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Because You Are Mine (Because You Are Mine #1)

By:Beth Kery

thing crucial I'd like to show you," he said.

Her hand paused in the action of lifting the flute to her lips. What was going on here?

"It directly relates to your commission," he said, suddenly crisp. Authoritative. "I'd like to show you the view I want for the painting."

Anger sliced through her shock. Her chin went up. "I'm expected to paint whatever you want me to?"

"Yes," he said without pause.

She set down the flute with a loud clicking sound, jarring the contents. He'd sounded completely unyielding. He was every bit as arrogant as she'd imagined. Just as she'd expected, winning this prize was going to end up being a nightmare. His nostrils flared as he stared at her unblinkingly, and she glared back.

"I suggest you see the view in question before you take undue offense, Ms. Arno."

"Francesca."

Something flashed in his blue eyes like heat lightning. For a split second, she regretted the edge to her tone. But then he nodded once.

"Francesca it is," he said softly. "If you make it Ian."

She willed herself to ignore the flutter in her belly. Don't be beguiled, she warned herself. He was the exact type of domineering patron that would try to dictate, and crush her creative instincts in the process. It was worse than she'd feared.

Without another word, she slid out of the booth and walked toward the entrance of the restaurant, sensing, with every cell of her being, him moving behind her.

* * *

He hardly spoke at all when they left Fusion. He led her to a sidewalk that ran along the Chicago River and Lower Wacker Drive.

"Where are we going?" she broke the silence after a minute or two.




"To my residence."

Her high-heeled sandals faltered clumsily on the sidewalk, coming to a halt. "We're going to your place?"

He paused and looked back, his black coat fluttering around his long, strong-looking thighs from the brisk Lake Michigan wind. "Yes, we're going to my place," he said with a subtle, mock-sinister tone.

She frowned. He was clearly silently laughing at her. I'm so glad I can be here to entertain you, Mr. Noble. He inhaled and stared in the direction of Lake Michigan, obviously exasperated with her and trying to gather his thoughts.

"I can see that makes you uncomfortable, but you have my word: This is completely professional. It's about the painting. The view I want you to paint is from the condominium where I live. Surely you can't believe I'm going to harm you in any way. A room full of people just saw us walk out of that restaurant together."

He didn't need to remind her. It felt as if every eye in Fusion had been trained on them as they left.

She gave him a wary sideways glance as they began to walk again. His dark hair ruffling in the wind seemed familiar to her somehow. She blinked and the sense of déjà vu vanished.

"Are you telling me that I'm supposed to work from your apartment?"

"It's very large," he said dryly. "You won't have to see me at all, if you prefer."

Francesca stared at her painted toenails, hiding her expression from him. She didn't want him to suspect that unwelcome images had popped into her mind's eye at his statement; visions of Ian walking from the shower, his naked body still gleaming with moisture, a thin towel draped on his lean hips the only thing separating herself from a vision of total male glory.

"It's a little unorthodox," she said.

"I'm a lot unorthodox," he said briskly. "You'll understand when you see the view."

He lived at 340 East Archer, a classic 1920s Italian Renaissance building that she'd admired since studying it in one of her classes. It suited him, somehow, the elegant, brooding, dark brick tower. She wasn't entirely surprised when he told her his residence encompassed the entire top two floors.

The door of his private elevator slid open without a sound, and he extended his hand in an invitation to walk before him.

She entered a magical place.

The luxury of the fabrics and furniture were obvious, but despite the richness, the entryway managed to convey a welcome-an austere welcome, perhaps, but a welcome nonetheless. She caught a quick glimpse of herself in an antique mirror. Her long reddish blond hair was hopelessly windblown, and her cheeks were stained pink. She'd like to think the color was from the wind but worried the effect came from being with Ian Noble.

Then she noticed the artwork, and she forgot everything else. She wandered down a wide hallway that was also a gallery, her mouth hanging open as she stared at painting after painting, some of them new to her, some of them masterworks that sent a jolt of exhilaration through her to see firsthand.

She paused next to a miniature sculpture set on a column, a very fine replica of a renowned piece of ancient Greek art. "I've always loved Aphrodite of Argos," she murmured, her gaze detailing the exquisite facial features and the graceful twist of the naked torso miraculously carved into hard alabaster.

"Have you?" he asked, sounding intent.

She nodded, overwhelmed by wonder, and continued walking.

"I just acquired that one several months ago. It wasn't easy to get," he said, starting her out of her ecstatic amazement.

"I adore Sorenburg," she said, referring to the artist who had created the painting before which they stood. She turned to look at him, suddenly realizing that several minutes had passed and that she'd wandered like a sleepwalker deeper into the hushed depths of his condominium without invitation, and that he'd allowed her intrusion without comment. She now stood in a parlor of sorts decorated with decadently rich fabrics of yellow, pale blue, and dark brown.

"I know. You mentioned it in your personal statement in the application for the contest."

"I can't believe you like expressionism."

"Why can't you believe it?" he asked, his low voice making her ears prickle and goose bumps rise along her

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