Author: Summer Devon
Book: The Gentleman's Muse
Cover Artist: Tara of Fantasia Frog Designs
Editor: Linda Ingmanson
Length: 56,000 words
RELEASE DATE: October 12, 2017
Length: 56,000 words
RELEASE DATE: October 12, 2017
When a frantic man races after David on a London street, he’s certain the fellow is a lunatic. But in fact, Isak Jensen is an artist caught by David’s beauty. He coaxes David to model for him, for a generous fee, of course. David, down on his luck and with a sister to support, agrees—despite his undeniable and dangerous attraction to the eccentric, wealthy artist. The sort of attraction that has led him into trouble before.
Enjoying rising fame as a painter, Isak struggles to keep his emotional distance from his handsome model—unsuccessfully. Dodging downstairs gossip and swirling intrigue amongst the servants, he and David indulge in clandestine rendezvous. Until the problems that hound David land on Isak’s doorstep in the shape of a former lover, a conniving aristocrat who preyed upon both David and his sister.
With a looming scandal in a censorious society threatening to destroy Isak, David, and his sister, Isac makes a perilous offer that could save them all…or put paid to the love and passion just beginning to bloom between the gentleman and his model.
David had set out with purpose that morning. He’d thrilled at the sight of the gold dome of the cathedral and the magnificent Blackfriars Bridge. He’d gawked at the organ grinders, the throngs of gentlemen in suits, the elegant ladies in lace. Even the cats slinking along the iron fences seemed more exotic in the city than the cats back home.
Now he only wanted to trudge back to the inn and take off his uncomfortable shoes. His money would run out in a couple of days, and he felt only relief at the thought of returning home—until he imagined facing Bethie again.
He was making his way down a narrow street with brick-terraced houses when a man’s voice rang out. “Here, you! I need you.”
David stopped and looked around. A wild figure, with no hat or coat, raced across the pavement toward him in a what must have been a black-and-red smoking jacket, tails flapping.
David considered racing away from the crazed gentleman, but that would look absurd, especially since several passersby and a dray cart had stopped to watch the exciting action.
“Sir?” he asked nervously.
“You…” The man bent and put his hands on his knees. He held out a large bony hand palm up and panted. After a few deep breaths, he straightened and pushed his other hand through his dark hair, leaving a streak of blue across his forehead.
David considered escape again. He took a step backward.
“No, wait. I beg your pardon.” The man had a plummy, upper-crust accent.
David took another step back, even more wary. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“I would like to hire you. Immediately.”
The dray cart driver clicked to his horse and the pedestrians turned away—obviously disappointed there wasn’t to be something more interesting going on.
David’s mouth opened and closed. He almost asked the gentleman if he wanted a carpenter, but remembered his ambitions in time. “You require a clerk?”
“No, no, I need a model, and you’re bloody perfect.”
David winced at the bad language.
The man didn’t notice. He was looking David up and down, like a cabinetmaker examining a load of lumber. Better that than the predatory look David had imagined when he’d first noticed the man.
The blue stripe on his forehead moved as the man raised his impressive eyebrows. “I saw you hours ago and thought about going after you then, but I was entirely too lazy, and then here you came in the other direction.”
“Ah,” David said. The man could recall David from all the people walking down the street? That seemed doubtful in a city of men in dark suits and hats.
“Come back to my studio, and we’ll talk.”
A year ago, David would have smiled and happily gone wherever the fine gent took him. Now he folded his arms over his chest and said, “No. I don’t think so.”
The man’s icy blue-gray eyes widened. “Good Lord, I’m not out to rob you. I’d attack someone who seems more prosperous if I were.”
David was wearing his Sunday best and had his grandfather’s silver watch. He’d felt entirely grand as he’d set out that morning.
And now this gentleman called him shabby. David wanted to walk away and maybe throw a curse over his shoulder.
And then tomorrow, he’d go home to Bethie—and no, that wouldn’t do. He had to find work, even if it was from this sort of man who oozed wealth and arrogance.
“Modeling,” David said. “For a picture, you mean?”
“Yes, that exactly.” The artist straightened the waistcoat under his odd silk jacket, then apparently noticed he’d smeared it with blue. “Bother. There’s another one ruined. Are you coming? I pay well.”
That settled the matter. David couldn’t possibly say no. During his busiest time with his uncle, he made twenty shillings—a whole pound—a week, but after the incident with George, he didn’t get that sort of work.
He really shouldn’t have broken George’s fingers.
Without waiting for more, the gentleman turned and walked away. David hesitated only a moment before following. “What’s your name? Sir?” he said when he caught up with him.
“Isak Jensen. Yes, I know I don’t look Nordic.”
The hair was dark and the skin more toast than white milk, but there was something about Mr. Jensen’s face, a boniness that seemed Viking.
“I’m heartily sick of painting my own face,” Jensen said as he walked along. “Too raw. You have precisely the look I want. The jawline, the eyes are refined.”
“I hope I can be of service.” Only because I want the money, he finished silently.
“Hmm.” Jensen sounded uninterested, which was reassuring. David didn’t trust eagerness.
The man led him past the squat terraced houses, around the corner. He’d run a great distance, and thinking of the man running after him, wanting him that much, almost made David stop, refuse the job, and walk away.
They walked to another, far grander, row of houses, red brick behind the usual black wrought iron fence—the place where David had seen and greeted a cat that very morning.
The entrance, with a single shiny red door under a canopy, wasn’t as grand as the manors back home, but close enough to make the back of David’s neck prickle.
He had worked in houses like this one, and had met George in one only slightly grander.
He followed the Viking man inside and looked around with his trained eye. Some of the wainscoting had been dented. A few plaster walls could use some repair, though the curving mahogany banister under his hand was smooth and perfect. He trailed after Jensen up the stairs, and then up more stairs, and even more—into a room with skylights and windows. He walked to the broad window that wasn’t original to the building and put his hand on the glass. “We’re on top of the city here. Look at all those chimney pots.”
Jensen said, “You’re not a servant, then.”
David turned away from window. “No. Why did you think that?” It was refreshing to speak to this gentlemen with little or no deference. That was what came of being suspicious, discouraged, and hungry—the one advantage.
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