Authors: Amy Jo Cousins
Tags: #m/m;New Adult;contemporary;friends with benefits;love triangle;art;painting;geology;camping;New England;college
In art and in love, it’s the rough edges that make things interesting.
Bend or Break
, Book 6
Having grown up with artistic implements always in hand, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except for one thing—an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.
The combination of emotional and sexual frustration fuels a spark between Austin and the nude model in his drawing class. Austin isn’t used to having trouble focusing; models are merely challenging subjects to be rendered on paper. But the geology TA’s direct blue gaze is powerful enough to drag Austin’s focus away from his…physique.
After a quick and very dirty post-class encounter, all the reasons that Austin has been waiting for his best friend go fuzzy in his mind. Sean is nothing like Vinnie. Sean is persistent, pays attention, and makes it clear he
to be together.
But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose his friend, or his lover. Or both.
Warning: Contains rock geeks, tent sex, a dictatorial cox whose idea of a good time is drawing naked dudes, plus one naked dude who wants to be more than a good time.
Love Me Like a Rock
Amy Jo Cousins
For Shae and Jules. Without your Vin Diesel and Austin Powers jokes, these guys might still be named XXX and #2. This is definitely better.
Austin hadn’t gotten a hard-on while drawing a naked man in…well, he couldn’t remember the last time it had happened.
But as Professor Knapp strolled around the edge of the room where she hosted the twice-weekly life drawing drop-in session, Austin tried to adjust himself discreetly because things were definitely getting tight in his jeans.
Which was just…weird.
Of course, he’d walked into the session half hard already, which was all Vinnie’s fault. They had a routine, damn it. Every time Vinnie finished up a major paper, something that inevitably tied him up in performance-anxiety knots and resulted in even more snappish behavior than usual, Austin got to be part of the post-paper unwind ritual. Vinnie started the process of easing the stick out of his ass with a few drinks, and finished it in Austin’s bed.
Not necessarily a role to be proud of, Austin grumped to himself, but it was the only way he had to get Vinnie naked. So when Vinnie had announced yesterday morning that he’d turned in his latest paper, Austin’s dick had started making plans. But then…nothing. No drinks for Vinnie, no sex for Austin.
Austin tried to clear his mind and settle himself for the deep seeing his brain needed in order to enjoy sketching. Drawing swiftly required a different frame of mind than anything else. A different kind of sight. Objects became surrounded by negative space that called to his eye even more than the objects themselves did. Light and shadow spoke more loudly than line.
Anger and frustration could drive a terrific sketching session, if he used the energy of those emotions to push past his natural perfectionist tendency to futz with details.
It turned out, however, that anger and sexual frustration, when combined with a distinctly appealing nude model pushed some of his other buttons instead.
The button that kept his dick turned on, to be precise.
Austin snorted at himself. Classy.
The girl next to him had long brown hair scraped back off her face in a tight ponytail, and shoulders that shook in what he was pretty sure was suppressed laughter at his squirming.
Lovely. That’s not embarrassing at all.
He kept his eyes on his easel and the large pad of newsprint he’d propped there when he’d claimed his spot fifteen minutes ago, sneaking in the door just before Knapp locked it to shut out latecomers.
Part of the ethics of hiring students or locals to model for life drawing sessions included preventing their exposure once the model was nude, and Knapp was a stickler for the hallway door not opening between the time the model dropped their robe and shrugged into it again at the end of the session. Having had a couple of experiences over the years with groups where the model was sexualized to a creepy degree, Austin was sensitive to the issue now.
Honestly, it mostly happened with groups of women drawing and male models, or groups that skewed male and had a female model. The idea of a gay drawing group, filled with queer artists and a same-sex model, might be fascinating in theory—Austin was pretty sure there would be the same potential for shitty behavior toward the model—but he’d never come across such a thing.
In any case, most art teachers were awesome and had strict rules put in place for the model’s comfort and privacy, and so the drawing sessions almost never felt sexual in any way to Austin. They were just practice. A way to keep his hand in with basic skills while he worked on pushing his art to new dimensions and tried to figure out what the hell he was going to do for his upcoming exhibit.
He’d spent most of life with a pencil in his hand. Or a crayon, a stick of charcoal, oil pastels or a paintbrush. Something to spread the light and shadows in his mind onto the nearest flat surface. Or not-so-flat surface. Austin had commandeered one of his many young cousins’ sidewalk chalks last summer and had spent three weeks Mary Poppins-ing it up on their beach house’s long driveway. Working with the surface irregularities had been its own fun challenge.
There was nothing in his mind’s eye that Austin couldn’t render on paper and make it real, or twist it to make it unreal, surreal, better than real.
But he never, ever gave a damn about the object he was drawing.
Animal, vegetable, mineral. Objects were objects. They captured light and pulled in shadows and the rendering of those three-dimensional objects onto a two-dimensional surface was like meditation to Austin. It centered him, grounded him, reminded him that no matter what else in his life refused to bend to his will, art always did.
Art always did what he told it, sooner or later.
And yes, maybe the surge of pleasure he got at the sight of a powerful or experimental piece of art tripped some of the same switches in him that sex did.
It just didn’t usually make his dick hard.
He was pretty sure he’d even drawn this model before. The guy had an interesting body, because he was pretty hairy, even if the gleam of his ginger scruff didn’t transfer to the gray and black strokes and smudges of Austin’s charcoal as he swept his hand over the paper in smooth arcs.
Sketching was all about capturing the bigger moment, not the little details. Austin knew his own tendencies to get sucked into perfectionism, and the five- or ten-minute poses that filled most of the life drawing sessions were perfect for unhooking his brain from his ego.
Every body was different to draw, and Austin liked the imperfect ones best. This guy was almost not interesting enough, because his body was pretty good, and Austin liked the models best who were stick skinny and all angled bones, or overweight, with the curves and folds of a generous body.
But this guy—a few inches taller than Austin, which made him average for a guy—had some thick muscle on his arms and legs, and a stocky build that he’d have to work hard to keep from going to fat when he was an old man. Barrel chest, a stomach that might have a six-pack buried under the flesh of someone who enjoyed his meals. Big feet.
Austin bit his lips to keep from smiling and kept his eyes on his sketch, where he’d managed a damn life-like rendering, including the big feet.
And the big cock.
Although big wasn’t the right word there, since the guy looked totally average soft, which he was in the reclined pose Knapp had asked for first. Average, but thick.
Aaaaaand that’s enough time spent thinking about this guy’s cock. Get a grip.
He flipped his first sketch over the top of the pad and looked up, ready to refocus for a second try in however many minutes or seconds they had left to work with this pose. Knapp always kept them working fast at first to loosen up, and let them settle into a more detailed drawing for the last half hour.
The model was staring straight at him.
And you’d think telling what color the guy’s eyes were from across the room would be impossible, but it wasn’t, because they were blue, blue, blue. Like the river at midday with the sun shining on it as Austin called out the beat and his eight-man rowing team sliced through the water in their racing shell.
Blue eyes, and lashes that were so thick they almost looked brown instead of auburn. The scruff on the guy’s face was reaching beard-like proportions. This wasn’t an
I forgot to shave yesterday
kind of accident. Someone was going full-on mountain man.
Because it was a habit so deeply ingrained in his bones, Austin’s hand started moving across the paper, the scritch of the charcoal soothing like nothing else.
But that guy.
That guy was staring at him with the hint of a smile on his face visible only in the crinkles at the corners of his eyes, one arm draped over the back of the ancient Victorian sofa Knapp had probably scored from some theater department prop sale. The guy had one foot on the floor, leg extended, and the other knee propped up against the back of the couch, sprawling comfortably as if it didn’t faze him for a moment to be buck naked in a room full of clothed students and local adults (the evening sessions were open to anyone who paid the nominal fee).
Just staring at him.
If Austin hadn’t been in the middle of the fall season with the crew team and therefore off booze almost entirely, he might have scrolled back through his recent memories to see if he’d had some drunken hookup with the guy and forgotten his face.
Although really, how could anyone forget a face like that? Between the grin that kept threatening to break out and the redheaded mountain-man look, Austin was positive he wouldn’t have forgotten that face.
Not to mention that—
Seriously. Stop staring at his cock.
Maybe what he needed to do was zero in on the thing, actually, since he couldn’t keep his mind, or his eyes, off it.
Stare at the man’s dick and draw it a dozen times over again.
Only the knowledge that that would look peculiar to Knapp on her perambulations—
yes, a page full of the model’s cock and balls would look strange, Austin, remember that
—kept him from doing just that.
While he was arguing with himself, muttering under his breath now, which was pulling some peculiar looks out of his long-haired neighbor, Austin fell into one of his art fugue states, where he zoned out while picturing exactly what he wanted to capture. His roommates knew better than to try to get his attention at times like that with anything less than a shoulder shake, and Vinnie had told him over the years that he thought it was weird how deep into his own head Austin could go.
Someone bumped into their easel and the screech of the metal foot scraping across the floor startled Austin.
Phew. No one had noticed his total space out, with his eyes locked, totally by accident, mind, on the model’s dick.
No one except the model that is, whose cheeks were flushed a hot pink that crept down his neck to the furred edge of his broad chest.
The model had definitely noticed.
Noticed, and liked it maybe. Austin didn’t think it was his imagination that the man’s already wide dick was currently thickening, chubbing up as Austin watched.
It happened. Models sometimes got turned on, whether it was a random woody or something about the dozen eyes on them that turned on an exhibitionist—which Austin supposed you sort of had to be to even consider nude modeling. He’d done it himself a few times, out of curiosity mostly, but Austin wasn’t built to sit still. Zoning out over the idea of a painting or drawing or piece of sculpture, his own or someone else’s, was one thing. As was huddling in one spot in the stern of a racing shell, coaching his rowers through the pace changes of a grueling race. But neither of those things involved doing nothing. His body might be still, but his mind was racing a hundred miles an hour, and the end result was a deeper understanding of the piece of art in front of him, or the perfect execution of a race strategy.
Modeling for life drawing sessions involved sitting still and his mind still racing a hundred miles an hour, but without him having any outlet for that zooming hamster in his brain.
Not Austin’s thing.
This model, though. He was perfect. Relaxed in his pose, so Austin didn’t worry that he was uncomfortable. The man didn’t hesitate to scratch an itch if necessary, but always returned to the exact same position afterward, nothing changing for the artists who raced through their sketches.
Nothing changing, that is, until now.
The redhead’s grin broke out into an actual curve of his lips as his dick lengthened where it lay on his thigh. He wasn’t getting fully hard, and maybe no one else had noticed, since their eyes probably weren’t laser-locked on the man’s cock like Austin’s were.
But Austin didn’t have a doubt in his mind that the guy was getting turned on, and somehow that was hotter than hell. Maybe because they never stopped staring at each other. Maybe because the very air in the dusty studio seemed charged with electricity, humming with tension.
“Sean, take a break, and then we’ll do another five-minute pose. Standing this time, if that’s okay.”
The professor’s voice breaking into Austin’s thoughts was enough to snap him out of another spurt of distraction. Austin set down his charcoal and shook out his own hands.
“Sure thing, Professor Knapp,” the model said.
Mountain man Sean and his deep rumbly voice. Austin had almost jumped at the sound of that baritone vibrating through the air. He wished the professor would say something else to the model, so he could hear that voice again. But conversation was limited to requests for pose changes and check-ins about the room temperature.
Austin’s imagination happily kept him supplied with a steady stream of things that would sound absolutely delicious when said out loud by that voice, the filthy details of which would have turned him hot pink with embarrassment if they were known.
Oh, please. You’d be bragging.
He kept his smile at the very idea to himself.
The rest of the session was a jumble of decent sketching and zoning out, but not over his art. Austin couldn’t stop replaying those two or three minutes right at the beginning of the night when Sean had been facing him, eyes locked, getting hard as Austin stared at him.
That was weird, right?
Yes, it was weird. It was weird because you are a pervert, which is not a problem, except when the dude’s getting paid to stand around naked for drawing purposes. He’s not a go-go boy.
The very idea made Austin snort, and Sean’s shoulders twitched, which made Austin wonder if Sean was listening even though he had his face turned toward the opposite side of the room.
At least Austin could concentrate now. The final seated pose was on the table Knapp had dragged in front of the couch for elevation purposes. Sean sat with his back to Austin’s side of the room, an arm draped on top of one upraised knee, most of his weight resting on the other arm with its palm flat against the cloth-draped table.
Yes, Austin could concentrate on the muscles of Sean’s back. The way his rich red hair arrowed down the back of his neck, like it had been a while since his last haircut. The indentation at the base of his spine. The curve of the muscles in his butt. The way his balls rested on the tabletop.