By Eva Gale
There was a time in Dorthea Grady's life when she remembered being content. But when her husband died, she learned it was an illusion. Seamus O'Conner was, at best, a pornographer. But when a widow walks into his studio he rediscovers the art in his profession. When two lost souls are brought together by Desperate Measures, the last thing they expect to find is love.
Elements: historical (turn of century)
Every muscle in her body trembled.
"Turn around and face the wall," he said.
Dorothea Grady's hands shook while she turned.
"No, no, no. The shot will be all fuzzy." He slipped out from behind the small black box and strode over to the dry bar. A silver tray on the marble top held crystal decanters of variously tinted amber liquids, and he stood and studied them for a moment before choosing a short glass. She watched him pour three fingers' worth into a faceted glass and walked over to her.
"Here, this ought to help you calm down a bit." He handed her the glass. "Down the hatch." His smile was a bit tilted and sad, and her face heated.
She tightened her silk wrap, took the glass, and looked at it, then him. "I don't even know your name."
"That's no matter. Just drink up and we'll see if we can get you to not make a fuzzy picture."
She looked him in the eye. Would she dare drink naked in front of a strange man? She tossed back the glass like an easy woman then coughed until she couldn't catch her breath. He reached out, but his hand dropped back.
No use lying to herself. She was happy to take the money. But she still wondered if she was tearing off a part of her soul. Moral women didn't pose nude for strange men.
"Are you all right, then?"
"Yes, I think so." She twisted the wrap collar in her fist, holding it to her throat.
"Well, then let's get this over. Go stand up against the wall with your hands on it."
She walked over, the thick oriental carpet soft under her icy feet, and stood facing the wall.
"Drop the wrap." His voice pierced her to the bone. With a shrug the silk wrap slid off her shoulders and skimmed her hips, crumpling at her feet. Cool air slithered over her back, making her shiver and goosebump.
"Perfect. That is just perfect." The camera clicked twice. "Run your hands through your hair a bit."
She pulled her fingers through her waist length hair, her deceased husband's pride, and untangled the snarls. Her eyes burned and she closed them, counting to ten. It was a job. It was money. I hate you, Arthur.
A tear escaped, and she blinked the others back. She hung her head, glancing back at him over her shoulder. He was staring at her, a sympathetic look on his face.
"You don't have to do this. No one is making you."
The knot in her throat squeezed.
He jerked back. "He's making you do this?"
"Yes ... No." She shook her head. "He's dead. But I have nothing. So yes, I must do this." She took a deep breath.
He stood next to the tripod with his hand on the camera and rubbed his brow. "You can't do some wash? Embroidery?" His eyes lit up, "A housekeeper?!"
She laughed. "Of course a man would say that. Do you know," she paused turning to him, "dear sir, do you know what a woman in New Jersey is legally able to own?"
He shook his head.
"Nothing." She threw her hands up "Even my undergarments are my husband's property!"
"I know, I thought ... never mind what I thought."
"May we please get this over with? I don't know how long my courage will last."
She took a deep breath and shook her hair out, tickling her lower back.
"That's good. Hold still now." She threw her chin out at the last second. Click. Click.
"Now, take your hands and run them down your bum, that's it, now hold your rear," he said, muffled by the box. Click, click, click.
Her fingers spread, holding each plum. Today she had shown the physical sum of her. Parts that before never felt either warmth from light or the cool of a breeze. Parts, that even though they were her own, she'd paid no attention to. She smiled. Her dead husband never even saw them. Arthur just tunneled in on occasion when the whim took him. Always in the dark and it never was enough. She couldn't bring herself to ask for more, but she would lie next to him after he fell asleep clenching her thighs together until she found release. Even still, she wanted him to be inside her. Skin on skin.
Her skin tensed and suddenly she was aware of the fan's breeze.
His voice snapped her to the present. She turned, looking into the small glass lens, and a flush crawled up her neck to her hair. How did she look from that little black box? Her body was not in its prime. Although she never had children, her skin still drooped a bit and there were lines on her face. He glanced at her from the side of the camera. His sleeves were rolled up baring his wiry wrists while he adjusted the camera.
What was the point of fear anyway? You only feared because of the things you could lose, and since she'd nothing left to lose ... it was what it was. It came down to living, and in the pit's bottom things looked much different than when you were looking down from the safety of the edge.
Everyone made their decisions, and this was hers. Now that she was naked in front of less than an acquaintance, it dawned on her that lying to herself wouldn't make it less than it was. He wasn't one to judge.
His dark hair curled in at the nape and he looked a scant few years older than her thirty-seven. He adjusted a button on the camera and her skin tingled. His shoulders were broad and his waist tapered. He'd left off his collar and wore his shirt opened with suspenders, the sight of his collarbone and chest drawing her. Never before had she seen a man dressed so casually that she saw the skin of his throat. She wanted to draw her finger over the bone to where it dipped into his shirt. The breeze reached him, tousling his unlacquered hair, and she thought to brush it out of his eyes.
"Do you think me wanton for exposing myself like this?"