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Never Love a Naked P.I.

Amanda Emerson has fled Pittsburgh and the caring but stultifying over-protection of her father and brothers and has made a solid beginning in creating a self-fulfilling life for herself in the world of New York publishing. At an art school class, she finds herself attracted to a handsome nude male model and considers the possibility of treating herself to a well deserved romantic interlude. But even as she reaches for fun and happiness, her carefully constructed world begins to crumble. The model is not who he appeared to be. She is thrust into the world of international art intrigue, herself a suspect, and the friends and co-workers whom she most trusts in New York begin to take on sinister aspects. Set in the high-powered but off-centered world of graphic novel publishing and centering around the darker comers of the international art scene, Never Love a Naked P.I. finds Amanda Emerson of Pittsburgh dashing from one end of exciting and dramatic New York's Manhattan Island to the other trying to maintain her hard-won self-assuredness, decide whether a handsome naked model is right for her or not, and trying to prove her innocence as an international forger while not -getting shot or run over by an errant yellow cab. Fun, fast and deliciously sensual, as well as nail-bitingly tense, Never Love a Naked P.I. is an exciting romantic suspense read.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Elizabeth Maynor

    Elizabeth Maynor has been writing professionally since 1993, with numerous short stories published in national magazines and several anthologies. The Farm Hand and the Widow Lady appears in Northern Hearts -- New England Love Stories, edited by Lori A. Paige. A member of the national Romance Writers of America and the New York City and Los Angeles chapters, NEVER LOVE A NAKED P.I. Is Elizabeth's first epublished romance novel.

Reviews

"Never Love a Naked P.I. is a lusty ride through New York City and the adventures of its inhabitants. I enjoyed the romantic suspense, and was pleased with the way everything wrapped up. Readers who enjoy passionate love scenes and mystery should spend some time with Never Love a Naked P.I., Elizabeth Maynor's first published romance novel."

Melissa Parcel -- AllAboutMurder.com
Excerpt

Chapter 1

New York, NY
2000 -- A new beginning

"ARE YOU ready for the naked hunk?"

An expensive scent flooded over Amanda as the attractive older woman at the next easel leaned in close, her carefully made-up eyes sparkling with wickedness.

Amanda suppressed a smile at her classmate's comment. "And is a naked hunk, as opposed to a naked anything else, supposed to make us draw any better, Christine?"

Amanda had forgotten there was to be a new model for the life class tonight. She tucked a stray lock behind the bandeau that held her auburn waves in place. Christine could have lacquered a Chinese table with the amount of effort she had expended on her face and hair and Amanda had barely remembered to freshen her makeup after work before the evening's class.

"A handsome man is always good for revving the engine, love," Christine said, as she winked, giving her raven locks a toss. Amanda rolled her eyes, expelled a short, indulgent chuckle and returned to sharpening a drawing pencil.

"All right," Christine huffed. "If an intelligent, hard-working junior exec like you chooses to remain outside the social whirl of male/female inter. . action, so be it. Though I think you're soon going to realize, classy New York business women can and do have their cake and. . ." She paused, brushing an imaginary morsel from her lips. Amanda shook her head and sighed.

• • •

OUTSIDE THE classroom door, Marc waited with the instructor.

This is it, he thought.

"Are you ready?" the older man in the neat, trimmed Van Dyke beard inquired, nervously kneading his hands.

"Yeah. I'm fine. You don't look so hot."

"I'm not used to this -- how does your profession put it? -- covert operation. Now that we're here, I'm a little anxious."

"You'll be fine." Marc shook his arms gently at his sides and lightly bounced on his toes as he drew drafts of oxygen deep into his lungs. "My 'profession' doesn't usually put its ass quite so prominently on the line." He rubbed his hands firmly over his backside. "You're gonna owe me, buddy. Big time."

The older man observed him for a moment. "This has been good for you. No matter what happens. You're not as. . . angry as you were."

"Yeah." Marc's grin was easy. "And I look damn good, too."

• • •

AMANDA followed the quick turn of the raven head of her classmate at the next easel as the noise of the opening classroom door stopped Christine mid-maxim.

David Parkerson, senior instructor in life drawing at the Art Students League in New York City, entered the studio immediately followed by a taller, muscular young man in a dark sport shirt and worn jeans, carrying a gym bag. The young man strode confidently into the room on long, powerful limbs. Certainly not like the diffident or bored subjects that usually appeared to pose for the class.

The expensive perfume wafted quickly in Amanda's direction again. "My God, he's gorgeous." Christine's wide eyes never left the model as he disappeared behind a dressing screen. "That ought to catch your attention."

Amanda blinked and felt herself flush. The new model certainly had caught her attention.

"Christine," she said, as she felt her jaw tighten, "you remember very well the reason I came to New York was not to spend my days and nights pursuing the hottest pair of pants around."

Or lack of pants, she added to herself as she fumbled with clamps attaching a large pad of drawing paper to the slanted wooden surface of the easel.

"You say that now, my twenty-something toddler." Christine adjusted the neckline of her silk blouse. "But the day will come when you'll have achieved your self-sufficient goal and will look around to find there's no one to share the good times with." Her voice grew steely. "Grab it when you can, babe, and then hang the hell on."

Her grim observation was instantly overridden by a much more practical concern. "And speaking of hanging the hell on, I can hardly wait to see what this one has to offer. I swear, old Maurice was. . . ."

"Christine! That's more than enough." Amanda's pencils snapped smartly into the easel's tray to join the bouncing contι crayons. "I come from a house full of men. Male flesh, per se, is not all that exciting to me."

"Lord, would that I had been as fortunate." Christine fanned her cheek with a limp hand, eyeing her fellow artist carefully.

Amanda smoothed the paper of her drawing pad carefully, feeling its comforting fine tooth under her moist palm.

The new model was attractive: a luxurious head of dark curls, richly tanned skin -- probably Italian or some interesting mixture -- and wonderful facial structure. He would be great to sketch with his high cheekbones and classically sculpted lips.

But more startling were his dark, intense eyes. On his way through he had quickly swept the room, as intent on observing the artists as they were him. He seemed to want to. . . draw them in.

Amanda took a deep breath and concentrated on the instructor's opening remarks as Parkerson implored the class to observe, pay attention to detail, note the chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow over the model and to scrutinize line.

"Ladies and gentlemen." He tapped lightly on the screen. "May I introduce. . . Antonio."

The young man reappeared from behind the screen, a white terry robe loosely wrapped around his body. With a swift, sure movement, he removed the garment, tossed it aside and stepped naked onto the modeling platform. Standing in an easy stance, he again surveyed the room as he waited for the teacher's instructions.

"We'll begin with two-minute sketches," Parkerson said. "And then move on to five and fifteen, and finish with a half-hour pose. If you please, Antonio."

The finely-delineated, muscular torso lowered as the model stretched one leg back. Calf muscles elongated, thigh muscles bunched. Thrusting the opposite arm behind him he twisted his torso and raised a crooked arm chest-high for balance. His biceps strained with tension. The tumble of dark curls lifted as the intent brow and firm jaw focused toward a distant target. His back hand curled powerfully around an imaginary circular flat stone as the muscles in his forearm swelled with anticipation. His stance froze.

Amanda's eyes widened. Her breath stopped in her throat. The re-creation of bronze and stone became flesh and blood, tense with anticipation, throbbing with urgent life.

In a flickering wave of her imagination, she was transported across time and space. Before her, hot sunlight glittered off the moist sheen covering the taut, golden skin. The perfect, toned musculature, scraped clean of hair by sacred sharpened crescents of horn, burned with an incandescent fire in the wavering Greek heat as the roar of thousands of masculine voices in the huge amphitheater swelled to fill Amanda's ears. She forced her limbs to remain relaxed and easy on the marble tier even as her pulse raced and she focused on the amazing athlete.

She had never seen anything so. . . perfect, so blindingly full of life. Blinking her eyes to clear her vision, her fingers tightened around the rough linen that hung loosely around her, helping to obscure her feminine outline. It had been worth the foolishness, the danger, the stubborn insistence that she must dress as a man and join the bellowing throngs to witness the Olympics herself.

If she were discovered, it would be disgrace, banishment. . . worse. She might lose her immortal soul, but she would die fulfilled. She was seeing with her own eyes naked power straining toward ultimate grace; an athlete blessed of the gods striving for the surely unattainable goal of athletic perfection.

He embodied everything Amanda had hoped to witness. His body coiled to unwind like a crouching panther, the chiseled muscles stretched to their fullest extent ready to sweep the gleaming discus forward spiraling into the cloudless Grecian sky, sailing toward the home of the gods.

The pitiless sun baked her throbbing temples, barely shadowed by her short-cropped hair. The roar in the crowd soaked into her skin and slowly faded to silence. A film of heat and moisture slid over her wide, staring, unbelieving eyes.

Suddenly, with a shiver, Amanda became aware of a breath released and then the hurried, excited soft hiss of a pencil on paper; next, the rasping whoosh of chalk; then the slosh of water as a brush was readied. She was back in the present and the class was excitedly responding to the model's pose.

All around, her fellow artists began to work feverishly knowing the pose was a precious moment in time that would soon vanish.

"Thank you, Antonio. May we have another, please." Parkerson began to move about the room.

Amanda forced herself to look at the blank paper in front of her. She hadn't put a stroke on the sheet. She looked up. A new image emerged on the platform. This time the model was a steel worker, proud and exhausted at the end of a day of violent and exhausting toil. She, the faithful wife, awaiting his return, alert and attentive to his needs, her day filled with fulfilling her part of the contract that made their combined efforts one. She had seen the sculpture in the American Wing of the Metropolitan and been profoundly moved. It had galvanized her there: the small bronze capturing toil, pride, hope, power, surety.

To see it replicated before her in naked, pulsing flesh and urgently-throbbing blood and to feel a part, a necessary co-creator of its physical creation was beyond all she had ever allowed herself to imagine that the practice of art might accomplish.

The instructor stood next to her. Her sketch pad was still blank.

"Don't worry, my dear," said Parkerson indulgently. "Take your time. Study the line. There's no hurry. Another pose, please, Antonio."

At the end of three poses, Parkerson gave the model a rest. The powerful, muscular body slipped into his short terry robe and wandered among the artists. He moved lightly on strong bare feet over the ancient wooden floor impregnated with chalk dust, oil paint and pencil shavings from generations of intent students.

Never, Amanda thought, could those boards have felt the imprint of such a unique sensibility. He had galvanized the class. Challenged the class to put down on paper what he had brought to life. He had stunned Amanda.

Everyone seemed to be trying to chat with the handsome young man at once. Christine was effervescent, flushed, and laughing.

The model glanced toward Amanda. An electric current jolted through her. She snapped her head away. One hand gingerly moved up to touch her cheek. Her eyes darted around the room.

Everyone in the class was enthusiastically occupied with chattering with each other or busy trying to engage the model.

She forced herself to look back. He had moved on to view Professor Angeli's work but was watching her out of the corner of his eye. She sat down heavily on her stool, feeling her pulse rise.

The young man nodded appreciatively at the professor's work, then turned and started toward Amanda, an intent look in his dark, piercing eyes before their instructor headed him off and announced to the class it was time to begin again.

The fine, chiseled profile glanced back at Amanda over broad shoulders.

Focus, dammit, focus on the job at hand. You've spent months preparing for this moment. Don't blow it now!

Marc had not prepared himself for this. He had prepared himself for having his naked body stared at by a room full of men and women intent on observing him as, he hoped, a very special subject worthy of trying to capture on paper. He had particularly prepared himself for being stared at by sexually interested and sexually interesting women.

What Marc had not prepared for was the look on the face of the dark-haired, young woman who seemed to see right into his head and connect with his thoughts. Her liquid, dark eyes seemed to be in perfect empathy with the hopes and dreams of the athlete, the exhaustion of the steel worker, the hauteur of the Roman god.

It took his breath away. He hadn't expected such. . . connection.

This one he had to meet.

The sudden warmth in his chest was doused by an instant cold realization. This one also might be the very one they were looking for.

Damn.

Amanda could hardly get through the next 15 minutes. The man's performance -- that was the only word for it -- was miraculous. He kept transforming himself into works of art, into stunning amalgamations of flesh and stone and paint.

She was transfixed and barely made a mark on her pad. She was torn between wanting to speak to the model, to see if he could possibly be as focused as he seemed to be and almost hoping he would turn out to be a perfectly normal, if very well-turned-out, guy. One who might even make a pass at her so she could then dismiss him as not being. . . What? What was she afraid of him being?

Amanda knew perfectly well. She was afraid of a nude male model being a man who had touched her soul.

At the end of the next session after Parkerson called the break, Amanda watched with a wave of trepidation as the model tied his robe and headed straight for her.

He moved like a tiger on his naked feet, silent, sure, concentrated. He was within a foot of her, his aura blazing out like a summer's day. He looked at the almost-pristine drawing pad and turned to her with a look of concern.

"Are the poses okay? I'm. . . trying for something special." His voice was low, rich with urgency. "I wondered what you thought." He suddenly seemed almost shy.

How astonishing, thought Amanda. Naked before the entire class he couldn't be more completely in control and yet, now with her. . ..

He had asked a simple question. Answer it.

"You are astonishing." Suddenly she was confident, at ease with the powerful, beautifully muscled man who stood before her and whose heat seemed to radiate and warm her. Knowing he was naked beneath his robe, she imagined the rough terry cloth stroking the smooth, flawless skin.

"I have never seen such wonderful poses. I can't do a thing," she said and laughed, indicating her blank paper, "except look."

"Hey," he said, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his robe and shuffling lightly, "you're being too good to me."

Amanda's eyes narrowed.

"Isn't he an excellent model, Miss Emerson?" Their instructor put his hand on the broad shoulders and guided him away. "Come, Antonio, let me show you Mr. Wilde's watercolors and young Nathan's charcoals. Perhaps in our next session Amanda will find more in your pose to put down on paper." He threw an indulgent smile over his shoulder as they moved away.

Amanda let the oxygen flood back into her lungs. This had never happened to her before. This sudden, instant, overwhelming infatuation.

Christine's painted eyes focused narrowly on Amanda. One edge of her shimmering mouth lifted and amazingly, to Amanda's great relief. . . she kept it shut.