TWO MONTHS LATER
“You just yawned,” I accuse Brahm, looking at him from the side of the canvas.
We’re in my studio in our estate in the Rose Briar Woods, and it’s the perfect time of day, when golden afternoon light streams through the large glass windows.
“A yawn? Are you sure?” Brahm grins as he covers his mouth again.
I point my brush at him. “You just did it again!”
He laughs. “How much longer?”
“I’m almost done,” I promise.
“You said that an hour ago.”
I carefully dip the brush in cerulean and then dab it onto the canvas. “And an hour ago, I truly believed that’s all it would take.”
But now—now it is finished.
I step back, critiquing my work. I’ve gotten a little rusty in the last four months, but I’m happy with it nevertheless.
“All right.” I set the brush aside. “Come look.”
Brahm steps up behind me, absently brushing my hair aside as he loops his arms around my waist and presses a kiss to my neck. “It’s worth the boredom.”
I angle my head to look at him. “You like it?”
“I love it.” He kisses me before resting his chin on my shoulder.
“I still think you should have let me paint you with your mask.”
He chuckles like I’m ridiculous and then turns me in his arms. I melt into him, still feeling a thrill every time he kisses me.
We stay like this until the studio door opens.
Brahm casually steps away when Regina walks into the room.
She carries a letter, and she offers it to me as she stops to look at the portrait. “You’re quite talented, Alice. How did you manage to paint yourself into the picture with Brahm?”
“I used a mirror.”
“It’s very lifelike,” she says.
“Who’s the letter from?” Brahm asks me, even though I only receive them from one person.
“Gustin,” I answer absently as I quickly read my brother’s ramblings. “He’s in Algora. Apparently, he made a lucky bet at a horse race, and he’s ‘struck it rich.’ He says he’ll send me something pretty.”
Brahm shakes his head. “Some people never learn their lesson.”
I carefully fold the letter and set it aside. “I’m glad he’s doing all right.”
Maybe someday, we’ll make amends. Right now, occasional letters are enough.
“Drake is here as well,” Regina says. “He didn’t want to disturb Alice while she was painting. He said he’d wait in the conservatory.”
“This needs to dry,” I tell Brahm. “Why don’t we go find him?”