Read Watercolor Online

Authors: Leigh Talbert Moore

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

Watercolor (7 page)

When I opened my eyes, I saw Ms. LaSalle in the bedroom wearing only a man’s dress shirt. Her long, dark hair slid around her shoulders as she hastily collected a slip, pantyhose, one shoe. “Where’s my dress?” she asked.

My eyes went wide, and my hand flew to my mouth. Julian was right—his mom was seeing someone… and it was his dad! It was like a car crash. I couldn’t look away. They’d clearly spent the night together, but what did this mean? And would they agree to tell Julian now?

“I’m pretty sure I removed your dress downstairs,” Mr. Kyser said in a casual tone that sounded exactly like his son.

Unable to breathe, I carefully leaned away, pressing my back against the wall outside the door. I was scared to take a step in case they heard me, but I had to get out of here.

“Come back to bed,” Mr. Kyser said. My eyes squeezed shut. “You’ll never make it home before he leaves for school. Stay and have breakfast.”

Thinking fast—on the one hand, if she went back to bed, they probably wouldn’t notice me sneaking back out. On the other hand, if she went back to bed…

“I’ve got to open the store,” she said in a frustrated tone.

“For who?” he laughed. “The snowbirds? No one’s going to be beating down the door. Come here.”

I heard what sounded like movements on the bed, and I freaked. I never expected these two had made so much progress. Still, I should’ve guessed it. They’d both disappeared roughly at the same time last night from the reception. I hadn’t noticed them leave together, but clearly they had.

This new twist gave me hope. If people saw them together, it would force them to tell Julian who his father was. It was impossible not to see the resemblance when Mr. Kyser and Julian stood next to each other for very long.

“What am I going to tell him?” she said, and her voice sounded sad.

I heard what sounded like kissing, and I automatically ducked, holding my eyes and trying to remember if the wooden floor creaked. I had to get out of here. Studying the distance from where I stood to the stairs, I wondered if I should attempt to run.

“Will he ask?” Mr. Kyser’s voice was muffled.

“Probably not,” she sighed. “But I can’t be gone like this. He’s still a minor. And… Julian and I don’t treat each other that way.”

“I know.” Mr. Kyser’s voice was clearer now, thank goodness. I started to take a step to the side… “Julian’s a good kid. I wish…” he paused, and I froze. Instantly my ears sharpened and I moved back toward the door.
Say it. Say it…

“What?” Ms. LaSalle’s tone changed. I bit my lip hoping it wouldn’t matter.

Mr. Kyser exhaled, and I could tell he was backing down.
Dammit!
“I’d like him to know he can come to me if he needs anything.”

“No.” The sounds of movement on the bed let me know she was getting up again.

“Just listen to me for a minute.” I stepped forward to peek, and I saw Mr. Kyser reaching across the bed to pull her to him. “Julian’s becoming a man. He can’t run to his mother every time he needs something. I’d like him to know he has someone he can talk to. Someone he can go to if he gets in trouble.”

She shook her head. “Julian does
not
get in trouble. And if this is how it’s going to be, I’ll have to stop coming here.”

He leaned forward and kissed her. I moved to the wall again, my shoulders dropping. He was so close.

“Stop it,” he said in a low voice. “You know I’d never go behind your back. But he’s my son, Lex. I want him to have whatever he wants.”

I couldn’t help listening now—I wanted Mr. Kyser to convince her. I wanted him to win this argument so badly…

“He already has everything he wants,” she said. “And you’ve helped us a lot through the years. There’s no need for this sudden rush of paternalism.”

“It’s not sudden.” His voice was sharp, and my hands clenched into fists. “I’m sure there are things he needs that he wouldn’t tell you about. If anything, he wouldn’t want to put any pressure on you. How could he know he can have whatever he wants?”

I nodded, mentally cheering him on.

“If there’s anything Julian wants or needs, I’ll know.” Her voice was just as sharp. “And if it’s something I can’t get for him, I’ll call you. Like always.”

I’m sure that’s what you’d like to believe
, I thought. But that was it. She was clearly calling the shots on this one, and no matter what I said to Mr. Kyser, I’d always be barking up the wrong tree. He’d never cross her, and I knew from reading the journals how long he’d waited for her.

I shook my head, looking down. I didn’t think Julian’s mom would deprive him of knowing his dad if Mr. Kyser asked her straight out like this, but clearly, I was wrong. Turning to go, I didn’t care any more if they heard me. I was so frustrated with them.

Just then, Mr. Kyser said, “Let’s not fight.”

One glance back through the door, and in that moment, I saw him smoothing her long hair from her face before leaning in to kiss her. Her arms went around his neck, and I saw his hand slip inside the shirt she was wearing. That was it. He was finally winning her back, and I knew after all these years, he wouldn’t jeopardize that for anything.

I’d have to figure out another way to approach the problem. At least now I knew where he stood. How much he wanted to know his son. Maybe the two of us could figure out a way to convince her. But how?

That was the million-dollar question.

Chapter 7

I was late for English class, and Summer had taken occupancy of the desk right next to mine.
Great
. I used “paper business” as my excuse for being late and took my seat. Class was already well into the discussion of our literature book.

Summer leaned over. “Want to borrow my notes? You missed the first-half review.”

“Sure, thanks.” I whispered back.

“I’ll be in the library during lunch.”

Ms. Bowman walked between our desks, and I started scribbling notes in my notebook. I liked
The Sun Also Rises
, and I had already finished reading it. But I knew our teacher would expect our essays to reflect class discussion. Looked like I’d be taking Summer up on her offer.

My mind wandered for a second back to studying at the Kyser house with Jack. We’d only had half a semester of English together because he was moved into special classes to graduate early. He’d helped me prepare for the SAT, and I’d done really well on it, despite taking it right after our breakup. I thought about his clear blue eyes and his smile, and my heart sank. Shaking my head, I angrily shoved those stupid memories away.

Last night with Julian was amazing. I loved being with him. He was sexy and fun and even better, we’d started as friends. We knew each other so well, and I knew he’d never hurt me like Jack did. The bell rang, and it was a good thing Summer was going to lend me her notes. I hadn’t heard a word our teacher had said.

Julian met me on the way to math, and I grinned in spite of myself when I saw him. Maybe in time stupid, sneaky Jack memories would be forever gone from my head and the only daydreams I’d have would be about my sexy artist and how great it was to spend time with him.

“Where were you this morning?” he said. “I waited around.”

“Oh!” I had to think fast. I couldn’t tell him where I’d really been. “Can you believe I went upstairs and fell asleep again? If Mom hadn’t come by, I’d probably have missed half the day!”

His arm was around my shoulder, and he looked down. “I guess I kept you up late. Sorry.”

“I’m not complaining,” I said, kissing his cheek, thinking of his lips traveling across my body with a little shiver. “Did you find Blake? Is he going to help you?”

“Yeah. We’ll meet up after school, if that’s okay?”

“Sure!”

Mrs. Harris was waiting outside her class again frowning. Instantly, we stepped apart. This teacher acted like we were in boot camp, and we had to pass her class to graduate. I always sat close to the front, and Julian had taken the seat beside me, although I knew he’d prefer being in the back where Montage and the other guys always cut up.

Actually, he was doing great, while I was having trouble concentrating. Mrs. Harris would talk about solving inequalities, and my eyes would drift over to Julian’s hand taking notes. He had long, elegant fingers, and it looked like he was actually working on a small sketch, which didn’t surprise me. My eyes floated up to his mouth, and I thought of kissing him. Butterflies filled my stomach, and his lips curled into a grin.

“You’re not paying attention,” he whispered.

My eyes met his shining blue ones. “Neither are you.”

“The addition principal for inequalities is… Miss Sanders?” Mrs. Harris was at the whiteboard, and I jerked around.

“Uh…” I had no idea.

“If
a
is greater than
b
, then
a
plus
c
is greater than
b
plus
c
,” Julian answered.

“Thank you, Miss Sanders.” Mrs. Harris’s eyes slanted at him, and the class snickered.

“No problem,” Julian smiled.

Mrs. Harris went back to her lecture, and I rolled my eyes at Julian as I leaned forward and began copying formulas from the whiteboard. If he got a better grade than me, I’d never hear the end of it.

 

Winter was not super cold in South County, and instead of hanging around inside the cafeteria at the senior table, we usually sat outside in the quad during lunchtime with Brad and Rachel and some of the other football players who made up Brad’s crew. Montage had joined the group, and he fit seamlessly in with the other guys. Nothing had happened with regard to the vendetta that had been on his mind that first night, and I’d almost decided Julian was right, it was all a bluff.

Rachel was finalizing plans for the spring dance on her phone, and Julian was sketching a group of students sitting in a line. I stabbed at a pasta salad I’d brought to eat, but I wasn’t hungry.

“What do you think of this,” he asked, turning the book to me.

“I like it. What’s it for?”

“Mom knows this old guy who used to run a wrought-iron fence company.” He turned the sketch book back around and continued shading. “He told her I could come over and pick through his scraps, and I was thinking I could make something for that new sculpture park in Newhope.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Did I tell you Mom is trying to get you on the rotation as one of the featured artists at the association?”

“I love your mom,” he said with a grin. “Would your dad mind if I asked her out?”

“Yes,” I said, narrowing my eyes.

Julian grinned at me.

“Hey, Julian, your mom came in the store last week,” Wade Ryan, one of the team’s biggest linemen interrupted. He worked at the building center in Fairview.

“Really?” Julian’s brow creased. “That’s weird. What did she need?”

“I have no idea,” Wade said, sitting up straighter. “But that is one fine woman.”

My back was to Wade, and I made a disgusted face at Julian. He glanced at me and smiled.

“Uh, yeah. Thanks, man.” He turned back to his sketch book.

“So where’s your dad?” Wade continued. “I’d like to know what the competition looks like.”

Rachel slammed her phone down. “Are you being a jerk, Wade?” she said loudly.

“No way!” He laughed. “I’d like to take her out, treat her right—”

“Dude,” Brad’s loud voice cut him off. “Shut the hell up.” Then Brad leaned forward clapping Julian’s shoulder roughly. “He gets hit in the head a lot.”

I jumped up, pulling Julian’s hand. “Oh, god, I almost forgot. I’ve got to meet Summer at the library.” Then I groaned. “Please come with me. You know it’s going to be
awful
.”

“Sure,” Julian said, folding up the sketchbook. Then he glanced back. “Hey, Wade. I’ll let Mom know you think she’s hot. I’m sure it’ll… make her day or whatever.”

“Hey, man, I wasn’t trying to offend.” Brad’s words had subdued that idiot.

“No worries,” Julian waved. Then he caught my shoulder and leaned into my ear. “I will never tease you about asking your mom out again. Promise.”

I breathed a laugh. “You’d better not quit. It makes her day every time you flirt with her.”

He released me, and we continued to the library. I thought about Mr. Kyser being Julian’s dad and felt that too-familiar frustration of keeping their secret. That would shut stupid Wade and everyone else’s mouth. Maybe I’d stop by his office next week after school to propose a strategy for conquering Ms. LaSalle. Once Julian’s car was back in operation.

“So what’s this meeting with Summer about?” Julian asked.

“I missed part of class this morning,” I exhaled. Then I caught his arm. “And then I missed the rest thinking about you.”

He grinned. “Something dirty?”

“Of course. And hey, about that dance Rachel’s planning. You’re my date, right?”

He waved to one of his passing shop buddies. “Aren’t I always?”

“Should I dig out my combat boots or will we dress appropriately this time?”

“You’d look great in combat boots.” His hand grazed my thigh. “And a little short skirt…”

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