This is something of a favourite among the short stories I've written, probably because it's so damn melancholy. This unfortunately means it's not an obvious hot candidate for inclusion in an erotic romance anthology. It starts at a funeral for heavens sake. This story languished a fair old while waiting for the right opportunity to come along. I guess the waiting paid off, as it eventually found a home in the Mammoth Book of Hot Romance. Yeah, to Maxim Jakubowski for loving it too.
Excerpt from "We Were Lovers Once"
which appears in The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, published July 2011. (Copyright 2010 Madelynne Ellis)
I’m going back. My God, I’m going back.
The last time I saw Ray, he threw me from this place in little more than a gymslip and a camisole, my shoes rolling down the stairs behind me. I’d fallen from grace, and had been summarily banished. As if I gave a damn what he thought, or so I told myself and anyone else who would listen. I’d already made other arrangement, was headed for a life with someone who appreciated me, who offered marriage and stability, not an on and off relationship built upon torment and ego stroking.
Slanted light from the skylight shows up the butterfly dance of the dust motes as Gabriel prowls across the pitted wooden boards of the garret studio. There’s a certain familiar swagger to his gait as he grasps a large frame propped against the back wall and swings it around. I stare at the colors in disbelief, dazzled by their vibrancy, splashes of orange and violet, and a broad rainbow of creamy pearlescent flesh.
Twenty-five years ago I stood here and posed in that dress. I run my hands over my body recalling how the vivid violet fabric fanned out from my hips, and how I was so in love with the orange blooms dotted across the front.
“My Sophia”, the painting is called, which depicts me rudely displaying my bottom in order to show the criss-crossed red welts left behind by his belt. I had no idea that he’d finished it. In truth I thought he’d probably dowsed it in alcohol and set it alight the night I left.
“You haven’t changed,” Gabriel remarks.
“Oh, but I have.” Although, perhaps I’ve weathered a little better than most.
Gabriel lets the painting fall. When I jump, he grabs me, and his tongue, hot and invasive fills my mouth.
“Get off!” Shocked by his actions, I tear at his jacket lapels, but he only kisses me harder, until I feel it, a tiny long dead spark of arousal, which flickers into life and grows brighter, until instead of resisting, I’m responding.
Gabriel’s gloved hands slide down my back. “I’ve wanted to see this image made flesh ever since I was old enough to understand its significance. What did Ray use to stripe you with?”
“His belt.” I bite my lip until it hurts, and my first visit here flares like a beacon in my brain. Ray—with his artist’s palette and brush—naked from the waist up, his feet bare, the toenails so shiny I’d swear they were lacquered, striding across the splintered boards to daub a cross upon my arse.
“There,” he yelled. “Keep your fucking hand there, and don’t move until I tell you to. I didn’t hire you to preen.” This from the man who’d taken forty minutes the previous night to fasten his bowtie. “I hired you to keep your damned arse still.”
Hired! Oh, yes, Ray paid me both in cash and kind, but what exactly was my role, model or apprentice, girlfriend or whore?