First Chapter Friday: Someone Else’s Fantasy
Hi, everyone! Some authors and I have joined up to give you something new. Today we’re posting the first chapters of our work in progress, and we’re offering a personalized copy of this first chapter as a giveaway prize. Yay!
My contribution is (part of) the first chapter of the book I’m working on, called Someone Else’s Fantasy. If you’ve read my other books The Harder We Fall and Playing Autumn, you’ll recognize Grayson and Steph. Yes, they get a story too!
==Start of excerpt==
Sera’s Live Like Fiction Challenge
October: Go out with a stereotypical romance novel hero WHO ISN’T YOUR TYPE
Well, of course I was going to ask him out. I was looking for my October challenge, and he was right there, stripping in front of me. It was like the universe sent him over for me, special delivery, because yesterday I wasn’t only on time for all my classes, but held it together long enough to eat right and spend an hour on yoga.
“Are you sure you’re okay with the room temp?” I asked again.
It was cold, recently. At least I thought so, being used to Texas Octobers, and still clinging to that despite spending my fourth October in northern California. Even for a Texan I was sensitive to cold. This particular Friday, the weather sites said high fifties, but I was in a sweater like a shivering tourist.
My guest for that morning’s class had begun to take his shirt and pants off. Not bothered at all.
“My name is Steph Bennett, by the way.” I ended up speaking to his back, because he had turned away from the window and me when he pulled up his plain white shirt. “I’m the student teacher assigned to the class on Fridays.”
He turned to me, the last of his shirt coming off his arms. A tattoo on his right shoulder, dropping down to his bicep. There was another, somewhere on the other side, on his upper back. It seemed familiar somehow. Why again?
“Hey,” he said. He smiled and I immediately, irrationally felt all warm. He had a really nice, big smile. It was sunny, for a guy who had dark ink on his body and muscles carved out of rock. “Grayson Price. Where’s Molly?”
Molly Imahara, the actual digital arts instructor. I was working under her advisement in the Addison Hill University fine arts program, and part of my workload/punishment was to shadow her as she taught some of her classes. Digital Arts Free Study on Fridays didn’t require instruction, but enrolled students spent two hours in the studio on a workshop style class, doing whatever Molly assigned that day.
Today was the human body, and Molly had invited her friend, and Addison Hill alumnus, Grayson Price to be the model.
“She couldn’t make it today,” I told him. “But we usually don’t need her on workshop Fridays.”
He smiled at me. Again. If the first smile had been a “hello, Teacher,” this one was a bit more playful. If that was possible.
“Molly told me the drill, don’t worry,” he said. “I don’t mind taking my clothes off. But what exactly won’t get me arrested?”
“Oh. That. Do you have athletic shorts, or something? You don’t need to be completely naked. It’s not that kind of class.”
“That’s a little disappointing.”
“What I mean is,” and god was I sounding like some kind of idiot, “we have a few artists in the class who are doing studies on book cover art. You know how you see book covers of male upper bodies sometimes? They need that, mostly. And maybe bare legs.”
“Molly invited me here to be Fabio?”
I blushed at that, like I was thrown right back into high school as I read those novels at night, in the privacy of my room. But also, had the world not moved on from Fabio? No offense to the man, but as visual representations of a female’s sexual fantasy went, he was not the only guy. There have been many guys. There are so many other guys.
“What I’m saying is, take your pants off, Fabio,” I said instead.
“Yes, ma’am.” He did. This time though he faced me, and the window, as he unbuckled his belt and undid the button on his jeans. And then it was just him, and me, a room that was a little too cold for me, and his red boxer briefs.
My medium of choice was still the pencil. On drawings I often used soft, dark lead, smudgy lines, but as a student I worked on harder lead and cleaner patterns. My dad once joked that I never left the first grade, and he was right, in more ways than one. Art had always been encouraged in my family. My older sister Victoria was a music nerd, and had flings with different instruments throughout. But she gave up a professional career in music to do something else, which was boss people around via her events business. My brother Josh skipped that crossroad entirely by deciding early on to be an architect. I moved to California to study art, without a clear plan really of turning this into something that could pay the rent.\
Notice that I said art was encouraged by my parents. They also encouraged self-sufficiency and not having to bail out their starving artist children. Then I messed up, and didn’t want to be a burden to my parents who were still handling a mortgage, car loans, and expenses from a medical procedure my dad went through years ago.
I went to Josh for help.
Josh, my \brother, is a good guy. We just didn’t agree on a lot of things. The work accident that put my dad in the hospital for a few days, and then left him with leg pain that hadn’t really gone away, affected the family in different ways. Josh immediately became paranoid about his own health and what would happen if he didn’t have the right insurance or savings, and poured his time into his work. Victoria admitted that she didn’t really want to play music anymore, and spent more time organizing events. Meanwhile, I took off in the other direction entirely and headed west, away, to draw all day. It seemed like.
Josh was against it. Tried to convince our parents not to pay for it. I may have yelled at him to leave me alone and get the fuck off my case, a few times. The happy ending at the time was that my dad, whose own accident made him realize that he should live life without regrets, told me that I could go to Addison Hill.
In the end, when I needed to be bailed out, Josh happened to be the only person in the immediate family who had some money to spare. I didn’t want to take out a loan that my parents might have to pay for. Josh relished being in this position and offered to cover the rest of my tuition and maintain my allowance. It came with strings though.
I thought I had a plan. The rabbit hole I fell into that was book blogging started when I befriended a publishing assistant who spoke at Addison Hill — fully intending to find out if I had any internship opportunities as an illustrator. She gave me a copy of the book she was promoting [Live Like Lisa, 5 stars] and I felt so strongly about it that I reviewed it, sent her the link, and then that led to more books, more reviews, and not so much illustrating.
The Friday class art studio was the largest one in the Ellerbie-Katz building, comfortably seating the eight students, myself, and the nearly naked Mr. Price. He spent the better part of the first hour standing in the center of the studio, his back perfectly straight, head bent in the direction of the stool we had placed in front of him, so he could use his phone and read from it. From my spot I could see the tattoo that ran down his upper arm, or maybe I deliberately sat there to see it, whatever.
In any case the pattern of it was what filled my pad. I did one pass simply copying the ink, attempting to recreate how it flowed along the bulges of his skin and body. The design looked snake-like when I first saw it, but as I studied its lines and twists, I realized that it was knotwork.
We worked in silence, usually. This class in particular didn’t want music playing as they worked. Instead we heard a chorus of things: brush tips against glass jars, murmured questions, Ricardo (who did mixed media) tearing paper with his hands, the faint snap of Tammy’s digital camera shutter, keyboards, chair legs against the floor as the students shifted slightly to vary their perspective.
Grayson was in the center of all of that. He cleared his throat, still looking down to read from his phone. He didn’t speak the entire time, didn’t ask for anything.
Crap. I was a horrible host.
There was always a pot of warm coffee in Molly’s office, two doors down. I slipped out for a sec to get him a mug, and handed it to him.
“I’ll get you a chair,” I told him. “Not that I’m implying you can’t handle the standing. But we’ll need an angle change anyway.”
The way he accepted the mug, cupping the bottom of it with his big hand that his fingers sort of closed over mine, god.
I didn’t like guys like him. I want to say something profound about it, like I had been hurt by a jock in the past, or I had a type, but it’s not that. I could look at his bod, the way he towered easily over six feet, and appreciate it on an objective, sort of distant level. Sure, his dirty blond hair looked like it had been cut by a lawn mower, but it suited him. Sure, his teeth were perfect, and to avoid getting blinded by them you’d have to look at his stubbly jaw instead. That was a plus for anyone else. My physical reaction was that, but it was because he was a specimen, almost engineered to push my buttons, the way a cute kitten makes anyone go awwww. It didn’t mean I liked him, or could even fall for him.
As someone who nearly threw away her college career by reading, I read my fair share of books with heroes like him. Not exactly my thing. But that was what made him perfect. October Challenge, there you are.
“Thank you,” he said. “I usually don’t do it this way, you know.”
“Um, posing for an art class?”
“First dates. There usually aren’t a dozen people watching.”
“Don’t move, Steph.” Rama, a senior, snickered from somewhere behind me. “I want to capture this part.”
“Which Pantone number is that blush on her face right now, you think?” went Janey, across from me, behind Grayson.
“At least two-one-nine,” said Ricardo, from somewhere on my left.
I rolled my eyes. “God, art school comedians are the worst,” I said this to Grayson, but he wasn’t exactly pulling his hand away. Neither was I. Until it felt a little weird, so I extricated my fingers gently.
“Hey,” Rama said, “I wasn’t done yet.”
“Take a picture,” I snarked.
“I did,” Frances, a sophomore, said. “Will send it to you, Rama.”
Grayson looked like he was enjoying this. But so was I.
==End of excerpt==
Read more first chapters and join their giveaways too!
Join each author’s mailing list to get the chance to be one of 5 winners of a personalized copy of the first chapters posted. Winners from my set who are based in the Philippines will get a print copy of the prize + ebook. International winners will get a digital version + 2 ebooks. Thank you!