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Wild Stranger - WORK IN PROGRESS

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Chapter One

"There are no accidental meetings between souls."

- Sheila Burke



If I had to pick dead girl of the year, hands down, Iโ€™d pick me. Thereโ€™s simply no contest. Images of me dead and laying in a ditch flash through my mind as I sprint through Central Park as fast as my legs can carry me. I have my easel tucked tightly under my arm and my lucky paintbrush resting between my front teeth as I dart in between street performers and families with small children. The only thing on my mind is heading forward. All I have to do is head down one of those side streets on the other side and Iโ€™ll be free. Come on Piper! Keep running! You canโ€™t afford to stop!

โ€œHey! Stop!โ€ The very pissed off, very hot man calls from behind me. Heโ€™s right on my heels and heโ€™s gaining on me. Shit.

I am so dead.

Plan my funeral now. I want red roses and lilies.

I nearly barrel right into a four-wide stroller because Iโ€™m so distracted by my pursuer. I hop over it just in time for the mother to shake her fist and yell obscenities at me. I throw a quick apology over my shoulder and focus on moving forward. I know that if I look behind me, Iโ€™ll lock onto those deep blue eyes and be lost forever. I canโ€™t afford that. I canโ€™t get caught. A hot dog cart slowly rolls in my path. I yell and wave my arms for it to move but with the paintbrush in my mouth it sounds like muffled words. โ€œAhhh! Mooooove!โ€ I frantically wave for the poor old man to move to the side. His brown eyes widen and he shoves the cart away at the last second.

โ€œHey! Girl! Stop!โ€ The man continues to yell at me to stop but I keep running. My legs are starting to burn and I can feel seat dripping down my forehead. Damn Iโ€™m really out of shape. If Iโ€™m going to be running away from pissed off hot billionaires then Iโ€™m gonna have to go to the gym more often.

As Iโ€™m running my thoughts move away from me dead, to twenty minutes before. When I wasnโ€™t running for my life from a furious man who could erase every ounce of my existence with a single phone call.

Damn. How did it come to this?

Iโ€™m just a struggling artist who likes to spend her afternoons in Central Park painting the scenery. Occasionally, Iโ€™ll paint a happy family or a pigeon but I tend to focus on the skyline. I love to paint the tall buildings and the beautiful trees in the park. I have tons of paintings in my small studio of the park from different angles during different seasons. Fall is my favorite because I can really play with the reds, oranges, and yellows as I try to capture the beautiful foliage. I set up my easel by the street, facing the park. I watched as people walked by as I tried to figure out what I wanted to paint. Sometimes, Iโ€™ll do caricatures or portraits for tourists for money. Itโ€™s a great source of income to supplement my teaching job at the local community center. I teach lower income children art for a small salary. Itโ€™s not a lot, but itโ€™s enough to get me by. Iโ€™ve always been a creative and expressive person. Even as a child, I loved to paint and draw. Itโ€™s been my passion since I was old enough to pick up a paint.

I stared at a large tree. The sky is a perfect shade of blue. If I angle it right, I can capture the leaves of the large tree against the sky and maybe add in the contrast of the man made sky scraper. Just like that, I knew what I wanted to paint. I pulled out my paints from my messenger bag and got to work. I lost myself in the day as I brushed lines of color across the canvas. The azure sky took shape and I brushed little white clouds over it. I leaned back and smiled at my work but it was missing something. I captured the tree and the building but it still looked... mediocre. There was nothing unique about it. I frowned. It looked like a boring old painting.

I crossed my arms over my chest in frustration. Damn. This doesnโ€™t look good at all. Iโ€™m definitely my biggest critic. I know I can be too hard on myself but I truly hate this painting. I get up from my folding chair and stretch my arms as I stared at the canvas. This looks like a painting you would find in a doctorโ€™s office or even in a hotel lobby. Not flattering. I let out a loud sigh and sink back down in my chair. Iโ€™m was about to pack up and call it a day when a little old man with kind eyes sat under the tree. I stared at him curiously as he pulled out a bag of bread from his pocket. He picked up a piece of bread and broke it into little pieces. He then threw them on the sidewalk in front of him for the pigeons.

I smiled. This is it. This is what my painting was missing. I picked up my paintbrush and began rapidly painting the old man. I depicted him on the bench under the tree. I had no idea when he was going to disappear so I knew I had to make it quick. Iโ€™ve learned from experience that sometimes things youโ€™re painting or drawing donโ€™t stick around. I try my hardest to capture his kind hazel eyes and the shallow wrinkles on his hands and forehead and then I paint some pigeons at his feet.

When I was done, I sat back again and this time I smiled. It was perfect. Thatโ€™s what my painting was missing. Humanity. Emotion. Fluidity. It was stoic and motionless. That old man added the layer of human feeling that could be related to. I stood up from my chair and grabbed my paints in my hands. I was about to put them away in my bag when I turned around and came into contact with a sold object. โ€œWhat the fuck!โ€ A deep voice practically growled. The paint flew out of my hands and I fell back on my ass, the paint covering some of my blonde hair that hung over my breasts. My beat up grey sweatshirt was splattered with tiny droplets of paint. I stared down at it and shrugged for a moment before rising my eyes to whatever I happened to run into.

Correction. Who.

My mouth nearly hung open. He was tall and it wasnโ€™t because of my position on the sidewalk, no, he was well over six feet easily. His hair was dark and his features were strong and defined. His eyebrows were drawn together and his eyes... oh my god his eyes.... his eyes were slanted downward and they were a deep blue. I couldnโ€™t look away from them. The color was beautiful and unique and I had never seen eyes so blue. I wanted to paint them. To capture the emotion swirling in them. At that moment it was pure unfiltered fury. I pulled my eyes from his handsome face. He was wearing a suit that was covered in paint and something told me he didnโ€™t put it on his perfect body this morning with all that paint on it. It was an expensive suit and now it was ruined.

By my paint.

A flash of anger surges through me. That was good paint! It was expensive and hard to find at a good price and it was ruined all over Mr. Tall, dark, and handsomeโ€™s suit.

โ€œLook what you did!โ€ He yelled down at me.

I crossed my arms over my chest and glared. โ€œLook what I did? Youโ€™re the one who was standing so close to me! Ever heard of personal space? Who do you think you are anyway?โ€

He frowned and reached out his hand. Before I could comprehend what was happening, he lifted me off the sidewalk so I was standing inches away from him. A bolt of electricity shot up my spine as his large palm wrapped around my arm. The contact sent a flash of heat to my core as I stared up at the most attractive and the most angry man I had ever seen in my twenty one years of life.

โ€œWho do I think I am?โ€ There was a look of amusement in his eyes. โ€œSebastian Carter. And have you ever heard of โ€˜watch where youโ€™re goingโ€™?โ€ He shot back.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Sebastian Carter? The man who owned half of New York City? The powerful billionaire businessman? Fuck! Iโ€™m dead.

But I couldnโ€™t let him shake me. I was too pissed. I glared up at him. โ€œI donโ€™t give a shit who you are. And thatโ€™s not my problem. I was minding my own business when you smacked into me.โ€ I was bold. I wasnโ€™t backing down I stood my ground. He grabbed my arm again and I shook out of his grasp. โ€œDonโ€™t touch me.โ€ Wow. This man was hot but he was also clearly an asshole. He grabbed me again, this time, increasing the pressure of his grip. โ€œI said donโ€™t touch me!โ€

โ€œYou ruined my suit. Youโ€™re coming with me. Now hold still, little girl.โ€ He said in a deep growl. I saw a muscle in his jaw tick.

That only made me struggle with more intensity. The way he commanded me in his deep voice and the fact that he called me a little girl gave my a new vendetta against him. Not only was he an asshole but he was also demeaning. He pulled me into his body. I struggled against him but froze instantly when I felt an unmistakable hardness. The bastard! The hot bastard! He was getting off on this! I felt my face heat.

I stomped my scuffed, paint covered white sneaker over his expensive leather shoe. โ€œFuck You! Iโ€™m not going anywhere with you and Iโ€™m not a little girl!โ€ He cried out in what couldโ€™ve been momentary pain or surprise and took the opportunity to shove him to the sidewalk. He fell back on his ass. I moved at a lightening pace. I tucked my easel under my arm, leaving the painting of the old man behind, threw my messenger bag over my shoulder, and stuffed my lucky paintbrush in my mouth.

And then I bolted.

I looked behind me just in time to see the manโ€™s face twist in anger as he got up off the sidewalk. To my complete surprise, he actually took off running after me. I ran through the park and he followed me. I thought it would roll his eyes, dust himself off, and call his personal assistant to cancel his meetings so he could go change into an even more expensive suit, but no, he actually began to pursue me. And he was fast. He didnโ€™t have the body of someone who sat in a corporate office all day. He was an athlete and I struggled to stay ahead of him.

I just shoved him to the ground and yelled โ€˜fuck Youโ€™ to the richest man in NYC and then I ran from him. If he catches me, Iโ€™ll spend the rest of my life in prison. I donโ€™t like girls. I wonโ€™t survive in the clink.

Fast forward to the present after I jump over a stroller and nearly collide into a hotdog stand and here I am. Running for my life from a man that I want to jump my bones. Damn. Iโ€™ll ask again, how did it come to this?

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