I was angry the day Jeffrey painted my facial expression. My petulance is clear in every brush stroke. We’d fought that morning, and I hadn’t forgiven him yet. I did eventually and the make-up sex was as explosive as ever—but he left the painting as it was, no matter how many times I begged him to paint over it.
He never would.
Standing in the auction house, looking at the program and seeing that hated expression of boredom mixed with anger on my own face, I miss him so desperately it’s all I can do not to run to the nearest men’s room and vomit up my breakfast.
It took a year for his estate to catalog and ready his works for sale. I’m in many of them. I own several of his paintings, ones he gifted to me because they were too intimate for him to bear for a stranger to own them. But this one still belongs to his estate.
A single-car accident, an exhausted man asleep at the wheel, this is all it took for the life we shared to become his estate.
This painting was his last, which makes it “important” and also valuable to the art world. I’ve liquidated my savings and sold my car—it was a gift from him, but I want the painting more.
It’s not that I don’t want anyone to see me naked. Anyone familiar with his work has seen me stripped bare in every sense of the word. They’ve seen his teeth marks in my shoulder. They’ve seen me blindfolded. They’ve seen me bound. They’ve seen me erect and they’ve seen me sated. They’ve seen me however he saw fit to photograph or paint me.
Being a muse to a man like Jeffrey was exhilarating and exhausting, but it was the best five years of my life. No matter how important this painting is to the art world, it’s more important to me.
I’ve never been to an auction before. It’s quieter than I expected, but every bit as tense. I watch as the auctioneer introduces each lot. I close my eyes and shudder as a collection of negatives is put to bid, remembering how intense Jeffrey was with a camera in his hand. His old Minolta with its stinky leather neck strap and its glittering lenses was always nearby. He scoffed at digital, called it mundane. Jeffrey was never mundane, but he loved to photograph things that were. Those negatives would show our life together, not just the parts he painted. My parts. There were breakfasts in bed and weekends on the lake and a fist in my ass all together in that lot of negatives.
A man to the far left of the room lifts his paddle, catching my eye. Everything about the man is dark and powerful. Dark hair, dark eyes, a dark suit. He glares intently at the auctioneer as the price goes up. He raises his paddle each time, steadfast, until no one else bids.
As if he senses my gaze, he looks across the room and meets it.
I see a flicker of recognition in his eyes. So he’s a fan of Jeffrey’s work. He inclines his head in a brief nod, and I look away, a flush heating my cheeks.
I’m not ashamed of the work Jeffrey did, except in a good way. The intimacy of his art was part of the thrill, and being put on display, especially sexually, was…stimulating. I’m blushing because this man, this stranger, will see things I’d never intended anyone else to see. He’ll see me cuddling a kitten someone abandoned on our street—a kitten we would have kept had Jeffrey not been allergic. He’ll see me shaving. He’ll see me reading pulp science fiction novels in the bathtub.
The lot for the painting is announced. The auctioneer describes it as an untitled, possibly unfinished work of Jeffrey’s longtime model, Oliver Conklin. Model—is that what I’d done? For me it was foreplay. And the painting was finished, had been for weeks, but only Jeffrey and I knew that. He’d teased me with potential titles, describing sex acts the twink in the painting might have been about to perform.
“He’s on his knees to suck my cock. He’s such a slut, that boy. Perhaps I should call it ‘Slut.’”
I’d sucked his cock until he came on my face without warning. My eyes were bloodshot for three days.
“He’s on his knees because that’s how he waits for his master. I think I’ll call it ‘Slave.’”
He’d tied my hands to my ankles that night and fingered me dry until I begged for his dick. He’d pressed my face to the floor and fucked me senseless.
The game lasted until the morning he died.
“He’s on his knees because that’s how his master feeds him, like a dog. I’ll call it ‘Puppy.’”
And then he’d collared me and fed me breakfast from his hands.
I raise my paddle.
The dark collector raises his. I wish I could say it’s a dramatic back and forth between the two of us, but there are four men bidding on Slut-Slave-Puppy.
The reserve is met, and there are still three of us bidding.
We approach my bid ceiling, and my lungs are tight. I can’t breathe, can’t think. I have to have this painting.
The dark collector raises his paddle.
I raise mine for what has to be the last time. My two-year-old BMW and all my savings were only worth so much.
The dark collector raises his paddle.
I find him in the hallway after the auction.
“You have to sell it to me.” The words are out of my mouth before I realize I’m speaking.
“Excuse me?” The dark collector looks me up and down, as if he has no idea who I am or why I would want the painting. “Why would I?”
“It’s mine.” I snarl.
“I bought it.” He shrugs. “I outbid you. That makes it mine.”
“I’ll come up with the difference.” I don’t know how, but I will. I have to. Maybe I can sell one of the other paintings. Ouch.
“Jeffrey Kuyper was a very important artist. This is an investment which will grow significantly. I don’t want to sell it.”
“Please.” I fist my hands in his shirt. “I have other pieces. I could trade you.”
“But this one is his last.” He untangles my hands from his clothing. “It’s not for sale.”
“Please.” Hot tears spill down my cheeks, surprising me because I haven’t cried like this since the funeral. “I’ll do anything. He would have…”
“Oh God, you’re not crying are you?” He looks uneasy. “Come on, come with me.” He leads me to the men’s room. After taking a towel from the attendant and tipping the man, he wets the towel and hands it to me. As I wipe my face, he stares.
I stare back.
A standoff then. He’s handsome, I notice. Absurd that I would notice that, but there it is. His skin is bronzed, and stubble darkens his chin. There’s a hard set to his mouth, a powerful jaw. If it weren’t aimed at me, I’d like his aggressive glare.
“How long did you model for him?”
“Did he know you were in love with him?”
“Yes.” He loved me too. I wasn’t his model, I was his boy. He was my everything.
The dark collector sighs heavily. His glare turns speculative. “You can buy the painting back from me on one condition.”
Hope reaches up its grimy hand to grasp whatever he offers. “Anything.”
“You spend the weekend in my home. You do anything I ask. You do everything I ask. For one weekend—you’ll be to me what you were to him.”
He could bind me, bite me, fuck me, but he’d never, ever own me the way Jeffrey had.
“I’ll do it,” I whisper.
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