Wandering through the streets of New York City held some extraordinary kind of romantic, historical, adrenalin-inducing appeal. The energy was palpable; everywhere Ava went something was going on - twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The architecture came in a dazzling variety; Art Deco skyscrapers stood only minutes away from startlingly nostalgic brownstones. Opportunities to take photographs were endless and after the first two days of her stay, she’d already filled her camera.
She knew the article had to be good. After managing to lie her way into an internship at a magazine, she’d spent months doing the lowly admin work that the people with secure jobs had no interest in. But out of the toil and hard work, something incredible had appeared; an opportunity for permanent employment. The magazine had sent her and the other eleven interns to NYC, faced with the task of coming up with an article that accurately represented the present day appeal of the city. There was no more guidance; the twelve of them were put up in a cheap hotel for four days and the article was due in the week after. The best submission would provide the writer with job security. It was simple as that.
Ava had to win. While the other interns spent their time eating pizza and drinking cheap beer like they were on vacation, she made it her priority to get a real grasp on the city; to find out what was in and what was out, what made the money and who spent that money. She’d walked more in the last couple of days then she had in the entire month. She’d experienced the coffee shops, the designer clothes stores, the parks, the museums and she’d spoken to each and every person who was vaguely interesting.
It was the end of a day of hard work and Ava figured after a day of dodging cabs and talking nonstop, she deserved a drink. Her patent black high heels clicked down the cobblestone streets of the meatpacking district, her brown satchel swinging from her shoulder. The old slaughterhouses had been converted into trendy French bistros, wine bars, after hours clubs and upmarket art galleries.
She ducked into an old Irish pub and walked up to the large casual bar. Inside, it was large and modern but comfortable, with small tables on one side and a pool-table and sing-along jukebox on the other. It was busy with a mixed crowd; couples eating traditional pub food; middle-aged guys playing pool; a crowd of girls singing karaoke and a bunch of teenagers claiming that they were old enough to drink. Blue lights shone down from the ceiling, giving the place a soft, pre-dawn feel.
She was about to make her usual order for a rum and coke when she caught sight of a man on the other side of the room. He was sitting at one of the tables quite alone, seeming to be in his own world, oblivious to all the noise of the bar. He was attractive, but that wasn’t what shocked her. She recognised his face. It came to her slowly, as she gazed at him. One of her friends at college had done a study on his work for her art coursework and she’d helped with the research. He was an artist – a good one from what she remembered – and… and maybe she could write about him in the article. Jared something
… she tried to remember his name and then it struck her; Jared Cole.
Giving an apologetic smile to the approaching bartender, she slipped from her seat and headed towards the artist, trying to ignore the rising feel of unease in her stomach. She didn’t have anything to lose, she told herself, just a brilliant opportunity to make her article relevant and infinitely more thought-provoking than what all the other interns would submit.
She approached his table warily. He didn’t look up, seemingly absorbed in his thoughts and his half-empty beer glass. It was definitely him. She recognised him from the magazine article; remembered reading about him and arguing with her friend over how attractive he was.
“Jared Cole?” her voice came out tentative and timid and she squared her shoulders. “I’m Ava Green. I couldn’t help recognising you. I’m doing an article for Unconventional
magazine about New York City and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind talking for a little while.”
He didn’t move. Even sitting there, hunched over the wooden table, he intimidated her. His hair was dark brown and he looked like he hadn’t shaved for at least two days. The resultant stubble gave him a rough rock-star look; one that instinctively appealed to her. She forced herself to control her thoughts.
He ignored her entirely and she bit her lip, wondering if she’d somehow offended or insulted him.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you.” She mumbled and she made to back away.
Finally he looked up, his startling blue eyes pinning her into place. They were the most extraordinary colour, like the shimmering ocean, yet electric in their disconcerting intensity. He let his gaze travel deliberately down her body, taking in the faded jacket and skinny jeans, his eyes lingering for far longer than was necessary. Ava shifted her stance uncomfortably.
He didn’t reply. She couldn’t even be sure that he’d heard her for he sure as hell didn’t acknowledge the words. Those mesmerizingly beautiful eyes just watched her mouth as it moved and she could have sworn he deliberately swept his tongue across his lower lip.
“Look at the light,” he said suddenly and she was struck by the raw hoarseness of his voice. It was as if he hadn’t spoken all day. “Go on,” he encouraged and he gestured at the overhead coloured lights as a ghost of a smile crossed his mouth.
Uncertainly, Ava looked up and as she did so he rose and grasped her chin in his hand, studying her profile. She was struck by his height; he was almost a foot taller than her yet the hand that touched her face was surprisingly gentle.
“Ava Green, huh?” he murmured and she felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights, dazzled and unable to move. “What would you say Miss Green, if I offered to do your portrait?”
It took her a moment to come out from the spell he’d unintentionally cast on her. “Portrait? Me? Why?”
He hesitated, still examining her face under the soft beam of the lights. “You’ve got a good face for it, that’s all. And it’s been a while since I painted with a model.”
Ava frowned as he released her chin. “But you’re Jared Cole! I mean, you’re famous!”
It was his turn to look confused. “No. Maybe you’ve got me mixed up with someone else. I’m not that well-known.”
“Yes you are.” Ava maintained, “I remember reading something in a magazine about you being a new talent. I remember the article – it had your photo, that’s how I knew who you were.”
His answering smile was bittersweet. “Five minutes of fame, Ava. I sold ten paintings and then the press moved on to the next artist.” He gestured around the bar. “Do you really think I’d be drinking in a place like this if I were the next Monet?”
Ava frowned. “Can you still talk about your work though? You’d make a great feature.”
He tilted his head to one side and looked down at her. She thought she detected a hint of amusement in the depths of his eyes as he looked her up and down again. “You be my model and I’ll answer your questions. Deal?”
He smiled as he picked up his leather jacket off the back of his chair and shrugged it on. He drained his beer, raised a hand to the bartender and headed out of the pub. Ava hesitated for a second before following him out onto the dark city street. He gave her an enigmatic smile and then started down the footpath. He walked fast, his long legs eating up the distance and she had to run every couple of seconds to stay behind him. She felt like his shadow. He didn’t slow down, though she was sure he could tell she was having a hard time keeping up.
“Erm… Mr Cole?”
He laughed. “Jared.”
“Right,” Ava shook her head. “Do you usually do stuff like this?”
He slowed suddenly and she bumped into him. “Modeling first, questions after. Okay?”
“But - ”
“No buts.” He spun around to gaze at her intently. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”
“No, I want to,” Ava said hurriedly. “I was just wondering - ”
“Wondering is a waste of time,” Jared said wryly. “Now hurry up. I paint best at night-time.”
He turned and started walking again. Ava stared at him for a second before following, unable to stop deliberating over how anyone could claim to paint better in the dark.
After ten minutes of striding through the streets, Jared finally stopped in front of an old warehouse that had been converted into a block of apartments. She followed him in and up the stairs which were dingily lit. Maybe he really wasn’t all that famous, Ava thought. It didn’t seem like an ideal place to live.
Jared’s apartment was untidy, bordering on dirty in fact, but still somehow likable. The door opened straight onto the living area which held a cornucopia of painting materials, canvases and other art supplies. Paintbrushes, new and old, were everywhere; in glasses of turpentine, in unopened packets and old, used, dry ones seemed to be placed in the oddest of places. The hardwood floor was stained with drops of paint; as were the dozen or so easels that were propped up around the room. Jared closed the door behind them and turned the key in the lock.
He hung his jacket up on the peg behind the door and stretched.
“I would offer you a drink but I’m guessing you’re not a fan of whisky,” he gestured at the bottle and accompanying used glass that stood on the windowsill. “And besides, you want to ask your questions and I want to paint my picture so maybe we should skip the formalities. That okay with you?”
“Yeah. Sure.” Ava acted nonchalant but her mind was spinning as she took in the plethora of completed paintings that hung on the walls, each signed by none other than the man who stood before her. He was talented. Crazily talented. He’d woven together the most ridiculously contrasting colours to create paintings that looked like they should have been displayed in an upmarket gallery. Most of his works were landscapes, though he had done a few portraits, one of himself included and there were some takes on landmarks that would have made the real articles look exceptionally drab.
She felt the weight of his stare on her. He’d taken one half-finished painting off an easel and replaced it with a fresh clean white canvas. A tall lamp cast a white glow across the area where he stood and she watched as he took a swig of whisky straight from the bottle, his eyes not moving away from her.
She stepped forward uncertainly. “What?”
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “What are you waiting for? Take your clothes off.”
Ava blanched. He didn’t just say that. Surely, he could not
have just said that. She stared at him. “I’m sorry?”
He frowned. “I said, take your clothes off. Skip the formalities, remember? I’m going to paint you.” He shook his head. “Don’t you get it?”
Ava’s eyes widened. “Nude? You paint nudes? Why didn’t you say?”
He gazed at her for a second before he laughed dryly. “You knew who I was. I thought it was obvious what I was offering.”
“I didn’t realise.” Ava wished that the paint-splattered floor would swallow her up. “I thought it was a normal portrait. Like these,” she gestured at the pictures on the walls. “These ones. Just the face. You looked at my face. I never realised.”
Jared’s mouth lifted in a half-smile. “You’re uncomfortable. I get it. I know what’ll make this easier.” He crossed his arms and grasped the hem of his black t-shirt, pulling it off over his head.
Ava was about to protest but then his torso came into view and her breath caught in her throat. He looked even better without clothes. She found herself unable to stop staring as he kicked off his shoes, undid his jeans, and pulled the denim down and off. She should have looked away, she knew that but she couldn’t avert her gaze as he dropped his boxers. Then he stood there, completely confident in his nakedness. Ava could not believe her eyes. She was in a foreign country in a random apartment with a completely naked (albeit gorgeous) man in front of her. If this wasn’t the damn American Dream, what the hell was?
She suddenly realised she was still fully-clothed and she hastened to pull off her jacket and let it drop to the floor with her bag. Quickly, she undressed, well aware that he was staring at her with the same level of concentration she’d given. Eventually the embarrassment of the moment was over and she stood there just as naked as him. Once again she let her eyes travel over his perfectly sculpted body, surprisingly comfortable with the turn of events.
She knew it was appalling and intrusive and incredibly unladylike but she could not stop staring at his cock. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen and as she watched in dumbfounded shock, it rose under her gaze to stand erect.
“That’s your fault,” Jared said jokingly, “you made that happen.”
Ava’s eyes flicked to his face and then back down to his cock. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
He laughed. “Don’t be. Feeling more comfortable now?”
“Erm, I was
“But the hard-on distracted you.”
She bit down hard on her lower lip. “Right.”
He stepped closer to her warily; as if afraid she might get scared and bolt. “You know, I have a cure for this.” He let his eyes flick slowly down to his erection.
Ava swallowed hard. “What’s that?”
“Sex.” He whispered conspiratorially and Ava felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the apartment.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“Really?” He tilted his head to one side like he had at the pub and his eyes caressed her body. “Why not? Two naked people who find each other attractive equals sex, right?”
Ava’s heart was thudding so fast she couldn’t tell if it was beating at all; maybe it had stopped and this was all some kind of heavenly dream.
“How do you know I find you attractive?”
He smiled. “The way you speak to me. The way you can’t look me in the eye, like you’re afraid of what might happen if you do.”
Ava appealed to the sensible side of her brain to sort the situation out. He was barely a meter away from her and so unbelievably naked. Any other girl would have gladly accepted the offer of sex. But Ava wasn’t just any girl. She hid the scars well but anyone who came too close would surely see the troubled past she tried to hide behind a wall of confidence. But with Jared, her poise faded. She felt naked and not just in the physical sense. She was sure he’d see all the wounds from her past relationships and then he’d run a mile in the other direction.
But maybe she was over thinking it. It wasn’t likely that she would see him again, so maybe she could take the sex for what it was; a meaningless, surface level procedure that didn’t have to entangle with her emotions. She could have sex for the sake of sex, nothing more.
“C’mon,” Jared murmured softly, “don’t think about it. Just do it.”
Ava looked up at his face and lost herself in the beautiful blue sea of his eyes. He stepped closer as if realising her resolve was weakening and then he tilted her chin up and kissed her. He was a rough, demanding kisser. His tongue swept into her mouth, taking away all her thoughts and reservations, and unwittingly she found herself relinquishing control. Her eyes closed and he pushed her backwards into the wall, pressing his hard body against hers so she could feel just how much he wanted her.
His hands sought out hers, their fingers twining together and then he was leading her through the maze of easels and through a door into his bedroom. The bed was unmade, the sheets were creased and when he pushed her down onto them, Ava could smell his scent. She didn’t think there was a better smell in the world.
He stood over her for a second, eyes drinking in her body and then he was bearing down on her, his mouth leaving a wet trail down her neck and across her breasts as he moved down to where he wanted to go. Ava wasn’t sure whether the sound she let out was a protest or a sigh but all she knew was that his tongue was between her legs and it felt breathtakingly good. His hands gripped her thighs hard as his tongue moved as forcefully as it had when he kissed her. It was sublime and it was rough and it was like nothing she’d ever experienced.
It should have been enjoyable. It was
enjoyable; to her body at least. Her mind was ruining everything though, over thinking and tarnishing what should have been a special moment. Jared’s eyes locked onto hers and that alone was enough to tip her over the edge, even without the constant thrash of his tongue against her clit. But after the intense orgasm faded and the thoughts came back, Ava felt like crying. Sex had never been something she could do without consequences; without a relationship.
Jared was breathing hard as his body snaked upwards.
“What is it?” His mouth moved across her neck. “Relax, Ava.”
His hands sought out her shoulders, massaging them. “This tension, it’s no good. I’m trying to get a feel for you, for what you are. You need to relax baby or I’ll paint you as a wound-up ball of string.”
That made her laugh. She ran her hands through his thick dark hair and gazed at the face that had charmed her into bed. “I’m fine,” she insisted, “forget ball of string; you’ll be doing a chilled out Ibiza beach.”
She kissed him then, lips pulling him back into the moment and her hands ran across his shoulders, feeling the hard strength beneath his skin. She felt his hands on the soft curves of her body and they felt so alien yet so welcome; the rough glide of his thumbs made her moan somewhere deep in her throat.
He pulled himself off her body and for a second she wanted to protest but then his intentions became clear as she felt him brush the head of his cock against her soaked pussy. His hand pulled one of her legs up as he finally drove his hard length into her. He held it there for a moment, the feeling of fullness taking a moment to settle and then he began fucking her.
It made all her past experiences fade out of significance; her and Jared were like two parts of a volcano releasing a lava of aggressive desire as their bodies moved together. He was so strong, and he wasn’t afraid to use his strength, slamming deep into her core, ensuring he made her cry out each time he did so.
He tested her limits, pushing her higher and higher, making her body crave more every time he slowed. His hands explored her body like he was trying to commit it to memory, feeling every inch of her sweat-slicked skin, watching every reaction she made to his touch. His palm would slap unexpectedly against her flank as he goaded her on, his words like the sweetest poison, the kind you couldn’t help drinking even if you knew it would kill you.
She heard his voice like it was from a distance as he told her to beg him for more and each time her soft voice said the words he wanted to hear, he would fuck her harder with renewed desire, pushing her oh-so-close to the edge time after time. It was aggressive and dirty and Ava found herself using lewd words she didn’t even know she was aware of; all she wanted was Jared to keep fucking her because she knew that when it was over, she was never going to get a fuck as good ever again.
But it had to end; she knew it as well as he did and when he finally decided she deserved the release, she came harder than ever before. The sweat-soaked sheets were bunched in Ava’s fists, her lip swollen from where she’d been biting down on it and her body felt like it might never stop shaking. It was scary, but more than that it was pure, unadulterated pleasure, utterly, unapologetically hedonistic. The last thing she was aware of before passing out was the feel of Jared’s cum spurting inside her and his heavy weight crushing her into the bed.
When she awoke, he was gone. Ava sat up, squinting in the harsh sunlight that streamed through the window. Her body felt sore yet relaxed. It was an odd feeling. She got out of the bed and pulled her t-shirt on.
She spun around at the sound of Jared’s voice and he smiled at her, more readily than he had the day before.
“The portrait.” He gestured at an easel in the corner. “Wanna see?”
She walked across the hard wooden floor and he lifted a cloth that was draped over the canvas.
“What do you think?”
Ava just stared. She could not believe he’d painted it; let alone in one night. On the surface, it was a picture of her sleeping in the bed but then, it was so much more. It was everything she felt, everything that the night had felt, in spectacular colours. A wrangle of pleasure and guilt somehow portrayed in the most vivid, vibrant acrylics. It represented everything, physical and emotional and it made her heart melt even more for the artist.
“I want to paint another,” he said, “you could have one hanging on your wall and I’d have one on mine.”
And that was when the sour taste of reality hit. “I’m going home tomorrow,” Ava murmured, not daring to speak out loud in case she disturbed the peace of the moment. “Not enough time for it to dry.”
Jared looked at her. “Where do you live?”
He looked shocked and then he laughed a poignant, forced laugh that pained her. “I did wonder briefly why you had such a British accent.”
“Wondering is a waste of time,” Ava whispered but he didn’t smile. His luminous blue eyes were almost accusatory as he looked at her.
“So this is it then? One night, no more?”
Ava bit her lip. “I’m sorry. It hurts me too, you know.”
“No kidding.” Jared dropped the cover back down over the painting and ran his paint-marked hands through his hair. “This fucking sucks. Can’t you stay here?”
“I was only here for the article,” Ava tried to hold back the tears. “I have to go back.”
“But you could visit?” Jared’s eyes met hers and somehow through the pain there was a solitary spark of hope. “We could split our time between here and your place, couldn’t we?”
Ava knew she was going to get hurt, whether it was now or a few months down the line. “Long distance relationships don’t ever work.” She forced the words out of her mouth, her heart vehemently hating her as she did so.
work.” Jared grabbed her hands in his. “It’ll have to Ava because we both know there’s something here. Say we’ll try. Please.”
Ava looked up into his face and her brain knew she was being utterly stupid and impulsive but that didn’t stop her heart from emerging victorious. “Okay.”
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