"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" I pull the car over onto the verge as the dashboard lights flash a myriad of warning signals at me and the power gradually drains from the car. I sit, impotently cursing whatever malign gods have sabotaged my car, then pop the bonnet of the car and get out. I spend a couple of minutes looking ineffectually at the engine - I have no idea what I'm really looking for, but it seems like the right thing to do - before cursing again and slamming the hood back down.
Hiring a holiday cottage out in the sticks seemed like such a good idea at the time - plenty of time to draw, get away from the relentless pressure of my job for a bit, and spend some time communing with nature. But now, stuck at least 20 miles from the city and effectively stranded in the middle of nowhere on a road that looks like it sees maybe one or two cars a day, I'm beginning to question that. Not to mention the food I've just bought, gradually beginning to spoil on the back seat. And, of course, there's no mobile signal. Of course.
I'm still grappling with the full hopelessness of my situation when, miraculously, I hear the sound of a car engine. It grows louder, and round the bend of the leafy lane I see a small red car approaching, driven by a young woman with long black hair. I hurry round to the back of my car and start waving, trying not to look too desperate or scary. The car slows down and stops just behind mine, and I walk to the passenger window as the driver winds down the window.
"Hi. Is everything OK?" she asks, smiling slightly.
I put on my best winning smile and begin to explain my predicament. "Oh my God, that's terrible," she says, concerned. "You're so lucky I decided to take a drive out this morning. It's pretty deserted round here, you could have been stuck here for hours!"
She picks up her phone and looks at it for a few seconds, then says, "Nope, I've got no signal either." She looks at me for a moment, probably sizing up my chances of being a serial killer or just the local madman, then says, "Look, where were you headed? If it's not too far, maybe I could give you a lift...?"
I try not to be too gushingly grateful, for fear of scaring her off, and explain that I'm staying about 5 miles down the road from here. "Look, you're a young woman on your own," I continue, "I quite understand if you don't want to give me a lift. Even if you could call a garage once you get back to civilisation..."
She pauses for another few seconds, sizing me up with those striking green eyes, before coming to a decision.
"No, it's OK, it's not out of my way, and we can't have all that food going to waste, can we?" She smiles, and it lights up her whole face. I thank her again, and fetch the bags of shopping from the back seat.
"I'm Steve, by the way," I say, climbing into the passenger seat. "And I'm really grateful."
"Jill," she replies, pulling away. We start to talk, a little shyly at first. I tell her about my holiday plans, a little about my job, and she reciprocates, telling me that she's in her junior year in college in the city, and is thinking about maybe pursuing a career in broadcasting. As the conversation gets a little easier, I start to realise just how attractive she is. Her hair, skin and striking features suggest a Latin background, and her tight-fitting clothing - skinny blue jeans, knee-high black boots and a fitted sweater over a white shirt left untucked - hint at a great body. As we chat, I find myself imagining what it would be like to sketch her. I'm so engrossed, both in her animated conversation and my reverie of capturing her on paper that I almost miss the turning for my cottage. Jill screeches to a halt, and we both laugh a little nervously as she drives up the short road to the house.
"Here you go," she says, pulling up outside, "safe and sound."
I thank her again, and ask if she'd like a cold drink before heading off. She looks at me again with those green eyes, performs another mental calculation (much quicker this time, I think), and agrees that might be nice. So we head inside, Jill carrying some of the shopping.
The cottage is small, just one main living room with a kitchen attached, separated by a breakfast bar, and a bedroom and en suite bathroom off to the side of the house. I perform a quick scan to make sure there aren't any embarrassing piles of clothes of dirty plates - homo domesticus I am not - and carry the food through to the kitchen, putting the perishable stuff in the fridge and retrieving two cans of Coke. We move into the living area, still chatting amiably, when Jill notices my sketches scattered all over the room.
I'm mainly a pencil or pen-and-ink man - I've never really mastered painting - but I have a reasonable eye and, whilst I'll never be the next Picasso, I do have a small amount of talent for capturing form.
"Oh my, did you do these?" Jill asks, picking up a handful of sketches, mainly landscapes from the area around the house. "They're really good..."
I feel myself flushing slightly, and I allow that they are mine, but they're really nothing special.
"Oh, don't be so modest," she says, putting the landscapes down and picking up some more, figure studies this time. I explain that my drawing is just a hobby, a way of relaxing (despite the intense concentration it takes to produce anything decent).
"No, these are amazing," she says, plopping down on the sofa and leafing through the sketches, pausing to study one of a nude woman sitting, one knee pulled up to her chin, her hair falling down to partially cover her face and leg
. "Especially this one... Who is she?" she says, waggling her eyebrows in a parody of innuendo. I laugh and explain that it was actually drawn from a photo in a magazine - I just adapted the pose slightly and added the hair falling down.
"Getting life models is pretty hard, especially when you explain that you're not a professional artist and that this is just a hobby. Most women just look at you like you're some kind of pervert and run for the hills..." We both laugh, but I can see her attention is still on the girl in the sketch. It's obviously struck a chord with her, and then it occurs to me that the sketch looks pretty like her. Same dark hair, similar build and proportions. As I watch her studying the sketch intently, I see a flush rising in her cheeks. Maybe she sees the resemblance, too...?
I try to break the lengthening silence. "So, I guess I'll have to content myself drawing from magazines..." The remark hangs in the air, and again I see that look of calculation cross her face. She seems to be wrestling with something. I take a swallow of my Coke and wait.
"Maybe..." Jill says, a small hitch in her throat, "maybe you just haven't asked the right girl yet." Another calculating pause. "How much does modelling pay...?" She glances up, her cheeks darkening again, her eyes fixing on mine. "I mean... Do you pay your models?"
I reply that I do, but it's not much, as I don't really draw to sell, I just do it for my own enjoyment. The air in the room seems to have gotten suddenly thicker, and my heart has suddenly started beating faster.
"See, my tuition's really expensive, and I could use some extra cash..." Jill's voice tails off, her blush deepening.
I swallow hard, and try to keep the tremor of nervousness out of my voice. "Look, I'd love to help you out, but really the best I could run to would be $100. Most of my budget for this month went on renting this place..."
She looks down again. "$100 would really help, actually, Steve. But would it... would I have to... oh my God, I can't believe I'm even asking this..." She takes a deep breath. "What I mean to say is, would I have to get naked?"
"Uh..." I'm temporarily silenced by this. I do my best to rally. "Well, ideally, yes. I'm not great at drawing clothes, for one thing, and besides, on the rare occasions when I do decide to sell a piece, it's always the nudes that sell. For some reason..." I laugh, nervously.
Jill thinks for a moment. "Okay, I can see that... Look, like I say, I really need the money, so if you throw in a sketch of me I can keep, I'll pose for the $100. It's not like I had anything planned today, really..."
Those words cause an instant flood of excitement and desire through my, my stomach fluttering and a warm throb spreading through my loins. I do my best to keep cool - though I'm far from convinced it's working.
"That'd be fine. I'd love to sketch you, and we can call the one you keep a thank you for rescuing me this morning..." We both laugh again, defusing the tension slightly.
Jill takes a sip of Coke, smiles shyly at me and asks, "So... Where would you like me?" God, my head is suddenly full of images, none of which have anything to do with sketching, but I manage to push them down.
"Uhh... Why don't you, ahh... get undressed in the bedroom - there's a robe on the bed, umm... and I'll get my things together out here?" I stutter. Smooth, Steve... Not.
With another shy smile, she heads off to the bedroom. I start pulling together my pencils and a large sketchpad, placing it on the easel I brought with me from home. All the while, my mind is in a turmoil. The decent part of me wants to just sketch this girl, pay her the money and send her on her way. But the (for want of a better word) indecent part of me is positively pulsing with a desire to see this beautiful girl - who must be at least 25 years my junior - naked on my couch.
I try to quell this part of me with the routine of getting ready to sketch - sharpening my pencils with a craft knife, placing the easel in front of the couch. As I'm doing that, Jill emerges from the bedroom shrouded in my robe. I'm just over 6'4", and the robe nearly reaches the floor on me, and while she's not short - around 5'6", I estimate - it trails after her on the carpet and her hands are almost completely covered by the arms. She looks tiny in it. Vulnerable. And very nervous.
"I think it's a bit big..." she whispers, and suddenly we're both laughing. The nerves in us both manifest themselves in great, hitching, almost hysterical guffaws of laughter, and it's a good couple of minutes before either of us can manage to get things down to the occasional snigger.
"Okay," she say, taking a deep breath and pushing her hands in a downward motion to symbolise pushing down her suppressed laughter. "Now, where would you like me?"
"Bent over the back of the couch, or maybe straddling my lap!" the bad part of me cackles, but fortunately that's only in my head.
"Ummm... just on the couch, Jill, please..." I manage to mumble. She walks over to the old couch, which has a soft blanket thrown over it to cover the threadbare upholstery. She fumbles with the belt on the robe for a second, her fingers betraying just how nervous she is. Finally, she loosens the rough knot, and the robe parts slightly to expose a thin strip of her body, from cleavage to her feet. Her skin is paler than her face, with just a hint of tan-lines. She pauses for a second, then with a murmured, "Okay." she shucks off the robe, allowing it to fall round her feet.
I stand transfixed for a second, drinking in the sight of her. Her long, dark hair frames her (bright red) face, hanging down to her shoulders. She's slim, and her small breasts are firm and tipped with nipples that I can't decide are pink or brown, rather somewhere perfectly in between. Her slim waist flares out deliciously to her hips, which frame a neat, dark V of hair covering her pubic mound. Conscious of the direction of my stare, she clasps her hands over her groin.
I'm still rendered speechless, and I'm conscious that the silence is getting longer and longer, so I clear my throat and, in a voice that seems huskier than normal, I say, "Okay, Jill, could you kneel down on the couch for me?"
Glad of some direction, she moves to the couch and kneels on it, facing away from me, allowing me a perfect view of her beautifully rounded buttocks. Her legs are parted slightly, and I catch a glimpse of her plump pussy lips, nestled between firm thighs. My cock is now a lead bar in my jeans, and I'm intensely grateful that I'm both sitting down and shielded from view by the easel. "No, Jill, I meant kneel down on it facing me."
She turns round on the couch, and it seems to me she's grateful that I haven't opted for the standard porno rear view stance. She sits on her legs, knees pressed together and one arm held defensively over her pert breasts. "Like this...?" she asks.
"Errr.. not quite," I say. I'm all to aware that my chances of directing her remotely into the stance I have in mind are slim, which means I will have to go ove and arrange her myself. Which would be fine, were it not for the raging erection I'm currently sporting. At least my linen shirt is untucked, affording the bulge in my jeans some cover as I get up and walk over to her. As I approach, I can smell her perfume - not strident, something subtle and slightly dry - possibly talcum powder? I marvel at the tangents my mind is wandering off on, and try to focus. I place a hand lightly on her shoulder.
"If you could just turn slightly to the side... Yeah, that's it. And move that leg to the side a little... Great. Now your hands... on your thighs. No, flat, like this..." I place my hand palm-down on her smooth thigh, and am amazed by the heat. My palms are a little sweaty, and I pray she doesn't notice.
"Now, if we can just bring that beautiful hair round over this shoulder..." I reach round, pulling her thick, black hair round her neck, and the back of my hand brushes her cheek. Her eyes flutter closed for a second, and I swear her head leans ever so slightly into my touch. Get a grip, Steve, it's just your imagination! I'm intensely aware that my erection is only scant inches from her face, and while part of me is aroused by this, I'm also desperate she doesn't notice and run screaming from the room.
Finally, I tilt her head down slightly, so she's looking at her knees and her hair falls naturally in a curtain, partially covering her face.
"Perfect!" I say, stepping back. She looks amazing, a breathtaking blend of innocence and sensuality that really gets my creative - and other - juices flowing. I walk back to the easel. "You gonna be able to hold that for about 20 minutes, Jill?" I ask.
"Uh-huh," she replies, obviously unwilling to talk for fear of disturbing the pose. I pick up a soft pencil - 4B - to rough out her pose, and begin to draw...
As soon as I start drawing, time just seems to slip away. I'm so captivated by this beautiful girl sitting less than six feet away, but it's more than that. My desire, my nervousness are subsumed by my need to capture this beauty on paper. I sketch furiously, broad strokes at first, then refining, shading, picking out details - her downcast eyes, her great facial bone structure, those pert breasts topped by those hard nipples.
I have no idea how long I've been sketching, but as my wider consciousness returns, as the picture approaches what I was looking for (although, frankly, it still doesn't do her full justice...), I begin to register that the poor girl is tiring. She's shuffling on her haunches, doing her best to hold the pose, but fighting a losing battle. I look at my watch and realise that almost an hour has gone by! Reluctantly, I set down my pencil and eraser, stretch my shoulders to release the tension that's built up as I hunched over my work and say, "Okay, Jill, you can relax. I think I'm done for now."
Gratefully, she slumps to one side, unfurling those long legs and stretching unselfconsciously on the couch for a few seconds. Then, realising that she's still naked in front of a man she hadn't even met a couple of hours ago, she hurriedly reaches for my robe and puts it on. "Can I see...?" she asks, hesitantly.
Pat of me is reluctant - there's more I'd like to do, some little refinements I'd like to make - but I can hardly deny her after she's spent so long uncomplainingly sitting still for me.
"Uhh, sure, but bear in mind it's still a work in progress..." She walks over to the easel, robe trailing behind her on the ground, and hunkers down beside my chair to look at the sketch.
"Oh!" she says, and my heart sinks. She hates it. Every flaw, every slip of my pencil screams out to me in that moment, and I want to take it away before she realises just how inadequate it is...
"Remember, it's just the preliminary sketch," I blurt out. "I know I haven't done you justice yet, but if I work a bit more..." I peter out, embarrassed and reddening by the second.
She sits silently for several eternally long seconds, then starts to lose her balance, reaching out her hand and resting it on my thigh to steady herself. God, she's actually been bowled over by how bad it is.
"It's... beautiful," she whispers, almost breathlessly. "You've made me look... beautiful." Her voice has a quaver and, looking at her transfixed face, I see tears welling up in those gorgeous green eyes.
I can feel a lump in my throat too, moved as I am by her reaction. "You are beautiful, Jill. I've only drawn what I see..." I say, my voice raw with emotion. "At least, I've tried to capture that beauty, but I'm really not a good enough artist to do a proper job... But I'm glad you like it." My inflection goes up, the slight question in that last sentence more in hope than expectation of a positive response.
"I love it," Jill says, her voice a little stronger now. "Even though you've made me look so much better than I do in real life, I love it. It's..." She pauses for a second, searching for the right word. "It's awesome."
My breath rushes out of me in a huge outpour of relief. It's not awesome at all, but at least she likes it, and hasn't noticed its many flaws.
Her hand, still on my thigh to steady herself, has tightened its grip slightly, and I'm now very conscious of her proximity, the warmth of that hand and her scent, which makes my head reel slightly. My erection, which had subsided in the period of intense concentration while I was drawing, is now returning with a vengeance. I stutter, "Uhhh, good. I'm glad you like it. Would you... ummm... If you like, that can be your 'keeper.'"
She looks up at me, her face registering another wave of emotion, and for a second, all I want to do it lean down and kiss her. "Are you sure?" she asks. "I mean... it's too good to just give away, isn't it...?"
"I couldn't have drawn it without you," I reply. "And besides, that was our deal. $100 and a sketch for yourself. Hopefully we can get in another couple of sketches before you have to go..."
"Oh! Of course," she says, smiling radiantly at me. "To be honest, if I had $100, I'd be paying you for this... I'm never gonna look this good in real life, so it'd be worth every penny."
I look earnestly down at her, locking her eyes with mine, and say, "Jill. That sketch doesn't come anywhere close to you. I did my best, I really did, but there's just something about you I can't capture on paper. It's..." I struggle to express what I mean. "There's a raw sensuality to you, a mixture of confidence in yourself but with just a hint of vulnerability... I don't think I'd ever be able to capture it properly..."
Her face is reddening again, and I realise I've probably overstepped the mark. I open my mouth to make some excuse, but she interrupts me. "It's beautiful, Steve. You've made me look beautiful... feel beautiful. And that's a rare talent, trust me..."
I smile, defeated by her relentlessly positive take on my work. "Okay then," I say. "So you can't argue about taking it home with you. I insist."
She looks at me for a second, then throws her arms around my neck, squeezing and whispering, "Thank you. Thank you so much..."