“This looks like something a child would doodle with crayons,” he said.
“This is a popular piece by Joan Miró.”
“Never heard of her.”
“Him,” she corrected. “This is part of his Constellation series from the early 1940s, and one of my favorites, actually. It’s called The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers.”
Oliver forced his attention back to the painting and searched for whatever Lucy saw in it. He could find no bird, beautiful or otherwise, nor a pair of lovers. There was just a bunch of black circles and triangles scattered around a brown background with a couple random eyeballs. He turned his head sideways but it didn’t help. It didn’t make any sense to him. “Okay, Miss Art Connoisseur, show off your expertise and explain this piece to me.”
“Okay,” Lucy said with a confident nod. “This painting is well-known for its simplified color palette and line work designed to simulate a constellation in the night sky. What I’ve always appreciated about the piece is the sense of joy despite the chaos, which is a reflection of the artist’s life at the time, in war-torn Europe. He worked on the pieces during the Spanish Civil War and actually fled the German advance into France with little more than this collection of paintings. He said that working on this collection liberated him from focusing on the tragedy of war. They were a joyful escape and I see that in his works. You have the calm of night, the jubilant dance of the stars…”
Lucy continued to talk about the work, but Oliver was far more interested in watching her. It was as though she was finally comfortable in her own skin, but it had nothing to do with him. She was no longer the fish out of water amongst the rich, mingling crowds of the charity event. She was the contemporary art expert, finally solid in her footing. Her dark eyes twinkled and her face lit up with excitement for the beauty of what she was looking at.
It was transformative. The dress was pretty, the makeup and the hair were well done, but it was this moment that Lucy truly became stunningly beautiful in his eyes. His breath caught in his throat as she gestured toward the painting and the overhead lights cast a shadow across the interesting angles and curves of her face. Her full, red lips moved quickly as she spoke, teasing him to come closer and capture them with his mouth.
His gaze darted from her lips to her eyes, which had a twinkle of amusement in them. “Yes?”
“You’re not listening to a word I’m saying, are you? I’ve bored you to tears. You did ask me to tell you about it.”
“Yes, I did. And I was listening,” he lied. “I just got distracted by the beauty.”
Lucy smirked and turned back toward the painting. “It is lovely, isn’t it?”
“I was talking about you.”
Lucy’s head snapped to look in his direction as she gasped audibly. Her ruby lips parted softly as she looked at him without finding any words.
“You know, the last time I said you were beautiful, you kissed me. And hit me. But first, you kissed me.”
Lucy’s mouth closed into a smile. “Yes, well, I don’t intend to do either of those things here, no matter what you say.” She took a sip of her champagne and continued to stroll through the exhibit.
Oliver grinned and hurried to catch up with her. They’d just see about that.
* * *
“This section of the museum is dedicated to works of the sixties,” Lucy said as they rounded the corner. She didn’t want to keep talking about how beautiful he thought she looked tonight or about the kisses they’d shared at Emma’s baby shower. Nothing good could come of the way he was looking at her, especially on the mostly deserted upper floors of the museum where anything could happen without witnesses.
She hadn’t dated a lot, especially since she dropped out of Yale, so understanding men was not her strong suit. She got the feeling that even if it were, she would still be confused where Oliver was concerned. He didn’t seem outwardly to like her, and yet he was always around. He was insulting her integrity one moment and complimenting her so-called beauty the next.
His mood swings were giving her whiplash. There was one thing she was certain of, however—those kisses on the Dempseys’ patio had been passionate, tingle-inducing and toe-curling. Maybe the best kisses of her life. And yet his calm dismissal of the whole thing had left her uncertain of him and what he wanted from her.
Since Lucy couldn’t be sure where she stood with Oliver, she knew her best course of action would be to keep her distance physically. Truce or no truce, it would only lead to trouble. She might not be able to avoid him when he seemed determined to seek her out, but she didn’t need to encourage him. At least until the court case was decided either way, she needed to stay away from Oliver Drake.