Well Met By Moonlight

The end of the pencil tapped against the pearl white teeth of the woman sitting at the bar at one end of the gallery. She always enjoyed gallery openings and showings, but this one was a bit — stuffy. Especially since it was being hosted by the local art academy. It may have just been the location. Begma didn't strike her as a hub of thriving nightlife at any time. But she could swear there were more uptight nobles at this student showing then any she had ever attended.

Dark green eyes roved over the crowd in her boredom. Young dandy's attempting to impress their ladies with their utter lack of artistic knowledge. Carmen nearly laughed out loud when she heard the one nearest her position referring to the Van Gogh-like mural as realistic. She was in mid snicker when her eyes were caught again.

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Oh, hello…

Tall, broad-shouldered, dark of hair and eyes; impeccably dressed in black and red with touches of gold to the embroidery. What she had learned was a collar of status in Begma (familiar to her as a collar of office) denoted him as the second born of a noble house. There was none of the pampered softness to this noble that his peers wore like a badge of honor. The disdainful look he was giving the sweet young thing chattering to what had to be his older brother to his left was thing of beauty.

She made no effort to hide the sketchbook that came out of her portfolio. She had to commit this to canvas very soon…

The bartender was at her end of the bar again. She felt him look over her shoulder at what she was working on. "Remington Burroughs," he offered lowly as he refilled her wineglass.

Carmen tore her eyes from watching the man across the room. He had slipped the social circle he had been in and was discussing a delicately detailed rearing pegasii sculpture in the center of the room now with someone she pegged as gentry. She had admired it earlier herself. Tail and mane seemed to be blowing in a breeze only it could feel; muscles corded, bunched, gathered to leap; wings unfurled and arching over the people below. Tall as he was, even Lord Burroughs didn't have to bend down to stand under the feathered stone wings. The back legs were still encased in the stone the beast was carved from. The effect was one of sudden freedom, of life bursting free from that which sought to contain it. It was a powerful image.

"What?"

"His name," the barman explained. "The one you're sketching." He grinned slyly. "And watching so closely."

"He may well be the most interesting thing in the room," she replied loftily. Then she smiled at the barman. "How do you know him?"

He shrugged. "He is a student at the academy. We cater most of their formal functions."

Carmen's eyebrow went up. "Is he really? How did that happen? He looks older then the average art student."

The blonde bartender leaned towards her on one elbow. "Why do you not ask him yourself?"

"What's this?" she laughed. "Strange barmen are trying to set me up with other strange men?"

"I am a happily married man," he replied with a cheeky grin. "Else I would be trying to show you exactly what else I am good at. Since that is not meant to be, I may as well help you find a passable substitute."

"Oh, I think I may like you," Carmen chuckled. "What's your name?"

"Daniel," he replied cheerfully. "Daniel Vinson."

"Nice to meet you, Daniel Vinson," the brunette smiled. "I am Carmen— and you may deliver that dashing Lord Burroughs a glass of the most ridiculously expensive liquor behind that bar and tell him the lady would like to speak to him. Outside. By the fountain." She reached into her portfolio and drew out a business card sized slip of stiff cardstock. On it was a detailed black ink study of her own hand, so well done that it appeared it might reach out to the viewer at any moment. Slashed across the bottom in rich purple was her name. "And give him this."


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She was there; arms draped over the back of the wrought iron bench she was sitting on while watching the water reflect moonlight as it danced from tier to tier of the marble fountain. When he came around to stand before her, she looked up and gave him a lazy smile. "Lord Burroughs…"

Glass in one hand, her card in the other, he had no interest in the garden made ethereal by moonlight, or even the brandy he carried once he saw her, heard her voice. He had an insane desire to do things to her right that minute that would make her moan his name in that breathy voice, sing it to the stars. Her eyes raked over him boldly and he actually felt himself blush for the first time since he was a boy. He cleared his throat and had to stop himself from shuffling his feet in a fit of uncharacteristic self consciousness. "Milady…"

"Please," she said, and her smile shifted to something more inviting. "Just Carmen."

"Carmen…," he repeated the name lowly, letting it roll off his tongue like a lyric. He fancied he saw her shiver slightly, and he smiled. She used one hand to indicate the space beside her on the bench. He should be inside, he knew. The invitation had been an escape from his mother's attempts at matchmaking when it was delivered. But he was starting to believe it was something better as he moved to smoothly take the seat beside her. He tucked her card into an inside pocket. When she shifted her position to face him, her perfume drifted to him on the breeze, and he very nearly growled from the want of her. Never had he been so drawn to a woman so fast. She smiled and he wanted nothing more then to kiss her. But instead he smiled again slowly and took a sip of the amber liquid in his glass, watching her over the rim.

"You are even more enticing up close," she said, and he nearly coughed in surprise at her bluntness. She just smiled wider and leaned in closer to him. "Why else did you think I invited a total stranger to join me in the moonlight?"

"Artistic interest?" he offered when he had regained his equilibrium. The upward curl of her eyebrow made him smirk. "You thought I was just another pretty face?"

She blinked and then laughed. "Oh, yes. I think I like you quite a lot." Carmen tilted her head towards the gallery. "Any of that in there yours?"

He ran a hand through his neatly combed hair, ruffling it messily and gave her a boyish smile. "The pegasii."

"Really?" she asked, surprised. "That is magnificent."

"You really liked it?" he asked eagerly. "You aren't just saying that?"

Carmen's head tilted to one side as she studied his reaction. He hadn't struck her as someone with any doubts about their own abilities or worth. "Really," she assured him honestly. "It's brilliantly done. It's a very powerful image. How long have you been working on that, Lord Burroughs?"

"Remington," he informed her as he shifted in his seat to face her. He didn't even notice that his arm was laying beside hers on the curled back of the bench; that their knees were touching now that they had both drawn them up on the seat between them. "It has been my personal project for three years—no, I honestly began envisioning it years ago. I only declared it this past year, when I was certain I could pull it off in time for the showing."

She studied him in silence long enough that he was almost starting to get uncomfortable under her gaze. "You wanted to make a statement," she said rather then asked. His response was a half nod/half shrug gesture that Carmen found unaccountably adorable in a grown man. She had to stop herself from reaching out and ruffling his hair. She could see that he was carrying something within himself that he desperately needed to talk about. Carmen had been a student of human psychology and body language too long not to. She only hesitated a heartbeat before she gave him an opening; "One doesn't often find the son of a noble at art school."

He looked down, and noticed how close they actually were. He was silent for a long moment, and Carmen just watched him, letting him decided if he wanted to speak on it further. Quietly at first, and then gaining as he felt her gentle acceptance of whatever he had to say, Remington explained exactly how he ended up in Begma's Royal Academy of Art. How he wanted more from his life then what was expected for a second son in a noble house. Sculpture was his passion. Had been for as long as he could remember. He had let his mother fight with his father for him to be able to be here; let her present arguments Remington had no intention of making valid. He felt bad about it - his mother was a good woman, and Remington was more then old enough to fight his own battles. But it was better that he and his father not come to blows over this, and they surely would have, which would only have upset the poor woman further.

So caught up in his tale, he didn't even notice when he started playing his fingers through her hair where it cascading over her shoulders; nor did he notice when she shifted so she could move closer to him still when he admitted that he had wanted to make a statement with the pegasii — one that even his father couldn't ignore. Remington had grown up learning a set of beliefs and responsibilities that he just couldn't support and be happy. He saw no reason why he had to be intentionally miserable because it fit the status quo.

Carmen had started to smile as his speech grew more impassioned. When he declared that he would bloody well make his own choices, she did the only thing she could do; she leaned in and kissed him. His brandy glass fell to the pathstones, and in the blink of an eye she found herself wrapped in strong arms, bent back across his lap, and being kissed quite thoroughly. Her small sound of surprise was underscored by a rumbling moan from him when she finally gave in to temptation and twined her fingers through his hair….

Both of them were looking thoroughly snogged and breathless when they finally came up for air. She was pleased to see he didn't look the least repentant, and she gave him a languid smile. "Remington…," she breathed, and was rewarded with a soft moan as he briefly closed his eyes to savor the sound. "How much longer do you need to stay?"

He was almost afraid to open his eyes; afraid that he was misunderstanding what she was asking. She must have sensed it because he felt her fingers grazing his cheek. He opened his eyes to find in hers that he had not been mistaken. She smiled mischievously. "Or do you want me to have my way with you right here?"

He growled. "Tempt me not, woman."

He looked back towards the gallery and then back at the bold, beautiful and willing woman in his arms. To the sound of her laughter, he gathered her to him and stood up purposefully. "My place is closer."

Carmen didn't argue, or bother pointing out that her hotel was across the street. She found she rather liked being carried.


It was two weeks of not answering the door or leaving his small apartment (thankfully he was between school sessions) before Remington found out who 'just Carmen' really was. By then she could have been a minion of Chaos plotting the destruction of the universe and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to the messy haired sculpture.


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