." Tipping his glass to hers again, Antoine confided, "That photo will sell tonight. The textures make an intriguing subject for our clientele, who tend to appreciate the abstract... and the erotic."
"Oh, I don't know about —"
"No... you will be quite successful with your photography, Anna. What we have seen here, I am sure, is only an amuse-bouche. Or, what you call, a taste."
A light blush coloring her cheeks, she smiled. "Merci, Antoine. I appreciate how much you've done to support me through this show. I just hope people will like what I've tried to do."
"I have already heard good things. In fact," he leaned in, conspiratorially, "a little bird told me that you had a very interesting phone call today."
Somehow, she wasn't surprised that he knew. "Have you ever worked with them?"
"Well, one of their major donors is also very active with our gallery, so it isn't unheard of that we share talent. I have been hearing only good things from them." He set his empty glass on a nearby table then stood back, crossing his arms to watch her reaction. "Do you have anything in mind for the people at the Forbes?"
She took a moment to think, finally saying, "Holly told me that one of their donors mentioned the nipple shot to her, so I'd want to take that one."
They discussed the intricacies of the art world for several minutes before Antoine reminded her how he had advised her when she had initially signed on for the show at Lamarque. She had consulted with an attorney friend about withholding a few pieces to build a personal collection and developing other shots as limited edition printings, which would help her availability. It wasn't until she thought of the pictures she'd taken in the hotel room that she felt a pair of warm, familiar arms take their place around her waist.
Leaning into Van's chest, she smiled while continuing her conversation. "As a matter of fact, I took a few shots this morning that might work for a future show. Maybe you could take a look and let me know what you think."
"If you want to use any of those... you're definitely taking me with you to that show." His breath tickled her ear. Drinking in her low laugh, he kissed the side of her neck.
"She took pictures of you?" The gallery manager arched an eyebrow in amused curiosity. "Yes, I'll be happy to take a look and give you an opinion, Anna. He'd make a wonderful subject."
"I want to play some more with the color and tones on a few of them, but I was happy with how they turned out the first time I ran them through the program." They agreed to meet the following morning for a professional evaluation, then returned to mingling with the audience.
Much as he had during the private showing the previous night, Van found himself hanging back to watch Anna chat. He was impressed by how she moved seamlessly from one guest to another, chatting with each and making him or her feel they'd been focused on to the exclusion of anyone else. Watching each person she spoke with after she'd walked away, he could see they were thinking about what she'd said. They would also turn back to her work, looking at it anew as if seeking clues that had been dropped in conversation.
Anna had turned, thinking to grab a glass of water when she bumped into a guest.
"Oh, excuse me!" she apologized. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Van observing her. Pushing him to the back of her mind, she tried to talk with the man upon whom she'd spilled her water.
"Please, it's quite alright."
There was something vaguely familiar about the older man with his warm smile and thick white hair. His friendly eyes seemed to indicate they shared a secret.
He helped her pat his coat dry, chuckling at the confused expression on her face. Before she could ask, he told her, "No, we haven't met... yet we're not completely strangers, either." Laughing at her puzzlement, he added, "I'm... staying at the Hotel de Montréal."
Realization dawned, and she flushed multiple tones of red. "So you're...."
"I'm Rob. My room is on the courtyard," he nodded, with a knowing smile. Before she could do anything, he took her hand. "No, please, you shouldn't be embarrassed by it. You're a beautiful young woman, and it was an honor to have been allowed to witness your joy."
"Well... thank you," she murmured. Pulling her professionalism to the fore, she grinned, "So then, Rob, what brings you to the gallery tonight?"
He noted to himself that she hadn't released his hand. "I mentioned something about being a hobbyist photographer to the concierge in our hotel, and he directed me here. I've taken landscapes for years and have experimented with portraits, although I'm generally not lucky enough to get shots like these." With a subtle nod, he indicated the picture they were standing in front of. "How did you manage this?"
It was a black and white treatment of a woman's shapely leg embraced by a silk stocking attached to a garter belt. Just below the clasp, a man's hand could be seen caressing her thigh.
"Believe it or not, it wasn't easy," Anna laughed. "I was playing around with a few ideas I had about lighting and texture. The real trick was finding just the right hand."
"I can't imagine that you wouldn't have had dozens of volunteers. I certainly would've been happy to have you take a picture of my hand on the leg of a beautiful woman."
"Thank you again. I think you understand what I was looking for, though." She turned to demonstrate on the picture itself. "Just because you have a sexy leg and a man's hand, it doesn't mean they'll be right together. What is the feeling I want to impart to the viewer? What kind of man owns that hand? How did they come to be together?"
"Yes, I see what you mean," the man agreed. "The question then becomes whether you'd be able to find a story for a hand like mine."
"Hmm, I like that." Her smile was warm. Raising his hand, she studied it intently, holding it to the light.
"What do you see, Anna?"
"I see that I don't need to find a story for you... your hand has many already." Turning her shining green eyes to his, she added, "The real question is, which of those stories would you like to tell?"
"How often do you have to use such diplomacy in your work?" he laughed.
Noticing Van approaching, he faced the younger man, offering a firm, friendly handshake. "You're a lucky man."
"Thank you. I think I am, too."
Anna caught the flicker of confusion in his eyes and stepped in. "Babe, this is Rob. He's staying in the same hotel. Rob, this is Van."
Recognition hit. "Ah... yes, you... stayed with us last night, as it were," he chuckled.
After the men exchanged their acknowledgements, she realized that Van was using the evening and her provocative dress as an opportunity to tease her to new heights. Even while talking photography with Rob, he was subtly kneading her hips. It was just a light pressure, but it was driving her wild.
Quite certain that he knew exactly what he was doing, she bit her lower lip when she felt his thumb slip below her hem and trace teasing circles over the sensitive flesh describing the base of her ass. "Ah, there he goes," she thought, struggling to maintain her composure and continue her conversation. She had always been extremely ticklish, so not dancing away when he feathered his fingertips just inside her soft upper thigh was a huge challenge.
Looking up, she realized that Rob had disappeared and Van had managed to maneuver her into an alcove just off the main gallery. If anyone were to notice them, it would appear that they were simply studying an etching. As long as she was able to remain quiet, the other gallery guests would never suspect the sexy game she and Van were playing.
Standing before the etching, she realized her focus was waning in direct correlation to her moistening pussy. Van's fingers were skimming over her smooth outer lips.
"Don't say anything," he whispered, feather-stroking his fingertips across the slickness coating the tempting ridges of her inner labia. He wanted so much to drink from them, but knew the pleasure would be greater after all the prolonged agony.
It was a struggle for her not to freeze when he let his fingers brush her clit then slip through her folds. Her body shook and her breath caught, but she fought to remain calm. She could feel the flush spreading across her cheeks, over her chest, and god, even her ears were burning. Licking her lips, she turned her head to speak to her bedeviling lover.
Before she could say anything, he raised an eyebrow. "So, tell me about this piece. Is the artist here?" He whispered, knowing exactly what he was doing to her.
"Belanger is talking to Antoine right now," she gasped, trying not to wriggle on his hand. "You would pick this one... it's probably my favorite of the stuff he has here."
With a sly movement, he shifted his wrist to press his thumb just inside her pussy while teasing her clit between two fingers.
"Why is it your favorite, Anna?"
She whimpered lightly, but kept up the conversation. "It's hopeful, or at least, I think it is."
"Yes," he chuckled, "I can understand why you would see it that way." His fingers were insistent, drawing out her arousal until he could feel her pussy sucking at his thumb.
"No, look at it. Really look at it in comparison to the others in the series," she said. His comment seemed to give her focus, even while she knew she was dripping her juices over his hand. "The others seem to show the figures in conflict with their surroundings... they're trapped by the box he's placed them in. This one... the child is looking ahead, young enough to still have big, free dreams about her future."
He leaned in, kissing the tender flesh below her ear. "And what is she dreaming of?"
"It could be anything. We're all so... no." Anna turned her head, brushing her lips over the corner of his mouth. "Not yet, please... not here."
"No? Are you sure?" The way she had jumped when he pulled his hand back hadn't surprised him. Still, she hadn't moved away, so he allowed his thumb to press against her rosebud once more as if letting her know he could.
She breathed his name in a rush while he withdrew his hand from beneath her skirt. "Why don't you show me around some more, and we'll see what kind of trouble we can get into." He teased her a bit further by trailing his slickened fingers over her lips, letting her lick the juices from them before sharing a tender kiss.
A devilish grin of her own rising, she took his hand and led him across the room. "C'mon, there's a sculptor over here who's been asking about you."
Several hours later they left, intending to return directly to the hotel. That had been the plan, at least until Van saw a small patisserie across the street. He turned abruptly, dragging her with him while she laughed in mock protest.
It was a quiet place with a warm, comforting ambiance. The small space boasted several tables with banquette seating and a few cozy booths. While the overall lighting was dim, perhaps in deference to the late hour, the display case and cashier's counter were bright and cheery.
"You know," he murmured in her ear, "this has been sort of a dream of mine since you asked if I wanted to join you here."
"What has?" she asked.
"Maybe I don't want to wait."
"Since we're in this shop, you really don't have to," he chuckled.
He scanned both the menu and the display before approaching the grandmotherly cashier. Grateful when she greeted him in English, he requested two hot chocolates and two éclairs. "Could we get one of those to go, please?"
"One of each?" the woman wondered.
"No, just one of the éclairs, thank you."
Anna had to laugh; it amused her to think of what Van might have dreamed up. Whatever it was, it was likely to be something that would push her comfort level further than anything she would come up with.
It wasn't always easy to play together. The fact of living in different cities didn't help, but they were both creative people and managed where they could. When they found their moments, they always made the most of them.
Hot drinks in hand, he led her to one of the more secluded booths. The cashier sent an assistant after them with the éclairs, one pastry neatly wrapped for later.
Suddenly she giggled. "You know, I'm less concerned with what you might be thinking for the one that is leaving with us."
His smirk told her she was right to wonder. However, he was willing to let her stew for the time being. They scooted into the booth, snuggling and enjoying a quiet breath after the hectic pace of the show.
After a sip of her drink she asked, "So, how are you? Are you having a good time in Montréal?"
"It's a beautiful city, and I love that I'm getting to see it with you."
"Did you follow my suggestion about leaving through Ottawa in two days?" She was leaning against him, happy and feeling more relaxed every minute.
"I did, so you've got me for the duration." He nibbled her ear, adding, "I just hope I've packed for whatever you've planned."
Twisting against his chest, she kissed him. It started as a light brush of lips and deepened into a slow, sensuous melding of tender passion and heated desire. She could feel him seeking a more comfortable position under her.
"Are we getting a little... cramped?" she teased, her voice light and playful as it frequently was whenever they snuggled.
"A little, maybe."
"Somehow, I'm sure you have a plan for dealing with that." Knowing that she would be a crucial component in that plan, she nibbled along the line of his jaw.
His gentle hand kneaded her hip, slipping beneath her dress to soak in the warmth of her skin.
"I knew there was a reason you liked this dress," she purred, licking his ear.
In a low chuckle, he teased her about how she really wasn't helping his situation and only sort of threatened her with, "Maybe you'll have to help me with this sooner than I'd thought."
She realized that she knew exactly what he was thinking. Sitting up, she played coy. "Help you? I'm not sure how I could do that here."
He took her hand and guided it over the firm bulge in his pants. "I guess we need to find you some... extra motivation."
She started to laugh, gently kneading at what she could feel of his lengthening shaft through the fabric of his slacks. "Why would you think I'd need that?"
Cupping his hand around the base of her head and digging his fingers into the thick waves of her hair, he pulled her in for an intense kiss. His other hand, still under her dress, drifted to caress her soft inner thigh. She allowed the feel of his hand to pull her close enough that he could brush his fingertips over the sensitive ridges lining her slit.
"God, you're already so wet. How do you get to be so incredibly wet?"
She could only moan in response, her body already humming and on edge. With a shuddering breath, she closed her eyes, ready for him to tease her even further.
Instead, he withdrew his fingers and took the éclair from the plate. "I've been looking forward to one of these all day," he sighed, just before taking a bite.
A blob of the custard filling threatened to spill out, but he managed to catch it with his tongue. Swiping the remainder from his lower lip, he gazed into her green eyes and grinned just before smearing it on the tip of her nose. She burst into delighted giggles, pretending to fight him off.
"Look at you... you're getting to be a mess," he whispered, swooping in to lick the custard from her nose. "Hmm, do you make it taste better, or does it accentuate you? I might have to try this out further."