Elizabeth Maynor

Never Love a Naked P.I.

To Scott and Nancy and Kate, my most ardent supporters, who gave me the freedom to write.

And Ruth, Rose, Alyssa, Cathy and Tina; my most ardent critique group, who helped shape what I did write.

And to you, my new readers, may you enjoy the ride as much as I did writing it.

Thank you all.

Chapter 1

New York, NY-2000-A new beginning

“ARE YOU ready for the naked hunk?”

An expensive scent flooded over Amanda as the attractive older woman at the next easel leaned in close, her carefully made-up eyes sparkling with wickedness.

Amanda suppressed a smile at her classmate’s comment. “And is a nakedhunk, as opposed to a naked anything else, supposed to make us draw any better, Christine?”

Amanda had forgotten there was to be a new model for the life class tonight. She tucked a stray lock behind the bandeau that held her auburn waves in place. Christine could have lacquered a Chinese table with the amount of effort she had expended on her face and hair and Amanda had barely remembered to freshen her makeup after work before the evening’s class.

“A handsome man is always good for revving the engine, love,” Christine said, as she winked, giving her raven locks a toss. Amanda rolled her eyes, expelled a short, indulgent chuckle and returned to sharpening a drawing pencil.

“All right,” Christine huffed. “If an intelligent, hard-working junior exec like you chooses to remain outside the social whirl of male/female inter…action, so be it. Though I think you’re soon going to realize, classy New York business women can anddo have their cake and…” She paused, brushing an imaginary morsel from her lips. Amanda shook her head and sighed.

OUTSIDE THE classroom door, Marc waited with the instructor.

This is it, he thought.

“Are you ready?” the older man in the neat, trimmed Van Dyke beard inquired, nervously kneading his hands.

“Yeah. I’m fine. You don’t look so hot.”

“I’m not used to this-how does your profession put it?-covert operation. Now that we’re here, I’m a little anxious.”

“You’ll be fine.” Marc shook his arms gently at his sides and lightly bounced on his toes as he drew drafts of oxygen deep into his lungs. “My ‘profession’ doesn’t usually put its ass quite so prominently on the line.” He rubbed his hands firmly over his backside. “You’re gonna owe me, buddy. Big time.”

The older man observed him for a moment. “This has been good for you. No matter what happens. You’re not as…angry as you were.”

“Yeah.” Marc’s grin was easy. “And I look damn good, too.”

AMANDA followed the quick turn of the raven head of her classmate at the next easel as the noise of the opening classroom door stopped Christine mid-maxim.

David Parkerson, senior instructor in life drawing at the Art Students League in New York City, entered the studio immediately followed by a taller, muscular young man in a dark sport shirt and worn jeans, carrying a gym bag. The young man strode confidently into the room on long, powerful limbs. Certainly not like the diffident or bored subjects that usually appeared to pose for the class.

The expensive perfume wafted quickly in Amanda’s direction again. “My God, he’s gorgeous.” Christine’s wide eyes never left the model as he disappeared behind a dressing screen.“That ought to catch your attention.”

Amanda blinked and felt herself flush. The new model certainlyhad caught her attention.

“Christine,” she said, as she felt her jaw tighten, “you remember very well the reason I came to New York was not to spend my days and nights pursuing the hottest pair of pants around.”

Or lack of pants, she added to herself as she fumbled with clamps attaching a large pad of drawing paper to the slanted wooden surface of the easel.

“You say that now, my twenty-something toddler.” Christine adjusted the neckline of her silk blouse. “But the day will come when you’ll have achieved your self-sufficient goal and will look around to find there’s no one to share the good times with.” Her voice grew steely. “Grab it when you can, babe, and then hang the hell on.”

Her grim observation was instantly overridden by a much more practical concern. “And speaking of hanging the hell on, I can hardly wait to see what this one has to offer. I swear, old Maurice was…”

“Christine! That’s more than enough.” Amanda’s pencils snapped smartly into the easel’s tray to join the bouncing conte crayons. “I come from a house full of men. Male flesh, per se, is not all that exciting to me.”

“Lord, would that I had been as fortunate.” Christine fanned her cheek with a limp hand, eyeing her fellow artist carefully.

Amanda smoothed the paper of her drawing pad carefully, feeling its comforting fine tooth under her moist palm.

The new model was attractive: a luxurious head of dark curls, richly tanned skin-probably Italian or some interesting mixture-and wonderful facial structure. He would be great to sketch with his high cheekbones and classically sculpted lips.

But more startling were his dark, intense eyes. On his way through he had quickly swept the room, as intent on observing the artists as they were him. He seemed to want to…draw them in.

Amanda took a deep breath and concentrated on the instructor’s opening remarks as Parkerson implored the class to observe, pay attention to detail, note the chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow over the model and to scrutinize line.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” He tapped lightly on the screen. “May I introduce…Antonio.”

The young man reappeared from behind the screen, a white terry robe loosely wrapped around his body. With a swift, sure movement, he removed the garment, tossed it aside and stepped naked onto the modeling platform. Standing in an easy stance, he again surveyed the room as he waited for the teacher’s instructions.

“We’ll begin with two-minute sketches,” Parkerson said. “And then move on to five and fifteen, and finish with a half-hour pose. If you please, Antonio.”

The finely-delineated, muscular torso lowered as the model stretched one leg back. Calf muscles elongated, thigh muscles bunched. Thrusting the opposite arm behind him he twisted his torso and raised a crooked arm chest-high for balance. His biceps strained with tension. The tumble of dark curls lifted as the intent brow and firm jaw focused toward a distant target. His back hand curled powerfully around an imaginary circular flat stone as the muscles in his forearm swelled with anticipation. His stance froze.

Amanda’s eyes widened. Her breath stopped in her throat. The re-creation of bronze and stone became flesh

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