Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: One
Title: Light The Dark
Cara stares at the framed photograph and sips her chilled complimentary wine. She's viewed all of the photography showing in the gallery tonight, but only this one has drawn her back. The crowd has finally thinned, and she should be in her office tallying sales she expects will far exceed any other showing this year, but something about this work speaks to her on a visceral level.
The voice has a warm male timbre, easily recognizable with its Scottish burr. She didn't hear his approach, yet she's somehow not surprised he's there. Her intense scrutiny probably pulled him in.
Connor Malcolm. Famed photographer. Handsome, powerful, kind, driven; everything she's ever wanted and more. It's his work she can't drag her eyes from, perhaps hoping to learn more about the enigmatic man behind the camera that captured this scene. Procuring his work for the gallery was a career coup, certainly, but she never expected to develop these feelings in the process. At twenty-eight she feels too old to harbor a schoolgirl crush, getting weak in the knees every time he pays her the slightest bit of attention. It's embarrassing really.
"I don't know," she answers truthfully, then blushes slightly. "I mean of course I like it. That goes without saying, Connor. I'm just unsure my level of perception is up to the task of defining your work. You're exceptionally talented you know." She chances a peek over her shoulder, steeling herself to remain professional regardless of how handsome he is. It should be illegal for a man to have eyes like his - stormy blue and sexy as hell.
He laughs softly. "You've been staring at it for nearly twenty minutes, Cara." The humor in his expression is teasing though not condescending. His accent drags the syllables of her name through coarse silk.
She startles at the realization of how much time has escaped her. A nervous laugh slips from her throat as she self-consciously glances around the room, wondering if she's made a spectacle of herself, gawking so long at one picture. "Really?"
He hums a decidedly amused and classically Scottish sound of affirmation as her gaze returns to the photograph.
"What do you see that draws you so?" he asks.
She swallows past a sudden emotional lump in her throat. "The way you captured the light filtering through the clouds is beautiful yet also surreal." She shrugs, words failing her. Unnerved by his close proximity and her inability to offer an opinion that doesn't sound banal, she finds herself blurting her secret thought. "It's haunting. It conveys such loneliness."
The second the opinion is voiced, she wishes she censored herself. She doesn't want to insult him, finding melancholy where none may exist. Still, the photograph makes her yearn, as if she's there in the picture, staring up at a cold moon, searching for connection.
She feels Connor move closer. The heat of his body mingling with the all too appealing musk of his cologne makes her head swim. She's tired. It's been a very long month. She's worked ridiculous hours since she moved to London and accepted this job. She hasn't dated in over a year, that's why her heart suddenly beats so hard. Sexual deprivation will do that to a girl, she tells herself. And certainly his hand settling on her hip isn't flirtatious. . .is it?
"Would you be surprised if I told you this piece is a last minute addition? I took it less than a week ago, only steps outside the front door of this very gallery."
The heat of his palm works its way through the fabric of her dress, sizzling and electric. She feels certain her skin beneath is being branded, leaving a perfect, delicious imprint. Her heartbeat trips over itself, and the remnant of her wine shivers against the sides of the glass that is no longer steady in her grasp.
"When I captured that image, I was thinking of a beautiful woman who doesn't seem to know how desirable she is. I was longing for her to be by my side, sharing the magic of a dark night and a full moon."
Cara exhales an unsteady breath, fighting a smile. The insinuation the woman is her is both flattering and nerve wracking. She wonders how she missed the signs the attraction wasn't one-sided. Was she oblivious or simply too chicken to believe his attention wasn't based solely on manners and budding friendship? "Why didn't you invite her out?"
"Ah, well, she's a skittish thing, you see. I fear she's been hurt, and so she hides her feelings. It's a bit wounding to a man's ego, ya ken?"
A frisson of anxiety dances down her spine. He's right. She has been hurt. He's asking her to take a chance and suddenly she's unsure, no matter the fact she's been lusting after him for weeks. Fantasy is one thing, reality something else. Can she trust him?
A sip of her now flat wine does little to alleviate the dry mouth that comes from pure anxiety.
"What would you have said to her if she was there with you, staring up at that moon, fearful she might always be alone?" she dares to ask. Trepidation has her nearly whispering.
"I'd have told her she was only looking in the wrong direction," he answers as quietly as she asked, his voice a caress to her nerves. "I'd think she doesn't see what's right behind her or she'd know she wasn't the least bit alone."
His fingers skim across skin bared where her dress dips, making her shiver and wish she was brave.
"It's never that simple, Connor," she replies, but she's already starting to doubt her own words.
"It is, lass. All you have to do is turn around."
She shivers when he drops his hand, no longer touching her, merely waiting. She senses he'd respect her choice if she chose not to move, walk away as silently as he came and let her go. He's not the kind of man who plays games. His cards are on the table, open-faced for her to see.
Cara takes a deep breath and then...she turns around.
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)