“Cecilia, this is Miss Isabella Swan. She’s in need of protection from the likes of Roland,” Murray said.
“That’s what every woman needs. How fitting you should do that for her,” Cecilia said, staring at Murray and smirking.
Murray set the paper and pencils in front of Isabella on the table.
She tried to listen to what they were saying, but as soon as she took to sketching, her mind was elsewhere.
Her eyes traveled around the room, but really, she was torn as she searched for the man she hated above all others.
Nonetheless, she squirmed at the mere thought of his being here.
It was difficult to see him with those two beautiful women at the tenement society rally when it was so plain they were there to openly solicit business as a couple of strumpets.
It was also easy to see he’d been intimate with each of them at some point.
Her mouth went dry and her throat constricted as she tried to swallow.
They were everything she would never be—sensual, largely seductive, wild and free.
Isabella was more chained down on her own than if she’d been locked inside a cage.
She nibbled at the inner edge of her lip as she concentrated a little harder on her drawing. If Murray and Cecilia figured she was drawing them, she might cause them alarm and have to answer questions.
She drew with haste and passed as being amicable by babbling on with inane chatter, hoping they would ignore her busy hands.
Most people were fine to let it pass and keep from asking what she was on about with her pencil and paper.
Artists were everywhere in New York, so it was nothing to see one lazing about, irking people with their ulterior motive to sell a cheap, rushed work for a few spare coins.
That was never something she aspired to. If she was to draw, she wanted it to mean something.
Rarely did she draw simply for the sake of doing it. Something had to touch her, have meaning for her to put it to a canvas.
Before she knew what she was doing, she was on to the next sheaf, and a recognizable form took shape.
Even though it was in black and white, she knew those exotic, powerful green eyes anywhere. They had this inexplicable pull on her.
What was it about them?
Was it because behind that cockiness, they seemed to hold this weighty sadness of untold harrowing agony? Even she did not feel that way, and she had lost her husband and parents when very young and in need of them for support and survival.
Pah. She was no longer seventeen. That girl was gone.
Isabella bit the corner of her lip, released it, and then her tongue poked out as her furious pace took on an urgency the likes she’d never felt before.
It was as if her fingers thought they could conjure him up if they drew him quick enough.
“Well, what do you say?” Murray’s voice traveled and broke through the thick cloud of artistic haze swirling like mad in her mind.
“Yes, it sounds grand,” Isabella answered without having an inkling of what he referred to.
“Do you hear that, Cees? She has no qualms about watching men go about deboning each other like savage brutes.” Murray slapped the table and laughed heartily. “My kind of woman to surround myself with.”
Cecilia scowled for a moment then turned her eyes toward a crowd that was gathering not far from their table.
In fact, they had a nice view of it from where they were seated.
“Oh God no,” Isabella groaned.
There, in the center, was that tawny colored hair she had just been drawing.