tagChain StoriesThe Set: Color of Love

The Set: Color of Love

byscriptordelecto©

Author's Note: This story is the result of a writing challenge among several of the authors here at Lit. Every story in this chain began with a common list of ten words. It's been fun to create something and try to find ways to work unusual terms seamlessly into the tale.

I hope you enjoy the story. I always love to get feedback from the readers. It's what helps me improve and grow as a writer. If you enjoy the story, please take the time to vote and or leave a comment. If you aren't comfortable with that, then an anonymous feedback option is available Thanks so much! Script


*

"Charity?"

The sound finally penetrated the fugue surrounding her brain. She looked up and grinned at him.

"How long have you been standing there?"

He couldn't help the answering grin that slid over his face.

"Long enough to admire the view."

She rolled her eyes and looked down at her paint smeared jeans.

"You really have a warped sense of vision, you know that?"

He chuckled. With her hair escaping the ribbon that held it back, and dots of lavender spattered across her nose, he thought she was breathtaking.

"There isn't a damn thing wrong with my vision, woman."

He plastered a mock serious expression across his face. Her laughter echoed through the room.

"So how is it coming?"

He indicated the easel in front of her.

She took a step back and passed a critical eye over the painting. It was still in the early stages, the canvas blotted with dark values. She was only beginning to lay the lighter colors down.

In her mind, was the image she wanted the world to see. She nodded.

"I think it's going pretty well."

Edward smiled.

"It always is. I just came to let you know it's almost time."

At her furrowed brow he prompted.

"You wanted me to remind you...about the showing."

Amusement crinkled the edges of his eyes. Charity's hand flew to her face, adding a trail of brown across her cheek.

"Oh! Right!"

She quickly gathered her brushes and sealed her palette.

"Let me just get cleaned up here and I'll go get ready."

Edward shook his head. He knew she'd forget. Whenever she was working on a new piece, she was always lost in the world her mind created. Reality held little interest for her.

He took solace in the fact that her escapism resulted in incredible art. Her paintings revealed an inner harmony, a balance of spirit that left the viewer feeling peaceful and serene.

He'd realized her enormous talent the moment he'd seen her first painting in a remote corner of a flea market booth. She'd been painting out of her loft apartment and selling her work for a few hundred dollars through an amateur dealer at the market. Edward had gone to great lengths to track her down and offered himself as her agent.

Their partnership had lasted for five years now and Charity was every bit the success that he'd predicted. What he hadn't seen coming was that he'd fall for her. Where her paintings were calm, Charity was passion and fire. He found himself drawn to her light.

The days he didn't see her, he often found himself bereft and unsettled. Those days, he found himself looking frequently at her paintings, just to have some sort of connection with her. Asking her out was not an option. He'd allowed the thought to skulk about in his head briefly, but had quickly tucked that idea away. She was an angel, and a mere mortal dared not reach so high.

His buddies would laugh if they ever heard him say anything like that, but it was the way Charity made him feel. He was really afraid to ruin the relationship they had worked for. What if he asked her and she was horrified? Their partnership couldn't survive the strain and he couldn't stand the thought of not seeing her, so he trundled along, trying to be content with friendship.

Over the years she had dated a few guys, mostly losers who hadn't been prepared for the periods of isolation that an artist required. He'd been the supportive best friend and waited around to pick up the pieces when she'd needed him.

"OK, I'll just head into the shower. How long do we have?"

Her voice startled him out of his reflection. He glanced down at his watch. "Can you be ready in an hour and a half?"

She nodded.

"Sure."

He grinned.

"Great. I'll be back to pick you up then."

She headed off towards the bathroom and he let himself out. Just the thoughts of her in the shower already had him hard and aching. He closed his eyes. He had to stop torturing himself with something he could never have. God, he was pathetic. He shook his head and made his way to his car. He had a showing to get ready for.

~~oOo~~

Charity stared into the mirror, amazed at what a little makeup and a designer dress could do to transform her from her usual shabby self to something approaching elegant. She'd never make the cover of a magazine, at least not for her looks. She considered herself passably pretty at best, but Edward seemed to think differently.

Edward always joked that her beauty had as much to do with her success as her actual work did. She always laughed the comment away, but secretly she was pleased that he thought she was beautiful.

She had always hoped that their relationship would develop further, but he'd never seemed interested in more than a mild flirtation and she'd been afraid to push things too far. She looked at the way the dress hugged her figure. Maybe it was time to get past those fears.

She dabbed a bit of perfume behind her ears, at her wrists and along the slope of her breasts. She had just applied her lipstick when she heard Edward's key in the door.

"Charity, I'm here. Are you ready?"

She slipped her feet into her Manolo sling backs and grabbed her clutch. She headed toward the foyer.

"As ready as I ever am for these things."

She stopped short when she saw him leaning against the wall in the entryway, his hands casually tucked into the pockets of his Armani tux. She decided it should be illegal for a man to look that sexy. Normally she would make some smartass comment about monkey suits, but she remembered the woman in the mirror and her newly formed resolve to push a few of Edward's buttons.

The smile that glided over her lips was slow and sensual. She let her gaze wander over him, her look leaving no question as to her thoughts. She almost laughed when she got to his face. Edwards jaw was hanging down.

"Are you OK?"

His jaw snapped shut as he tried to recover.

"Of course, let's get going."

He turned and opened the door, holding it for her to walk past.

~~oOo~~

Edward was quiet on the drive to the Westmeade Gallery. The view of the cityscape against the night sky was usually something he took the time to appreciate, but it never even registered with him. All he saw was the look on her face as she had checked him out. He kept playing that brief moment in Charity's foyer over and over in his head.

He tried to reconcile the predatory gaze with [I]his[/I] charity. He had to admit that it fit her fiery nature, but he couldn't accept that it had been directed towards him. He glanced at her, sitting in the seat beside him, and nearly groaned out loud. She was had her legs crossed at the knee, the short dress exposing their tantalizing length, just for his personal torture. He turned her head to meet his gaze, amusement lighting her eyes and he quickly turned his attention back to the road ahead. Embarrassment at being caught staring at her sent a blush creeping up his cheeks.

What the hell was wrong with him? He'd always been able to put aside his attraction for her in the interests of business. [I]She's never encouraged you before[/I], a niggling little voice in his head whispered. Damn. How was he supposed to represent her the way she needed hi to if he couldn't separate his mind form his cock? God, he was such a fucking Neanderthal.

Edward almost breathed a sigh of relief when he pulled into the parking garage. At least he would be out of the close confines of the car, where her scent couldn't overwhelm him like it was doing now. He bounded out of the car, desperate to get inside. Although he wouldn't really be away from her for most of the evening, at least there would be space between them.

He opened her door and offered his hand. Charity smiled up at him as she placed her hand in his. She rose from the vehicle with swanlike grace, brushing against him as she stepped past. Edward dropped her hand like he'd been burned, which was what his skin felt like anywhere it had been in contact with hers.

He closed her door and locked the car. Charity was already moving towards the elevator that would take them up to street level, her hips swaying in a tempting, hypnotic motion as she walked.

Son of a bitch, this was going to be a long damn night.

~~oOo~~

Charity had to work to hide the smirk that tried to surface when Edward let go of her hand. There was no mistaking the current that flowed between them, or the fact that he seemed just as affected as she was. She deliberately put a little extra vamp into her stride as she headed to the elevator.

Normally, at this point before a showing, she was a basket case, but tonight was different. Somehow her priorities had shifted. The showing was important, but not as important as making Edward see that they were perfect for each other. Everything else seemed rather lackluster by comparison.

They strolled into the Westmeade Gallery a scant forty-five minutes before the guests were expected to arrive. The caterers were bustling about getting everything set up. Sharon Proctor, the Gallery Manager, broke away from the preparations and came to greet them, hands extended before her. She took Charity's hands and air-kissed both cheeks, turning to give the same treatment to Edward. She stepped back and turned her attention to Charity.

"Well, my dear, you've outdone yourself once again."

Charity smiled at the older woman and murmured her thanks. She looked her over. Sharon was one of those people who would never have a hair fall out of place. None of them would dare risk her displeasure. Sharon was charming and very good with people, but she was all business. She lived and breathed for the bottom line, which worked to Charity's advantage.

"Why don't we walk through it one last time, love."

She nodded.

"Of course."

They had been working out the groupings and placement for this showing over a four month period, although it had mainly been Edward and Sharon working out the details. The final layout had been agreed upon just two weeks prior.

She led Charity and Edward through the setup, pausing periodically to adjust lighting. It was always the same routine and it caused Charity to smile. At Edwards quizzical look, she leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"Do you think she even realizes she does this?"

He flashed her a conspiratorial grin.

"I have no doubt of it. That woman is aware of every particle of dust within a one mile radius."

She chuckled.

"I think you're right."

~~oOo~~ The caterer called Sharon away for a moment, leaving the two of them alone. Edward found himself staring at Charity again. She raised a slender eyebrow. He cleared his throat, trying to dislodge the stone that suddenly prevented him from speaking.

"Uh, if I didn't tell you earlier, you look amazing."

The smile that bloomed over her face was as radiant as the warmth that lit her eyes at his compliment. He felt the glow of that smile all the way to his core. It was the sort of smile that melted a man's neural pathways.

She stepped closer and reached up to adjust his bowtie, her eyes raising to meet his.

"So do you."

His breath stopped in chest, the moment suspended in time. They stared at each other, without uttering a word until Sharon's voice pulled them back into reality.

"OK, darlings, where did we leave off? Oh, yes."

She was off again, the two of them trailing behind, curiously unaware of anything she was saying.

~~oOo~~

Charity was sipping slowly from a glass of champagne. She tried to limit herself to one over the course of the night. She had put on what Sharon called her pageant smile and chatted politely with all of the patrons. She had no idea what she'd said to most of them, but it must have been fine, because Sharon pulled her aside to let her know that it was looking like a raving success.

When Charity nodded absently, Sharon pulled her into her office for a moment. She sat her down in a chair, and seated herself beside her.

"Alright, sweetheart, spill it."

Charity blushed.

"Spill what?"

The look Sharon pinned her with said [I]you aren't fooling anyone, sister.[/I] "It's that obvious?"

Sharon laughed.

"If it were any more obvious, it would be on a marquis outside the Bellagio."

Charity sighed.

"I don't know what's come over me. I mean, we've known each other for years, but suddenly, everything is different. It's like I've seen the world in shades of blue, and suddenly everything's yellow."

Sharon patted her hand.

"It's about time you figured it out, love."

Charity raised startled eyes to meet her friend's.

"About time?"

The older woman chuckled.

"Honey, that man's been crazy about you for years. He just hasn't got the brains to do anything about it."

She shook her head and sighed.

"As usual, it's up to the woman to make the move."

Charity felt the tension and doubt that she'd been feeling flow away form her. She smiled at Sharon, that knowing smile that passes between women.

"Go on then, we're almost through here. After the guests leave, you take care of business. I'll finish out the books."

Charity stood up and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you for everything, Sharon."

The art dealer smiled, and waved her hand.

"I have ulterior motives, darling."

At Charity's raised eyebrows, she answered.

"This is bound to do amazing things for your art."

Charity burst out laughing, and made her way back out to the show floor.

~~oOo~~

Edward saw Charity come out of Sharon's office, all smiles. The night seemed to be going very well. Nearly all of the pieces had been purchased. He imagined that Sharon had passed along the news, based on Charity's expression. He watched as her eyes scanned the room, searching, until they came to rest on him. She headed straight for him, the smile still in place.

"So, I guess Sharon filled you in."

She flashed him a mysterious smile.

"Yes, she certainly did."

He smiled back at her, captivated. At that moment one of the guests came up and asked her a question about one of the pieces. She winked at him and walked the gentleman over to the painting in question.

Edward didn't take his eyes off of her. The man leaned close and murmured something. Charity threw back her head and laughed, the sound musical and light. His gut clenched with an unfamiliar emotion. He had the sudden desire to go drag her away from him. Since when did he get jealous?

"Down, tiger."

He glanced down to find Sharon regarding him with a smug expression.

"What?"

Sharon fixed him with a stare that said quite plainly, [I]you are a complete lunkhead.[/I]

"That girl has eyes for only one man in the room, Edward and that's you. If you're too much of an idiot to do something about it, then you deserve to be miserable. Just don't make her miserable too. She shouldn't have to suffer for your cowardice."

She patted his arm and strolled off to speak with one of her regular patrons.

Could he really let himself hope that it was true. Her behavior all evening seemed to support what Sharon said. Had he been too fearful to see? Charity looked over at him just then, her eyes warm and full of promise.

God, what a fool he was. He returned her look with equal promise in his eyes.

~~oOo~~

After the last patron had gone, true to her word, Sharon had ushered them out the door. It was their custom to catch a late dinner and drink to celebrate the evening, but Charity asked I he would just take her home. She could see the disappointment cross his face, but she had every intention of replacing that with a much warmer emotion.

The drive was just as quiet as the one earlier, each of them wrapped up in their own thoughts, but the tension between them was much higher. She felt as though her body was coiled like a spring. Tentatively, she reached over and curled her fingers through his.

Edward glanced over in surprise at her, and tightened his hand around hers. She closed her eyes, savoring the feel of his skin against hers, even if it was only their hands. She could feel the electricity flowing between them and basked in the heat it sent flushing over her skin.

Just like before, he helped her out of the car when they arrived, but instead of letting go of her hand, he pulled it up against his chest. She could feel the rapid tattoo of his heart beneath her hand. She gazed up at him with lust drunk eyes and gasped at the need reflected in his own.

She parted her lips to say something, anything, but before her brain could come up with a suitable phrase, his mouth captured hers beneath it. His lips were warm and firm against her soft ones. He started gently, gliding over her lips, nibbling at her bottom lip, tugging gently at it until he slid his tongue across, encouraging her to open up to him.

Her knees went weak as his tongue swept inside her mouth. She slid both arms up around his neck, and pressed herself close to him. He tasted like raw passion. She met his assault with equal ardor, kissing him back with everything she had.

Heat pooled between her thighs and she pulled back from him with a gasp.

She gazed up at him with passion clouded eyes and a smile that left no doubts as to her intentions. Grabbing his hand she pulled him behind her until they were inside her front door. As soon as the door closed, Edward pulled her back into his arms and claimed her lips. His hands slid from her waist to her round bottom, pulling her tightly against him. She felt the hard length of him pressed up against her and she gasped.

She wanted desperately to see him. All of him. She slid her hands down to his bowtie and gave a tug. Within seconds, the small scrap of silk was floating to the floor. Her hands were already at work on the studs of his shirt. He gave a low chuckle.

"Sweetheart, we have all the time in the world."

She looked up at him.

"You might want to wait, Edward, but I can't. I need to see you right now."

She watched as he read the lust in her eyes. He only hesitated a moment before he began helping her. Soon he was standing before her in only his briefs. She let her gaze travel down his muscled chest to his flat stomach, and down further until she reached his swollen cock, straining against the thin material.

She licked her lips. She loved that she could get that reaction out of him. Knowing that he was hard because of her caused her to get even wetter. She reached out a hand and touched his chest, letting her hand trail slowly along the same path her eyes had just followed.

Edward closed his eyes and let out a low groan. He gasped as her hand fluttered lightly over him. She touched him just enough to tease. Gliding back up, she slid her fingers under his waistband and gave a little tug. She pushed the last bit of covering he had left to the floor. Now that it was freed, she took a moment to examine it.

It was beautiful. It was perfectly proportioned to his body, and Edward was not a small man. She reached out and wrapped her hand around it, loving the feel of velvet covering steel. He pulsed and throbbed beneath her hand. She looked up to find that he had closed his eyes and his breathing was shallow.

When he opened them, there was a dangerous glitter to them.

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