Velvet Roses Ch. 02




"How funny."

"Not at six a.m., it isn't."

She laughed.

"So you think I could come over some time and check out that sculpture?" He asked.

"I think that could be arranged."

"Is right now too soon?"

She gave herself a moment to think before answering. "No, I guess not."

"You sure? Because if you're too busy, I can always drop by another time."

"I'm not that busy. Just come by, and we'll hang out for a bit."

"Cool. Let me just grab a pen so I can write down the address."

She heard some movement on his end of the connection, then once he came back onto the line, she provided him with directions on how to get to her studio. After saying their goodbyes, she hung up the phone, feeling a little buzz of excitement as she eagerly awaited his arrival.

* * * *

"So, what do you think?" Eager to hear his opinion of her creation, Jeneda glanced at Dane, trying to read his expression.

He stared silently at the monumental face sculpture for a bit longer before saying, "It's interesting. A bit eerie, yet peaceful. I like it. He cocked his head to the left, then asked, "What's your reasoning behind tilting it like that?"

"To make people think. Plus, I've always been drawn to things that are off balance."

He averted his attention from the sculpture for a moment to offer her an inquisitive look.



A faint smile curved his lips. "Interesting." Then he looked back the art piece.

"So how long does it take you to finish a project of this magnitude?"

"Depends on the amount of detail involved. But this one in particular took me three weeks."

"That's a considerable amount of time. You must have excellent patience." He clasped his hands behind his back, then walked closer so he could check out the detail up close. "Is this a commissioned piece?"


"Who's the client?"

"San Francisco Symphony."

He glanced over his shoulder at her, then said, "Impressive."

She humbly smiled. "I sure hope they like it."

"Of course they will, It's amazing."

"You really think so?"

"Yes, I do. I mean look at it." Holding his hands out in front of him, he gestured towards the art piece.

It wasn't that she was in doubt of her talent, because she knew she was skilled, but whenever Jeneda finished a new sculpture, she always felt slightly anxious. After pouring all of her energy and devotion into creating such a large piece of public art, it was naturally her hope that it would be received with positive feedback. The sound of Dane's voice broke Jeneda out of her thoughts.

"Have you picked out a name for it yet?"

"Actually, I haven't. But now that you bring it up, I guess I should get busy on that." With a thoughtful look on her face, she stared at it. Then after a few moments had passed, a title for the sculpture suddenly popped into her head. "Off-kilter."

"Hmm," he said thoughtfully, a slight smile playing at his lips. "I used that word to describe the two of us, didn't I?"

"Yep. I think it perfectly fits the sculpture."

"It does."

Suddenly realizing that she hadn't offered him any refreshment, she averted her attention from the statue, then said, "I'm sorry, I didn't even offer you anything to drink. Are you thirsty?"

"Yeah, I could go for something."

She walked over to the mini fridge which was located in the corner of the room, then squatted down and opened the door. "I've got soda and water."

"I'll take a bottle of water."

She retrieved two from the fridge, and after handing him one, she twisted the cap off her own bottle and took a sip. Jeneda watched as he sauntered casually around the room, taking in his surroundings with an almost wondrous look on his face.

"It's very white in here," he said.

Realizing that he was referring to the hueless walls of her art studio, she offered a response. "That's how I like it. I prefer sculpting in an open, airy space."

Dane nodded in response, then said, "It's nice, I like it."

His attention was then captured by a sculpture that was sitting on a small table located a few feet from where he was standing. Upon reaching it, he studied it closely.

Standing twelve inches high, the sculpture was a bust of a man, and was created entirely from jigsaw puzzle pieces. Yet instead of the interlocking pieces being made from cardboard, they were formed from clay. While some of the pieces locked perfectly together, most were uneven and crooked, giving the piece of art a somewhat strange look.

Dane stared at it in silence, gazing with such intensity that it almost appeared as if he were in a trance. Then finally, he spoke.

"This is quite unusual. Did you have somebody pose for this, or did it come strictly from your imagination?"

"My brother posed for it."

"Interesting. The pieces not fitting that meant to illustrate his imperfections?"

"I guess that's one way of putting it. What I was really hoping to depict was his altered mental state."

"Altered in what way?" Curiosity was evident in his voice.

"He's brain damaged."

"Oh." At a loss for words, Dane stood awkwardly next to her. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah, well..."

Now it was her turn to be rendered speechless, as thinking or taking about her brother's tragic situation inevitably made her emotional. She could tell that he wanted to inquire more about it, but perhaps noticing the sad look in her eyes, along with the way she'd suddenly clammed up, resulted in him staying quiet.

Eager to change the subject, Jeneda said, "I read Gonzo City last night."

"Oh yeah? How'd you like it?"

"I thought it was really good. Cool storyline, fantastic illustrations, expertly drawn sex scenes...overall it was a very enjoyable experience."

A smirk crossed his lips. "So you liked the sex scenes, huh?"

"I liked *all* of the scenes. Not just the sexual ones."

"But you made a point of mentioning the erotic ones."

"I was just trying to be funny. It's not like I fixated on them, or anything."

"Uh-huh, sure you didn't. I bet those pages are dog eared for later enjoyment."

She playfully hit him on the shoulder with her water bottle. "You're such a perv."

"You're right, I am," he said with a little smile.

They shared a long, deep gaze, allowing their eyes to convey what their lips didn't. So mesmerized by his slim, sharp features and dark, hooded eyes, she became lost in a daze.

Then suddenly, without her even realizing it, he closed the space between them. Placing a palm to her cheek, he tenderly caressed it.

"I'm ridiculously attracted to you. You know that, right?"

"Are you?"

"You know I am."

And she did. She could feel the heat radiating from his body, mingling with her own. Then there was the sensation of his fingers against her lips, languidly tracing the curve of them.

Her belly fluttered in response, and as he leaned down closer towards her, Jeneda felt a warm glow surge through her body. Unconsciously she tilted her chin upward, anticipating his kiss.

Dane's lips met hers gently, breath ghosting against her lips. His hot tongue slid into her mouth, and as her own wet appendage bumped against his, she swore she felt a sensation that was akin to an electric current.

Gripping her by the waist, he pulled her flush against his body. She wrapped her arms around his neck, then languidly threaded her fingers into his wavy locks. His hair felt just as luscious and soft as she'd imagined, and as their kiss deepened, his hold on her waist tightened even further.

He broke the oral embrace to grace her neck with passionate kisses, and as he lightly nipped at her flesh, she uttered a heady moan. The feel of his mouth against her skin was intoxicating, and as his denim covered erection pressed against her own nether regions, a slight moan escaped her lips.

"Dane." Her breath came out as barely a whisper, fingers continuing to rake through his thick, dark hair.

By the time he pulled his lips away from her neck they were both breathing heavily. Cupping her face in his palms, he stared into her eyes, allowing them to shift from her nose to lips, then cheekbones before once again gazing into her orbs.

The way he intently studied her made her wonder what he was thinking, and as the silence stretched on, the sexual tension between them heightened.

"Hang out with me tonight," he said.

"And do what?"

"I was thinking we could take a stroll on Baker Beach. Unless there's something else you'd rather do."

"No, I like your idea. Let's do that."

"Cool. I'll swing by and pick you up around seven."

"Sounds good."

Clasping hands, they walked to the door, and upon reaching it, he pulled her in for another kiss. His lips felt warm and soft against hers, gentle yet firm. The kiss ended far too soon for her liking, but the anticipation of what was to come later that evening caused her body to tingle with excitement.

He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, then said, "I'll give you a call before I leave and get the directions to your place."

"Okay. Talk to you then."


He turned and walked out the door, and after closing it behind him she made her way toward the statue, a slight smile creasing her lips.

* * * *

Baker Beach was a half mile stretch of sand located below the rugged cliffs of the Presidio, which was positioned just southwest of Sea Cliff, an affluent neighborhood.

To the northeast of the sandy area was a captivating view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and although Jeneda had visited the stunning beach before, she never failed to appreciate the breathtaking views that it offered.

Contentedly full from a dinner of fish and chips, Jeneda and Dane strolled along the smooth sand. Bundled up in warm coats, they walked hand in hand, gazing at the gorgeous view in front of them.

As was customary for San Francisco during most of the year, the weather was quite nippy and windy. And although a mist hung heavy in the air, the couple's enjoyment of the present moment wasn't diminished at all. Preferring to enjoy the stroll in silence, they spoke no words, allowing the stillness surrounding them to only be broken by the crash of waves.

Staring in admiration at the Golden Gate Bridge, Jeneda found herself moved by just how beautiful it was. The lights along the iconic structure were lit up and seemed to twinkle from a distance, and to gaze at such a spectacular span made her realize how fortunate she was to reside in a city with such an amazing history.

The sheer size of the suspension bridge was nothing short of impressive, and although a layer of fog partially obscured her view, she didn't mind. In fact, it only added to the magical aura.

Having walked the length of the beach, they came to a stop, and as he looped an arm around her waist, she cuddled up against him. Having been single for so long, it felt good be held by a man again, and although their bodies were separated by layers of garments, she felt a familiar heat begin to stir in her belly.

The level of her horniness surprised even herself, yet realizing that It'd been seven long months since her last sexual encounter, she realized that it really wasn't all that surprising.

Adjusting to a sexless existence after four years of a committed relationship was no easy feat, especially for someone like her, who possessed a high libido.

She guessed that Dane had picked up on the energy she was transmitting, because she felt him shift his body, positioning himself so that they stood hip to hip. She looked up at him, and no sooner had their eyes locked, did he claim her lips with a slow, sensual kiss.

Savoring the sensation of his warm, wet mouth, she emitted a little moan, matching the provocative movements of his tongue. It didn't take long before they were lost in each other, and as the kiss became deeper, she arched her back, pressing herself more firmly against his body. After a lengthy kiss, their lips finally parted and he spoke a few words.

"You taste like pineapple."

"Do I?"

He nodded, then slipped his fingers through her hair. "What do I taste like?"

"Apples, and something else I couldn't quite identify."

He chuckled. "I guess we're both a bit fruity, then."

Her lips pulled into a crooked smile. "Yeah, I guess we are."

Glancing in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge, Dane offered it a languid stare. Jeneda gazed at it as well, and couldn't help noticing how the lights from the bridge reflected on the surface of the water, causing it to shimmer.

"Beautiful, Isn't it?" She asked.

"Sure is. First time I've ever come out here with anyone else."

"Same here."

He looked at her, then said, "Looks like It's a first for the both of us." Then he added, "Only one of many, I hope."

She smiled. Well we had our first kiss today, and that went well, so I think we're off to a pretty good start."

"I'd have to agree with you on that." He gave a brief pause, then said, "I wonder what our next first will be?"

"I don't know. Guess we'll just have to wait and see."

"Anticipation....It's a wonderful feeling, Isn't it?"

"It certainly is."

A biting gust of wind sent a shiver through Jeneda's body, and taking note of her discomfort, Dane enveloped her in his arms, holding her tightly against him. "Cold?"

She nodded, then sniffed. "A bit."

He zipped her coat further up so that the collar fully protected her neck. "How about we get you some hot chocolate?"

"Yeah, that sounds good."

He slipped his hand into hers, then they set off in the direction of the parking lot.

* * * *

Located in the center of North Beach, Café Trieste was an Italian coffeehouse with a charming, cozy atmosphere. Set up in the 1950's by an Italian immigrant family, the tiny establishment was the oldest coffeehouse in San Francisco.

Black and white photographs of famous patrons, ranging from famous Beat poets, writers and opera singers adorned the walls, and an old jukebox which played Italian folk music was tucked into one of the corners. Even at half past ten on a Thursday evening, the atmosphere was nice and lively, and unlike corporate run coffee shops, Café Trieste had a welcoming, old school feel.

Seated at a table which had a colorful mosaic pattern, Jeneda and Dane were cradling large mugs of hot chocolate, every so often stealing flirtatiously glances over the rims of their cups.

Although enjoyable and incredibly romantic, their stroll along Baker Beach had been accompanied by blustery winds, and as a result, had left Jeneda seeking some way to warm her body back up. The rich, creamy beverage she was currently enjoying really hit the spot, and after taking another sip of the chocolaty liquid, she set her mug down.

"So, I was wondering about your last name," she said.


"Trenton. What kind of a name is that?"

"A made up one. My real last name is Leventhal."

"Why'd you change it?"

"Well for one reason, I figured that having a pen name would help me to maintain some sort of privacy. Plus, I just thought that Trenton had a catchier sound to it."

"I like Leventhal. I think it sounds nice."

"So do I. But it doesn't exactly conjure up an image of a hip graphic novelist, does it?"

"There's a requirement for graphic novelists to be hip? I thought the whole point of that fandom was to embrace your geekdom."

He lightly smiled. "It is. But still, a memorable name is good to have in this business."

"I guess you're right about that."

"What's your last name?"


"And what kind of a name is that?"

A look of amusement crossed her face as she realized that he was parroting her earlier question. "I'm not sure. I never really thought to look it up."

"I like it. It sounds very musical. Plus it reminds me of the Lark bird."

"I like those birds. They have very pretty chirps."

"They certainly do."

They simultaneously rose their mugs to their lips, all the while maintaining steady eye contact. After setting her mug back down, Jeneda spoke.

"So judging by your name, I'm guessing you're Jewish."

"I am," he affirmatively said. "But Judaism isn't an ethnicity, It's a religion."

"I'm aware of that. But still, there are people who take it on as an identity."

"Well, yeah. But I just don't see the point of focusing on labels."

She lightly shrugged. "No big deal. I was just curious."

Although he'd made a perfectly valid point, she couldn't help feeling a bit annoyed at his somewhat pretentious nature, and as a result, was promptly reminded of her first encounter with him at the University.

Even then, he'd come off as a bit of a smart ass, and now that this side of him had once against made an appearance, she realized that it was just one of his personality quirks. Yet still, she couldn't help feeling a little annoyed.

Turning her attention back to the present moment, she saw that he was gazing thoughtfully at her, and she began to wonder just what was on his mind. She took one sip of her hot cocoa, then two, before posing a question.

"What's your ethnicity?"

His lips tilted into a crooked smile as he said, "Take a guess."

"Well clearly I already know that you're Jewish, but I'm guessing you're also part Asian."

"My dad is Japanese."

"Oh, interesting."

"Is it?"

"I think so."

He lightly chuckled. "Tell me about your parents. What are they like?"

"My mom is a real estate agent and lives in Key West with her second husband. And my dad is a truck driver. Besides seeing them on Christmas, I don't have much contact with them at all."

"Sorry to hear that."

She gave a little shrug. "It is what it is, I don't let it get me down."

Silence passed between them during which they both sipped their hot beverages. Then Dane spoke again.

"The first time we met, what was your opinion of me?"

Surprised by his question, she stared at him. How coincidental that he would ask such a thing, especially since she'd just been recalling the first time they'd come into contact with one another.

"Well, to be truthful, I thought you were pretentious."

A stunned look crossed his face. "Really...and how did you come to that conclusion?"

"You corrected my use of the term, "comic book." And then you made some smart comment about differentiating between comics and graphic novels."

"Oh, that. I was just having a little fun with you, seeing how you would respond. I wasn't trying to be a jerk, or anything."

"It's no big deal. It was just kinda annoying at the time."

"Yet here we are, so I'm guessing I must be incredibly irresistible."

Although she knew he was saying it in a joking kind of way, it caused her to take on a thoughtful expression. "Well you have got this certain quality about you."

"What kind of a quality?"

"You're kind of mysterious. And you have this allure..." Her voice drifted off as she thought of a word she could use to further explain what she meant.

"An allure..I like the sound of that." He paused to take a bite of his biscotti, then said, "As far as being mysterious, I'm not quite sure just how true that is, because I live a pretty basic life."

"I find that hard to believe," she flirtatiously said.

"It's true. Aside from working on my graphic novels, and interacting with fans at comic cons, I really don't do anything extraordinarily exciting. I'm a borderline hermit."

This brought a smile to her lips. "When I think of a hermit, you wouldn't be the first person that came to mind."

"Who would?"

She shrugged. "I dunno. Just not someone who looks like you."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

They settled into a comfortable silence, and after finishing the remainder of their hot chocolate, they left the coffeehouse and headed back to his car. When they got to Jeneda's apartment, Dane walked her to the front entrance, and after unlocking the door, Jeneda turned to face him.

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