Strung

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Chapter 6. - Paint

“Would it be okay?” Arielle asked, snapping me back to reality.

I clutched the phone tighter to my ear. “Would what be okay?”

I heard her sigh on the other end of the line. “Have you been zoning out again?” When I didn’t deny it, she continued. “I wanted to make sure that the pieces are coming along nicely, so I was going to drop by your studio this afternoon. Nikki said she wanted to come along, would that be okay with you? I wanted to make sure you got a proper heads up this time.”

“Of course.” I agreed. I have been keeping both ladies updated on how the art pieces for the event were coming along - I was hand-painting the plates, and making light fixtures and these trees that were going to transform into the renaissance room into a magical fairy forest for Hazmat.

And while I’ve been sending pictures to the girls about all my ideas, as well as the pieces that have been completed, the effect would undeniably be different in person.

“I just got these new logs in, I think I could make some really neat high cocktail tables out of them.” I told her excitedly. “Of course, I need to talk to you about the room itself. I’ll need the space rented a few days early, because I can make pieces all day long, but it all needs to be set up and positioned right in the room.”

“I thought about that. We’ll discuss it with Nikki tonight, then.” Arielle agreed. “How does six sound?”

“I will be here all night.” And with that, we said our goodbyes, and hung up.

I ran a hand through my knotty hair. I’ve had no time to run home and freshen up, so the best I could do is spray some water on my face in the little bathroom in the adjacent building, and hope that the decorations would be nice enough to catch their attention.

Not that I really cared what they thought of my looks. Arielle has worked with me multiple times in the past, she was used to the way I worked by now. But Nikki… Well, even if she said her life wasn’t that glamorous, I doubted that the girls around them looked like they head-butted a Home Depot.

Arielle pulled up first - as expected - about fifteen minutes before six. She was already going through my sketches for how I wanted the room to look, after inspecting all the separate pieces completed so far, when the door opened for the second time.

And instead of Nikki Flynn, it was Nikki and Brian Flynn who walked in, with Lukas LaBelle following closely behind.

Fucking hell.

“London!” Nikki smiled as her and her husband walked up to me. “Thank you so much for letting us come over! This place is incredible!” She gushed, glancing around the four car garage I rented and generously called my studio. “It’s exactly how I pictured an artists’ lair to look like!”

I returned her smile, and gave her a quick hug, before her husband pulled me in too.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the boys were coming. It was a last minute thing, I hope that’s okay.” She explained, looking hopeful as her husband handed me a gift bag, with something that awfully resembles a bottle of wine, sticking out of it.

Good. It looked like I was going to need that.

“It’s no problem. I’m actually glad you’re here.” I replied, which wasn’t a lie. I was glad that Brian came along. He seemed the nicest and most approachable out of the group. That statement, of course, didn’t apply to the blonde guitarist, lurking behind them. “If there’s anything you don’t like or want me to change, you can still let me know. Most of it is still in the planning stages.”

I led them over to the long table where all the plates were laid out. Since Lukas didn’t address me or step up to make conversation, we all just sort of ignored his presence, and concentrated on my work instead.

But even though I wasn’t looking - and my gosh, how hard was it not to look - I felt him follow us, and come to a stop close behind me.

My skin prickled from the heat radiating from his body, which was surely just a result of my imagination. The hair on my arms stood up, goose bumps erupting on my skin from feeling him this close to me.

Perhaps my mother was right. I have been too obsessed with him for my own sanity.

“You… painted these?” His voice was low, the sound barely above a gentle whisper, made raspier by the richness behind it.

I nodded, allowing myself to look up at him from over my shoulder. “It’s really not that hard. Just takes special paint and I have to get it taken to a ceramics place for their special oven. I believe it could be done in a regular oven, as well, but it’s better to be done by professionals since-” I trailed off. He didn’t want to know how it’s done, obviously.

I wanted to kick myself for boring one of the most famous rock stars in the world to death with my dish talk.

“It’s simple, really.” I finished, swallowing.

I felt him lean over me to get a better look. This time, his shirt scraped the exposed skin of my shoulder. “You’re saying I could do this at my oven at home?”

Brian, standing on the other side of me snorted. “Your oven?! I thought that shit was just for decoration.”

Lukas’ house… I thought, trying to imagine what it could possibly be like. A messy bachelor pad? Luxus condo overlooking the city? A quiet beach house with a private shore somewhere too far up North? Would he have modern architecture, or just bought some house and left it house was? Maybe Lukas put his own personal touches on it?

“I’ll have you know that Rosa uses it daily.” Lukas grunted, and my heart sunk. Rosa. Of course he would have a special lady in his life.

Nikki leaned close to me. “Rosa is his weekday chef - for breakfast and lunch.” She informed me, helpfully.

I nodded. Made sense. Rich people wouldn’t really be bothered with cooking - I thought. Even my family, who was sort of wealthy, but not wealthy like other families I went to school with, had a chef that came every other day to help with food. It wasn’t that uncommon.

Realizing Lukas was staring at me expectantly, with those amber eyes , I remembered that he had asked me a question.

“Oh, yes.” I stuttered. “Technically you could, if you let it dry thoroughly the day before.” Aware of everyone’s eyes on me, I walked over to the door of the garage. “But this paint, is slightly different. Take a look.” And with that, I flipped the lights off.

The swirling patterns on the dishes continued to glow in beautiful, rich colors, illuminating the entire plate around.

I allowed a few more moments, before switching the lights back on. “Neat, isn’t it?” I asked, once again walking back to them - but this time, I was on the other side of the long table, facing my four guests.

All of whom seemed to be frozen in a silent astonishment.

“It’s…” Brian started, but trailed.

Nikki was the one who picked up her husband’s sentence. “It’s really remarkable. The pictures do it no justice. I’m speechless.”

Arielle agreed, nodding silently.

But my gaze was focused on Lukas LaBelle, who seemed to be looking at me, instead of the dishes in front of him like the others. His eyes, for the first time since I’ve met him, held wonder and almost appreciation - a quiet amazed way only an artist could appreciate a fellow artist’s craft.

I cleared my throat, tearing my gaze away from him. “I’m planning on making the glasses with the same paint, except due to time constraint, I was just going to sprinkle it with it. Some blues, some greens, some with the golden paint. I’m hoping it will come out looking like little fairy jars in the dim lights.”

Silence.

Brian was the first to break it, some agonizing minutes lates. “Can I try? Painting a plate, I mean?”

My brows lifted slightly in surprise. “Ummm…”

“Babe, this isn’t an arts and crafts class. It’s her workplace.” Nikki said quickly, rushing to my defense. I opened and closed my mouth.

“I kind of want to try it, too.” A deep, rich voice added, and it was pretty much a done deal then.

“Sure. You can make your own plates for the dinner.” I agreed.

“Sweet!” Brian grinned, walking over to my work station at the other side of the studio. Thankfully, I had more than one chair here - three to be exact, because the only two people who ever visited me here long enough to sit around were Ginger and Callie.

“That’s okay.” Arielle said politely, when Brian offered her his chair. “I have to leave anyways. I just came by to look at everything - and honestly, I couldn’t criticize it if I tried.”

I smiled. It was always heartwarming to be appreciated as an artist.

“And about renting the place earlier… We’ll get on a conference call in the morning. When the kids aren’t around.” She nodded towards Brian and Lukas, who were now picking through my gigantic collection of brushes.

“Tomorrow, then.” And with that, she hugged me goodbye, and left me alone with two rock stars, and a girl who was so legendary for snagging one, she was basically a star herself.


The evening of painting plates quickly progressed into a paint fight, which Nikki was kind enough to break up before the boys could’ve spilled everything on themselves. “We should do Ash’s plate and just paint a big old dick on it.” Brian suggested, laughing.

“Can you imagine their mother’s face?!” Lukas chuckled, then held up his masterpiece. The letter ‘L’ decorated it, actually done very nicely in cursive. I was impressed. “What should we put on Jesse’s? Sticks?”

Which would have made perfect sense, since Jesse played the drums, but then Brian explained what a scrawny annoying kid he used to be, always following his big brother and the rest of them around, begging to be a part of whatever they were doing. During his description, I noticed Lukas’ eyes on me, observing my reaction.

“So you can imagine how happy he was when we told him he can be in the band!” Brian said with a big grin on his face, finishing his story. “Have you ever seen our earlier clips, because then you would know exactly what I was talking about.”

I nodded. I have seen those music videos, of course. But I also would have known what young Jesse looked like based on seeing him live in the coffee shop - along with the rest of them.

“And you know, despite the fame, he still never grew out of that annoying phase.”

Lukas laughed along with him, but it wasn’t whole hearted. His nearly golden eyes stayed on me while his bandmate chatted with his wife now. “Will you make your own plate different?” He asked, his voice lower now that he was only speaking to me.

I shook my head, surprised that he spoke to me directly. I had to keep my eyes on the artwork in front of us to keep from drowning in those golden brown pools. “I won’t be at party, so there’s no need.”

“You’re not coming?” Lukas sounded taken aback.

“I’m just doing the decorations, remember?” I laughed, nervously. “I’m not an actual guest.”

“Nonsense. I’ll put you on the list.”

I didn’t have time to think of a reply, because Bryan cut in. “Arielle is going to have a shit fit if we keep fucking with her precious list…” Then, he added quickly. “Not that you shouldn’t come! The two of you are basically pulling the impossible here, so if you want to, it’s not even a question.”

I smiled at him, understanding exactly why Nikki was so smitten with him, even after all these years. Aside from all the rock starness, Brian was really a nice guy - and nice guys were hard to come by these days.

“Then paint something extra on mine.” Lukas offered, scooting his chair back so I could get to the plate in front of him. I moved up to the paint jar, ideas swirling in my head. “Something special, just for me.” He whispered, his voice low, so only I could hear.

I picked up a brush, doing my best to ignore the goose bumps on my skin. His voice was so sensual, so deep and raspy… It was a shame he didn’t sing on their albums. I was convinced that he would have an incredible voice.

“You can have my chair.” Brian offered, because after all, there were only three chairs in the studio, and my three guests were currently occupying them.

“It’s fine-” I started to say, when long fingers curled around the back of my arm.

“You can sit on my leg.” Lukas LaBelle offered, and I had to bite down on my lower lip to keep from gaping at him. If it were any other guy, the very same sentence would have sounded insane or too pushy, but coming from him…

But once again, kind, sweet Brian saved me from embarrassing myself. “No, take my chair! I insist. We were going to leave anyways.” He said, standing along with Nikki. Both of their plates were painted - Nikki’s had a heart, and Brian’s a hand forming the classic rock symbol. “Thank you for letting us play. We don’t get to do a lot of it these days.”

“Anytime.” I said, meaning it.

They both gave me a hug, and before Nikki let me go she whispered in my ear. “Feel free to kick Lukas out any time. He’s just a regular guy.”

I appreciated her concern, I really did. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. Lukas LaBelle was no regular guy - at least, not to me. And while the idea of being alone with him terrified me, it also excited me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

“Don’t worry about me. My ass whooping technique is legendary.” I winked at her, and she chuckled.

I walked them out to the door, hoping to gain as much time as I could to mentally compose myself of the effect that was Lukas LaBelle in a contained space. I waved after the happy couple, and closed the door, turning to face him.

Even if I didn’t know who he was, there was this charismatic aura about him - something that made him stand out in a crowd. Maybe it was his shoulder length blonde hair, or his height, standing nearly a full foot taller than me. His long arms, decorated with tattooes, or the low cut shirts he wore, that flashed just a hint of his tanned, toned pecks. Or perhaps, it was everything put together, laced in a beautiful package with golden brown eyes, that had could gaze right into someone’s soul if they weren’t careful.

And right now, said gaze was aimed at some paintings he was shuffling in between on my special shelf.

Holy fuck, he was shuffling around on my special shelf!

“Don’t touch those!” I nearly yelled, my voice breaking as I ran up to him, snatching his hand away. What made the special shelf so special is that it was all about my rockstar crush. Paintings, drawings, even pieces put together by glass pieces - all of Lukas LaBelle.

And he was just casually looking through them!

Oh my fuck, why didn’t I think of hiding these before?!

“You are incredible, Manchester.” His voice was raw and deep, those golden pools now trained right on me as we stood, chest to chest, with my hand on his.

One moment we were staring at each other, and the next his hand moved from under mine to my waist, grabbing me closer. His pink lips, that were parted before were suddenly crashed against mine, his other big hand laced in my hair, pulling me even closer.

My protests drowned out by the force of his kiss - I just closed my eyes and I melted into him.

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