Page 28 of Tribulation Pass

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“No,” she said with a gasp, covering her mouth with her hand and her eyes going wide with surprise. “Surely, you jest.”

“Ahh, that smart mouth has been haunting me over the last couple of weeks.”

She couldn’t help but grin. “My dad always said if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

She had such fun with him. The little time they’d spent together had never been dull. It had been filled with conversation and playfulness. They’d listened and learned about each other. He wasinteresting. How many people could she say that about from her life in New York? They’d all been drones, kowtowing to Derek’s every whim. None of them had an original thought, and most of their wives had been chosen for their fortunes or their looks instead of their brains.

“I want to start on the back porch,” he said. “That porch swing is perfect, and the light is hitting just right.”

“And you’re just going to…paint?” she asked.

“No painting today,” he said. “I’ll do a series of sketches at first to see what clicks for me. And then I’ll do a more detailed drawing. Once I have that I’ll start painting.”

“You know I have to go to work at some point. I can’t just dedicate my life to sitting for you.”

He smiled and pushed the sliding doors into the walls so the area was open from inside to outside. The weather was perfect and cool, just a hint of fall in the air.

“Pity,” he said. “I guess I’ll just have to come over every day when you get home from work. I’ll bring dinner, and then you can kill two birds with one stone.”

“You’re going to make me dinner?” she asked.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I unfortunately inherited my mother’s cooking talents. But Aunt Simone owns a catering business along with The Lampstand. All I’ve got to do is stick it in the oven.”

She was feeling self-conscious. She was wearing gray lounge pants and a matching button-down top in the same color. Her hair wasn’t fixed and she wasn’t wearing any makeup. There was nothing about her that was worth all this time and trouble.

“The air is a little cool, so you might want to grab a blanket,” he said, handing her the cerulean afghan that was lying across the back of the couch. “And maybe a book to use as a prop.”

It was fascinating to watch the transition as he changed from a regular person to an artist. His eyes sharpened, and there was an intense focus behind them, telling her he already saw everything clearly in his head.

“But my clothes,” she said.

“No, they’re perfect. Nice and casual and relaxed. That’s the real you. Just be comfortable.”

He told her where and how to sit on the porch swing, and he brought her a couple of pillows to make her more comfortable. He was fast and efficient setting out his supplies, and she was curious to know what he was using. He had a black box filled with various kinds of pencils and charcoal.

He moved the lounge chair across from her to the angle he wanted, and then he looked at Winston and said, “Go find something to do. When we’re finished you can have an extra piece of meat for dinner.”

Winston licked his lips and then went inside to lie on the rug.

“That dog understands way too much,” she said.

“Shhh,” Duncan said. “He doesn’t know he’s a dog.”

He’d been drawing her from memory the past weeks, so the angles of her face and the curves of her body were familiar.

He worked quickly, doing loose sketches until she became more comfortable. She didn’t consider herself worthy enough to be captured like this. It was easy to see that she didn’t recognize her beauty. If anything, she only recognized her flaws.

In her mind, her looks were what they were. She had a sharp wit and quick mind, and that more than made up for anything she lacked in her appearance. But it was that uncharted knowledge, the humbleness that was so appealing. There was a naïvety about her. And a woundedness that made him think of a sparrow who’d injured a wing and was tucked in on itself, trying to protect itself from any other injury.

“Tell me about your dad,” he said. “You’ve mentioned him several times. You were close?”

“Very,” she said her face transforming into a genuine smile, and then it turned a little sad. “He was tall. Like me. I’ve always been told I favored him, and I’m glad. It’s nice to look in the mirror and see his eyes.”

“It’s one of the first things I noticed about you,” he said. “You have those beautiful dark eyes. They’re a touch heavy lidded and your lashes are full and dark. A contrast to your hair. Bedroom eyes.”

He glanced up in time to see her blush and look off into the distance. She’d not gotten enough compliments in her life, and he made a vow to change that.

“The dark eyes and hair as light as yours is an unusual combination. A contradiction even.”

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