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Barely kissing the horizon, the sun glowed a fiery crimson over the purpling waters of Islamorada, casting orange shadows over the storm-shuttered windows and whitewashed wraparound porch of their beachfront home.
Warm, salty breezes promised an evening thunderstorm and rippled the tall sea-oats that covered the dunes, surrounding the house with a green-and-gold carpet.
Standing barefoot on the second floor balcony, dressed in nothing but a loose-fitting pair of thin, white cotton pants, his tanned, flawless skin stretched over a chiseled body and his long dark hair blowing wild in the evening breeze, Malak was himself as much a work of art as anything his talented hands created.
With a flick of his wrist, Malak added a touch of vermillion to the wide swath of color that stretched across his canvas. When he stepped back and eyed his work, a small frown creased the skin between dark eyebrows.
To anyone else Malak would appear to be only slightly dissatisfied with what he saw, but Cael knew him better than that and ducked just as the canvas came whizzing through the air. It flipped end over end, sailing over the balcony railing, spiraling onto the dunes below.
"What was wrong with that one, Mal?" Cael asked, peering down at the wreckage of Malak's latest creation. Coarse sand clung to the wet paint, lending it the consistency of colored grits.
"It was shit."
Only Malak's voice, deep and smoky, could make defecation sound sexy. Cael smirked and swung himself up onto the balcony railing, straddling it. Leaning back against one of the posts supporting the overhang, he crossed his arms over his chest, watching Malak angrily swish brushes around in a masonjar half-filled with murky turpentine. "You say that about everything you paint these days, Mal."
Below Cael, half-buried in the sand, were the remnants of at least a couple of dozen of Malak's canvases, in various stages of completion. Pieces of the stretched canvas and broken frames stuck up through the sand like paint-splattered bones. Malak refused to allow any of them to be picked up and thrown away, inspiring Cael to nickname the area surrounding their porch St. Malak's Cemetery.
"Don't you have something else to do?" Malak grumbled, carefully cleaning his brushes and placing them bristles-up in another mason jar. He dried his hands on a paint-splattered rag, keeping his back to Cael. "Someone else to do?"
"Not at the moment," Cael answered, grinning. He could see the muscles tensing across Malak's shoulders. It was so easy to provoke him that it barely provided Cael with a challenge anymore. He flipped his mane of golden hair behind him and smiled impishly. "Why? Got someone in mind?"
"Go fuck yourself, Cael."