"Okay, tell me again why I'm doing this?" Téa asked.
"Because I asked you to?" Malik returned.
She sighed mock-heavily. "I am so weak."
"No, I am just so good at persuading you," Malik purred as he strode across the room towards the small dais she was standing next to. "Now, if you please, my little ballerina, get up on the stand so I can start, okay?" he entreated, wrapping his arms loosely around her in a calming embrace.
Fidgeting uncomfortably, Téa said, "I'm still not sure I like the idea of you using me as a model for your Life Drawing class."
"Most girls would be thrilled to have their boyfriend paint a portrait of them," Malik pointed out.
"But not if it was a nude portrait," Téa countered, fiddling with the tie to her robe.
"I'm not sure I understand what the problem is," Malik started. "I mean, I've seen you naked before. And believe me, you've got nothing to be worried about, gorgeous." He smiled at her, running a hand comfortingly down her back.
Téa blushed and ducked her head. "I don't have a problem with posing for you…I have a problem with anyone but you seeing these pictures of me," she admitted.
Realization struck. A soft smile graced his face as he assured her, "No one but me will see them, babe. We use live models in class for our assignments; I just want to use you to practice."
She perked up at that. "Really?"
She sighed and gave in. "All right. Help me up there; it's a bit high for me."
"Of course, my little butterfly," Malik agreed, placing his hands on her slim hips and waiting until she'd placed hers on his shoulders before he lifted her the two and half feet to the dais. Once her feet were placed securely, he removed his hands and walked back to his easel – backwards, so he could watch as her robe fell to the floor, uncovering her nude body.
"Beautiful," he breathed, delighting at the blush his words provoked in her. Her arms instinctively moved to cover her chest before she forced them down to her sides.
"Look who's talking," she said playfully.
He could hear the sincerity in her words, however, and it warmed his heart, banishing the cold doubts that were always lurking nearby. He'd never thought of himself as beautiful, or even particularly handsome. He knew other people thought he was, but every time he tried to think objectively about how he looked, all he could see were the scars on his back.
She'd never said so, respecting his wish to talk about it as little as possible…but he knew she thought they were beautiful, too. Despite their origins, she loved them; if only because they were a part of him, and she could never hate any part of him.
He'd tried so hard to show her how he felt about her…telling her was harder, but he'd done that, as well. However, he wanted to really do something for her that would show her how much he loved her.
He didn't really need the practice; what he needed was for her to pose for him so he could get some good body sketches for his secret project. He was finally going to draw his little dancing butterfly in all her ethereal glory.
And maybe it was deceitful, what he was doing, but he didn't think she'd mind. Even if it would take three or four sessions of her posing before he had enough sketches. Normally he could get all the needed sketches in one afternoon, but despite the fact that they'd been together for almost four years – or maybe because of the familiarity they had with each other's bodies – the sight of her naked was very…distracting.
He really hoped the smell of charcoal and pastels didn't turn her off, because he was pretty sure that before an hour was up he'd be making love to her on that dais.
And maybe she'd even let him study her in the aftermath: flushed and panting, satiated arousal rising from her skin like erotic steam. He wouldn't be able to draw that fast, but he did have a camera.
Looking into her warm blue eyes, he dropped his pencil onto the tray, only a few dark lines marring the perfect white expanse of the paper. Unable to hold back, he strode towards the dais, loving the way her breath quickened at his approach.
It was a good thing he didn't have a deadline for this painting, because it would definitely take more than just a couple of sessions before he had the needed sketches.
Who was he kidding? An hour? He hadn't even made it five minutes.