Authors: Amanda Meadows
The Art Models Club – Book 1
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
The Art Models Club – Book 1
Copyright © 2014 Amanda Meadows
Yellow Rose Publishing
P.O. Box 1495
Helotes, TX 78023
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under reserved copyright, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by an means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the express written permission of the publisher.
Cover image by Mikhail Zahranichny, licensed at Fotolia.com
Cover design by Yellow Rose Publishing.
Amber Holloway felt faint as she raced across the wide, lush, green lawn of the main campus of Higgins College. Damn! Her first day of class and she had overslept. Reaching the end of the perfectly manicured grass, she swerved left, panting heavily as she jogged up the concrete walkway that led to the Fine Arts Building. Finally she stood by the thick glass doors, leaning over to catch her breath. A wave of dizziness overtook her. She sank to the ground as everything faded to black.
“Whoa! Are you okay?” The warm voice above her sounded as though it was traveling down a tunnel.
Amber felt two strong arms lifting her. She collapsed against a strong, lean chest that smelled faintly of turpentine and paint. Moments later she blinked up. Beautiful green eyes stared down at her. The boy kneeling next to her, propping her against the corridor wall, could have popped off the cover of
magazine, in spite of his paint spattered tee shirt and jeans. His glossy dark hair was fashionably unkempt and at least a day of stubble darkened his cheeks. His skin was an exotic honey tone.
“Can I get you something?”
“Sugar,” Amanda said. “Need sugar.” She closed her eyes against the next bout of nausea.
The next thing she felt was a rough hand gently tilting her head back.
“Here, take a sip of this.” The rough hand guided a can to her lips and she greedily took a big gulp of syrupy sweet soda. Almost immediately, she started to feel a bit better. She sighed and opened her eyes.
“Thanks,” she said shyly. “I overslept and didn't have time to eat today.” She didn't add that she didn't have much food in her apartment to eat anyway.
“Diabetes?” the boy asked, his forehead wrinkled with concern.
“Just low blood sugar,” she assured him. “I'll be okay in a few minutes. This soda definitely helped.”
To prove her point, she struggled to get to her feet.
“Give yourself a little time,” the boy said gently, stopping her. “Class can wait.”
Amber groaned. “I can't believe I'm late for my first class.”
“I bet the instructor will understand. Who do you have?”
Amber scrunched her face up, trying to clear her head. Between the dizziness and the boy's captivating eyes, she was having a hard time concentrating. “Collins,” she said at last.
“Perfect!” the boy announced with a huge grin. “I'm the TA for that class. Ben is cool.”
Amber stared at the boy's red full lips, slowly realizing how she had left the apartment. In the next instant, she was assessing herself with a growing sense of horror. She hadn't had time for a shower and was wearing the same jeans and tee shirt she had thrown on the floor the night before. Had she even brushed her hair?
“My name's Hunter, by the way,” the boy said. “Hunter Webb.”
Amber nodded numbly and sipped at the soda.
“Are you sure you're okay?”
Amber nodded again, this time more vigorously. She smiled.
“Um . . .Can you tell me your name?” Hunter was suddenly looking at her as though she had brain damage.
Amber felt herself blushing. She must look like a lunatic. “Oh, yeah, sorry, Amber Holloway.”
Shaking her head, she fought against the last wisps of dizziness and struggled to her feet. This time, Hunter helped her up and gathered up her bag of art supplies.
“I can walk by myself,” she muttered weakly. From down the hall she thought she saw a girl staring their way. But Hunter was pulling her along so quickly she didn't think anything of it.
Hunter refused to let her go, one arm steadying her as they walked through the halls. She tried to pull away once more as they entered the large classroom, but Hunter just gripped her arm more firmly and led her to a seat in the front row.
“Sorry we're late, Ben,” he remarked. “This is Amber Holloway. She felt a bit sick but I think she's going to be just fine.”
“Sorry to hear that Amber. Welcome to class. If you need to leave early just let Hunter know and he can escort you home or to the infirmary.” Professor Collins was slender, dressed in faded denim jeans and a black tee shirt. He blended in with the class, looking even hipper than some of his students. Wavy blond hair was swept to one side and he wore black framed glasses that made him look cool rather than nerdy.
“Thanks,” Amber whispered, certain that every eye in the class was on her. Staring past the instructor, she thought she saw a girl's face looking through the small window in the classroom door. She shook her head and blinked. When she looked again it was gone. Her low blood sugar must be starting to make her see things.
Professor Collins handed her a syllabus and turned back to the class. “Class, Hunter Webb will be my TA this semester. He is a junior this year and has already taken most of my courses. He can help you with technique and will be leading a few of the classes as well. You will find his e-mail and cell phone in your syllabus.”
Several of the female students whipped out cell phones to enter Hunter's information. Amber forced herself to stop staring at Hunter and focus on Professor Collins speaking.
“As you know, this class focuses on human anatomy. Starting tomorrow, we will be using live models. If anyone is interested in being a model for this class or an advanced class, please let Hunter know and he can give you the details.”
Amanda had never worked with nude models and she was a bit nervous. She wasn't the only one, though. There was a bit of giggling by several girls in the class.
But she didn't have time to think about it further because Hunter was suddenly passing around some sheets of white paper while Professor Collins continued speaking.
“In case some of you have not gotten your supplies yet, I'm having Hunter pass around some paper and charcoal pencils.” Professor Collins pointed at a table at the front of the room. “I've put together a small still life for you to draw. Since I don't know any of you yet, I would like to see what skills you are coming to class with. Show me any techniques that you know.”
“Still feel okay?”
Startled, Amber looked up to find Hunter's face inches from her own. She held up her finished soda can. “Thanks to the magic potion,” she said with a small smile.
“Great, but stay put after class. I'm going to walk you back to your dorm.”
“That's not necessary!” she protested but Hunter simply slapped down a piece of drawing paper and a charcoal pencil and moved on.
She was still working when she raised her head and realized that most of the students had already left. At the front of the room she saw a curvy brunette speaking to Hunter. Hmm. . .Was that the same girl in the hallway earlier? Amber watched as Hunter shook his head. The girl stomped her foot and stormed out of the classroom. Looking around, she saw that she was the only one to see the interaction. Professor Collins was deep in conversation with a student at the back of the room. Bending her head, Amber got back to her drawing.
“That's really good,” she heard and glanced up as though waking from a dream. Wow, those green eyes were definitely mesmerizing.
“Thanks,” she said, appraising her work. “Something doesn't feel right about the vase though.”
Hunter bent closer, kneeling next to her. He held a finger up and squinted at the still life.
“The proportion is slightly off.” He reached out and picked up her right hand. His skin was warm but rough, probably due to working with turpentine.
Amber felt a tingle as their hands touched. It was ridiculous that Hunter, someone she had just met, was having this affect on her.
“Use your finger as a measuring stick,” Hunter instructed, his face so close to hers that she felt his warm breath on her ear. A shiver went up her spine.
“See how your fingernail is about the size of that apple?”
Almost immediately, Amber did see. She glanced down at her drawing and realized that the vase she had drawn was shorter than it should have been.
“I know how to fix it,” she said, her voice sounding breathy.
Hunter released her hand but made no effort to move away. His face was still so close she could feel every breath on her cheek. She felt herself flushing and had to concentrate hard to pick up the charcoal and make the changes. With a few strokes the symmetry felt right.
“Excellent!” Hunter announced, standing abruptly. “I just need to talk to Ben for a minute and then I'll walk you back.”
The change in mood was so sudden that Amber wondered what had happened. She was sure that she had not imagined the electricity between them. She glanced around the room and then froze. The girl had returned. Twisting, Amber saw that Hunter was engrossed in conversation with Professor Collins.
The girl wandered carelessly around the room, circling closer to Amber. She picked up a paintbrush, clenching it in one hand. She looked like she would be happy to stab Amber with it.
I haven't done anything wrong, Amber thought fiercely. She forced herself to sit up straight and smile widely at the girl. She even gave the girl a small wave. She had long ago learned that the best way to deal with a snooty girl was to pretend like she was not affected at all.
The busty girl narrowed her eyes and marched up to her. “You don't look very sick to me,” she said, her voice quiet but icy.
Amber gripped her charcoal tightly. Swallowing hard, she fought to keep her voice level. “Oh, I'm feeling much better,” she said sweetly. “Thanks for asking.”
Kayla swerved her head to peer back at Hunter. “Listen up,” she said in a low voice. “Hunter is my boyfriend. Keep your grubby little hands off of him.”
Oh! Hunter was dating this girl! Amber felt her face glowing with embarrassment.
“Look,” she started to say when Hunter suddenly showed up, face glowering.
“What's going on, Kayla?” he demanded. “Why are you here?”
Kayla lost her impervious look. “I thought I dropped my bracelet in here. I was just coming back to look for it when I saw this girl looking a little faint.” She put a hand on Amber's shoulder, pinching it firmly as though to dare her to say something different.
“I . . .um . . . I . . .” Amber stammered, not sure if she should say anything at all.
Hunter's face instantly melted into concern. “That's it. I'm taking you back to your dorm right now.” He turned to face Kayla. “Thanks, but I've got it from here.”
“But I could walk her back!” Kayla exclaimed, suddenly realizing her error.
“No can do,” Hunter announced. “If she passes out there's no way you could carry her.”
“But . . .” Kayla's eyes flashed and Amber knew the girl was scheming to change the events.
But Hunter had already scooped Amber up in his arms and was heading for the door. “Let Ben know I'll see him later, okay?” He didn't wait for a response.
Amber was so shocked to be in Hunter's arms for the second time that day that it took her a moment to collect her thoughts. “Really, Hunter, I don't think this is necessary.”
Peeking over Hunter's shoulder she saw that Kayla was furious. Well, served her right for lying to Hunter. Amber wasn't a boyfriend stealer but this girl deserved to be taken down a notch or two. Plus, she really was starting to feel extremely faint again. In fact, she was so weak that she simply settled against Hunter's warm chest and tried to match her breathing to his as a way to meditate. She thought of the small bag of rice and the few packs of noodles in her cabinet. If the student loan money didn't come in the next couple of days she wasn't sure how she was going to eat.
Outside the building, Hunter paused only long enough to ask where she was living. She tried to tell him to put her down, that it was too far to carry her, but he simply kept walking. At her apartment, he demanded the key and she fished it from a string she carried around her neck. Inside, he lowered her onto the single mattress on the floor of the tiny apartment. She rolled onto her side, squeezing her eyes against the bout of dizziness and nausea that overcame her. She could hear him rummaging in the kitchen, opening cabinet after cabinet and slamming the refrigerator shut. She tried to prop her head up but was simply too tired. Whatever adrenaline had kept her going in art class had evaporated.
Amber heard him come into the room but he didn't say anything. Then he moved away into the kitchen and she heard him talking on his cell phone in a low voice. The refrigerator opened once again and slammed shut. Moments later she felt him sink onto the mattress next to her. He propped up her head and put it on his lap. She heard a click and then his finger was against her lips, rubbing gently.
“Open your mouth,” Hunter said softly. She licked her lips and tasted syrup. She sighed as the sugar took the edge off her dizziness. When she had licked her lips clean, his finger came back with more syrup, feeding her like a baby. She felt ashamed of her helplessness, but let him feed her like that until she could at last open her eyes.
When she dared to peek up at him, she was startled to find that he looked angry.
“Are you anorexic?” A vein throbbed in her neck.
“What? No! What makes you think that?” Amber stared up at him in confusion. The absurdity of it finally got to her and she started to giggle hysterically. Soon she was alternating between giggling and sobbing.
“Shit!” Hunter pulled her to him, twisting her face so that he could stare down at her. “You're hyperventilating. You need to calm down.”
Amber couldn't help it. Another fit of laughing overtook her, causing her stomach to ache. But before she could even catch her breath, she was sobbing once more.
But then Hunter leaned down and pressed his lips against hers, holding her firmly when she struggled to move away. She swatted at him and he deepened his kiss until she felt her body slowly calming. And then, as though to betray her, she felt her lips moving against his. She watched as his eyes widened with surprise, but he continued the kiss. Only when her tongue began to move against his lips did he pull away.
“Feel better?” Hunter grinned.
Amber could feel the heat flushing all the way to her scalp. She had never been kissed like that before. Worse, this was somebody's boyfriend. “How could you do that?” She meant to yell but her voice came out weak.
There was loud banging on the door before Hunter could respond. He scrambled to his feet and and grabbed a bag from another guy in the hallway. Even from where she was sitting, Amber could smell Chinese food. She heard the guys speaking in low voices and then Hunter returned.
“That was my roommate bringing over leftovers from last night,” Hunter called out as he rummaged in the kitchen cabinets. “He heated everything at our place since you don't seem to have a microwave.” He found the one bowl she owned, dumped half the container in and grabbed a spoon.
Amber wanted to refuse but her stomach chose that moment to growl so loudly that Hunter started to laugh. Her mouth watered. When Hunter handed her the bowl, she couldn't make herself slow down. When she had shoveled half the sweet and sour chicken into her stomach, she remembered that Hunter was there.
“When was the last time you ate?” he asked quietly.
“Yesterday,” she said, not looking at him. “I couldn't eat this morning because I overslept.”
Hunter started looking around the small apartment. “No pictures of family?”
Amber laughed harshly. “We don't exactly get along.” She waved her hand around the small apartment. “I haven't had time to set up things yet.” Or money. But she wasn't about to tell him that.
“Roommate?” Hunter asked.
“Never showed up,” Amber said. She sighed and closed her eyes. She had gotten stuck paying the deposit when the girl simply disappeared.
Hunter took her bowl and filled it with vegetable fried rice. She wanted to cry because it tasted so good. She didn't look up again until she had scraped the bowl clean. When she did, Hunter handed her two wrapped fortune cookies.
“This must look kind of messed up, huh?” she finally asked, observing him in her spartan apartment.
Hunter chuckled. “Why would I think that? Because you sleep on an inflatable camping mattress, you have exactly one bowl, one cup, one spoon, one knife, and one pot? Or because you have no radio, no television, and no furniture? Or because you look like you're half starved?”
Amber sighed. “My student loans should be here any day now.”
Hunter regarded her thoughtfully and then looked down as his phone beeped. “I've got to get going. I have class in half an hour. What about you?”
Shuffling in a pile of papers beside the mattress, Amber found her schedule. “I don't have another class until 1:00.”
Hunter stood and Amber realized that she was sad to see him leave. After today, Kayla would make sure that she never saw him again outside of art class.
“Thanks for today,” she said. “I had no idea that my blood sugar was so low this morning. I would probably still be comatose in front of the art building if you hadn't come by when you did.”
Hunter cupped her chin in his hand. “Well, I'm going to officially be keeping an eye on you from here on out,” he said. He grinned. “And that's a promise.” With one more quick look at his phone he gave her a small salute and left.
Grinning herself, Amber grabbed some clean clothes and headed for the shower. Kayla or no Kayla, the next time Hunter saw her she was going to at least look clean.