Monday, July 27, 2009
Painted Lady by Maggi Anderson
Painted Lady by Maggi Anderson
A Victorian/contemporary romance
Available now at New Concepts Publishing
Were Astrid and Dylan merely caught up in their roles as they performed the screenplay based on the life of painter Milo Russo and his daughter, Gina? Or was the magic that seemed to explode between them with each on-screen kiss real?
By the time the group turned from tea to wine and spirits and there was still no sign of Astrid, Dylan went back to his room, put on his board shorts and grabbed a towel. Flicking an inquisitive wasp away, he walked towards the band of trees, the sun warm on his bare skin. He followed the rambling path through the woods.
Emerging from the trees, he spied a towel on the far side of the lake, and made his way around the edge of the clear, gently rippling water. A pair of sunglasses and a book sat on the towel, but there was no sign of Astrid. He laid his towel alongside hers and sat on it, picking up her book, The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant.
He looked up. Astrid stood above him. “You read Guy?” she asked, pronouncing the name Gee. The sun was in his eyes and he could only see her in shadow. “When I’m feeling strong enough.”
Astrid laughed. “I’ve been for a walk. It’s lovely here.” As she walked over to her towel, he held his breath. She wore a one-piece, red bathing suit, her full breasts decorously hidden behind a modest swag of material. He admitted to himself that he’d hoped she’d wear a bikini, but there was no missing the perfect symmetry of her body, the long, shapely length of thigh and slender ankles. She had plaited her blonde hair and tied it with a pink scarf. It fell like a thick rope down her bare, brown back.
She really was a goddess.
She sat down on her towel, wrapping her arms around her knees. “I saw the rushes. You and Maureen work well together.”
He tore his gaze from her to a watch a pair of waterfowl swimming among the reeds. Had he been staring? She must be used to it. “We do.”
“She is how you say, a trouper isn’t she?”
He nodded. “I’m jealous of her years spent in rep.”
“I’d delay doing Shakespeare,” she said a tiny smile flitting across her mouth.
“Like Pierce Brosnan, your looks would distract the audience from your soliloquy.”
She put on her sunglasses hiding the expression he longed to see. “In a way.”
“You French are known to be economical,” he said grinning.
She pushed out her full bottom lip, frowning slightly. “When you are older, perhaps. For men the roles only get better. Not so much for the women.”
“Perhaps you mean that good looking blokes don’t make good actors.”
“I admire your work,” she said seriously. “I saw the war movie, Fight for Glory.
You were formidable. And you are up for the role of the next 007, no?”
“It’s only a possibility at this stage.”
Dylan found himself enjoying the ease they had with one another. “Is Philippe returning from Paris?” he asked. “I didn’t get to talk to him at the BAFTA’s. How long have you been together?”
“He has business interests that keep him in Paris. In answer to your last question, we have been together for five years.”
“You live in Paris?”
It would be some house or apartment he felt sure, the guy had squillions. He picked up the pink scarf that had fallen from her hair onto the ground. It felt silky to the touch. He handed it back, resisting the urge to breathe in her fragrant scent. “Tell me about your childhood. Where were you born? Where did you grow up, go to school?”
“All that?” She laughed and began to talk about her childhood spent in a comfortable house in an outer suburb of Paris, as a middle child with an older brother and younger sister. Moments later, she said, “And now you.”
He told her more about his home south of Dublin and his five siblings. “Middle child too, sort of. Two older sisters and three younger brothers. My father is an English professor and with all those mouths to feed we were always short of money.”
“Do you want a big family like that?”
“Not that big, but yes. One day.”
“Philippe is urging me to have a bebe,” she said, looking down at her hands.
Dylan caught his breath. “Is that what you want too?”
“Not so soon.”
He wanted to ask if she still loved Philippe, but he resisted. They began to discuss the picture, like Astrid, he felt in tune with his character. When last in Ireland, he’d researched it with his father who found the era interesting.
As he and Astrid talked, he felt again that spark of strong attraction beneath their words. It was as if it came from something deep within them, a strong connection. It was not just he that felt it, of that he was sure.
“I think I’ll go in,” she said rising. She waded into the water up to her thighs and squealed. “Antony lied, very cold.”
“Nonsense,” he said, coming to stand beside her. “Warm as a bath.”
“You should have your bath heater inspected,” she said. “It’s freezing, see?”
She scooped up some water and splashed him. He yelped as the icy water hit his chest. She tried to wade out of reach as he followed her.
“The look on your face!” She giggled nervously.
“I seek revenge.”
“Please, don’t,” she begged as he reached her. “It was just a tiny joke.”
He put his hand on her arm. “One push and you’ll be wet all over,” he teased.
“It’s the best way to get in. Shall I?”
She gasped. “Non.”
They gazed deep into each other eyes as if some secret lay there they each had to know. His hand moved from her arm to her waist. He drew her slowly toward him. “Oh, don’t,” she said softly, but she didn’t resist.
His mouth came down on hers, gently exploring. Her lips were incredibly soft. When her mouth opened, his tongue began to explore. Their kisses became more urgent and he picked her up in his arms and waded ashore. He dropped her to her feet and kissed her again. She slipped her arms around his neck. “Je vous veux.”
Her desire for him sent his senses reeling. Her breasts pressed against his chest as he sought her mouth again.
A cry came from somewhere in the trees. “Barb-b-que.”
They broke apart. “Damn,” Dylan muttered then met her eyes and laughed.
She shook her head. “I’m sharing with Jenny ….”
The evidence of his desire from their kiss on display, he turned away from her and leapt into the water, swimming strongly out to the middle of the lake then back again. Astrid gathered up their towels from the ground as Antony appeared from the trees.
“My, you are fond of the water, Dylan,” he yelled from across the lake. He laughed as Dylan waded ashore, adding, “For an Irishman.”
Antony made his way back to the house, discreetly leaving them alone. As theytrailed along the path through the wood, Astrid paused and turned to him. “I don’t think we should continue with this. It would be a mistake. You know how everyone gossips.”
“Does it matter?”
She looked away from his intense gaze and bit her lip. “We are just missing our partners, that’s all.”
He took her by the shoulders, frowning. “You mean we’re just missing sex?”
“Oui,” she whispered.
He shook his head. “And the French have a reputation for being romantic. You think that’s all it is?”
“Yes, that’s just what it is, Dylan.”
“From the moment I saw you,” he said softly, “I felt drawn to you, Astrid. You felt it too.” She put her hands to her cheeks. “I don’t know, Dylan,” she said. “I need time to think.” Dylan dropped his hands to his sides. “Well, when you decide if want me, you can let me know.”
He turned and left her. Crashing through the bushes, he emerged onto the lawn.
Thankfully, everyone was in the rear courtyard and he was able to climb to his room without having to hide his swirling emotions. The break up with Jessica had left him bruised, but already, this seemed much more than that. He showered and changed and joined the others around