Disclaimer: Blood Ties and associated characters belong to Lifetime and Tanya Huff, no infringement intended and no profit being made from this.
While Henry was putting his coat on, Vicki sat down on the sofa. She reached for the papers he'd tossed onto the coffee table when she knocked at the door. "What are these?"
Henry flicked his hair from beneath the collar of his dark jacket. "Just sketches," he said, trying to keep his tone neutral, but moving quickly to her side as she picked them up.
"Nice," Vicki said in a tone that said she wasn't sure she should approve. A woman with a striking resemblance to the private detective was stood with her head tipped back, fair hair streaming over her shoulders, her neck and cleavage exposed. Her eyes were shut in anticipation of ecstasy. A thin strap of material at each shoulder and the glimpse of a corset were the only signs she was dressed at all.
She was being supported by a man whose face was in shadow. His hands, one at her waist, one cupping her neck, seemed somehow both powerful and yet gentle. His hair was shoulder length, wavy, and the subtle shading showed he was brunette. His long shirt, the only item of his clothing visible in the sketch, looked expensive; the way the material reflected the light, and how it sat upon his body, suggested the softness of silk.
Henry smiled widely. "Thank you." He reached for the papers and she relinquished them without much of a struggle. "So, let's go and find your pookah."
"Yeah," Vicki said, getting to her feet. "Pookah. What kind of name is that for a supernatural entity, anyway?" She went to the door and hit the light switch, as if concerned for his electricity bill.
Henry paused in the semi-darkness, quickly rifling through his sketches. Luckily he'd left the one he'd mentally titled as "Rapture" on top; underneath were another three.
The second, more romantic than erotic, showed the maiden with another man. Taller than the first man, his hair was shorter and lighter. There was stubble on his chin and his coat was weathered. He too, had the maiden in his arms, with his palms gently pressed against her back. She could easily pull away from him, and his head was bowed as if in defeat; perhaps he was begging her to stay, yet not sure if he could or even wanted to hold onto her any longer. The maid had reached up and one hand rested delicately on his cheek, though whether it was reassurance or regret that she offered him was in the eyes of the beholder. "Devotion" was the provisional title he'd assigned this one, for despite the ambiguity as to what the final outcome would be for the couple, there was love here on one, if not both, sides.
If that might have sparked a few choice remarks from Vicki, the third was a sketch Henry was particularly glad she hadn't seen. The princely man – Henry, for let's be honest, it was a self-portrait – was seated on a bench in a park. The moonlight threw his features into sharp relief. Alongside him, lying in his lap was the second man, still wearing the weathered jacket. It made for a nice contrast with Henry's clothes. The coat had slipped open and the police badge could be seen at his hip. The detective's expression showed anticipation too, but not the rapture of the Vicki-maiden in the first sketch. No, this anticipation was tinged with fear, his jaw clenched, his shoulders rigid. Yet he wasn't trying to get away from the embrace. Quite the opposite.
Henry had one hand on the detective's waist and Celluci had put his own hand over Henry's in what looked like an affirmation of this touch. Henry's other hand was entangled in Celluci's hair and the vampire was looking down on the other man with a wolfish smile. Yet when he leant over a little more, it wouldn't be to sink his teeth into the detective's neck. Which is why Henry had called this one "Trust." Hard won and reluctantly given, but trust, nonetheless.
"Are you coming"? Vicki asked impatiently from the doorway, interrupting his reverie.
"Yes." Henry nevertheless glanced at the last sketch.
It showed his bedroom, lit by a multitude of candles. While daylight was lost to him, Henry loved other forms of light and their effects on their surroundings. He particularly loved to use lighting in his drawings, not just for the realism a well-rendered backlight could give, but the overall effect they had on a picture, often changing its very mood. In this sketch the candlelight was flattering to the people depicted. He was kneeling upon his bed with the sheets rumpled around him. He was naked, and his muscular torso was unashamedly rendered in every glorious detail. Vicki was leaning against him, also naked, facing away from him with her head pressed back against his shoulder. Mike knelt in front of Vicki, his own broad shoulders bare, his hands on Vicki's body, his eyes on Henry. Henry called this one, with just a trace of blasphemy, "Trinity".
Henry quickly shuffled that sketch back to the bottom of the pile. While he seemingly dropped the papers casually onto the table, he made a mental note to make sure he put them away as soon as he came home. After all, he reflected, as he left his apartment, enjoying Vicki's scent as he leant past her to lock his door, Vicki wouldn't understand. Worse, she might joke about them to Celluci, who would want to kill him – more so than usual. Which was foolish; they were just sketches, pictures from his imagination; he simply used his friends as models because it was easier to draw faces he'd seen in real life. It meant nothing.
Though he couldn't help but study Vicki's hair as they made their way outside, noting every hue as she walked beneath the streetlights. It was important to get the details right if he was to paint the full colour oil-on-canvas version of "Trinity".