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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXIX: Present

The painting Jennifer Craugh had bought had been done in shades of gray and green with hints of maroon and purple if one knew where to look. A wolf pack in the mist that Brendon had entitled Come From Wisps on account of the glows he’d embedded in the depths of the forest to give the painting better contrast. A mysterious piece, of a world that might exist anywhere. Or nowhere.

Jennifer Craugh, on the other hand, had not a mysterious bone in her body. Bright blonde hair, skin the color of an alabaster statue, eyes blue as the summer sky and manner open, honest, and welcoming.

“Brendon?” Her surprise melted away into warmth. “How are you?”

They exchanged pleasantries, Brendon with some reservations, in Jennifer’s entryway, down her hall, and into her living space. Orion seemed right at home, his voice a constant companion as he responded to Jennifer’s inquires and turned them back around fluidly.

“You’re here to see the painting?”

“A professional curiosity. My client is considering sponsoring Brendon and tasked me to check the durability and satisfaction of some of his sales.”

Jennifer cast a glance over her shoulder, but there existed no suspicion in her gaze. “Your client couldn’t go wrong with a Kotes painting.” She winked at Brendon. “You can tell him satisfaction is a high in this customer.”

“I most certainly will tell her that,” Orion corrected fluidly, stepping around Jennifer and up to the painting, leaving nothing but the smell of his aftershave—sandalwood and iron, though the iron might have been fancy on Brendon’s part. “This is incredible. Such detail in the brush strokes, every hair on the beast’s body. How many colors did you use on these creatures?”

Brendon cleared his throat. “I don’t remember. As many as needed for effect, I’m sure.”

“You don’t take notes?” Orion did not turn around.

“I—no. Painting isn’t an exact science.”

“True. It’s not as if you’re sending a man to the moon.”

Brendon felt a flush creep under his skin, heating him from the inside out. “I’d have been lost in STEM.” The words seemed to drown in the silence, frail wisps that might not have reached either Jennifer or Orion’s ears.

The room Jennifer had chosen to display the painting was something of a library and something of a sitting area, maybe a parlor if one had been born to a different age or social status. Books lined the opposite wall, the two windows—tall and curtained with a green that faded into black—were at a distance from the painting, the sun unable to gaze directly at the canvas.

Orion spun on the carpet, a hand in his pocket, his suit jacket bunched over top. “Ms. Craugh, do you spend a lot of time in this room?”

Jennifer cocked her head, blonde hair kicking off her shoulder. “I read a great deal in here in the evenings, yes.”

“Have you ever fallen asleep and dreamt of running with these wolves?”

The way Orion asked made the question seem perfectly reasonable, perfectly sensible. Maybe it was the man. The assumption on Brendon’s part that nothing lacking of sense could possibly come from a man like Orion Livesey.

Jennifer smiled. The sort of smile that played coy with happiness. “Of course.” So reasonable. Natural.

Yet there was nothing reasonable about the dreams Orion referred to.

“I can imagine,” said Orion. “You could almost feel the dirt under your soles and wake thinking you’d been running in the woods.”

Jennifer just smiled that same smile again. “You’ll have to buy your own and find out.”


Next Chapter: XXX