The Troublesome Painting

The vol-au-vents were disappearing fast, so Nick made his way to the food table to grab one before it was too late. The wine was hitting the spot but he could have murdered a beer as it was more his style. Art was not really his thing, but he had come along to support his best friend Tom, who was flaunting his latest art collection in a one-man show in Bayswater. Nick had been good enough not to object to his best friend painting Sophie, his fiancé’s portrait, with her wearing little more than a smile. He had just been admiring her life-sized painting where it hung resplendently, her auburn hair tumbling over her ivory, bare shoulders, a glass of red wine clasped elegantly in her crimson-tipped hand. If he had been wealthier, he would have been keen to buy the painting himself, to allow him to further admire her enigmatic, Mona Lisa smile and feline, green eyes whenever he wanted. However, as a struggling guitarist in a talented, but sadly not yet famous rock band, the hefty price tag was out of his grasp. Sophie was not with him this evening but was tucked up in bed, furious to have fallen ill with a migraine. She had insisted he should support his best friend’s event rather than nurse her, which made him love her all the more. Their wedding could not come fast enough for him. What unbelievable luck to have such a stunning, vibrant woman in his life when she could be with any man she desired.
The one-man art show was very well attended, with ‘sold’ labels hanging from several paintings. The artist was busy talking to a group of expensively dressed men, giving them the hard sell, hoping their money would trickle from their hands into his. Nick decided to leave him to work his magic on them and to seek him out later. Two men, both reeking of money, joined the casually dressed, pony-tailed rock guitarist at the food table as he munched on a mixed plate of nibbles.
‘Did you see that painting of the gorgeous red head? I’m thinking of buying it, Gustave. It would look splendid in the boudoir of my Mayfair house,’ the Armani-suited, brutally handsome Frenchman told his equally attractive companion.
‘Good choice, Pierre. I reckon the value will appreciate greatly. The artist has really made her come alive on the canvas. Wonderful skin tones and such fabulous breasts,’ Gustave replied, grinning lasciviously.
‘Oh, I can vouch for the fabulous breasts, and the rest of the package,’ said Pierre, causing Nick to freeze mid bite of his cocktail sausage. Stifling a desire to choke, he strained his ears to listen to the men more intently.
‘I met the model in that nude portrait at a club in town about three weeks ago,’ Pierre continued in between elegant sips of wine. ‘She threw herself at me, demanding I take her back to my house. She couldn’t stay the night but remained long enough for me to get to know her very intimately. We’ve arranged to meet this Saturday at mine. We didn’t have the time or the inclination to speak much at our last encounter. I want to know her better as she’s just my type of woman, as wild and kinky as she looks in this painting, so I can’t wait.’
Nick swayed as nausea flooded his body, breaking into a cold sweat of fear and disgust. So, that was why she had lately been so preoccupied, telling him she was visiting her girlfriends more often than usual. According to her, she was spending all Saturday supposedly visiting her mother. Up until a couple of months ago, she would spend Saturday evenings with him at whichever venue his band was playing. The reason why she was no longer keen to accompany him was now crystal clear. Ill or not, she had questions to answer. Without a word to his artist friend, he staggered out of the gallery, his brain in turmoil, with clammy hands clenched into tight fists.

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