The Art of the Delaneys
  Liam is determined to show the Delaneys there's more to him than just sex, but when it comes to dabbling in art fraud, will he be able to impress them this time?

The Art of the Delaneys - Extract

One week after my last encounter with the Delaney twins, I made up my mind that I was going to make whatever was going on between the three of us stick. I think I’d known how I saw it for a while, but it was the first time I’d admitted to myself that I might quite like them and me, whatever that meant, to be more than simply entertainment.

I was probably screwed before I even finished thinking that thought. Hell, my pleasant middle-class, middle-grade background hadn’t prepared me in any way for wanting to make a go of it, at least for now, with two blokes rather than one and really for that I blamed my parents. I’d had a sheltered upbringing. They hadn’t explained how to handle a threesome in sex education lessons at my school, or maybe I’d been sick on that day and had missed it. I wouldn’t have been surprised.

It was crazy though, wasn’t it? The Delaneys were gangsters in all but name, they did God knows what with drugs and threats and dirty dealings, and they had beautiful men at their beck and call if they wanted them, I was sure of it. So what the hell were they doing with me? And, more importantly, just what was it that kept me so fascinated, fleeced and … well … f***ed when it came to the tasty twins? What did it really say about me?

All these deep questions were crowding through my inadequate male brain as I was supposed to be packaging up the latest painting for one of Melissa’s top-notch customers at the gallery. Struggling with philosophy must have been the reason why I didn’t hear the gallery door open or the tap-tap of kitten heels on wood, or even feel the blast of early autumn air from the outside, until the woman herself was upon me.

“Liam? Just what on earth are you doing down there?”

“What? Oh, yes, well, hello, Melissa, I didn’t hear you come in,” I gabbled inanely for a while as I scrabbled around the floor gathering up brown tape and ribbon. Melissa always preferred it when I used ribbon as part of the wrapping. She thought it looked elegant.

“So I see,” she said, depositing her Prada handbag on the office table and slipping off her red Blahniks. “But what I really need to know is just what the hell you think you’re doing to that Lily Cooper?”

Lily Cooper was Melissa’s top artist and the one currently in demand everywhere. She painted abstract wave-like shapes in blue and green, mainly, and in tiny separate patterns across the canvas. I always thought she was a cross between Bridget Riley and Rothko but happier. Melissa, however, tended to snort when I let this little gem out so I didn’t say it much to gallery visitors, at least when the boss was in. I knew what was best for me, on the whole.

Right now, what was best for me was taking a very good look at Lily’s latest offering and seeing what Melissa meant. It didn’t take long to see the problem. To my surprise, small wads of brown tape were dotted across the top of the picture frame as if someone had tried to give it a not very professional hairdo. I must have done it without realising whilst trying to think things through, which just goes to show that no man should be allowed to do that without medical assistance on standby.

God, sorry, Melissa,” I stuttered a totally inadequate response whilst vainly trying to unleash the balls of tape from their temporary home. “I must have been distracted. I’ll make sure everything’s okay before I send it off, I swear it, and at least I haven’t messed up the painting itself …”

I trailed off. Melissa didn’t take kindly to excuses. Right now she was staring at me and frowning. I sat on my heels and gazed back at her.

“I’m sorry,” I said more simply this time. “I wasn’t concentrating properly. I promise you I’ll make sure it’s perfect for the client, just how you like it.”

My boss pursed her lips and nodded, accepting my statement for what it was, but I thought the storm clouds might just have eased a little. Thank goodness, as Melissa in full fury was an experience I’d much rather avoid if I could help it.

She tapped her perfectly manicured fingers on the desk.

“You’re an idiot, Liam,” she said, “but you’re a hard worker and you’re usually much better than this. Come into my office, now, and tell me what the hell is wrong with you.”

Without waiting to see if I would follow, though I’d be a fool to dare otherwise, Melissa picked up her handbag and shoes and padded her way across the main office, out into the reception area and into her own suite of rooms. I made a slight detour to lock the entrance and switch the sign round, as she liked privacy for her little chats with me, of which there were many. Then I hurried to her office for what would no doubt be a severe dressing-down.

To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

“What’s on your mind, Liam?” she said, never one to linger before getting right to the heart of the matter. “Spit it out.”

There were probably at least a hundred things I could have said that might have been more suitable for a boss-employee conversation but what came out was certainly the truth. And how many times does a bloke actually admit that?

“It’s the Delaney twins,” I said. “I’m involved with them, I think.”

Melissa laughed. “You think? I’ll have you know the hot gossip about your goings-on, and I mean that in the grossest sense of the word, with the Delaneys is the topic of choice in every hair salon, every boutique and every bar in town, my dear. Involved is, as far as I understand, a definite understatement.”

I had the grace to blush. “That’s not what I meant, Melissa. I meant I’m involved, I think, not just involved ...”

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