Some books are more fun to write than others. I have to say that my contemporary romantic suspense, Bannister's Way fell into that category. The heroine is a professor, a sculptor, has a home on the Tualatin River, an area I'd love to have had a home, and has all the frustrations common to artists. The hero was a secondary character in Desert Inferno. The books underlying themes went to art theories, questions of ethics, a mystery, a great villain, several sites in the PNW that I have loved, and a couple who had separated years before but the spark between them had never died. As secondary characters, there were four delightful, old ladies, very different sorts each of them. I have had artists as heroines a time or two and always enjoy the stories when that is the case.
"I'm Dr. Lawrence, but you can call me Raven as that feels like me. You are in Life Drawing 301. If you are in the wrong room, leave now. If you belong here, I want your registration cards. As the basket comes past, put them in it. No chatter now. Listen up. I want to explain to you something about the class you've registered for."
David only half listened as he heard her tell them about the value there was to be had from taking seriously a study of fine art, how throughout the ages great artists have seen the study of the body--the musculature, the bone structure, in short the anatomy--was important to make their work come alive. They must take seriously the study of the nude--
Whoa! What had she just said? Nude! Who said anything about... nude? And then he knew and wished nothing so much as that Vance was nearby where he could get his hands around his throat. A good dodge, a natural way in, his friend had said. Friend, hah! He'd kill him!
He barely heard the rest of Raven's instructions. It was impossible. No way under this earth or above it could he take off his clothes in front of all these people! He looked at the students, at their interested gazes in a new way. They must know he was the model, the guinea pig, the sacrificial lamb, the... No! He would not strip. It was out of the question. No way could he do it.
Raven's voice broke through his thoughts. "At one time, I wouldn't have had to say what I am going to next, but times have changed and so have people. There will be no commenting about the model, nor any jokes." One of the girls giggled in what to David seemed a nasty way. He stared at her, wondering how such an innocent looking young woman could have such a perverted giggle. He looked back at Raven, who was looking over the students. "You will at no time treat the model with less than respect. You will not touch him. This is a serious class. If you behave as though your time here is a joke or an opportunity for voyeurism, you will be kicked out of the class. If it happens soon enough, you might be able to just drop it. If it’s too late, you will get a failing grade.”
He felt angry at her for the position in which he found himself, then he remembered her uncertainty, the many opportunities she had extended, trying to give him a graceful way out of it. Except he hadn't known what it was. He remembered her question--are you sure you know what you're doing? His own confident answer--of course.
He stared down at his scarred boot and thought again of Vance--the man who called himself friend, who had to be somewhere snickering, laughing at the ultimate stunt. This was the worst of the tricks to which Rich had ever subjected him. David's breathing wasn't coming easily as he considered how it would feel to be nude in a room where everyone else was clothed, of being stared at--intimately.
It is for art, he reminded himself. Everyone knew about the old masters, their works. Michelangelo’s David. Rodin’s Age of Bronze. He'd seen nude paintings on museum walls but never thought about the flesh and blood models who had posed for those works. The thought of being one of those models had never entered his head.
He’d almost turned down doing this just on it being as a model--a fully clothed model. Only his interest, in what had appeared to be an unsolvable case and the knowledge that his ex-wife taught the class, had persuaded him. Now what was he going to do?
He looked at Karen... that is Raven, as she shook her head at a student's question. She glanced over at him, her eyes dark with concern. He couldn't let her down, but he wouldn't take off his clothes either. No case was that important… but was something else?