As I step out of the cab, I take in the spectacle around me. The colorful headlights and brake lights that you could argue most people in this city loath but I find it to be as magical as Christmas lights on a tree. The tall buildings and restaurants all lit up that surround me like a cocoon. The constant noise of cars beeping, the hustle and bustle of people passing by in a hurry getting to where they need to be. The smells of car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and street food vendors. It's all a lot to get used to but it constantly reminds me I'm actually in New York City.
I've been here three months already and it's definitely a different atmosphere than the one I'm used to back in Virginia and even my memories of growing up in Mississippi. Yet, it's everything I've ever dreamed of. Ever since I was little I have always wanted a life in New York as an artist. Part of me never thought I'd have the chance or even be able to take the brave leap of going after my dreams.
But I did. And here I am.
I shut the cab door and paid the driver my fee. I'm standing outside my first art exhibit. My coworker and friend Rachael's boyfriend is also an artist. They both offered to help me get my foot in the door and network with people in the industry.
Therefore, I had to look the part.
I checked my coat at the door, wearing a silk tight-fitting knee-length black dress with a plunging neck and black stiletto heels. Looking like a high-class New Yorker, I was hoping to land a paid internship for one of the galleries Tony had connections with.
I take a glass of champagne off the server's tray and make my way around the gallery walls. I spot Rachael next to her boyfriend Tony, deep in conversation with someone who looks important so I keep roaming until my eye is captured by a particular painting. I make my way through the crowd until I'm standing directly in front of it for a better view.
My face blushed at the thought that entered my brain. Could this painting be of Rachael and Tony? You could say the lovers in the painting look like them. I always felt a bit shy when looking at nude paintings of people that I knew in my mind were of an actual person out there in the world. And the thought of it being of two people who I was beginning to know very well. A nude painting that depicts an intimate moment between the two seems like something that should be kept behind closed doors. I sipped my champagne to distract myself from the thoughts swimming in my head when I was startled by a voice behind me.
"Like what you see?" the voice, masculine and deep that caused me almost to choke on my sip. I heard a small chuckle escape from the man as I started to turn my body around to face him. When I saw what was standing in front of me, my body went numb and my mind went blank.
His dark hair was tousled and sexy. He portrayed strong masculine features. A rugged jaw coated with thick stubble on his sun-kissed skin. Yet, he pulled off the expensive suit that fitted and highlighted his toned body magnificently. A perfect mix of rugged scruff and rich sophistication.
And that wasn't even the best part. His eyes were like nothing I've ever seen before. Those ocean blue eyes were instantly captivating against his stormy dark hair. I almost felt like I could see through into him just by staring long enough into the abyss.
"Umm, sorry..what did you say?" I had to quickly snap myself out of my daze and stop staring at this man I don't even know!
"I didn't mean to startle you there. I just saw you admiring this painting. What do you think of it?" he asked pointing back towards the painting now behind me.
I struggle to take my gaze off him and turn back around to face the painting that had made me blush. I didn't want to admit it made me feel timid, after all this was a night to impress. And for all I know, this man could be a well-known gallery owner or someone of importance. I had to challenge myself and think past the elements that always made me feel prude, especially if I wanted to succeed in the world of artists.
"Well...besides the beauty of the color variation and brush strokes...it paints a picture of true love. Not to mention the hidden meaning behind it."
"Hidden meaning?" he questions my critique.
"Every picture has a hidden meaning, it just takes some good searchin'." My southern slang escapes my mouth and I scrunch my face trying to hold it in. "This one isn't just about two lovers or the sexual passion for one another."
He tilts his head like he's trying to look past the picture as I am and make sense of my words.
"It portrays what their love means to them. They have complete respect and trust in one another. They support one another, literally," I say as I bring my hand up for a further explanation pointing to what I'm trying to convey.
"See, she is leaning her weight against him and he is bracing her with his body. I see a hint of sadness expressed through her face, and his expression makes me believe he is trying to take it from her. Carry the pain for her. Maybe make her forget the sorrow through intimacy." I tilt my own head examining the painting even further finding more to express as if I were a professional.
"And you can see the colors of their bodies blending together at the bottom. It paints the meaning that their love shows no boundaries. Their love for one another has made them one being," I say as I get lost in the meaning of the painting. I may be prude when looking at others in the nude especially in their privates moments because they have to have such confidence to do so. And I wished so badly I were these people in the painting. I wish I had someone love me like that, touch me like that. Take the pain away from me. Look above my flaws and love me for who I am. Losing all sense of what was going on around me.
"It's...beautiful," the thought escapes my lips.
"It definitely is," he replies, taking me out of my trance and I look over realizing he's staring at me.
"You must be an artist then?" He turns his whole body to face me and takes his gaze away to sip his champagne. I found myself staring at his mouth as it touched the flute and watched the wetness it left after he took a sip, leaving a shimmer around his lips.
"I...umm...in the making, I guess you could say." I felt myself blush and I looked at the floor feeling timid all over again with the topic being focused on me.
"What about you? Are you an artist?" I divert the conversation on him or anything else for that matter except me.
Before he could answer, we were interrupted by an older fellow.
"Pardon me. Are you Miss Nicole Dawson?" he asked me.
"Yes, I am," I answered.
"I'm David Webber. Tony has told me wonderful things about you. Would you mind if we spoke? I hope I wasn't interrupting?"
"Oh..." Caught off guard and not wanting to be rude to either of these men I wasn't sure how to answer. But the blue-eyed mystery man had already taken the hint and was stepping away implying he won't take up any more of my time.
"Pleasure to meet you Miss Dawson," he said in his deep voice before he turned and walked away. I tried to focus my attention on Mr. Webber but I couldn't help but turn to watch him walk away. He turned around and our eyes locked on each other once more and I see a lustful smile grow on his face. Instantly, I feel the swirl of butterflies flood my stomach.
Who is this man?