Caught

Ciara leaned back into the leather seat, feeling it cool against the bare skin on the backs of her knees and her upper back. It was soft and luxurious, at least in her experience. A car was a luxury she could not afford, let alone one that was not only a classic but a lovingly restored or pristinely preserved one. She wanted to continue to buy the supplies she favoured, the good ones that were a far step above the cheap stuff people buy for their four-year-olds. Her money went into furthering her art, into the guilty pleasures of sable brushes or high-pigment paints. Everything else was just there to serve a purpose. For instance, the furnishings in her apartment were definitely not on par with this car. Not on par with anything she expected Daniel Alverston to be familiar with.

At that thought she felt herself tense in the seat, no longer able to even pretend to sit back and enjoy the ride. Until that point the two of them had said nothing. The stereo, clearly one addition to the car that was not vintage, had come on once the car had started, and strains of classical music wrapped around them, trailing off into the night air to mingle with the sounds of the city. It was definitely not music she would have chosen, but it had been helping her deal with the nerves that were making her want to fidget. Every so often, she had glanced at the man beside her, noting that he seemed caught up in his own thoughts as much as she. In fact, he had seemed to spare no attention for her at all. The moment she tensed, however, his eyes flicked to her and his lips curved in a smile. From this angle she saw just a hint of a dimple in his cheek which surprised her.

"If the music is not to your liking you can change the station. It is a satellite subscription, so I am sure there will be something to your liking." He turned his head, looking at her just enough to be sure she was looking at him. His smile kicked up just a little and he lifted his eyebrows. "Is there something you want to discuss?"

Clearing her throat, Ciara looked out the window, then down at her lap. Of all the things she should be worrying about with this arrangement, she knew her furniture should be on the low end of the list; he would hardly expect that she would have a decorator in her employ. She should be worried about whether he was going to follow through on the arrangement which so far was just a promise uttered on the spur of the moment. Or she should worry about gaining more knowledge of what exactly this arrangement was going to entail.

Or maybe she should be worried about just who Daniel Alverston really was and why he had chosen her to finally offer his support as more than just an invitation to a party. Yeah, that would probably be a better thing to worry about, although since she was already in his car and they were on their way to her place it seemed like it might be just a little moot at the moment. Worrying about furnishings and decor was much less confusing and frightening though.

"I just-," she broke off, not quite up to meeting his eyes. The demands of her muse had faded with the time she had spent not looking at him. If she kept her eyes off him she might manage to at least appear less odd. And it helped her to think about just how unadvisable this really was. "I was thinking that my studio is definitely not the sort of venue you're used to." One corner of her lips hitched up into a half-smile as she dared a glance at him.

His laughter rippled through the car and she felt it burn along her spine. Something about that sound brought her eyes to his face. There was no choice in the matter, she simply had to look, and the moment she gazed at him directly she felt the driving need to sketch him again. It flared through her and she had no recourse against it. Worse, his laughter had acted like fuel on the fire, giving her hints of the man beneath the suit and the image, the man who she desperately wanted to capture on paper and eventually canvas. Her gaze began to scan over his face, something driven flickering behind her eyes, passion tightening her face as she considered the angles of his face, the dark brows that slashed across his face, the hollows beneath his cheekbones, the little shadow beneath his lower lip. She felt as though he had been carved just a little too sharp, a little too angular, but it was softened by his brows and his hair that teased across his forehead, curls that made him look just a bit boyish in the right light.

In that moment, the few seconds she spent studying him before his gaze burned through her distraction and made her realize he was speaking to her, she felt curiosity battle with her muses for which would be pushing her harder to discover just who Daniel Alverston was. Whether she should or not.

"-hardly a real concern for me. But if you would like another space... Are you alright?" His eyes on her, shadowed but showing glints of green in the passing flares of street lights, were framed by tiny lines of concern, a little furrow showing between his brows. She couldn't breath as she met his gaze. Dark shadows in the forest, the nearly black hints in grassy shadows. The darkest places in the ocean. Gold dappling glades. All these things she saw as though his eyes reflected somewhere other than the city around them.

A sudden breath and the spell was broken, but this time it was her turn to frown just a little. Her white teeth bit into her lower lip as she tilted her head, considering just what all she had seen might mean. It seemed so at odds with what little she knew of the man. He was so at ease in the glass and steel, so very far from a man who would normally make her think of wild places, places where danger lurked. Yet that was very much what she had seen there in his eyes. Places were mortals needed to tread warily, although those places were few and far between in this day and age. But it was still enough to make her shiver and rub her arms as gooseflesh spread over her skin. That fear that lurked in the back of everyone's brain had risen to the surface, the panic at the thought of just what might be waiting in such places.

Daniel must have seen something of it in her expression because he looked back to the road, no longer glancing at her but falling silent. The car slowed as he took a left turn. The silence between them lengthened until it pressed on Ciara and she felt she should say something. Some easy answer to hide her discomfort, the confusion she felt for this man who had suddenly become more than just a spectre in her life. No, now he was about to cast a very, very dark shadow across everything, including the drive of her muse.

A light touch on her arm jarred her out of her reverie. "This is it, isn't it?" his voice just a touch rough, a hint of something unexplained there. Something that made her take very careful notice of where they were and avoid looking at him rather studiously. A deep breath and she managed to force a smile to her lips before unclipping her seatbelt and reaching for the car door.

"Whoa. Might want to wait until I've parked." Laughter coloured his voice and she flushed a little, sinking back into the seat a bit in embarrassment as she realized that they were still approaching. "I didn't mean to make you nervous," he continued. "If you've changed your mind, either about drawing me tonight, or for good, or even about accepting my patronage, I won't hold it against you."

An out. She could have one, right here, right now. She thought about that, breathless for a second. But she knew she couldn't give up the possibility of learning the answers to the mystery that he presented. Of all the people he met, she might just learn who he truly was. And she couldn't give that up.

The End

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