An Interesting Proposal

As Ciara took a few moments to gather herself, leaning against the edge of the balcony and looking out at the city, Daniel spent his time looking at her, leaning casually with one hand on the back of a chair. She was aware of his regard, but pointedly looked out at the cityscape, unsure what to do or say. Here she was, nominally alone with a man who was known to everyone who was anyone in artistic circles, but who in truth she knew very little about. In short, despite being very public he was also very much a mystery. A scary - and heady - thought. Mostly, though, she was just hoping to avoid making a bigger fool of herself than she already had.

Finally turning to him, realizing the silence had gone on a little longer than she expected, she caught him examining her curiously, that amusement still lingering in the lines around his eyes. And there were tiny lines there, suggesting he was probably somewhere over 30 although being any more exact was more difficult than she would have expected. Aside from the lines he looked just about perfect. Perhaps that was the effect of a visit to some doctor or dermatologist. Not that uncommon among the socially elite. It would surprise her though as he hardly seemed like the metrosexual type. There was something a little too wild, a little too untamed about him.

Clearing her throat, aware that she had gone from staring out into the night to staring at him, she flushed. "So, Mr. Alverston." Another pause. Expectantm, waiting. Her tongue flicked out and wet her lips and she nervously adjusted her hair, although nothing was out of place. He was the one who had said he had something he wanted to speak to her about. Why wasn't he speaking?

His laughter was rich, layered, and he seemed more relaxed outside as though he had been on guard inside, surrounded by people. Just as she had been, although she was not finding herself any more relaxed on the balcony. "So, Ms. Fitzpatrick. Although I really would prefer if we could be on a first name basis. Please, call me Daniel. And I hope you will allow me to call you Ciara. It is a beautiful name, if you will permit me to say so." Her flush was ready enough, even as one brow raised in a sardonic expression.

"It appears you've already said so." Her laughter was soft, still with an edge of unease, but she found herself slightly more relaxed. Perhaps that had been his goal. "And certainly you may call me Ciara," a slight pause, "Daniel." She couldn't help fidgetting as she glanced back at him, trying to avoid staring, but equally feeling her eyes drawn to him.

Her fingers crumpled her skirt a little, fighting the urge to sketch. It was an ironic battle, considering that she had nothing to draw on or with. If it got much worse, however, she might just be willing to grab a cocktail napkin and any pen she could beg or borrow. She knew the signs too well. Her muse would only be denied for so long.

The way Daniel was looking at her suggested he might just know that. He had been looking at her with amusement almost since their eyes had met across the room earlier. It put her back up just a little, to think that he found her so entertaining without even knowing her. It felt a little to her like he viewed her as an adorable pet, or at most a precocious and entertaining child. Someone to whom he was superior, at any rate, and it brought her eyebrows together despite the urge she felt to sketch him until he knew him better than he knew himself. Actually, that sketching might just give her a feeling of superiority, give her the upper hand. Thinking about his reaction to just what a sketch might reveal about him gave her an expression rather like the cat that ate the canary.

Daniel looked at her, caught the expression, and it was his turn to clear his throat and look just a little uncertain, albeit equally curious. "Well, Ciara, perhaps we should discuss business first and then on to matters less serious. If that suits you, of course." His smile was pleasant enough, and Ciara was surprised to realize that it seemed a little more honest, less a mask. That droll expression of before was gone, leaving glimpses of the true man behind. She felt an answering smile curve her own lips, although it could equally be classified as pleasant rather warm or even happy. She nodded her assent, waiting for him to continue. He had the upper hand and he was well aware of it, and there was little enough she could do at the moment aside from playing along.

"I have been following the development of your career rather attentively. I found your work to be very... expressive. Some of your portraits are amazing. To put it bluntly, I was rather hoping I could convince you to accept my patronage." He made the offer as though it was of little or no consequence although something around his eyes and mouth suggested that her answer was more important to him than that.

Ciara's eyes widened with surprise and Daniel's laughter was quite delighted. He held up a hand, holding her back from her questions and the outburst she was about to make. "Your work would be hanging in a gallery I own. I keep myself as a silent owner, of course, but it is prominent enough that it would guarantee you exposure. A show of your own, if you wished it, although I assume you would require a certain amount of time to put together the right pieces and certainly some new and unseen work would be called for. Also, I was thinking-."

At that point Ciara could hold back no longer. "Mr.- I mean Daniel! That is.. I don't know how to express... Wow." And then an expletive found its way out of her lips and she fell into silence, wincing visibly, then taking a deep breath. "Sorry. I didn't mean to say... umm.... Thank you. I never expected- I mean I heard you never- Thank you?" It was all she could manage for a few moments.

Staring at him, rather dumbfounded, she found his amusement a whole lot more bearable. Less insulting. And just for a moment she saw something else lurking behind it. She couldn't tell if it was sadness, wistfulness, or something just a little hungry. All she knew was that it was apparently about her. It made her swallow, and think for just a second that perhaps she should be cautious. Why would he offer something like this to her after all the people he had apparently taken an interest in?

But it was too good an offer to do anything but accept graciously.

She found herself taking a step closer and releasing her dress. Nervous energy flooded through her and with it her control began to slip. Something lit within her eyes; her muse had struck, and she needed to find some way of letting it out. "Do you... could I have some paper? A pencil? Anything to draw with?" Her voice was breathless and her cheeks felt flushed. A part of her knew that in the wake of his offer such an outburst was insane and could very well cause him to change his mind.

She fought her musef for domination. It had never been this strong before, never driven her this hard, this suddenly. It was rare that she met someone randomly and felt this compelled, but there was no denying that there was something about Daniel Alverston that sent her creative impulses into a frenzy.

Her tongue flicked out again, wetting her lips, and her eyes began to travel over his face. Certainly not the gaze of a woman admiring a man. No, it was the gaze of an artist. Gauging shadows and highlights, angles and curves. Disecting proportions. The gaze of an artist translating three dimensions into two, considering mediums and poses, lighting and shadows.

"Would you let me draw you? Please?" The last word forced out, a memory of polite behaviour surfacing just long enough to keep her from yet more rudeness. "I just... there is something about you. I really want to paint it, and if you will let me I want to get to work on sketches right away." She sounded eager, and there was so much passion in her, passion directed at her work. Utterly caught by the inspiration that held her, the man-turned-muse that stood before her.

Something of surprise took Daniel's face, and then his expression turned considering. His head cocked slightly, eyes narrowed, and he lifted a hand to tap a finger on his lips. And then his decision was clearly made and he dropped his hand. "I'll take you home. They hardly need me here. I presume working with your own materials in the right environment would be preferable to sketching here with an avid audience" Ciara's had just enough self-awareness to turn and see various guests catching glances at them through the glass that separated them. Normally she would have flushed, would have cared. Normally she would not have forgotten her surroundings.

Something in her face must have made that clear. His laughter was easy, but something about his stance suggested he was rather pleased with the excuse for escape, as pleased as Ciara would have been herself had she still been thinking about the party.

Had she been thinking of anything beyond sketching him, she might have felt the oddness of the offer, but she was too far gone, inspiration breathing down her neck and riding her hard. So she simply nodded her assent distractedly, following him back inside. The party engulfed them but she hardly noticed, not even when he took her elbow solicitously to help guide her through the room when it became obvious she was not looking where she was going. People parted around them, in deference to Daniel clearly. He motioned to one of the waiters, and her coat was brought. Then out the door, down the private elevator. All a blur for Ciara, but clearly he was paying enough attention for them both. A good thing. She could not afford to offend anyone too greatly, even with Daniel's offer. Not that she was thinking of that.

Ciara gathered her wits slightly as she realized he was holding a car door open for her. The trip from the penthouse gathering to the garage area of the building had completely passed her by. Her eyes widened and she shook her head a little, rational thought making a brief appearance. "Are you sure? I don't live in the best area, and this... it's beautiful. I would hate for anything to happen to it." 'This' was a lovingly-restored or maintained classic 1960s Cadillac convertible. But he assured her that he was not worried as he ushered her into the passenger seat, closing the door firmly before going around the car and slipping into the driver's side.

"Where to?" His voice broke her reverie again, interrupting thoughts of how to catch the line of his jaw, or exactly how to stroke in the curls of his hair, and she gave him her address, then followed it with directions when she realized he was unlikely to know how to get to that part of the city. Not exactly an area she could see him frequenting. He smiled at her, the engine purred to life, and they drove out of the private garage and onto the city streets.

The End

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