She couldn’t help glancing again, looking away when he glared. “How old are you, Antony?”
He paused momentarily. “Does that matter?”
“I was just curious,” she said. “You’re much younger than the painters we used to have come here.”
“I’m not as well-seasoned as them, I would think,” he said. “And I imagine I’m quite a bit cheaper.”
“Oh.” She fought away a smile. “So I shouldn’t be surprised when my nose comprises the better part of my face, then?”
“I think I’m skilled enough to keep that from happening,” Antony answered, continuing under his breath, “Anyway, if I were going to make a feature too large it would much more likely be your eyes.”
Her eyes slid over to him again.
He met them for a second before looking away sharply. “Stay still.”
“You just started painting, then?” She looked down and away again.
“I’ve been painting my entire life,” he said, seeming relieved. “Just finished my apprenticeship a year or so ago.”
“So you’re what then?” Adela did the math in her head. “Twenty? Twenty-One?”
“Something like that.”
She smiled. “You don’t know which one?”
“Relax your face.”
She took a breath, forced off the smile. “Is it a secret?”
Exasperation leeched into his voice. “Is what?”
He released a breath. “I just don’t see how it’s relevant.”
“I asked,” she said. “That doesn’t make it relevant enough?”
“I don’t believe that’s the way it works, Miss Tilden.”
She shifted. “Can I please move. I’m going to freeze in this position if I have to keep it up much longer.”
Antony set down his brush, holding his hands up, motioning his surrender. “We can take a break.”
Adela rolled her shoulders, standing quickly to stretch her legs. She turned. “Can I see now?”
He looked up from straightening his paints.
“I’d like to see how you’re painting me,” she continued at his silence.
Antony hesitated. “I prefer people not to see what I’m painting until I’m done.”
She moved closer. “I’m paying for it. I’d think you’d want to know if I’m unsatisfied in any way.”
He opened his mouth, cleared his throat before starting. “Your grandmother’s paying for it, Miss Tilden. Maybe I should show her.” Adela pouted. “Please?”
He looked at her for another moment. Finally, sighing, he backed up for her to take a look.
Adela moved quickly, her soft slippers barely making a sound on the stone floor. And the painting slid into view. Unlike the other china-doll portraits in the manor—with every inch of the women in them softened, pale—the picture in front of her looked as though he had taken her reflection and pressed it onto the canvas. She studied herself, fascinated for a moment before collecting herself. She pulled herself straight. “You’re using a lot of red in my hair.”
His eyes lifted to her scalp. “Well, there is a lot of red in your hair, Miss Tilden.”
She twirled a strand absentmindedly around her finger, didn’t dispute it.
“Satisfied?” he finally asked.
“You are quite talented,” she said, looked from the painting to him. “I don’t think you have my lips quite right, though.”
Adela Tilden has always been more ambitious than her station in life might allow. A minor nobleman’s daughter on a failing barony, Adela’s prospects seem dire outside of marrying well-off. When Adela catches the eye of the crown prince, Edward, however, well-off doesn’t seem to be a problem. Thrown into a world of politics and intrigue, Adela might have found all the excitement she ever wanted—if she can manage to leave her past behind.
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Genre – Alternate Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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