“And that’s the last touches. For real this time.”
He stepped away from the painting and caught Summer as she stumbled. “Hey, you’ve been a champ. You should do this for the art classes; they pay pretty well.”
She leaned in his arms, not minding the warm or the support, or even the silly-swooning-girl feeling of him catching her. “Petie, nobody but you could get me to hold still for that long. Nobody but you could get me to hold still for more than two minutes.”
He kissed her neck, just under her ear. “Normally, having you holding still while nearly-naked is the last thing on my mind.” His arms slid up her torso, but, on automatic pilot, she deflected them.
“Wash your hands first.” She blushed, as she channeled her mother, and tried to deflect that line of thought as well. “Do I get to see it now?”
“After I wash my hands.” He guided her up to her feet. “If you don’t want me to get paint marks all over you, maybe you want to put a shirt on?”
She tugged her strip of silk around her a little more tightly. “Maybe I want your fingers all over me?”
“Well…” He grinned crookedly. “You have been a good girl…”
And that ruined the mood. She slipped her shirt back on. “Can I see the painting now?”
He caught the change in tone even if he didn’t see her face. “Sum… shit.” He dried his hands on his pants. “You know…”
“That I am not your pet.”
“You know that’s not how I think of you.” He touched her shoulders, and frowned when she pulled away. “Sum…”
“I know what you say. And I know that, when you act like that, it belies everything you say.”
He sighed, clearly put-out and possibly a little guilty. “Do you still want to see the painting, at least?”
“Of course I do.” She mirrored his frown back at him. “Just because I don’t like it when you talk to me like that, doesn’t mean I don’t like you.”
“It feels like it when you beat up on me like that.” He stuck his hands in his pocket, stuck his lip out, and looked at her through his lashes.
She withstood the look for a heartbeat, another, another. She had a younger sister. She’d dealt with the sad-puppy look before.
But her sister wasn’t Petie. She gave in, laughing, a little chuckle at first, until he started laughing, too, and then she was guffawing, and then he was hugging her, and everything was resolved.
“I’m sorry.” If he muttered it into her hair, well, at least he said it.
“It’s all right.” If it were a lie, at least it wasn’t I’m sorry too.
“Yes, please.” She took his hand, as if everything was going to be fine. For a few moments, it could be.
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