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How come the right fit is never there when you want it?
Ryan Malone sighed and pressed the last glazing point into place. He wished he was working on one of his paintings rather than framing artwork for the local high school. The man in the painting stirred something deep within him, something exciting and unattainable. He tapped the point into the frame, double-checked the fit.
The man in the painting wasnâ€™t just any guy. No, Paul Toth surpassed most men. Gifted in the art classroom and smooth in social situations, he turned heads with his effortless style. Ryan flipped the painting over. Staring at Paul for the last two months had seared his visage into Ryanâ€™s memory. The guy had grace and damn was he cute. Brown eyes with just a hint of wonder. Thick, dark brown hair combed like heâ€™d just walked out of a salon...and that body... Muscles where a man should be sculpted, but not boxy or bulky.
Thank God Ryan had closed his office door. Anyone passing by wouldâ€™ve seen the bulge in his pants. On the outside, Paul embodied everything Ryan wanted in a man.
"But he plays for the other team," Ryan said to himself. His phone beeped, reminding him of his appointment with the principal. "I havenâ€™t met with a principal since I was in school." He chuckled. Thinking about school didnâ€™t make him feel much better.
He wrapped the artwork in butcher paper, then grabbed his keys. Thirty minutes later he stood outside Northwood High School. He pressed the button to lock his Jeep.
Just take the painting in, he probably wonâ€™t be there. Ryan gripped the painting and strode into the foyer. Northwood happened to be the home of the soon-to-be-named Teacher of the Year, aka Paul Toth. He pushed the second door handle, but nothing happened.
"We need to buzz you in," came a voice over the loudspeaker.
Ryan cringed. He hated being caught off guard. "Iâ€™m Ryan Malone, here with the Teacher of the Year painting."
"Very good," the woman said. "Doorâ€™s open."
Ryan headed to the office. The quicker he made his delivery, the sooner heâ€™d be able to leave. Seeing Paul wouldnâ€™t help things.
Ryan grinned at the principal. "Hello, Mr Laubenthal. I have the painting."
"Perfect." George Laubenthal rubbed his meaty hands together. His salt-and-pepper eyebrows bobbed and his moustache twitched. "Itâ€™s been eating Toth alive not to be doing this for us this year."
"The painting?" He handed the principal the package. "I know he teaches art, but I wasnâ€™t sure if he created the portraits."
"Yes. Mr Toth has painted the last four winners. I couldnâ€™t exactly have him paint himself. Letâ€™s show the girls in the office." Laubenthal led the way to the main office. "Girls, youâ€™re going to love this."
"Well, we can only hope," Ryan muttered.
"Nan, see if the work room is empty. Donâ€™t want wandering eyes." Laubenthal placed the painting on the nearest desk. His eyes sparkled behind his thick glasses. "Iâ€™m excited to see it."
When the secretary came back grinning, George unveiled the painting. He picked at the tape holding the paper closed, then gasped. "This is fantastic." George stepped back from the painting and pulled an envelope from his coat pocket. He handed Ryan the envelope. "Thatâ€™s for you. Board approved. We truly appreciate it."
Ryan stared at the image of Paul and suppressed a sigh. In the bright light, the highlights in Paulâ€™s dark hair stood out. His brown eyes sparkled with poise and mischief. Heâ€™d folded his arms in the photo and Ryan had taken the opportunity to define his biceps a bit more. When heâ€™d created the painting, he hadnâ€™t been able to tear his gaze from Paulâ€™s. Now, seeing the image with others around, Paul took his breath away. Paul embodied control and strength. Ryan forced himself to look away from the image that had haunted his dreams.
"Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re happy." Ryan nodded and placed the folded envelope in his back pocket. "Iâ€™d love to hang around and gawk at the painting, but Iâ€™ve got some other things to attend to so Iâ€™ll be going. Thank you for asking me to do this for you."
"Iâ€™m glad Professor Pride suggested you." George Laubenthal offered his hand. "Iâ€™ve seen your work down at the NEU Galleries. Weâ€™re honoured to have a piece here, as well. Thank you."
Ryan shook hands with the principal, then made his way out of the office. Only a few more steps and heâ€™d be back outside in the safety of his Jeep and the seclusion of his office.