Genre = Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy, Over 30 Romance
Covered in Paint
Length: 62,700 words / 250 pages
In his 42 years of living, Drake Barrymore had seen the best and worst life had to offer. He had loved and lost a wife. He had managed to raise his son alone. But now all he can think about is a woman who is way too young for him.
Dr. Brooke Daniels has an enticing body, a kiss-me mouth, and a sharp gaze that questions all the excuses he tries to make.
On his canvasses, Drake can often cover the truth with paint, but he knows all too well that strategy doesn’t work in real life. He has to take a chance on loving her. The best he can hope for when it’s all over is that he and Brooke can at least remain friends.
Drake always found early mornings were the best time to work out on the sun porch that served as his artist’s studio. Free of both blinds and curtains, light poured in through the windows, but still barely lit up the faint gray lines on his canvas this morning. Turning forty had not been kind to his vision. He’d even had to start using reading glasses to do his administrative tasks at work. It seemed like his eyes were prone to straining these days, no matter how good the light, especially when he was drawing.
He was still in the pencil stage of his latest painting, trying to get the shape of his subject’s shoulders right before he worried about skin color, tone, and texture. His task was made more difficult by the fact he was still having to use his imagination too much. He’d never physically seen the shoulders he was trying to draw, though it wasn’t for lack of wanting to see them. Life had intervened—over and over—preventing the opportunity. His son, who was now in the process of moving back home, was a magnet for crisis after crisis.
There had been a myriad of foiled attempts to date the beautiful, sharp-tongued, but ever so alluring Dr. Brooke Daniels. Well, maybe not exactly a myriad—maybe more like three or four—if you counted social occasions. But whatever the number, it was still too many times to keep failing. When he was feeling most sorry for himself, Drake wondered if he and Brooke were simply fated never to connect. Then his mind returned to fantasizing about seeing her naked. Bad timing could be fixed. Right?
Attraction like the kind he had for Brooke had only come to him twice in his life. He wasn’t going to give up on it just because it wasn’t happening the way he wanted. Maturity had to count for something when it came to women.
“You’ve turned me into a damn teenager again, Brooke. I’m more obsessed with you than my college-age son has ever been over a female,” Drake informed the feminine outline taking shape.
Abandoning her shoulders, he moved his attention to adding her hair, his steady fingers deftly cascading it down her back in long, sweeping strokes. Lifting his pencil to inspect his efforts, Drake decided he’d at least gotten one feature perfect. Of course, Brooke’s hair had looked just like his rendering nearly every time he’d ever seen her.
Getting the color right when he added paint was going to be the real challenge. Brooke’s hair was a hundred shades of red and brown living next to each other on her head. Various groups of silky strands caught different amounts of light with every animated turn of her stubborn chin.
When the timer on the microwave dinged in the next room, Drake forced himself to set the pencil down in the easel tray. Years of splitting the artist off from the professor had given him a precise discipline. It was eight o’clock. Time to dress and head to work. His commute was a brisk hike of forty-five minutes. He liked to be in his office by nine thirty. His arrival was timed for just after the class rush because it gave him time to settle into his office before staff and students started making demands.
“See you tonight, Gorgeous. I’ll work on your shoulders again if the light is decent.”
He laughed a little at himself for talking so much to his paintings. Maybe he should have taken Brandon’s advice and gotten a dog when his son had gone off to college in another state. He’d lived alone so long now without any adult companionship, he tended to share his random thoughts with whatever inanimate object was closest.
Of course, Brandon was moving back so he’d have company again soon, at least temporarily. The thought should have thrilled him, but he’d been trying for over five months to get all the crazy in his life aligned so he could date. He hadn’t asked Brooke out again because he wanted to damn well not leave the woman stranded at the end of another evening.
Shaking his head at his self-pitying thoughts, Drake decided he really needed to get more of a life.
* * *
Brooke lifted her fork from her salad, glad now she’d opted for lunch instead of agreeing to dinner. Dr. Greg Jensen was extremely good looking, but also extremely boring. She had spent the last forty-five minutes listening to his non-stop chatter about his work, his life, and—shudder—his ex-wife leaving him in the middle of the night.
Greg was within a few years of her age. His cheek revealed an attractive dimple when he smiled, except it only happened about things he said. What was she thinking? Her instincts had warned lunch was a bad idea, but had she listened to her instincts? No. Now she was stuck being polite and pretending interest, at least until her salad was finished.
The guy her mother had dated before Will should have been her clue to stay away from math teachers. He’d been equally good looking… and equally lame. The guy hadn’t even been able to look at one of her mother’s glass vaginas without cringing. Not that she felt all that comfortable around them either, but if she’d been trying to sleep with the person who created them, she’d at least have faked some interest.
Brooke sighed at her disappointment and pushed her long hair back behind her shoulders. Looks definitely were not everything… or even the most important thing. You’d think she would have learned that after all the great-looking law students she’d dated in college.
When Greg smiled at her, she smirked back. The nuance of her facial expression didn’t even faze him.
“This has been great, Brooke. We should do lunch more often. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun talking to a woman.”
Brooke sighed again when the man flashed her his perfect-toothed smile. They might have made pretty babies together if she’d had any faith the man would stop talking long enough to provide her with great, baby-making sex. Her quiet snort at her own thoughts signaled just how much derision she had about the man addressing her. She would never be happy with anyone who held the capacity Greg Jensen did to ignore her so well physically. The man’s gaze had never strayed from hers as he rambled on and on about his trials and achievements.
“Well, I better get back to my office and collect my books. I’ve got class in a few minutes,” Brooke said, rising from her chair.
“Really? I hate that you have to leave so soon. Now I’m sorry I talked so much and didn’t get to hear more about you. I never even asked if you were enjoying teaching psychology at UK. I know the social sciences chair—Dr. Angel—great guy.”
Brooke piled her mangled napkin and the rest of her dishes on the cafeteria tray before glaring at her lunch companion. “I teach philosophy, Greg.”
Without saying anything more, not even goodbye, she turned on her heel and walked away. She wasn’t really mad at the man’s mistake about her field of study—well okay, maybe she was a bit miffed since he’d been the one who’d pursued—but mostly she was just desperately disappointed. It had been months since she’d gone out with Drake and longer since she’d had any intimacy. The date with Drake had ended up being just another aborted evening with the man, but he could have at least tried to keep her hope of a sexual relationship between them alive by scheduling coffee now and again.
His kiss goodbye as he’d rushed away still tingled…damn it.
All she wanted was one night in his bed. Just one. Maybe it would cure her obsession, which obviously had her unfairly writing off all the handsome Greg Jensens in the world as bed partners. But she’d be damned if she went crawling to Drake and begging for it. Call it pride or stubbornness or whatever. The man knew she was interested in sleeping with him. She’d both told him and shown him. How long did he intend to make her wait?
Something had to give. Brooke just didn’t know what.
Shane had felt sorry for her and tried to fix her up with his friend, Joe. Yet even before she’d gone to have dinner at Shane’s to meet him, she had pretty much decided she wouldn’t be happy dating a fellow redhead. Even as charmed as she’d been by Joe’s genuine good-natured sense of humor, she couldn’t bring herself to flirt her way to a follow-up. They joked and laughed. That’s as far as it got. Plus, she’d caught the more-than-casually-interested expression on his face every time someone talked about the kids’ aunt who was apparently struggling to adjust to a new job of some sort. Maybe she was wrong about the vibe she got from Joe about being interested in the missing woman, but she didn’t think so. She was usually pretty good at reading people.
Will and her mother were settling into marriage. Time in their company made her wistful about having no marital prospects.
Being around Carrie and Michael wasn’t any help either. Michael’s long ponytail reminded her too much of Drake’s shorter one for her to not think of him whenever she was in their company for long. With a baby on the way, Michael and Carrie were getting nervous and had become too tight a unit to have room for comforting the lonely stepsister.
There was just no reprieve for her love-wise, not with nearly everyone in her new family oozing marital bliss. Being constantly exposed to that kind of lasting happiness was precisely why she hadn’t resorted to picking someone up in a bar and getting a quick fix. Plus her obsession was too large and had taken over too much of her brain. It would be beyond embarrassing to be calling Drake’s name with some other man.
But if something didn’t happen soon, she was going to be the crankiest philosophy teacher that ever walked the halls on campus.