Compass Hearts by Maia Strong
He barely recognized his own voice as he went on. “The human body is...fascinating.” There was a question, an invitation, underlying his statement. He hoped Ash would hear it and understand. Despite this sudden swell of bravery, he knew he couldn’t say that out loud.
A slow smile spread across Ash’s face. Matthew grinned back, guessing his message had gotten through. His guess was confirmed when Ash asked, “Have you ever had a live model?”
“No.” Matthew’s cock strained at his breeches. He yearned to draw Ash, see him stripped and posed. He couldn’t remember ever wanting anything so much or so urgently in his life.
Then reality crashed down on him. His face fell. “My materials are at my apartment.” In the time it took to get there and back, the moment would be beyond lost. And there was no way he was taking Ash back to his flat. He didn’t want him to see it. It was so unbearably grim, lacking in any charm or comfort, especially when compared to Ash’s quirky and inviting room upstairs.
“What do you need?” Ash asked.
“Charcoal pencils, largish paper.”
“I have that.”
“You do?” Matthew perked up at this spark of hope. It was almost too good to believe. “How? Why?”
“Botany class. We do a lot of plant sketching. I not only have charcoal pencils, I have pressed pigment pencils.”
Matthew’s eyes lit up and Ash grinned and grabbed his hand. “Come on.” Ash pulled him to his feet and toward the stairs.
Matthew’s practical side asserted itself and, still clinging to sense, he asked, “What about our books?”
“No one will bother them. Come on!” He practically dragged Matthew from the parlor. By the time their feet hit the stairs, though, Matthew was plenty willing to follow him up.
Inside the cozy comfort of the little attic room, Ash went immediately to the window seat. He opened it and fished around inside, coming up a moment later with a large tablet and a tin box. “Here.” He handed the box to Matthew, who opened it and looked in wonder at the myriad colored pencils within.
“Where did you get these?” he asked, awed and envious.
“Some of them I bought in town. Some of them my dad gave me before I came here.” Ash flipped through the tablet of his botany drawings, Matthew looking over his shoulder. The plants were barely recognizable, and then only because he’d labeled them. “They’re awful, I know,” said Ash. He pulled a disgusted face. “It’s all right to say so.”
“I just have one question,” said Matthew.
“Yes?” Ash turned and looked up at him. “What?”
“Are you actually passing botany?”
Ash burst out laughing. “All right, Master Critical.” He flipped to a blank sheet and shoved the tablet at Matthew. “Let’s see you do better.”
“That much I can guarantee.”
“I’ve never been an artist’s model.” Ash’s eyes shone deep blue in the lantern light and his voice was husky. “Tell me what to do.”
Matthew swallowed hard once. The heat and tightness in his groin were intense, and he was glad for the tablet he held in front of him. What was he thinking? He’d never get through this! Panic began to rise in him, quelling his arousal. No. I want to do this, damn it! Steeling himself and taking control of his fear, he said with as much authority as he could muster, “Strip.”