Eden had never looked at Sophia quite the way she was looking now. Her eyes never left her even as she pulled a piece of charcoal across the fresh canvas she had prepared the evening before.
Sophia felt naked, though the association wasn’t quite right. She was fully dressed, of course, in a simple, but elegant dove grey gown that Eden admired. And she had been naked before Eden more times than she could count but it had not felt like this.
As she sat at the piano playing a simple Haydn tune, she found her fingers slipping, losing pace with one another, forgetting their way through a piece she had known by heart since she was six years old.
Maybe it wasn’t that she felt naked. Maybe it was that she could sense Eden undressing her as she tried to play, touching her from across the room with her eyes, reaching through the silk folds of her gown, drawing them away, drawing them…
Sophia’s pulse quickened. Haydn sped forward the way music does, forcing the one who plays it to let go of mistakes without regret, to forget what came before and move on. But Sophia dwelt on the mistakes and the music crashed to a stop. She lifted her hands above the keys and sat, fingers trembling, mind racing through the pieces she had thought she would play this morning. She couldn’t recall how to begin any of them.
“Are you all right, darling?”
Sophia looked up and saw Eden through a fog. She blinked but couldn’t clear her vision. Her heart pounded and her hands began to shake outright. She put them in her lap and clamped them between her thighs.
“Sophie—” Eden stepped to her side, still holding the charcoal, “you look…”
Sophia put her right hand, still trembling slightly, on Eden’s stomach, just above the waist of her trousers. She slipped a finger through the button placket of Eden’s shirt and found bare flesh beneath it. She raised her eyes to Eden’s and, with her left hand, took Eden’s right wrist and pulled her to her knees on the floor before the piano stool. Slipping from the stool to her own knees, she slid her hand further inside Eden’s shirt, and clasping Eden about the waist, pulled her to herself.
Eden’s mouth was on hers, though Sophia couldn’t remember how the kiss had started. Eden was taller, and Sophia had to tilt her head to reach her, but she did not let Eden push her back to the floor. She pushed Eden instead. “I want you,” she breathed between kisses, “now.” Eden fell back on her heels, catching herself with her left hand, regaining her balance and grasping for Sophia’s hair as the kisses kept coming.
“This is why I can’t…” Sophia whispered. She knew now, why she had been afraid to sit for Eden. She was utterly lost to herself. Everything that mattered to her, everything she cared about was effaced by desire.
It took a month to finish the portrait.