Home > Scandalous 1 (Scandalous #1)(9)

Scandalous 1 (Scandalous #1)(9)
Author: H.M. Ward

His legs were pulled up to his chest, his arms draped over his knees. Jack’s gaze was downcast, “Thanks for helping her. I haven’t had a model fall in... well, not since I first started. What a f**king nightmare.” He shook his head, and looked up.

Gus came running in spewing apologies, “I’m sorry, Jack. I tried to keep her out, but she wouldn’t have it. I haven’t seen her this pissed-off since you turned her down.”

“What the f**k got her so riled up?” Jack asked, eyes burning with rage as he glanced up at Gus. I swallowed hard. I hadn’t heard Jack angry like that, ever. I expected the harshness of his voice and the venom of his words to make me like him less, but it only made me more intrigued.

Gus shrugged, “The hell if I know,” then he looked at me, nodded, and added, “Sorry, Abby.”

People did that to me all the time. When they did something that they felt was wrong, they looked at me and apologized, like I could put in a pardon for them or something. The truth was that I didn’t care that they swore. I still had that wicked tongue inside of me, but I tried to control it. They didn’t. Jack stared at me, an unreadable expression on his face. It was in response to Gus’ comment. Jack got to his feet and stormed out of the room. I don’t know what I did.

Gus still stood in the door way. He walked inside and threw himself into a chair, running his fingers through his light hair. “I didn’t think it was possible, but I just pissed him off more. Fuck.”

Watching the man, I asked, “What are you talking about?”

Gus sighed, his hands dropping to his sides, “I don’t know. I can just tell. I lived with the guy for four years while we were in college. After being around someone that much, you know when you just dumped gasoline on a fire. Believe me. I just made it worse.”

The model appeared in the back of the studio, her hair dripping wet. She looked down at the ruined canvas. My sneaker prints were all over it along with a hard mark where her butt hit the canvas before slamming her head into the floor. Rose’s expression was cold, and directed at me. “Tell Mr. Gray that he needn’t bother rescheduling. I’m not coming back here, not after this.” She glared at me. Where did that come from? She didn’t think we invited Belinda inside to wreck her session, did she?

Gus jumped to his feet, following the girl as she stormed from the building. Shaking my head, I tried to understand what happened. I got who Belinda was, at least I thought I did. My guess was that she was the shrew who insisted on being the patron covered in paint. No one came back into the studio, so I cleaned up by myself. By the time I’d recovered all the paint cans and cleaned the brushes, it was already past midnight. I grabbed a sponge and started to wipe the foot prints off the floor when Jack came back. I was singing softly to myself, on my hands and knees, scrubbing my sneaker marks away.

When the movement of his shadow caught my eye, I scrambled back and screamed. Jack laughed as I fell on my butt, clutching my heart. “Damn, Jack! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” I wasn’t sure if I felt most stupid for falling over or for his catching me singing. I threw the damp sponge at his head.

Grinning he caught it between his hands. “Get up, Abby. The cleaning staff does this crap, not you.”

“I didn’t know what to do. Everyone left, and it was a mess...” I was rambling. He cut me off.

Reaching for my hand, he said, “Come on. Let’s get out of here for a while.” The rage in his eyes had died down to embers. His hand was extended toward me, waiting for me to grab it.

He’s just a friend. Nothing more. I reached out and took his palm. When it slid against mine, my heart lurched. I was such a mess. Was Kate right? Was this incredibly stupid? Jack was a friend—he’d been a good friend until I messed it up.


Without a word, Jack pulled me outside and down to the beach. We walked along the shore for a while in silence. The moon was huge, even though it was waning. The breeze lifted my hair off my neck. It felt good. It felt good to be home again. It felt good to be near Jack again. The artist stopped walking and sat down, patting the sand next to him for me to follow. We were away from the studio now. The only light that illuminated the sand was from the moon. Lowering myself, I sat next to him and tucked my legs close to my body.

“Abby, I’m sorry about that. That kind of thing doesn’t normally happen around here.” He shook his head, dark hair falling into his eyes. “That woman has made my life a living Hell.”

Carefully, I asked, “Who is she?” I gazed at the waves, watching Jack out of the corner of my eye.

“She was a patron, back before I was successful.” Working his jaw, Jack chose his words carefully. “We were a couple for a while, but it didn’t work out. She was pissed that I wouldn’t paint her, and then doubly pissed when the news hit the papers. It didn’t matter that I didn’t leak the story, she was still angry.” He paused for a moment and glanced at me. The expression on his face made me want to wrap my arms around him and hug him. Knowing that would be stupid, I wrapped my arms around my knees, tightly gripping my legs until my hands turned white.

Jack’s expression softened. He looked back at the water as he relived a piece of his past that he clearly wished hadn’t happened. “Back then, I did things the way most painters did—the model was the patron. And, well—you know—fine art has nudes. But people said stuff, Abby, and I didn’t like what they were saying. She was the first patron I turned down. It turned out that it was better to separate things.”

When he didn’t continue I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Just that—it’s better to keep stuff separate. It seems kind of obvious now. You know, not dating the patrons, not screwing the models—stuff that has the potential to mess with you later—setting up boundaries to keep your personal and professional lives apart.” He glanced at me without turning his head. “They failed to teach me that in college. That f**king mistake still haunts me.”

Without meaning to, I was staring at him. As he spoke his voice seemed so strained. Turning back to the sea, I said, “Yeah, college kind of sucks like that. They give you book smarts, but completely lack the ability to make you ready for life. That was $300 grand well spent.” My tone was sarcastic. School was a sore spot for me. Jack’s eyes bulged when I said it, but I continued rambling so he couldn’t ask why the hell I took out $300,000 in loans. “You know—I couldn’t believe it—when I heard what you did. That’s something they couldn’t have taught you at college either. It’s beyond incredible. You turned down millions. You gave away your first windfall. Who does that?”

“Masochistic people who are content being beggars,” he replied, grinning. His eyes were locked on my face as I spoke. There was something about talking about his work that seemed to make him squirm. His voice lightened a little. There was a moment of silence, but I could tell Jack was trying to say something. “Abby...?” I looked directly at him. My breath caught in my throat. His dark hair was tussled by the wind, his eyes endless orbs of blue. “I don’t know how to treat you.”

Surprised, I asked, “What?” Smiling at him, my stomach fluttered. “What do you mean?”

His hand was in the sand, next to mine. He pressed his fingers into the grains before looking up to me. “We’re not the same as we were, but you still feel like the same old Abby. But you’re not. You’re a nun.” I started to protest, but he waved me off, “I know what you’re gonna say, but it’s so totally the same. It means you’re off limits. And what’d I do? I took a nun down to the beach. I have a nun helping me paint nude women. It’s weird.” My heart sank, and I looked away from him. Before I knew what happened, he gently touched my chin and turned my face back toward his. His lips were parted, ready to speak, “And it’s wonderful, because it’s you. You’re still Abby Tyndale, the girl I used to know.” His touch lingered for a moment too long, his gaze remained on mine, locked, not wanting to look away.

I didn’t want to shatter the moment either. Instead of pulling away, I sat there, looking into his eyes. All the feelings that plagued me melted away as he touched me. The lightness in my head made me want to giggle. The idea of his hands on my face, and his lips brushing against mine didn’t seem so bad. As soon as the thought entered my head, I closed my eyes. The connection broke. The moment shattered. Jack lowered his hand, and stared out at the sea.

When the moment passed, I realized that I didn’t want it to. I realized the truth in Kate’s words. I still had the hots for Jack Gray.


I stood in the doorway to Kate’s room. Another week had come and gone. Belinda had disappeared again, and the model situation was smoothed over. Or so it seemed. A suitcase sat open on Kate’s bed.

Kate was standing in the closet tossing things across the room while she spoke, “I’ll be away for a few days. Use the car as much as you want. If something is majorly wrong, call me. I’ll be in Brooklyn, so it’s not like I’m a million miles away.”

My arms were folded over my chest, my shoulder leaning against the doorjamb. “Working over the weekend?”

“Yeah,” I heard as she bent over and grabbed a pair of shiny shoes that had four inch heels.

Pushing off the frame, I walked into the room and over to her. When she turned, I grinned, pulling the shoes out of her hands and putting them on the suitcase. “You really expect me to believe that you’re working? In these?” I held up a shoe on my index finger. The heel could be used as a weapon, it was so long and pointy. “I’d question your occupation and business associates if I were you. This screams of sexual harassment,” I said deadpan. Kate looked like a deer in the headlights. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, a smile cracked across my face and I laughed. “Kate! If you’re seeing someone, just tell me. Don’t pack four times as much clothes just so you can hide lingerie and your fuck-me-heels in the sleeves of your suits.” I tossed the shoe back into her pile of clothes.

A sheepish expression washed across her face, as her shoulders squished up around her neck. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t talk about it with you, and...”

I cut her off, “Why not? If it’s something you used to share, and wanted to tell me—tell me.”

“Abby, you’re not like me,” she said as she took a piece of lace from her closet. It was on a hanger so it must have been lingerie, but I had no idea what it’d look like on. It looked more like a napkin with parts missing.

I shrugged, “So. You’re not like me.” I sat down on the bed as Kate walked over, pulling out the stuff she didn’t want from her bag.

“You don’t talk about church crap with me, and I don’t talk about guys with you. We’re both in uncharted waters when it comes to that stuff.” She shook her head, making long dark hair fall over her shoulder as she looked into the bag, grabbing another suit jacket and hanging it back up.

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