Breaking the Rules (Page 46)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(46)
Author: Katie McGarry

We left Beth and Isaiah at the hotel, her in the possession of one of my bikinis, while Noah and I headed over to Hunter’s gallery. Noah’s shift starts soon, but he’s determined to walk me in like a kindergartener on her first day.

“You said you were fine with this,” I say.

“I am,” he bites out.

“Noah…please no throwing this guy against the wall, okay?”

His jaw ticks. “Let’s get this done.”

Noah opens the door for me and nods for me to enter. This is one of those places where you draw your arms and legs in to make yourself smaller. The paintings are so detailed, so magnificent that they have to be worth more than my life and Noah’s put together. Cherubs are carved into the white molding, and crystal chandeliers hang from above. While I meander through, wide-eyed and reverent, Noah struts in with the grace of a bull in a glass factory.

“Echo! Good to see you!” Hunter calls from the back of the store. He waves his hand for me to follow and disappears behind a wall of beads.

“That would be where he keeps his torture chamber,” Noah mutters. “Do you think he snaps before and after pictures of his prey?”

“Shhhh.”

He does, but shoulders past me to take the lead. Behind the beads, a dimly lit staircase winds up, and Hunter’s footsteps echo from above. With a sigh that almost passes as a groan, Noah starts the climb, and I trail after.

Light beckons us forward. When we reach the top, I crane my neck to glance around Noah and release an excited breath. It’s raw. It’s floorboards. It’s the spikes of roofing nails protruding from the ceiling, and it’s lit by hundreds of tiny Christmas tree lights. Windows run along the back wall, and canvases sit every few feet waiting for their owners to return. Each painting is in various stages, but I can see the genius in each one.

In the corner, Hunter places a blank canvas on an empty easel. “This is yours. Everything you need is right here at your fingertips, and if you can’t find it, tell me and I’ll get it for you.”

Like a magnetic pull, I’m attracted to the canvas. A million butterflies crash within me when I spot the new paints and brushes. Never used. Never opened. All ready for me to crack the seals and explore. This is a holy moment.

“I’m Noah.”

I practically vault for the ceiling with the sound of Noah’s voice behind me, and guilt creeps into my soul. I got so entrenched in what was in front of me that I forgot introductions. Nearly killing me, I pivot away from the easel and clear my throat. “Hunter, this is my boyfriend, Noah. Noah, this is Hunter.”

Noah offers his hand, and the two guys shake for a really, really long time as they stare each other down. I shift footing, and they finally let go. Noah crosses his arms over his chest and seems to be made of stone while Hunter regards Noah with as much interest as I would garbage.

This meeting is going well.

“There are lots of easels here. Does that mean there will be other people?” asks Noah.

“Are you asking if I’m going to be alone with Echo?” Hunter retorts. I swallow a sigh. The meaning behind Noah’s question is whether or not Hunter prefers to torture his victims before or after he ties them up.

When Noah doesn’t respond, Hunter barely moves his hands in an I-don’t-know-fashion. “I don’t hover over my artists. There are plenty of them, and they come and go as they please.”

Crap, Noah’s going to love this. I spin on my heel and grab Noah’s hand. “I don’t want you to be late. I’m sure other people will show soon.”

I also eye meld, brain express, beg for psychic abilities to remind Noah that this was his idea, regardless of the fact that I was going to do it anyway, and that he agreed to play nice.

“Where do you work?” Hunter asks, but it’s obvious from the T-shirt that Noah’s spending time at the Malt and Burger.

“I start college in the fall,” Noah answers, and this surge of pride skips through me. I’ve never heard Noah answer like that before.

“Noah’s going to be an architect,” I add.

“Flipping burgers is the backup plan?” Hunter asks, and my stomach drops.

My mouth pops open because I should say something to defend Noah, but he beats me to it. “I like humble. Keeps me in my place.”

Hunter snorts a half laugh. Maybe working with him is a bad idea.

Noah ignores Hunter and looks down at me. “You okay here?”

“Yeah.” I think.

Noah frames my face and gently kisses my lips. “I’ll be back soon, baby.”

A part of me melts when I spot that wicked glint in his eyes that tells me that I’m officially naked in his mind. I bite my lip as he releases me.

“I love you,” I say.

Noah flashes me a pirate smile and disappears down the stairs.

“Bad-boy phase?” Hunter asks after Noah’s footsteps fade.

I wrinkle my forehead and return to the canvas. “He’s not a phase, and he’s not that bad. You freaked him out by showing at our hotel room.”

“Did I scare you?”

Something in his voice causes me to whip my head in his direction. Hunter appears casual with his hip cocked against a table that contains multiple bowls of fruit. He’s dressed up in a pressed pair of jeans and a black button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. But his question feels weighted.

“No, you didn’t scare me.” Yeah, he did a little, but I have one last chance to prove my talent outside my mother’s influence, and I’m not going to blow it again by telling the truth.

“Good.” Hunter straightens. “Do you need a picture of the Aires constellation?”

Not when it’s engraved as scar tissue on my soul. “I know it by heart.”

Amid the sensation of bliss comes a wave of disorientation. Dizzy, I shut my eyes and sink to the stool next to the canvas. Aires. I miss you. So much that part of me always feels like I’m dying a painful death.

“What are you going to start with?” Hunter asks and my eyes reopen.

“The horizon.” Because that’s safe. Light still exists in the horizon. I combine the red and yellow to create the hue I desire then focus on last night’s sunset and the memory of Noah’s strong arms holding me.

Noah

Lucky for me, the Malt and Burger is packed again, giving me little time to focus on Echo with that cocky bastard. The noise from the crowded restaurant reaches a new decibel of loud, and the heat from the grill causes sweat to form along the roots of my hair.