Through The Paintings by Evelyn Aster
erotic paranormal romance novella
Release Date 04/03/2014
Carlos is a renowned southwest artist who has a penchant for sex with the rich women who buy his paintings. When Rachel opens a cafe next door to his shop, he’s enamored with her curly locks and dark roast.
Rachel is in love with the gorgeous artist next door. She sees his soul in his paintings, and her heart breaks every time she hears his extra-business activities through the thin wall that divides their stores.
Just as Carlos seems ready to end the string of hook-ups and settle down, a mysterious set of paints arrives. He forgets about Rachel and becomes trapped by a fairy enchantress who wishes to use all his talents for herself. Only Rachel can save him from life as a sex slave, but does he want to be saved?
Carlos inhaled the scent of coffee and cinnamon as he watched the curly haired owner pour his cup of dark roast. He’d ask her out today; he’d ask her out when she gave him the coffee.
She slid his cup across the counter and refused his payment with a smile that turned his heart. “Shop owners get a hundred percent discount here.”
“I’m a shop owner,” said the big man behind him. He had a Texas accent and nudged Carlos aside.
Carlos watched Rachel’s smile dim as she turned it to the man and said, “I may be new here, but last I checked the great state of Texas wasn’t represented on the plaza.”
“That’s their loss,” said the man. He laughed and gave his order.
Carlos took the money off the counter and dropped it into the tip jar. He said, “Thanks,” and held his cup up to Rachel.
She nodded to him and mouthed the words, “Thank you,” as she wrote the Texan’s order on a new cup. Behind the Texan was a long line of tourists on their midmorning shopping break. Carlos would come back later for a refill and ask her out then. He didn’t understand why his brain froze every time he talked to her. Dating women had always been easy for him. Well, maybe calling it dating was a stretch. But he definitely wanted to date Rachel.
Outside, fall had slipped over Albuquerque while he’d been painting the volcanoes on the west mesa for the last few days. All the trees on the plaza had changed to yellow, and he could hear the leaves scraping across the gazebo in the wind. He hadn’t painted Old Town in the fall yet―that’d be a seller for sure.
Bells jingled as he opened the door to his shop next to Rachel’s cafe. Damn it. Two people stood at the counter: a UPS guy and a customer with long red hair and high heels. Even from the back, he knew she was trouble.
“Sorry,” he said as he ran around the shelves filled with prints he’d done and kachina dolls he hadn’t done.
He set his coffee down on the display cabinet where the cash register was, and the UPS guy gave him an electronic box to sign before taking off. He glimpsed the label on the package: it looked like the company he’d bought the paints from last night online. Strange―he hadn’t asked for express delivery.
He turned to the woman and said, “Can I help you?” Shit. She was gorgeous. Her red hair with a few gray strands gave her an older look of power, and her emerald eyes mellowed her angular face. Older women always seemed the most appreciative of his talents.
“I’d like to see the original for this print,” she said and placed her hand on his elbow as she led him away. Her hand must’ve been lotioned day and night for all her life; he’d never felt one so soft. The painting she stopped in front of was one of his favorites: Pueblo at Sunset.
“Sure, but the original is much more expensive, and it’s unframed.”
“Prints lose the essence of the moment. I prefer originals.” Beautiful, rich and perceptive. As she spoke, he caught a whiff of her perfume that smelled like roses blooming on a summer day and made him want to stand closer.
He took the hand that had held his elbow and said, “I’d be happy to show it to you.” When he turned around to walk back he saw the cup of coffee on the counter with a line of steam escaping through the hole in the lid. He remembered Rachel’s smile as she gave it to him. Dropping the woman’s hand, he walked fast to the half-door between the wall and the display cabinet and away from the temptation.
He heard the woman following behind him, and for a moment thought she would try to come through the door with him. He shut it without looking behind and walked into the studio.
He wouldn’t even chit-chat with her. He’d sell her the painting and that’d be it. He unlocked a wide and deep drawer where he kept his originals and tried to forget that she was exactly the kind of woman he usually ended up fucking.
She called out, “I’ve never been to New Mexico. I’m beginning to see why it’s called The Land of Enchantment.”
“The sunsets and the lightning storms are the real magic here,” he said, a common line he used with all the tourists. He flipped through the files of his originals until he pulled out the one she wanted. It was protected in a plastic sleeve, but he still held it gingerly as he closed the drawer. He walked out to the shop and laid it down on the glass display cabinet.
She stood close to the cash register where his coffee was. “Stunning.”
He reached for the cup of coffee, wishing she’d take her beautiful, wealthy self out of his shop, and he could think of Rachel without temptation. As he sipped, the hot liquid burned away any lust he felt for the customer and replaced it with thoughts of what his first date would be like with Rachel. He’d take it slowly with her. No sex on the first date. But maybe, just maybe, he’d get to feel those wonderful curly locks.
“Where’d you get the coffee?” asked the woman.
He almost jumped because he’d been so lost in thoughts of Rachel. He didn’t like the way her eyes were narrowed at him, as if she suspected him of doing something wrong. What a strange lady; it was just a cup of coffee.
He set the cup down and said, “Just a local place. Would you like me to pack this up for you?”