Authors: Jill Myles
Tags: #General Fiction
By Jill Myles
Copyright © 2011 by Jill Myles
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
"Wow, he sure is, um, naked," Chloe Sorenson said, clipboard clutched to her chest as she stared up at the statue.
"He sure is," sighed the old woman next to her. "But if we want to be accurate in the description, he's not actually
naked. He's got a fig leaf. Go and look."
Chloe circled around the statue, blushing when she saw the object in question. "Yes, that's definitely a fig leaf," she said, hating how strangled and awkward her voice sounded. "You were right, Ms. Muffet."
"Please, darling, call me Muffin," said the old woman, then waved a hand at the statue. "Make sure you get him up on the website tonight. His auction is set for early next month and we want to make sure people have plenty of time to peruse the goods."
She could have almost sworn that the old woman waggled her eyebrows, which just made Chloe
blush harder. "Of course."
"Now my dear, let me show you around to the other items that will be going up for the big auction. We have a lot of Roman artifacts for this one, so you're going to have a lot of work to do."
The old woman showed her around the messy art gallery storage room. Boxes and crates were
strewn about, stray foam peanuts on the floor. Wads of packing material overflowed in the garbage cans at the back of the room, and the shelves were half-f with objects thousands of years old. Precious, expensive objects that Chloe had been hired to catalog and put up on the website.
"Are you sure you want me to work overnights, Ms. Muffet? I'm sure I could work just as quickly during the daytime hours, if it wouldn't bother you." It seemed odd that the woman wanted to lock her in the art gallery every evening, but that was exactly what the job entailed. "I just don't want you to think I'm going to run off with an urn or something."
"Nonsense," Ms. Muffet said. "It absolutely has to be overnights." She stared at the statue thoughtfully. "It won't work otherwise."
"All right," Chloe said brightly. "Well, I don't mind if you don't mind. And the security guard is out at the front desk, right? I can always have him check my pockets before I leave every day just so you know you can count on me."
Ms. Muffet blinked rapidly, and Chloe could have sworn the old woman was wearing false
eyelashes. One looked loose, like it was going to crawl off her eye. "Don't be silly, my girl. You're not going to steal anything."
Well, it was good that her new employer had such faith in her. Chloe smiled awkwardly,
wondering if the old woman was senile. Something about this didn‘t strike her as…right. Sure, it was a terrific job – her first one after going back to college and getting her degree in web design. But she knew nothing about art or art history, and the fact that Ms. Muffet was so very willing to leave Chloe alone overnight in an art gallery filled with incredibly expensive objects? Made her a little concerned for her employer‘s sanity.
That, and the woman was a little odd in appearance as well. She was a hundred if she was a day, and wore a lime green beret perched atop her fluffy white curls, false eyelashes, and a bright pink sundress covered with a glittery gold shrug, and bunny slippers. She looked like she‘d been let out of the nursing home without her meds. Still, she was spry and alert and her shrewd eyes missed nothing – even with the fake lashes somewhat obscuring her vision.
For the next half-hour, Muffin showed Chloe around the art gallery, all the while people waved goodnight and exited the building. Soon there was no one left but Chloe and Muffin and the security guard, and Chloe had written down a lengthy list of tasks that Muffin had asked her to take on.
―Think you can handle this, my dear?‖ The old lady said at last, her keys in hand as she stood near the door.
Chloe hugged her clipboard closer. ―I‘ll be just fine. Updating the website should be a snap and I think you‘ll like the results. We can set up the auction on a dedicated server and—―
Muffin waved a hand, already bored with the conversation. ―Yawn-a-roo. Oh my, look at the
time,‖ she said. ―I‘ve really got to be going, my dear. Now enjoy yourself this evening, understand?‖
To Chloe‘s surprise, the old woman winked in an almost leering manner.
―Um, a-a-alright.‖ Chloe said. The woman was strange. Really, really strange.
But it was a job, and she needed a job in this economy. When Muffin had pulled out of the
parking lot, Chloe turned to the security guard and gave him a hesitant smile. ―Looks like it‘s just you and me.‖
He nodded, then pulled a paperback from its hiding place and began to read.
Well, so much for conversation. That was fine – she couldn‘t stay at the front of the building and chat with him all night anyhow. Muffin had set up her laptop on one of the spare art desks in the storage room – presumably so she could take photos of the pieces without having to run back and forth between rooms. The security guard would be all the way across at the far side of the building. It was as if she were alone in the gallery.
So much for meeting people at her new job. Chloe sighed, and turned and went to work.
little creepy. She turned on the radio at one point to bring a little sound to the room, but it only seemed to enhance the isolated feeling. She kept hoping the guard would stop in and check on her, see how industriously she was working, but he didn‘t. After a time, she fell into the work.
Muffin had given her no instructions on how to set up the website, so she looked at a few
competing websites and set up a basic layout, tweaking and nudging the design until she was satisfied with it. She decided to do a mock-up first, run it past Muffin in the morning, and do the heavy lifting once it had been approved. Tonight she could start taking pictures of the art pieces that would be going up in the auction at the end of the month.
And she‘d start with that statue.
Chloe set up the tripod a decent distance away from the statue and then checked the lens. The lighting wasn‘t perfect, since the storage room wasn‘t the most brightly lit section of the building, but she‘d give it a shot and see what the results would be like anyhow.
She approached the statue and pulled the sheet off of it, tugging it over the broad shoulders until it pooled to the floor. And then, she just stared.
How had anyone made such a thing of beauty out of stone, she marveled, staring up at it. The man – no, the soldier, she corrected herself – stood on a circular base, his stance powerful and strong. One hand gripped a spear, the other holding a plumed helmet under his arm. The name of the piece was
, the artist unknown. She was to detail the realistic scars on his face, and the fact that he was free-standing, unlike most Roman copies of Greek statues. The gallery believed the statue was an original and thus far more valuable.
Chloe slid closer to the statue, dropping the protective sheet on the ground. The marble man looked so very…real. It was incredible. She stared up at his face. His nose was perfectly aquiline, the bridge of it strong, his mouth full but hard, as if he‘d seen something he didn‘t like. A scar cut at an angle over his lip, marring the pretty perfection of his face. His jaw was strong, his hair a thick riot of curls, and his abs…well. She‘d never seen a real man with abs that perfect. Reflexively, she touched the marble.
They‘d even carved him a perfect belly-button, she thought to herself, dipping her finger in the tiny crevice.
―Wish they made more men like you,‖ Chloe murmured to the statue, sliding her fingers over the tight, muscular hips and giving the fig leaf a very interested look. The bulge behind it was impressive, but perhaps that was simply due to the leaf itself? ―You lucked out in that department, at least,‖ she told him with a wry smile. ―I‘ve seen some statues with rather unimpressive…bits.‖
Her fingers lightly touched the legs of the statue, noticing the firm cords of muscle there, then moved down, admiring the veins and tendons perfectly carved into each long, narrow foot. Such detail was incredible. She moved to the back of the statue, examining him. Did he have any flaws?
Not from this
, she thought with a sigh, noting the muscled indentions of his lower back and the tight, firm buttocks of the soldier. Impulsively, she grasped the buttocks with both hands, feeling the marble hills.
―Very firm,‖ she teased the statue. ―Well done.‖
She gave his behind a little pat of approval and grinned to herself. They‘d think she was just as crazy as Muffin if they‘d found out that she‘d just manhandled a statue – and enjoyed herself. But there was no one to tell her no, and he was so very perfect.
Being a widow’s getting to you, Chloe
, they‘d say.
Long past the time you should find a man.
―Let them think it,‖ she told the statue. ―I don‘t need anyone. It‘s a bit lonely, but I don‘t care.‖
She tilted her head and smiled at the stone man, who stared into the distance. ―I need a lover like you –
someone that can‘t demand a thing, won‘t require too much of me, and has buns of solid rock.‖ Then she looked at his helmet and sighed. ―Maybe not a soldier, though. I seem to have bad luck with those.‖
She took the first photo of the statue, closing in on the finely detailed face. Sure enough, the picture was dark. She frowned and unhooked the camera from the tripod, bringing it over to her computer.
Maybe she could manipulate the photo, make it a little brighter. She sat at the computer, tinkering with it for a few minutes. No deal. Maybe if she changed the angle of the light…it had this weird shimmer that was throwing off her photos. Excited to fix the problem, she jumped up and headed back toward the tripod—
Her foot slipped on something thin and paper-like as she passed by the statue. Her high heels –
something she was unused to – flew up and she crashed on the floor. Her head cracked against the base of the statue and the blow rang through her skull, making her entire head ache. Blackness blurred across her vision and the entire world seemed to swim in that strange, shimmering light. Her hand smacked against the foot of the statue, and then she was out cold.
Chloe‘s thoughts were foggy as she slowly came to again. Hands were brushing against her,
warm and delicious, and she moaned, her head tilting, eyes still closed. It had been five years since someone had touched her, and she hadn‘t realized until this moment how much she‘d missed it, missed the warm feather of breath against her thighs, the heavy weight of a man over her, his hand up her skirt, exploring her body—
Her eyes flew open and she stared in shock. A man crouched over her, his eyes an electric,
intense blue in a heavily tanned face. His hair was black and short, curly. He looked to be about her age, maybe a bit older, his face rough and raw with masculine beauty. He was not a perfect, beautiful prince, but a rough, raw soldier who wore his scars on his face.
Chloe gasped as her gaze landed on the scar that bisected his cheek. Just like the statue.
He blinked at her, studying her body, and then his hand slid underneath her skirt to the heat of her pussy, touching it through the damp fabric of her panties.
Chloe moaned at the touch. It had been so long since a man had touched her, and she immediately felt herself grow wet with need, her pulse pounding a heavy, staccato beat that seemed to center from her sex itself.
The man shifted over her and she felt his bare leg against her own, and her gaze slid over his chest. Bare chest. He was totally naked. His body was bronzed, his muscles rippling and firm, not a hint of fat anywhere on him.
He was the man from the statue.
Still slightly dizzy, her head throbbing, Chloe stared up at him, stupidly. Of course. She‘d hit her head and this was some sort of hallucination or dream or something. She‘d been lonely for so long, fantasizing about another man‘s touch, that now she was dreaming about the statue. Experimentally, her hand slid down to one rock-hard buttock and she squeezed.
Yep, it was the statue brought to life, all right. She‘d recognize that tight handful anywhere.
The man groaned against her and then he leaned down over her, his mouth seeking hers. To her surprise, his tongue thrust into her mouth in a possessive, deep kiss, and she returned it, her arms sliding around his shoulders even as her legs slid open.