Adam Hayes has never met a girl like Reese. She’s sassy, smart, and loves talking comics, although he can’t see why she’d choose DC over Marvel. He’s thrilled to finally put his artistic chops to use in their upcoming comic project. But. this relationship is strictly professional. Or so he tells himself. When the two combine forces, they churn out magic in more ways than they had planned; they never expected to develop a steamy romantic sub-plot of their own…
About the Author
Readers can visit Shannyn online at www.shannynschroeder.com and follow her on Twitter @SSchroeder_.
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His Work of Art
By SHANNYN SCHROEDER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Shannyn Schroeder
All rights reserved.
Adam Hayes stared at the black line drawing and wished for more inspiration. Something was off, but he couldn't quite figure it out. He'd thought that going over the pencil with ink would spark something, but he was still at a loss.
He normally enjoyed days like this at the comics shop. The periodic customer would break the monotony of his frozen brain, but the store was quiet enough that he could get some drawing done.
The masked superhero stared at him. Maybe if it was in color. In Adam's mind, he saw dark skin and darker eyes.
But skin tone and eye color wouldn't give him a name.
The door chimed and Adam looked up to see his friend, Free, walking in. Even from the other side of the store, Adam felt the temperature drop with the blast of cold air that followed Free.
"Hey, man, what's up?" Free called out.
"Nothing." Adam gathered his pages and stacked them on the edge of the table. He walked to the counter to meet Free and took in his appearance. Brown tweed hat and long overcoat. "Meeting Cary at the gym?"
"No, I'm walking around looking like Sherlock Holmes because I thought it would be a good way to pick up a girl."
"It might work. You have a bit of Benedict Cumberbatch going on."
Free threw one of the gloves he'd just removed at Adam. It flopped on the counter.
"Last time I saw Cary he looked good. I thought you were done dressing up to get him through the workouts."
"I probably could be. I think it's mostly habit now. He's come a long way, and I don't want him to lose motivation. Plus, I have an excuse to dress up."
"You say shit like that and then you wonder why chicks think you're gay."
Free rolled his eyes. Adam liked to give him a hard time. For most of his life, Free was a straitlaced banker-in- training, but his love of the theater had allowed him to become anyone he wanted.
Adam envied that skill.
"Where's Hunter? I thought you said three thirty."
"He's late, like always."
The door swung open again and Hunter strode in.
"Why did I have to come here if we're just talking about the New Year's Eve party? Couldn't we do this at home later?"
"Free has to meet Cary at the gym."
"Then I have rehearsal," Free added.
"Why couldn't it wait? We have like a month before the party." He tucked his hands into the beat-up black leather jacket that he'd been wearing since high school.
Free straightened. "We need to talk about invitations. We don't want a repeat of last year."
"Why not? Last year was epic."
Adam crossed his arms. "Your word-of-mouth campaign led to an apartment full of strangers."
"They weren't all strangers."
"Just the entire marching band."
"Not all of the band came, and it was fun."
"Except for all the drunk bodies laying all over the place the following morning."
Free held up his hands. "I can't say much about that since I don't live with you guys and therefore don't suffer those repercussions, but I agree that it was too crowded to actually have fun with friends."
Adam pointed at Hunter. "And don't forget the catfight that broke out."
"That wasn't my fault. I'm irresistible." Hunter's gaze bounced back and forth between them. "Does that mean you guys are going to have dates this year?"
"Nope," Adam answered. Somehow, he'd always managed to not have a girlfriend over the holidays. It wasn't like he planned it.
Free looked anywhere but at Hunter.
Hunter sighed. "You guys are pitiful. The epitome of nerds. You get dates, I won't tell everyone and their cousin to come to our party."
"You have a date?" Free asked.
Hunter smiled. "Not yet. I have plenty of time. Working on some options."
Hunter was always investigating his options. The door chimed, and Reese walked through the door with a smile on her face.
She pulled up short and her eyes widened as she took Adam in, standing with his friends. She took a sharp left and started thumbing through a bin of comics.
Hunter looked at him with eyes almost as wide as Reese's. He then waved a hand toward Reese.
"What?" Adam whispered.
"Ask her, you idiot. She's cute."
"She's not like that."
Hunter shook his head. "Every girl is dateable."
Free checked his watch. "As much as I love your verbal advice column, I have to head out to meet Cary. If I'm not there before him, he might chicken out." He tugged his gloves back on and went to the door. Over his shoulder, he called, "See you later."
Hunter zipped up his jacket. To Adam, he said, "See you at home?"
"Yeah. After closing." He occasionally took the closing shift so his mom could have a free night, and it worked well with his class schedule.
Another customer walked in as Hunter left. Adam was almost able to forget Reese's presence, except now Hunter had put the idea of asking her out in his head. He shoved the thought aside and greeted his customer. "Anything special you're looking for today?"
"My son is eight and I want to get him some comics. But you know, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg because he's eight. He hasn't quite grasped the idea of taking care of his books."
"There are lots of books for kids. We have a clearance section over here." He led the way to the small bin and helped the guy pick out a few comics. Then he went back to his station behind the register to ring him up.
"Wow! You're actually good."
Adam glanced over his shoulder at hearing Reese — words of surprise no guy ever wanted to hear — to see that she stood over his drawing table. Invading his space behind the counter. He thanked the customer in front of him and handed him his bag of comic books. He watched the customer leave before walking up behind Reese.
"Could you —" He gestured to the other side of the counter, the storefront for customers.
She shrugged. "Oh, sorry." She moved to the other side, but continued talking. "It's just that I see you drawing all the time. I wanted to check it out."
Adam moved his panels and sheets of paper back to the order in which he had them. Even if he were to invite her to look at his work, he wouldn't let her shuffle them like a deck of cards. Although she was now standing six feet away, he could still smell her lingering scent. Something soft, but he couldn't quite place it. He found it distracting.
While he continued to straighten his table, he asked, "Is there something you needed help finding?"
It was a ridiculous question because she was able to find things in the small store as easily as he could. She'd been coming in at least once a week for months, ever since one of their competitors had shut down. Reese had strolled in looking for the latest Batgirl comic and his life hadn't been the same since.
"So what are you drawing?"
"Nothing special. Just working up some ideas."
"Those aren't random doodles. I know a superhero when I see one. Who is he?"
Adam set his papers back on the desk. He rubbed the back of his neck, irritation grinding into his muscles. "He doesn't have a name. Not yet anyway."
"He's pretty awesome. You need to name him."
"Yeah, I'll get right on that." As if he hadn't already spent his entire afternoon doing just that. He crossed his arms. "So what are you here for today? You picked up all of your regular issues earlier this week."
"I came to see you." She leaned forward on the counter in front of the register. "I have a proposition for you."
At least these were better words to hear than her first statement. He joined her and braced his palms on the glass and waited.
"I have to do a senior project. My plan is to publish an anthology of comics."
They'd talked about comics plenty over the months. They both had strong opinions, and he enjoyed arguing with her. He also knew that she was a writer, not that he'd ever read any of her stuff.
"And?" he prompted.
"I need an artist. I have most of the stories done." She tilted her head side to side, her straight dark hair swaying with the movement. Squinting her eyes, she said, "Well, they need polishing and maybe some revising, but I figure they'll get fine-tuned as we get to the storyboard phase."
"We?" No way was she asking what he thought.
"If you agree to be my partner, yeah, we. I'm under a bit of a time crunch because I have to have things in place to start my crowd-funding campaign. So it'll be a lot of work, but you'll get paid. At least you will if the campaign gets funded. Plus, I figure we have holiday break coming up so we won't have to worry about classes."
"You want me to illustrate your comics?" The thought was a massive blur in his brain. Working together on a comic was intense. He doubted they could get along long enough to complete anything. They managed to argue about just about everything related to comics.
"Yeah. I had the idea a couple of weeks ago when I saw you working at your table. You were so passionate and into it, that it swallowed you. I get like that when I'm in the zone writing. I need that kind of partner." Her stormy blue eyes focused intently on him from beneath her shaggy bangs.
"Do I really need to point out that we don't get along?"
In truth, Reese was one of his all-time favorite customers. She was smart and argued with passion. It was almost enough for him to forgive her for choosing DC over Marvel.
"Who said we have to get along? I'm an excellent writer. From what I can see there, you're an excellent artist. Together, we can put together a fabulous book." She leaned closer, almost to his side of the counter. "Afraid you can't handle me?"
He chuckled. "Sorry to disappoint, but you don't scare me. However, I don't like to waste my time."
She eased back. "How about this? You can read the story for the first book. Then make your decision. But it'll have to be fast because I have to have everything in place before my campaign goes live. The book doesn't need to be complete, but I have to have enough to entice people to back me."
The idea intrigued him, but Reese would never have been his first choice for a partner. Getting paid to draw was exactly what he was looking for. And if her campaign got fully funded, he would have a publication credit to his name. Having experience like that would help as he started his job hunt after graduation. "Bring it by. I'll take a look."
Her face lit up almost as brightly as when she'd tried to convince him that Batman was better than Iron Man. "Excellent." She reached into her messenger bag and pulled out a purple folder. "Here you go."
He eyed the folder. "You were that sure that I'd say yes?"
She winked at him. "I was cautiously optimistic."
He reached for the folder, but she tugged it back.
"For your eyes only."
The guarded look in her eye made him pause. Who the hell did she think he would show this to? "Got it." He accepted the folder. "When do you need an answer?"
"The sooner the better. I need to get moving."
"Okay. I'll have a decision by next week when you come in for your books."
She pulled a pen from one of the many pockets of her cargo pants, snatched the folder back, and scribbled on the cover. "Here's my number. Call me if you decide before then and we can come up with a plan."
He stared at the number on the folder. "Okay."
"See ya later, Cap'n."
He shot her a dirty look. He hated the nickname she'd given him, Captain. When she first called him Captain, he'd assumed it was after Captain America, but she'd informed him that she went with a DC hero, Captain Atom, whose human last name was Adam. He liked her playfulness, but she could've chosen a cooler hero.
* * *
Reese Carter walked calmly to her car, nerves warming her from the inside out so much that she didn't even notice the wind whipping against her cheeks. Her stomach churned and her hand shook as she opened her car door. She started the engine and sat, settling her nerves and waiting for the car to warm up.
She couldn't believe she'd done it. She'd asked Adam to illustrate her comics. When she'd first walked into Comic Universe months ago, she had just prayed that she wouldn't find an asshole behind the counter who would talk down to her because she had a vagina.
Getting to know Adam had been an unexpected treat. Not only did he never question her choices, except for her love of DC, he also made her feel comfortable in his family's shop. Then last month, she'd seen him at the drawing table, totally immersed in what he was doing.
His hands moved in long, quick strokes, and intense focus filled his face. She hadn't wanted to interrupt him, so she crept close to peek at the drawings. She'd been only able to catch a glimpse, but she knew they were good.
Today was simply a confirmation.
Her phone vibrated in her pocket. A simple text:
I thought you might want my number too. Adam.
The text made her smile and she thanked him before saving his contact information. Then she dialed Julie's number.
"I did it. I talked to Adam and he's got the first book now."
"Cute comic shop guy?"
"Oh." Julie stretched the word into four syllables. "So what did he say?"
"He said he'd look at the story and get back to me." She exhaled and could still see her breath. "But I think he's going to do it. I hope he does. He's good."
"I'm glad. When do you think you'll be ready for me?"
"I don't know. It depends on how fast we get moving. After Adam decides and we start work, I'll have a better idea."
"Okay. Meet you after work tonight?"
"Sure." They disconnected and Reese shivered with anticipation. Her project was moving forward. She'd graduate on time.
The heater in her junky car finally rattled to life and the air blew warm. She shifted into reverse to pull out and tried to convince her stomach to settle.
Handing over a not-quite-final draft of her comic worried her. The last time she'd done that, her ideas had been stolen, and she felt so betrayed that she'd stopped writing. Her adviser pointed out repeatedly that part of being a writer meant putting her work out there. Overcoming her fear was a huge part of why she'd chosen this as her senior project.
Getting closer to Adam would be a definite perk.
Over the months, she'd dropped not-so-subtle hints that she'd like to go out with him, but he was either oblivious or uninterested.
She didn't get the impression that he was oblivious.
Trying not to let that last thought get her down, she drove home to change before going to work at the coffee shop. Adam had consented to at least look at her story, which meant that he was agreeable to the idea of working with her. So that was something.
At home, she raced up the stairs to grab her uniform shirt. The atmosphere of Grind was pretty laid-back, which was why she didn't mind working. She could wear jeans or her favorite cargo pants, but she was required to have her hair in a ponytail and wear the brown polo shirt with her name tag.
She'd been working at Grind for three years now, and some of her polos had seen better days. The one she slipped over her head was faded and the color suddenly struck her as the same shade as Adam's skin. Warm and soft, like a teddy bear. She ran her hand to smooth the shirt before pinning her name tag on.
"I thought you already left for work," her mom said from the doorway.
"Uh, no. I had a quick errand to run after class and I forgot to pack my shirt." She gave her mom a quick peck on the cheek and said, "I won't be too late."
Her mom scanned the bedroom and shook her head.
Over her shoulder, Reese called, "I'll clean it later."
But they both knew it was a lie. Ever since she and her mom had moved into their own place ten years ago, Reese hadn't cleaned her room. Well, she'd picked up her dirty laundry and occasionally vacuumed, but her room was never spotless. When they'd moved into that first rinky-dink basement one-bedroom apartment, Reese vowed she would live the way she'd wanted to, not how her father had expected.
She swallowed hard. She couldn't afford to give him any space in her head right now. Her life was heading exactly where she wanted. Her life. Independent from everyone.
Her comic book was the first real step. Stories never let her down.
Excerpted from His Work of Art by SHANNYN SCHROEDER. Copyright © 2015 Shannyn Schroeder. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the first book of Shannyn's that I have read, I went into it a little dubious because it's based around a nerdy YA theme but I'm usually attracted by the thought of romance & this didn't disappoint. Two youngsters pulled together by a common interest of comic books, Reese can magic a story out of thin air but needed someone to help her with the artwork, Adam helps his mum run the local comic book store & he totally 'got' what Reese was trying to portray so they embark on the project together. She is cool, sassy, nerdy but a bit unsure of herself he seems to have a few issues which come to light during the book when he is confronted by the fact there may be some attraction between them. The subject of an interracial relationship is dealt with fairly well .. I personally couldn't see why he was so uptight but he needed some convincing. Anyway we follow their blossoming friendship during this novella a it's a nice little story which I enjoyed rather more than I anticipated. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest opinion.
A short, quick, sweet read--with comic book nerds! From the first page, His Work of Art made me think of the Doubleclicks video and song "Nothing to Prove" I'm soooo glad that Adam never made Reese feel less than because she was a girl. The fact that she preferred DC over Marvel, though, that's a whole other kettle of fish... ;) I'm not a huge comic book/graphic novel reader myself, but I've always been fascinated with how they are put together. It was really neat seeing Reese and Adam collaborating over Reese's final school project--and the fact that they're falling for each other as they do so is a nice bonus. I was a little confused at first about why Adam was so convinced that they'd be a bad idea together (and is it just me, or does cover Adam just look like a lightly toasted white guy?) but I'm really glad his mother helped to set him straight in that regard. Nothing like a good smack upside the head from mom to set a hero straight! Reese is a great character--I was in her corner from the very beginning; she knew what she wanted and went for it, at least with her school project. She needed just a little more confidence to go for what she wanted in the more personal aspect of her life, but she managed to work that out too by the end of the book. I am so glad that her project looks like it's going to be a success. It would be awesome if the Lyrid comics really existed (hint, hint!) Such a cute book--I'd definitely read more from this series. Though this one is book four, it worked just fine as a standalone. Rating: 4 stars / B+
His Work of Art by Shannyn Schroeder is the 1st book in her second trilogy of her New Adult Hot and Nerdy series. Reese Carter is our heroine, and she is not your usual college girl, as she loves hanging around her geek friends playing rpg games. Reese is also a lover of comic heroes, and is working on her lifelong dream of creating her own comic. Adam Hayes, our hero, works at the comic store that his mom owns, and Reese is a weekly visitor to buy her comics. Adam is not only a comic fan, he is also an Illustrator. One day when Reese comes to pick up her comics, she tells Adam that she would love if he would draw her characters for her comic book. He is hesitant at first, but then agrees to work with her. What follows is a slow to build romance between Adam and Reese, which gets off to a rocky start, as Adam wants to keep their friendship business like. Reese does not understand, since she has had a crush on Adam for a while. This is also an interracial romance, which delves into Adam’s fear of becoming involved with Reese, who is white. Adam does not want to be like his father, who left him and his mom because of the negative comments and scorn from others. Reese doesn’t care that Adam is black, but isn’t happy that he won’t give their romance a chance. A one night stand at a party, they act on their strong feelings for each other. Just when Reese believes that Adam finally expresses how he feels about her, her heart is broken when he says it was a mistake. When the comic begins to generate interest, their friendship will also suffer, due to Adam’s misguided fears. In his mind, he doesn’t want to hurt Reese, as he sees obstacles that would make him leave her in time. Will Reese be able to show Adam that their relationship will work? Will Adam give in to his fears and break Reese’s heart? Shannyn Schroeder does a good job of building this romance, and trying to show other sides of any interracial relationships. The comic that they both worked on was the fun part of this story. I liked both Reese and Adam, as well as some other characters introduced by Schroeder. This was a fast, easy book to read.