Velvet Roses Ch. 01byvirgofemme©
*Once again, I really do apologize for the sequel of Tattoo of Love. Please forgive me, guys!I'll probably get back to it eventually, but right now i'm giving my full attention to this story.
I do promise that I will continue to post chapters of this new story though, so you guys don't have to worry about me leaving you hanging. Well, here it is...and I hope you'll enjoy this first chapter. :)*
Releasing a heavy sigh, Jeneda Larkson took another glance at her watch. Twenty minutes had elapsed and yet the stage of the university lecture hall was *still* empty. Where was this guest speaker, and just what excuse did he have for making such a late appearance? It was surprising she'd even lasted this long, considering that patience wasn't one of her strongest traits.
Pulling the collar of her leather blazer closer around her neck, she did her best to ward off the icy draft which was coming from the vent above her. Then, remembering that she had some gum in her pocket, she retrieved it. She didn't know why, but for some reason the chewing motion kept her warm.
After popping a stick of wintergreen into her mouth, she started to slip the package of gum back into her pocket, yet a tap on her shoulder halted her movement. Glancing to her right, she saw that her best friend, Luna, was holding her palm out. After passing a stick of gum her way, Jeneda pocketed the package, then took another glance at her watch.
"Got a hot date?"
The sound of her friend's voice caught Jeneda's attention, and she threw a glance her way. Luna had dark brown curly hair with honey blonde highlights, cocoa brown skin, and almond shaped eyes. Clad in an oversized, off the shoulder sweater and a pair of jeans, she gave Jeneda a little smile.
"I wish," Jeneda said. "It'd certainly be a whole lot more interesting than sitting in this lecture hall, freezing my butt off." She chewed her gum faster.
"Relax, he'll probably show up soon."
"I'll give him five more minutes, then I'm heading home. I've got a sculpture to work on, not to mention I'm starving."
"Leave, and you'll be sorry. I'm telling you, this guy is anything but boring."
"Oh yeah? What's so interesting about him?" Grabbing a flyer from off her lap, she allowed her eyes to rove across the bold, large words of the heading. "Gonzo City: Passing through the end, on the way to the beginning," she spoke aloud. Then she read the smaller print, italicized text below. "A discussion with Dane Trenton about his stimulating graphic novel series."
Turning her head to glance at Luna, she saw that her face was illuminated by the light of her cell phone, which she was using to key in a text. "Great title, huh? I just love the sound of it."
"Really?" Jeneda asked. "I think it sounds like a hipster art show."
A faint smile curled Luna's crimson lips, and she lightly shook her head. "Dane Trenton is most definitely not a hipster." Then she added, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
"Of course not. I'm just saying, it sounds kinda pretentious."
"He's not that, either. You'll see."
Certain that the guest speaker wasn't going to show anytime soon, Jeneda retrieved her car keys from the pocket of her jacket, then slouched down in her seat. She was ready to bail, but knowing that Luna would be disappointed in her departure, she decided to give it another few minutes.
The chattering voices in the lecture hall suddenly subsided as a short, squat man with wire rimmed glasses and gray hair took to the stage, coming to a stop behind a podium. Recognizing the man as her former professor, Jeneda watched as he grabbed hold of a microphone, then began to speak.
"This afternoon we have the extraordinary pleasure of being graced with the presence of a creative superstar. His graphic novel series, titled, Gonzo City, is continually growing in popularity, and has a striking visual imagery which has earned him a legion of hardcore fans. While his immense talent is clearly God given, it was honed right here at this very institution. The Artist's Academy of San Francisco is not only honored, but also privileged to have this successful alumni as our guest speaker." He gave pause, then cleared his throat and continued. "And now after much waiting, and no doubt plenty of anticipation, I bring to the stage, Dane Trenton."
An eruption of clapping filled the lecture hall, and a tall, lanky figure walked onto the stage. Dressed in a blue green velvet blazer, a gray dress shirt, and a pair of black jeans, Dane Trenton made quite a striking vision.
Initially, it was his outfit that caught Jeneda's attention, but as her eyes came to rest on his face, she found herself instantly taken by his slim, sharp features.
Blessed with thick, shiny black hair, Dane's locks reached shoulder length and had luscious waves which made Jeneda long to run her fingers through it.
His dark, hooded eyes suggested he was of Asian ancestry, yet something about the rest of his features made her guess that he was also mixed with white. His cheekbones jutted beneath his pale skin, and there was a small tuft of hair beneath his lips, along with a light goatee.
A feast for the eyes if there ever was one, Dane had the coloring and bone structure of a vampire. Transfixed by the sight of this beautiful man, Jeneda watched as he took hold of the microphone. Then she eagerly waited for him to speak.
"First off, I'd like to thank you all for showing up," he said in a silky, deep voice. "It's a pleasure being back at The Artist's Academy, and I really am very humbled to see so many of these seats filled."
Instead of standing behind the podium, Dane stood in the middle of the stage with one hand casually stuffed into the pocket of his jeans.
"Some of you may be familiar with my first graphic novel. It's a little project I did some years ago, called Odd Souls..."
Before he could even finish speaking, shouts and hollers came from a large portion of the audience, to which he offered a humble little smile, then tilted his head down.
His shaggy locks flopped into his face as a result, partially obscuring his features. Once the enthusiastic noisemakers quieted down, Dane looked back up. He did a little head toss to remove the hair from his eyes, then continued.
"I honestly never expected more than a handful of people outside of my family to read Odd Souls, so you can probably imagine how blown away I was when I found out there were actual fans out there. Then I started making enough money to quit my day job, and let me tell you, there's no sweeter feeling in this world than getting paid to do what you love."
As he continued to speak, Jeneda listened raptly. Transfixed, she was unable to look away for even a split second. It wasn't just his gorgeous face, but also his voice, and the way he moved.
She noticed that every so often, he would caress his goatee. He also had this way of running his fingers through his hair, and each time he did it, she felt a little zing of arousal go through her.
He was damn alluring to say the least, and his mystique reeled her in. Yet despite his magnetic beauty, there was something else about him, something odd and interesting that made her long to know more about him. Sitting only four rows from the stage, she had a great view of him. Yet still, she was eager to get an even closer look.
Half an hour elapsed before Dane allowed the audience, which consisted of both current students and alumni, to ask questions. Most of the inquiries were about how he'd gotten his start in the business, and where he got his ideas from.
There were far more questions than Dane had time to answer, so after the sixth person asked their question, he brought the Q and A session to an end. He then thanked the lecture hall of students for coming to hear him speak, and let everyone know that anyone who was interested could stick around for a meet and greet.
This resulted in an excited chattering of voices, followed by a huge throng of people making a rush for the stage. No sooner had Jeneda risen to her feet, did Luna grab her by the hand, pulling her down the aisle so they could join the assemblage of students. If she had to guess, Jeneda would say there were about forty people surrounding Dane, yet due to his tall stature, his head was still visible.
Some of the faculty members, who were standing around observing the madness, eventually organized the everyone into a single line. One by one, each of Dane's fans got their chance to shake hands and chat with him.
Those who had brought along personal copies of his graphic novel had them signed. Some even whipped out their cell phones and took pictures with him, while others gushed embarrassingly, as if he were of royal status.
Judging from his popularity, Jeneda guessed that to the bulk of his fans, he was a divine-like being, and although she found it humorous how dazed they seemed in his presence, she couldn't really blame them.
He had this energy about him that was akin to a rockstar, and although he wasn't in the business of playing music, he still had groupies.
More than half the people waiting in line were women, and Jeneda couldn't help noticing that each and every one of them shamelessly flirted with him.
Unsurprisingly, Dane seemed to very much be enjoying the attention, and as Jeneda watched on, she realized he was doing quite a bit of flirting of his own. She guessed that Luna noticed it as well, because she gently nudged Jeneda, then spoke a few words.
"Those college girls are *so* pathetic. Look at them. They have no shame!"
"It's not only the younger girls. Women our age are flirting with him, as well."
"Our age?" Luna emphasized the words to show her discontent with the way Jeneda had stated it. "You make it sound like we're ancient."
"Compared to all these twenty-something's, we are."
"You're thirty-one and I'm thirty-three."
"That's not old."
"I never said it was."
Luna crossed her arms in front of her chest, then cocked her head slightly, as if in deep thought. "You think he sleeps with his fans?"
"I don't know, maybe. Why?"
"Cause I'd totally love to do him."
A smile crept onto Jeneda's lips. "You and every other chick in here. Take a number."
"Seems like you wouldn't mind taking one, either."
This caused Jeneda to turn her head and offer Luna a lingering glance. The look Jeneda received in return seemed to silently convey that Luna was all too aware of her attraction to Dane. Yet this still didn't stop Jeneda from trying to play it cool.
"I'll admit he's drop dead gorgeous, but I am not about to throw myself at him."
"You can still flirt, though."
"Yeah, I guess. But what's the point? He's probably used to women falling all over him, so that wouldn't really set me apart, would it?"
Luna broke into a broad smile. "Check you out. Sounds like you're setting up a little game plan."
"I am not. I just don't see any reason to feed this guy's ego."
She gave a little shrug and replied, "Suit yourself." Then she retrieved a copy of Gonzo City from her large purse.
Taking a glance at the cover of the graphic novel, Jeneda saw that it depicted a futuristic looking city with thin, tall glass buildings set against the backdrop of a gloomy looking sky.
Large neon signs and billboards provided a sharp contrast to the dark cityscape, but for the most part, the city had quite a dystopian look to it. Curious to see the contents of the book, she decided to ask Luna for a peek.
"Mind if I take a look?"
"Nope. Take your time, I think you'll enjoy it." Luna gently placed the graphic novel in Jeneda's hand, as if it were made of gold, rather than just glossy paper.
Flipping through the pages, Jeneda noticed that the panels of the graphic novel featured characters who were decked out in leather pants, vinyl clubwear, and knee high, platform boots.
Many had neon colored, punky looking hairstyles and multiple piercings. Cyberpunk style, she thought as she admired the striking illustrations. Overall, the graphic novel had quite a cool look to it, and Jeneda found herself bowled over by Dane's incredible artistic skills.
So engrossed in the high tech universe of Gonzo City, Jeneda failed to realize that she and Luna had nearly reached the front of the line. A gentle elbowing from Luna, however, brought Jeneda back to the present moment.
"So, what do you think?" Luna asked.
"Pretty cool. Does this guy just illustrate, or he writes as well?"
"Writes, illustrates...he does it all."
"Wow. Very impressive." She gave the book back to Luna.
"I know, isn't he amazing? I would love to have even *half* the talent that he has."
"What are you talking about? You're a great illustrator."
"Oh yeah? Then why haven't I gotten hired at a comic publishing house, yet?"
"Keep trying, Luna. Don't give up."
"Oh believe me, I won't. I did not take out thousands of dollars in student loans and bust my butt for four years in a fancy ass art school just so I could work low paying freelance jobs."
"Those freelance gigs pay your rent, don't they?"
"Yeah, but It's not what I went to school for."
"I understand your frustration, but you've gotta keep at it. You're gonna get that dream job eventually."
"I sure hope so. Cause I'm really getting tired of eating hot pockets and Ramen noodles."
The mention of food caused Jeneda's stomach to grumble, and Luna took notice.
"Speaking of food, you wanna get some pizza after we leave here?"
"Yeah, but let's go to Bimbo's. Sal's skimps on tomato sauce."
"Bimbo's it is," said Luna.
After nearly fifteen minutes of waiting, Jeneda and Luna were now only one person away from meeting Dane Trenton. Unconsciously, Jeneda smoothed a palm over her sleek black hair, which was cut into a choppy bob. Her bangs, which were side swept, gave her an alluring look and accented the shape of her oval face.
Now afforded the opportunity to be in closer proximity to Dane, Jeneda realized that he was even more devastatingly handsome up close. Since he was busily engaged in conversation with the woman standing in front her, Jeneda took the opportunity to get in a good, long stare.
The first thing she focused on was his shoulder length hair. It was inky black with an incredible shine, and she just couldn't stop admiring the loose waves in it. It was a bit unruly, as if he'd been out in the wind and it'd gotten blown around a bit, but she liked that. It only made her want to run her fingers through it even more.
She guessed that the female fan he was talking to said something amusing, because he laughed, then tilted his head downward so he could focus his attention on the book he was autographing.
Once that was done, he handed the book back to the woman, and after giving him a flirtatious hair flip and smile, she walked off. Now resting his eyes on Jeneda and Luna, he gave them a smile, welcoming them forward.
"I just want to say, I'm a huge fan," Luna unabashedly gushed. "You're an amazing illustrator, and I just love Gonzo City. I have every book in the series."
"Well thank you for your support. I appreciate each and every one of my fans. You guys really are amazing." He smiled broadly, undoubtedly causing Luna to melt in the process.
She smiled back, then bit her lip. Having been friends with Luna for nearly six years, Jeneda knew that when it came to lip biting, it meant that Luna was nervous. Which was quite amusing, considering that she was usually very outgoing and extremely chatty, even with random strangers on the street.
Casting a brief glance toward the graphic novel in Luna's hand, Dane asked, "Did you want me to sign that?"
"Oh, right. I forgot all about it." She bashfully smiled, then handed it over.
"What's your name?" Dane asked.
"Luna...that means moon, doesn't it?"
"Yep. The night I was born, there was a big, full one, so that's how I got the name."
"I see. Well, it's a very lovely name."
"Thank you." Luna accepted her signed copy of Gonzo City from him, then tucked a curly lock behind her ear.
"You're very welcome. Thanks for being a fan," he said in his deep, sexy voice.
Jeneda didn't even have to glance at Luna to tell that she was bursting with happiness. She could feel it coming off her in waves, and it was clear to see that Luna would be having some very sweet dreams later that night.
Turning his gaze on Jeneda, Dane spoke to her. "And what about you?"
"What about me?"
"Do you have a book you'd like me to sign?"
"No. I'm just tagging along with my friend."
"Oh." A look of slight disappointment crossed his face. "Have you read Gonzo City?"
"Nope. I'm not much of a comic book person."
An amused look crossed his face. "It's not a comic book. It's a graphic novel."
"Actually, It's not. Comic books are usually thin, with paper covers, and cater to the younger crowd. Graphic novels are thicker and have more mature content. Hence the word, graphic."
"I see. Well I'm certainly happy to have learned the difference." Her voice dripped with sarcasm.
A maddening smirk played at his lips, yet she could see a change in his eyes. He probably hadn't expected her to do anything more than just stare stupidly at him after he'd finished his riveting explanation, and he certainly hadn't expected her to respond the way that she did, so now he was trying to make her feel uncomfortable the best way he knew how-with that penetrating stare.
As he studied her, she studied him. It was far too easy to get lost in those dark, hooded eyes of his, and as she held his gaze, she found herself wondering how old he was. Yet as soon as the thought came into her head, she admonished herself.
What did it matter how old he was? Not only was he pretentious, but also a hardcore flirt, so why would she ever give him the time of day? While he was certainly great to look at, he most likely wouldn't make very good boyfriend material.
Suddenly becoming worried that he could somehow figure out what she was thinking, she quickly averted her gaze.
She felt silly even considering that he had the power to read her mind, yet something about his eyes made her wonder if he was one of those people who could adeptly read others. It certainly wouldn't surprise her if he was. Jeneda cleared her throat, then looked at her watch, silently signaling to Luna that she was ready to go.
"Well, thanks for signing my book." Luna gave Dane a smile in parting.
"No problem." Then turning his attention to Jeneda, he said, "If you ever get a chance, check out Gonzo City. I think you'd enjoy it."
"She already has, and she loved it."
Luna's quick response caused Jeneda to throw a look of dissatisfaction her way. Then she glanced at Dane, and saw that he seemed to be equally surprised.
"Oh really?" He asked Luna, and after receiving a nod in response, he looked at Jeneda.
So you liked it?" He asked.
"I didn't really get a chance to read the whole thing. I just flipped through it."
"But you did enjoy it?"
"Yeah, it was alright," Jeneda said.
"She's probably too shy to tell you this, but she used the words, 'wow, cool, and very impressive,' to describe your work.
Suddenly feeling the urge to duck tape Luna's big mouth shut, Jeneda narrowed her eyes at her. Yet aware that Jeneda was giving her a dirty look, Luna avoided eye contact, choosing instead to look at Dane.
"Is that true?" Dane kept his gaze focused on Jeneda.
"Yes," she reluctantly said. "I thought it was pretty interesting."
The corners of his lips tugged into a pleased smile. "Cool. I'm glad to hear it."
She nodded, then said, "Yeah, well, it was nice meeting you." Then she turned on her heel and headed down the steps of the stage.