Read an Excerpt
‘This is the exact style I’ve been looking for. Classic, but quirky. I particularly like the monochrome. Where can I find the artist?’
Eloise glanced across from her perch in the corner and pushed her glasses up her nose. ‘That’s me. I mean, these are my pictures.’
The man kept his gaze on the central photograph. It was of Jake in a deserted department store at night, taken from behind so none of the punters would recognise him. He was butt naked, lit by a single spot, and being jostled by fully-clothed mannequins.
‘What I want is for you to come to my place and take a portrait of my tribe,’ the man said, turning to look at her. He had burning blue eyes and sleek black hair greying at the temples. A modern day Dracula. ‘I should warn you. We are more like the Addams family. But I want to create the illusion that we’re normal. Beautiful. Capable of sitting still for five minutes.’
‘Sounds intriguing. I’ll just check my appointments.’ Eloise flicked through the pages of her totally empty diary.
He was suddenly standing right in front of her. ‘I forgot to say. The sitting needs to be done this weekend before they all scatter to the four winds.’
Eloisa remembered her manners and stood up. Up close he was even taller. She guessed that his suit was expensively tailored but his red silk tie was very slightly loosened, giving him a rakish air.
He noticed that she was staring at his undone top button. ‘Do excuse me. It’s been a tough day. Cedric Epsom.’
He took her hand.
‘So, Eloisa Stokes, may I commission you to take the family portrait?’
‘It’s Eloise.’ She expected him to shake her hand, but instead he lifted it and brushed it across his upper lip. He seemed to be smelling her skin as if her hand was a posy. Or a morsel he was about to devour. She went hot all over. He kissed her fingers as they crooked into a fist. Was that the tip of his tongue bumping over her knuckles? She had the weirdest urge to push her fingers hard into his mouth and have him suck them one by one …
He gave her back her hand as if they’d just finished some kind of archaic dance. ‘So it’s a date. For Friday?’
‘Yes. Sure. Fantastic.’ Stammering like an amateur.
He walked towards the door, then turned and handed her his card. ‘Come by my office in half an hour. I never do business without discussing payment first.’
Eloise watched him walk down the street, snapping back his French-cuffed wrist to check his watch. Jake emerged from his office. Normally he would hover, keep tabs on everything that was going on in the gallery. But now he was marching about switching off the main lights unnecessarily sharply. He left one bright spot illuminating her picture of him.
‘Did you hear that amazing conversation, Jake? My first professional assignment, and from passing trade, too. How about that!’
Jake locked the gallery door.
‘I’d hardly call Cedric Epsom passing trade.’
‘You know that guy?’
‘Everyone knows him!’ Jake gave a sardonic laugh. ‘He’s a kind of modern day Machiavelli. You know, patron to the arts. Well connected, too. I mean, everyone fromClintonto Clintwood comes through his door when they’re inLondon. So if he likes it, buys it, and hangs your work in his house, it will be seen by all the movers and shakers–’
Eloise lifted her long hair to cool her neck and gave a wriggle of excitement. ‘So why are you stamping about looking like thunder? Doesn’t this make me your star protégée? After all, you discovered me first!’
He pulled her away from the window and took hold of her. She leaned into him, pushing her big breasts against his shirt and rubbing them slowly against him, just the way he liked it. The breasts she kept hidden under loose tunics and had only ever unwrapped for him. His mouth fell open as her nipples pricked hard through the soft fabric.
‘I just wish it wasn’t him, of all people. He eats women for breakfast, Elle.’
‘He’s old enough to be my father.’ She slapped gently at his cheek. ‘This is a commission, for God’s sake, not a casting couch. My chance to get myself on the map! I’m not a kid, Jake. And I’m hardly a Playboy centrefold. He’s posing for me, remember, not the other way round. I’m in total control–’
‘You don’t know the half of it!’ Jake slammed her against the wall, his breath hot and angry on her face. The blow buzzed through her bones. ‘You’re a brilliantly talented photographer, Elle, I’ve made sure of that. But you’re still so naïve! Christ, you’ve never even fucked another man!’
‘And? What are you now, my lord and master?’ She tried to shake him off, but his fingers dug into her skin through the thin shirt and he pushed his knee between her legs and up, so that her pussy was grinding against his thigh. She was breathing hard now, but the fury was shafting through her body, making it spark with a toxic heat. ‘Well, maybe now’s the time to start!’
He pushed her shirt up to reveal her big breasts encased in a silky pink bra. He cradled them as he liked to do, flicking his thumbs across the tightening nipples.
‘Cocky words like that don’t suit you. You’re mine, Eloise Stokes. And you always will be.’
The heady sensation as he tweaked her hot nipples while she tried to fight him was too strong. She struggled weakly. ‘How could I be only yours? I’m 22. There’s a whole world waiting for me out there!’
And the world was walking home past the window right now, sweaty from the heatwave that was suckingLondondry.
‘I taught you everything you know.’ He pinched harder, watched her head fall back against the wall. ‘So I think you should be thanking me, don’t you?’
She gritted her teeth, gathering every ounce of strength she had to resist temptation. Then she pushed him away and pulled down her shirt.
‘Of course I’m grateful to you. I’m proud that I can call myself a professional now. But I’m not going to grovel on my hands and knees.’
‘Shame. Perhaps we should try that next time!’ He laughed, reached for her again. ‘But you still know you won’t get anywhere without my guidance.’
Eloise wrenched open the door before she gave in to him again. Relished the warm breeze blowing over her skin. ‘Just you watch me.’