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Shane Oglesby stared at the delicate features she created on the canvas. The sweet face of the woman sent a heated shiver down her spine. She reached out and carelessly touched the image, wishing that it was real flesh and not the hard bumpy feel of dried paint. Long blonde curls tumbled down a fragile back. She wondered what it would be like to grasp that waist while her fingers plunged deep within that perfect body.
A rap on the door brought her head reeling forward and away from the easel.
"Come in," Shane called out to the intruder of her daydreams.
Scott, her trusting, humorous, never a dull moment when around him, assistant, poked his head inside past the large cherry door. "Harry is here to pick up his painting. He said you wanted to talk with him before he left?" His chiseled jaw rested against the edge of the door, while he batted his long eyelashes at Shane. "Want me to wait with him? I don't mind at all."
Shane smirked at him, reaching to cover the painting with a sheet from the back of the easel, reluctant to leave the sight of the beauty that lay on its canvas. "It's okay. I'm coming."
"Dang." Scott drummed his loafers on the floor. "You never let me have any fun. You're a bad boss." He pulled his lips into a pout.
"I know, I'm mean as hell and make you slave all day. I guess that's why you've found more dates right here in this office than all the gay bars you've ever been to combined?" She winked while brushing past him, leaving him standing in the doorway with his half-cocked smile.
"That's because all the rich hot guys come here." Playfulness was apparent in his voice.
Shane headed down the wine carpeted halls.
Harry waslooking over the new picture Scott had hung to dry earlier in the day.
"Hi, Harry. Like it?" She smiled. The man only nodded, unable to tear his eyes from the picture.
"Like it? I love it. You can feel it--like it's alive." He looked at Shane, pure admiration in his eyes. His silvering hair was slung over his head to hide his balding scalp. A yellow golf shirt fit his body like a glove and matched the yellow pinstripe in his gray slacks.
"I'm glad you approve, but you'll need to wait forty-eight hours before you have it framed. I added an extra layer of varnish, as you requested, and I want to make sure it cures before you do anything with it."
"Shane, I couldn't be happier with it. It's her, alive and in living color." His eyes watered as he stared at the loving face of his wife, long gone five years after losing her battle with cancer. "You do such beautiful work."
Harry patted Shane's shoulder with his brown blotched hands while she slid the frame from its hook on the wall. She smiled at him, watching his unsteady hands grip the temporary wooden frame.
"Thank you, Harry. I'll send Scott to help you frame it on Monday. It's dry enough now, but take it out and lay it flat when you get home. Will you be home?"
"You bet. And, thank you again."
Shane watched as the man shuffled back down the hall. She smiled after him and then headed back to her office. She closed the heavy door and slunk down into her black leather chair, swiveling around to catch the sunrays streaming through the weeping willow outside the ground-floor window. Bees eagerly sucked at the flower blossoms.
A face came to life in her mind. The beautiful face of a woman named Morgan. Her sadness foretold of a broken heart, something that tore a hole through Shane from the second she laid eyes on her.
Shane let her mind fall back to the day she had seen Morgan for the first time.
Shane had received a phone call from a journalist, Morgan Rhinehart, from Strut magazine, wanting to do an article on her and her new art gallery, Shamrock. She declined. She was content in the humble secure surroundings of her artwork. This woman however, was persistent. Shane finally gave in, compelled with no reason why, to do what this woman wanted of her. She felt drawn to her, even through the earpiece of a phone. She made a time for the appointment and agreed to do the interview.
Her brother, who was waiting to take her to lunch, clapped her on the back so hard she thought she'd be bruised. "I'm so proud of you," Evan said. "It's about time you put yourself back out there and stop hiding from the world. It's time you let this go. You can't change the past."
Shane only smiled at him, praying he was right, feeling like he wasn't. But maybe it was time to stop living in the past and start stepping toward the future. Her brother was right. She couldn't change things now.
Reluctantly, after a lunch full of conversation with Evan, she drove to the office of Strut and pushed her way into the bustling lobby. She approached a woman sitting inside a circular desk and asked for Morgan Rhinehart. The receptionist pointed down the hall while she talked into a stem perched around her ear. Shane smiled weakly and headed down the gray carpeted hall.
She approached the open door bearing the name of Morgan Rhinehart. Across the room, a petite woman held a steaming mug and rested the side of her weary head and shoulder against a window overlooking downtown Atlanta. The glass, like a mirror against the brightness, reflected her saddened sky-blue eyes.
The woman's gaze was far beyond the glass skyscrapers and high-rise buildings. She never moved as Shane took a step closer, heart wrenching at the pain she saw nestled in the depths of the reflection shining back at her.
Attraction coursed through Shane's gut. Heat started in the pit of her stomach and burned a path to her throat. She licked her dry lips and stared, unable to move, unable to blink.
This woman was magical, pure and innocent, yet sadness was written all over her tanned face.
Shane stood immobilized under the power of the oblivious woman whose long blonde hair hung in wide curls down her back. Taking a long sip from her mug, she sighed. Her stare was glued to something far past the beauty of the summer sky.
A fist clenched Shane's heart. The sight of those sad blue eyes brought forth an image of her own true love. A love that was no more. A love that she missed so much sometimes it left her breathless from crying.
Shane turned around, fled back into the lobby, and sprinted to her car. Instinct told her this woman would tear her heart out and feed it to the lions. She raced back to the security of her office and never took another phone call from the beautiful Morgan.
Images of Morgan's velvet lips breathlessly parting under Shane's power, kept her awake at night, feverish and writhing with need. To feel those legs wrapped around her waist while she dove fingers into her dark core. Her body ached for this woman. Her mind could see nothing but this woman. Her soul wanted nothing else. Yet, she knew she couldn't have her. Even through her own misery, Shane knew this was a scarred woman.
Shane shook her head, wiping away thoughts of red lips pressed against hers. She left the gallery and headed to her favorite café hoping to diminish thoughts of the beautiful lady.
Shane froze at the sight of Morgan sitting on the inside of the booth while a red-haired man sat on the outside. Another woman sat across from her, obviously not her lover, but a deep bond between them was apparent. Shane slid into the booth unnoticed behind them, straining to hear their conversation. She relished the sound of Morgan's voice. The realization that Morgan never laughed, tugged at her heartstrings. She wanted to make her laugh. She wanted to be the one to paint a smile back on her face.
Shane cocked her head at the mention of her own name. She heard the sadness in Morgan's voice. Shane's heart halted as Morgan's words flowed over the back of the booth. "What the hell did I do to her?" Morgan had said, confusion clouding her voice.
Shane slid from the booth, ignoring the waitress that halted by her table, eyeing her suspiciously, and made her way back to the office. She picked up the phone, dialed Strut's number, and left a message for the other lady, Rachel, that had called several times. She explained that she would be signing the contract, even without the interview.
She walked back to the picture, the image that was now etched permanently in her mind. She traced the swirls of paint, the outline of a perfect face, the curve of her body. She was in love with a person who didn't even know her name.