Disclaimer: This chapter contains adult situations and non-graphic nudity.
Kayne didn’t know offhand where to get art supplies, but it wasn’t difficult to find out. In short order, he found himself at a shop that made signs for other businesses. You wouldn’t think there were really any stores or businesses anymore, but Oasis Springs’s old downtown area had managed to put together some semblance of a business district.
He could’ve simply threatened someone there and taken what he wanted, but, oddly, it didn’t feel right to do so. He did have to get a little growly with the guy to get him to fork over the canvases, but he paid real money for them.
And, on his way out, he noticed a help wanted sign in the window. Perfect.
Expertly dodging the zone checkpoints, he made his way back to Emmalina’s home. Evening was giving way to night by the time he walked inside.
Emmalina beamed as he sat down the collection of pristine white canvases. “Kayne, thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
She was right. He really, really didn’t.
He shrugged off her thanks. “There’s a job open for a sign painter in town. If you work there, you can get all the art supplies you need.”
“Really? Oh, that’s wonderful.”
Suddenly, her thin arms were wrapped around him, their bodies flush together. He stood stock still for a moment before awkwardly returning her hug.
“Uh, you’re welcome,” he said as they parted. “I should really go now.” Even as he said it, he realized he really didn’t want to. Bringing that beaming smile to Emmalina’s face had made his chest get tight.
As if sensing his hesitation or similarly not wanting him to leave yet, she said, “But it’s so late! Wouldn’t it be better for you to just stay tonight and go home in the morning?”
He agreed a little too readily, and, soon, they were sitting down to another meal of fruit.
“Where is your mother? Why isn’t she in here watching me like a hawk or something?” Any mother with a daughter as beautiful as Emmalina should be doing that with any man around but especially a man like Kayne.
“She’s resting. She’s been very sick the last few months,” she said, subdued. “It’s getting harder for her to get to work.”
So she’s got a dead father, a sick mother, and zero useful skills. She’d be lucky to last a year on her own. His mother was right; their world wasn’t meant for gentle people. If Myrcella didn’t have mom, she’d probably be just like this girl here, he thought to himself, thinking of his rather gentle and shy sister.
He wasn’t sure how to respond, so he just remained silent and focused on his meal. Then he caught her eyes on him. “Just ask.”
She jumped and flushed guiltily. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
He ignored her apology; he didn’t care if people stared at his scars. “I fell through a window,” he said, answering her unasked question. Really, he’d been thrown through a window, but telling her that would just open the door to a lot of questions he wasn’t going to answer.
“I didn’t mean to stare, really,” she said, seemingly sincere in her regret.
He shrugged. “Really, I don’t care.” On a whim, he gave her a small, crooked smile. “I know I’m attractive, even with the scars. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t be able to look away.”
Her blush deepened. “K-Kayne!” She stuttered in shock.
Her reaction pulled a laugh out of him. That was no doubt the first time she’d been flirted with in her life. It would be the decent thing to do. He was attracted to her – what man with eyes wouldn’t be? – and he had more than a suspicion that she liked what she saw when she looked at him. Which means I really should get up and leave right now. She was all innocent and virginal. Not someone he should even entertain a thought about.
Emmalina huffed at his laughter. “That was very mean.”
He chuckled quietly. “I don’t see how. It’s the God’s honest truth.” The longer he was with her, the more relaxed he felt. Though his mother would probably tear him a new asshole for relaxing his guard, he couldn’t see the point. Emmalina was obviously harmless. Harmless and very, very beautiful.
She shook her head and got up to wash their dishes. When she was finished, she turned back to him. “I was thinking. Since you’re staying here tonight, perhaps I could paint you? The only people I’ve ever had to paint are my parents.”
Kayne thought about it for a moment. A thought niggled at him, one that he shouldn’t listen to, but it was too tempting to be denied. “Alright,” he finally agreed.
She beamed. “Great!” She hurried over to her easel excitedly and set up her canvas. “Why don’t you – “She cut off gaping at him in shock.
He smiled at her, his shirt now discarded on the floor. “What? I thought you might want to paint something more interesting than a black t-shirt.”
The young woman’s mouth opened and closed several times; her earlier blush returned with a vengeance, creeping up her neck and suffusing her face. Finally, she turned her attention to readying her paints. “Okay,” she muttered, seemingly to herself, though Kayne could hear her easily. “You can do this. It’s just the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen, and he’s got his shirt off. No big deal.”
Too easy, he thought.
Kayne watched her while she painted, her arm moving in sweeps along the canvas. He watched the intent expression on her face, seeing the minute movements in her mouth and eyes. Sometimes she would smile, as if she were particularly pleased with a stroke of her brush, or frown, as if she’d made a mistake. His idea had been to test her attraction to him, but now he felt himself falling under some kind of spell.
They didn’t talk the whole time she was at her easel. Emmalina seemed to lose herself in it, while Kayne, in turn, lost himself in her.
When she put her brush down, he didn’t spare a glance at the painting. He strode over to her and pulled her into a hungry kiss. She gave herself up to it eagerly.
Kayne rose early in the morning. He could tell it was just past dawn even in the basement; there was a calm stillness that came over the world in the early morning hours.
He looked down at Emmalina’s sleeping face. He didn’t want to leave her, he realized. He barely knew the woman, and yet she’d surprised him repeatedly. Made him feel things that no one else ever had. He was tempted to throw her over his shoulder and take her with him.
Then he thought of the sick woman in the room next to Emmalina’s.
He couldn’t stay, and she couldn’t go. It’s better this way. I’d be toxic to her in the long run. The spell he’d fallen under while he was with her would never last.
Though she’d asked him to wake her before he left, Kayne got dressed as quietly as he could, then slipped out the door, closing it silently after him.