Forever in Cape May

Page 13

She squinted and analyzed each feature of the woman’s face. Taylor had tried to evoke the agony of losing the one you loved, but apparently it hadn’t hit. Was she missing something basic? Was it a technical issue or something deeper? She’d been blocked for a while and hoped she’d pushed through, but obviously she’d failed.

“It looks forced,” Pierce said. Regret flickered in his eyes. “Not as true as the others.”

“No matter,” Carter said, swiping his hands together. “You’re right on track. Play a bit with these two and see if you can tweak them. You should have no trouble getting the others done in time—remember, I need them shipped by the end of next month. You’re taking the one from Pierce’s office, right?”

Pierce laughed. “She can borrow it for the big art show, but I hope it doesn’t sell. I’ve gotten attached.”

“Hmm, you’ll need to pay her a hell of a lot more, then.”

“It was a gift!”

Carter threw up his hands. “I’m not her manager, but Luis may insist she sell it with the set and paint you a new one.”

Taylor pushed her disappointment away and reminded herself she still had a solid foundation. She needed to paint two more pieces to finish the Woman and the Cliff series. Then she’d go back to these and see if she could figure out what had gone wrong. She wouldn’t rest until she knew they were perfect. “Don’t worry, I’ll paint you another naked woman as a replacement.”

Pierce gave a snort.

“What happened to your eye, man?” Carter asked. “Looks wicked.”

“I walked into a door.”

Carter turned to her with a questioning look, clearly not buying it.

“Pierce was defending my honor from an overeager admirer. He got caught in a surprise attack.”

Pierce glared at her. “I thought we were keeping that to ourselves.”

“Carter’s family. He doesn’t care.”

“No shit?” Carter asked. “I haven’t gotten into a fight in a long time. Who won?”

“Pierce did,” Taylor said.

“Actually, Taylor did,” Pierce muttered. “Kicked him in the balls and took him out. I punched him for good measure, but the asshole jumped me.”

Carter looked at her with pride. “Nice work. The Sunshine sisters know how to take care of business. Did you tell them about your encounter?”


He shook his head. “They’re gonna want details. I have to tell Avery I saw the shiner, so just prepare yourself.”

She groaned. “Great. I’ll get another lecture about safety. They’re worse than Mom.”

“No, they’re not,” Pierce said. “Your mother is plain scary. Remember when she canceled your phone account because she caught you sneaking out at night? You didn’t have any way to text, check Facebook, or watch YouTube for a week. She doesn’t yell. She just gets even.”

Taylor shuddered. “Yeah, she does have those cruel tendencies. Remember when she caught you smoking?”

“Hell yes. She told my mother and suggested if I was old enough to smoke, I was old enough to do all the chores in the house. They worked me from six a.m. to late at night. I was falling asleep in school.”

She laughed. “I remember. My mom was always advising your mom about the worst ways to punish you. It’s kind of nice they’re both in Florida together.”

Carter grinned. “I love hearing stories about you guys growing up. Not all of us were lucky to have childhood friends who are like family.” He hitched Lucy up higher in his arms. “I’d better get back to work—I’m on break. You’re doing great, Taylor. Call me if you have any further questions, but I think you’re on the perfect path. You’ll rock Paris.”

Her heart softened. “Thanks, Carter.” They said goodbye and watched him walk out. Then she let out a groan. “They’re lacking emotion, huh?”

Pierce came up beside her and stood close. Their shoulders touched, and they spent a few minutes studying the series of paintings in silence. “With all of your other work, my gut gets twisted up. My senses are engaged. It’s a total package that reminds me how much raw talent you had even when you were sketching out those awful graphic novels sophomore year.”

“They were good. Better than some of the stuff you read at the time.”

“A quartet of superhero witches has some merit, but they were always beating up men.”

She blew out an annoyed breath. “Because the men were all bad.”

“All of them? I don’t know, I got depressed. I needed to believe in a good guy.”

“Now you know how women have felt for centuries reading about men all the time.”

He winced. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’ll just have to find a way to fix it.”

Those heavy brows drew down into a fierce frown, and his lips pursed. It was his thinking face. She used to tell him it made him look like he was sucking on a lemon, but then he’d gotten pissed, and she hadn’t mentioned it again. “Maybe it’s because you don’t know what that type of heartbreak feels like,” he said.

She jerked back. “I know what heartbreak is,” she said hotly. “I’ve had my heart broken before!”

“Not like that. Not like your entire soul is being ripped out of your body. Not the way you want to express how that woman feels, because she realizes the only man she ever loved will never be hers.”

Shock barreled through her. Her gaze narrowed. “I’ve never thrown myself off a cliff, either, and I painted about that,” she said, a bit annoyed. “You don’t have to experience everything you illustrate.”

“You’re right. But I think you’ve gotten in touch with other emotions in that series. Wanting freedom. Confusion about the future. Sifting through your innermost thoughts to find who you really are. But love? You always said you don’t believe in it—not the ‘happily ever after, get married’ kind. Maybe you need to look there first if you want to tweak.”

The depth of his answer threw her off. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, as if he were seeing her naked and making a judgment. It was odd, because Pierce had always been her safest ally. She decided to deal with his comments later. “I’ll think about it.”

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