Secrets Vol 2 Ella Steele (Secrets #2)

Secrets Vol 2 Ella Steele (Secrets #2) - Page 7/20

Cole downshifts the car and accelerates hard as we enter highway traffic. Narrow headlights shoot beams into the darkness as we navigate the back roads. The drive to civilization makes me uneasy. There is nothing around for miles. It looks like an alien abduction road. Cole's gaze keeps shifting to me, and makes me extra nervous. I can't tell what he is thinking. The sick part of my mind wonders if he is taking me into the strawberry fields to kill me. My pinky lifts for the door handle as we slow.

Shaking his head, he grins, "Dear God. Miss Lamore, just jump. If you really think I'm going to kill you, please jump now before I really do."

I scowl, "I'm not - "

"You are so. Your entire body is wound so tight that I could... well, never mind what I could do. I can tell you don't trust me." His voice is cold like I've offended him. After a moment he asks, "Do you care to tell me why? What have I done to warrant this reaction from you?"

Biting my bottom lip, I'm not sure if I want to answer. I'm still upset with him, but I find myself saying, "I don't really know you and I don't know where I am."

He glances at me out of the corner of his eye. His grip tightens on the steering wheel of his Porsche. "You're north of the studio, nearing the highway, with a man who values his reputation and wouldn't waste it on dumping your body in a farmer's field, no matter how much you irritate him."

"I irritate you?" I laugh. I fold my arms over my chest to make sure I don't flinch and reach for the door again. I mutter something about farmers and pitchforks.

He smiles, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. After a moment he says, "So, Miss Vanilla," my stomach drops when he calls me that. It brings back the dream and every sensation that lit my body on fire, begging for his touch. I stiffen. Cole glances at me and continues, "tell me why you so abhorrently object to fine art nudes. I find that ironic, being that you claim to be an artist and all."

He's baiting me. I know it, but I answer anyway, "I'm not Miss Vanilla, smart ass, so stop calling me that." I'm quiet for a moment, trying to put it into words. "As for the nudes, I think they belong in paintings, not photography. Nudes in photography usually equal pornography."

He laughs, a deep belly laugh in one short burst, "You actually believe that?" I nod with a serious expression on my face. "Then you're a hypocrite, Lamore. You can't be an artist and only value one medium and disregard the others."

"I am not," I say calmly. I'm holding my hands in my lap, watching the world zoom by. Cole's foot is heavy when he's irritated. I appear to have easy access to his crazy buttons and seem to be punching them like a typewriter tonight. "It's not the medium. It's the content."

"But the same content is okay in a painting?"

I nod, "Yes. Botticelli was an artist. Heffner is a pornographer. No one jerks off looking at Venus on a half shell."

His voice is charged with emotion, "Guys jerk off to all sorts of things, so that shouldn't be your criteria for anything. As for your identifying factors of what's art and what isn't, tell me - what makes something art? Can you define that?"

I think about it for a moment. In my gut I know. I know it when I see it. My lips part and I'm telling him, "It's art when it's evocative, when it can convey emotions and feelings to the viewer. An idea - or ideal."

"And sensuality doesn't count?"

"No. Well," I think about it. Sensuality isn't my issue. I'm not sure what is. I shake my head, not looking at him I say, "Yes, it counts." Cole is silent with a surprised expression on his face. I stare out the window as lights blaze by in the darkness. We're on the highway now, zooming closer and closer to his apartment. I'm nervous. Nervous of what I'll say. What I'll do.

His voice is soft, "Why? Why does it count?"

He's no longer challenging me, but sounds like he genuinely wants to know what I think. This entire conversation is way outside of my comfort zone, but I don't back down. I want him to see that I'm right and not just some crazy prude. Leaning my head back in the seat, I think. "Because it's an emotion. Sensuality isn't what I object to... it's more the fact that nude photos are degrading to women."

Cole laughs, "Oh my god! How many crazy women are living inside your brain? How do you manage with all of them in there telling you what to say? Does one tie the others up and randomly take over?"

"You're such an ass," I sigh, shaking my head at him. "You asked my opinion. Don't ask if you don't want to hear..."

"No, that was not your opinion. It was what you've heard, what you've learned. It isn't what you think. Last week I saw it on your face during those shoots. This kind of photography - this kind of work - isn't what you thought it was."

I shake my head, "No it isn't. None of this is what I thought it would be."

"That makes two of us."