I could barely make out the fog shrouded contours of the small private island in the distance as the ancient tug wheezed over the crest of another wave. Clinging to the rail, I swallowed hard, willing the light lunch I’d eaten to stay down. Finally a long wooden pier came into view. The engines throttled back and the boat sidled toward it, fighting against the strong wind.
A brown hooded figure stood at the end of the pier. He reached out, gripped the thick rope and wrapped it over the rail. The tug engines dropped to an idle.
The deck hand passed my bags to the waiting figure. “Good luck Miss,” he said helping me from the heaving deck onto the bottom rung of a ladder attached to the dock.
“Thanks,” I said. Salt water splashed into my face, cutting off anything else I might have wanted to say, like “Wait, don’t leave me here!” Had I really called the St. Catherine of Bologna Monastery to beg for a residency? What was I thinking? Simple, I was burned out and desperate. For two months I’d bummed around my Queen Anne Hill studio, unable to create so much as a crayon drawing, let alone enough works for a major showing.
The tug boat slammed against the bottom of the ladder and for an instant my feet dangled in mid-air. Before the scream left my throat, a strong hand reached down, grabbed my wrist and hauled me up the final rungs. Electricity pulsed through me from that grip. And if I hadn’t been terrified, it would’ve been a turn on.
Most of his face remained obscured by the hood, only peridot green eyes met mine. “You’re welcome,” the monk said.
Despite the howling wind, his voice sounded soft and sexy, almost as if he’d spoken directly into my thoughts.
“This way.” He flung the two heavy duffle bags containing my easel, paints, stretchers, canvas, and brushes over his shoulders as if they weighed nothing. Then he picked up the battered suitcase holding my clothes, and headed off the dock toward a flagstone path. I followed head down against the wind.
“Ahhh!” A gust of wind ripped the rain hat from my head, sending it skittering along the ground. The monk dropped my bags. Rushing forward, he chased the hat, finally capturing it beneath the toe of his sandaled foot. The robe swirled round his body, revealing what looked to be a pair of really great legs, the kind that utility kilts, the heavy canvas, multi-pocketed version of the Scottish garment, were made for.
I watched him bending over until a errant gust knocked me back a step and whipped salt sodden hair across my eyes. I brushed it away in time to see the question I’d pondered since first laying eyes on him in that brown robe, answered. Boxers or briefs?
He’d chosen neither. A small gasp escaped me as I caught a glimpse of one muscular butt cheek and a quick side view of the thick base of his cock and substantial balls. An even stronger flash of lust went through me.
He walked back holding my hat. I looked down at it, afraid my thoughts were clearly written on my face.
Stop it Serena, he’s a man of the cloth! I chided myself. My current situation could be blamed in part because I’d lusted after the wrong man.
Work, that’s all I had time or energy for if I wanted to save my career.
Our hands touched as he passed me my hat. Electricity again, I must be imagining it. He scooped up my bags and continued up the pathway.
The path ended at a doorway to large log cabin.
“Meals and gatherings happen in the great room.” He opened the door so I could look in at a large, inviting room. Colorful woven tapestries hung against the smooth log walls, from tall vaulted ceilings to floor, and a huge rock fireplace took up the entire wall at one end. In front stood a long table lined by chairs. The other end of the room had been divided into cozy areas of comfortable looking chairs and sofas. A black iron stove burned cheerily in the corner.
I relaxed a little. Okay, all of this looked pretty normal, even comforting. I’d heard the retreat made remarkable changes in artists. An artist I knew described her experience as like having her soul ripped away and replaced with something more profound.
After two months of staring at blank canvases, almost paralyzed by the thought of picking up a brush or pencil again, I was ready to try anything. I had to paint or perish.
I’d been waiting my entire career for a chance like an exclusive showing at the Reynolds Gallery. If I did well there, I’d never have to worry about hustling my paintings myself again. At least that’s what Michael Reynolds told me when I’d signed the contract to show.
“Your studio is this way.” The monk said pulling me from this memory. As we walked around the side of the building my breath caught in my throat. The monastery buildings sat in a cathedral of towering cedars. Striated tree trunks reached so high I had to crank my neck backward to see where the deep green branches started. Gold, orange, yellow, and pink dahlia beds lined the walkway. Beyond, bright green vegetable plants huddled atop tidy mounds of dark earth.
Nestled among the grove of trees discreet distances apart were cottages, each one painted to blend with its startling beautiful surroundings. The pungent odor of evergreens and salt air filled my head, while the sound of the surf crashing against the rocks soothed my mind.
“This is beautiful,” I said.
“Yes, very much so.” He adjusted the bags over his shoulder as his gaze rested on me. “There’s a path down to the beach, over there.” He pointed to an opening between two enormous cedars.
We followed a well-worn foot path. The monk stopped in front of a cottage with a dark green door. “You’re in Pinewood,” he said.
He opened the door, stepping aside for me to enter first. I sucked in another breath. Through the large window across the room, slate-colored waves met a pewter sky. Tree tops poked upward from further down the cliff. In the distance whitecaps danced across the surface of Puget Sound.
“This is breathtaking.” I rushed over to the window and stood, taking in the magnificent view. If I couldn’t get inspired to paint these landscapes, I might as well hang up my brushes for good.
Behind me I heard him open the small stove and deposit some wood inside.
“Things should warm up fairly quickly.” The stove door squealed with protest as he closed the latch.
When I turned around he stood behind me, so close I felt the heat penetrating through his robe, reminding me of that glorious cock I’d caught a glimpse of earlier. Was it long as well as thick? My heart slammed against my ribcage. Neither of us moved.
“Did you want your bags left by the window?” he asked, finally speaking.
He smiled. The robe now covered his eyes, but his mouth was beautiful too. I found myself wishing I could see the whole package at once, rather than only catching a tantalizing piece of him at a time. He bobbed his head in the direction of my duffel bags.
“Yes – yes, please leave them here by the window. I’ll unpack them later. ”
His hand shot out from the voluminous robe sleeve, grasping the bags with strong fingers. I studied the big hands, with veins tracing pathways to worn knuckles, and long fingers. The nails were rounded and cut short. Each finger tip had a covering of rough callus, like he’d spent a lot of time running those fingers over textures. The muscles in his forearm roped, and then relaxed as he set the bags down. He obviously did work that required the use of muscles and sinew.
What would those callused finger tips feel like squeezing my nipples or sliding over my clit? That strong right hand slipped back into the belled sleeve of the robe.
This had to stop. I hadn’t seen the inside a church in over three decades, but I still had enough Catholic in me to know seducing a monk would land me straight in hell. This sudden horniness had already turned me into a complete idiot. Eternal damnation was not an option I wanted to contemplate.