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I stood back and looked at the painting with a critical eye. There was beauty in the scarlets and oranges that I’d thrown together with only one thing in mind. My temper, and my lust, all rolled into one. I’d purged every single painful thought in the creation, and I was exhausted. I picked up the onyx tube and squeezed out a considerable amount, then methodically painted over every line I had made. I wasn’t man enough to break it and throw it away, someone might see it, no, I had to make sure the creation was gone completely. Only when the entire canvas was pitch black did I take my artist’s knife and shred the whole thing. It would join the landscape that Elo had been so interested in.
But when I looked for the landscape, I couldn’t see it, and I knew that Elo had taken it with him.
Exhausted I slid down the wall and sat in the corner of my workshop, staring at the remains of tonight’s passionate assault on a canvas, and cursed myself for being stupid.
I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills if I kept destroying canvases, and I really needed to get some sleep.
When I woke, curled like a pretzel on the floor, I ached everywhere, and the banging that pulled me from my dreams wasn’t letting up. At least I wasn’t suffering a vodka hangover, but my limbs felt heavy, and my head ached.
“Enough already,” I groused, as I scrambled to stand and all the blood rushed from my head. I swayed and gripped the nearest thing to steady myself; the empty easel with black paint drips on the side.
The banging was still happening, and I realized it wasn’t my head, but someone at the front door to the gallery. My gaze flicked to the clock; seven fifteen in the morning.
“We’re closed,” I called out as I neared the door, groaning when I saw Liam Collins standing in the snow and grimacing at me. Hell, where had that much snow come from? Last I saw it was more like icy rain, but now everything was bright white and sound muffled. I opened the door, and let him in.
“Jesus, Sam, you trying to kill me?”
I blinked away the confusion. “What?”
That was about as much as I could manage right now, and I realized I’d fucked up when my agent put his hands on his hips, all with pinched lips and more glaring.
“You forgot didn’t you,” Liam snapped.
I could have defended myself, but genuinely I didn’t recall anything significant right now.
“The meeting? The buyer who’s only in town for one day. Like, today?”
I peered past him to the snow outside and frowned. “It’s snowing,” I said, helpfully.
“Snow doesn’t stop money being made, get a shower, you reek, and get dressed, I’ll make the coffee.” He barged past me and went through the gallery to the hallway, and I followed him up the stairs. He knew his way around my apartment, had spent enough time here with me in the beginning when I was starting out. He wasn’t just my agent, but a friend from my modeling days who looked out for me. I created the art; he sold the paintings. It was symbiotic.
The shower was hot, my small bedroom cold, and I dressed hurriedly, rubbing a towel over my hair and leaving it to dry naturally. It tended to curl at the ends, but I could sort that later. Because, for the life of me I couldn’t recall a market, or a buyer, or indeed anything business related at all.
I went into the kitchen, no more than a couple of steps away and found Liam in his usual position, sitting on the windowsill and staring out at the alleyway behind the gallery. He said it was his thinking space and had suggested at one time that I graffiti designs on the wall. He told me it didn’t matter what I did, because the building next door, an old mercantile, was destined for demolition in a couple of months.
I fell on the coffee with reckless abandon, burning my tongue and wincing, then I waited for Liam to explain what the hell I had missed.
“I emailed you,” he began.
I shrugged. “I don’t look at my emails.”
“I called you ten times.”
“I don’t carry my phone around much.”
“I left three voicemails.”
“I didn’t listen to them.”
He shook his head, but at least he smiled. “I know, which is why I am here three hours early to make sure you are up, dressed, coherent, and have the time to select some items from your collection to take to the meeting.
“Who is the buyer?”
“A consortium,” Liam sipped his coffee. “Art for a new office building or something.”
“Why aren’t they coming here?” The caffeine was doing its job, waking me up, and I waited for Liam to answer.
“He’s only in town for a day, and he has meetings, so we fit you in.”
I sighed. I wanted, one day, to be the kind of artist that people made appointments to visit with, but today was not that day.
“Okay, what is he looking for.”
“I was thinking some of your landscapes, the local ones, and maybe a couple of your abstracts. The company logo is dark red, so we start there.”
I should have kept last night’s mockery of a painting.
“Okay then, let’s do this.”
It was only when we were thirty minutes into wrapping and sorting that he stopped humming to himself and asked the question I’d been expecting.
“So this marriage thing? What the fuck, Sam?”
I wasn’t ready to talk about the wedding, but his question was enough for me to slip into thoughts of Elo again. Dark, brooding thoughts, about the bargain, and the loss, and the kind of idiot things we do to keep others safe and happy.
“Leave it, Liam,” I murmured. So, being one of the only people who’d known I had been with Elo, he backed off. Because he knew how much not being with Elo hurt me.
The meeting went well, I sold five paintings and gained commissions for another ten. All landscapes. All local scenes. I needed the money, but the landscapes I’d sold were from when I was happy and settled, out on my own and forging my way in the world.
Would I be able to create anything with love again?
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