Page 28 of Rags to Riches Baby

She just didn’t want to.

On the wall ahead of them was the famous collection of Yves Klein. She’d studied his work extensively in college as his artistic techniques were quite the scandalous production back then, and even now, although for somewhat different reasons. She was relieved to have art to talk about instead of focusing on the unmistakable connection between the two of them.

“I think you’ll like this collection by Yves Klein. It’s called Anthropométrie de L’époque Bleue.”

Oliver stopped to study the first piece with a confused expression furrowing his brow. “I didn’t understand the other one we discussed, but at least I could tell it was an actual painting that took skill of some kind. This is a giant white canvas with blue smears all over it.”

Lucy smiled. “That’s the final outcome, yes. But Klein was more of a performance artist in his day than just a painter. He created all these works with live audiences and an orchestra playing music in the background. He was quite famous for the events he put on. His most well-known piece, Fire-Color FC 1, sold at auction for over 36 million dollars in 2012.”

His jaw dropped as he turned to look at her in disbelief. “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to sit and watch a man paint for hours, much less pay that much for the sloppy outcome.”

If that was all he’d done, it wouldn’t have been interesting, that was true. She couldn’t help leaning in and sharing the critical tidbit about Klein’s methods into his ear. She pressed her palm on his shoulder and climbed to her toes to brush her lips against the outer shell. “He painted with nude women.”

The lines in Oliver’s brow deepened as he turned to her. “So he painted with nude women standing around? A little distracting and gimmicky, don’t you think?”

“No. He didn’t use paintbrushes. He didn’t even touch the canvas, actually. He used what he called ‘living brushes.’ He literally used the bodies of beautiful nude women smeared in paint. Or he traced their naked bodies onto the canvas and burned the image into the fabric with a torch.”

“Seriously?”

Lucy nodded. “I’ve watched video recordings of his exhibitions and they were quite the spectacle. Just imagine all these well-to-do art lovers coming to a museum, and when they get there, they’re greeted by a man in a tuxedo and maybe six young, attractive and very naked women. They sat there and watched as the women smeared the paint all over their skin, then pressed their bodies into the canvas, just as the artist guided them. He was more of a director, really, coaching the women into creating the shapes and images he wanted to portray. With the music and the lighting…it was such a sensual experience. To capture that kind of feeling in a work of art is amazing, really.”

He squinted at the canvas, but Lucy could tell he needed help envisioning it in the peculiar shapes left behind.

She stepped between him and the closest painting. “So picture me naked,” she said with a smile. “There’s buckets of blue paint and plastic tarps all over the floor. Even some canvases on the floor. I rub the paint all over my skin, covering everything as Yves directs, then position my body just so and press into the canvas.” Lucy stood in front of the painting and tried to situate her body to mimic the imprint. “Can you see it now?”

He didn’t answer. Finally, she dropped her arms and turned back to where he was standing. He was looking at her, but the expression in his eyes was not one of a casual appreciation for art. It looked as though he’d taken her far too literally when she’d told him to imagine her naked. A desire blazed in his blue-gray eyes as he watched her. So much for a distraction.

“I see it now,” Oliver said, but he still wasn’t looking at the painting. Instead, he took a step closer to her, closing the gap between them.

Lucy was suddenly very aware of her body. Despite the pleasant temperature of the museum, a blanket of goose bumps settled across her skin and made the hairs prickle at the back of her neck. She could feel the heat of Oliver as he hovered ever nearer, yet not touching her. The scent of his cologne made her long to press against him and bury her nose in his throat. All that talk about Klein’s work had been the last thing they’d needed.

His hand reached out and his fingertips brushed across hers, sending jolts of electricity through her whole body. A warm rush of desire settled in her belly, urging her not to pull away from him this time. They’d both danced around this moment and she found she was desperate to see what would come next if they let things just happen.

Oliver leaned in, his face close enough to kiss her if either of them turned just right. “Lucy…?” he whispered.

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