You’ve now had a glimpse of Thomas, now I’d like you to meet one of the women Thomas called his “muse.” Likely the most stereotypical in nature to the women of her time, Helen is an innocent, the eldest daughter of hard-working farmers. She has all but resigned that she may never marry, as no man seems to give her a second glance. She is not coy or adventuresome, she is not looking for love, but rather it is enough just to survive, making certain that she does not end up in a passionless marriage like her parents.
Perhaps working in the small hat shop spawns her period moments of romance, But not until she meets William Rodin, brother of the reckless young Pre-Raphaelite artist is Helen dragged into a world of more passion, sex, and rebellious frivolity than she has ever seen—nor has she ever been more alive.
Flattery seduces Helen and she agrees to model, thinking it will get her closer to William, who has shown glimpses of his feelings. So infatuated is she with her new interest that she is willing to lie, keeping her side job from her family. But juggling two lives is not something Helen has mastered and soon fate plays her card, forcing Helen to make some difficult choices and causing her to see the world is not going to be rose-colored, simply because you wish it. Love is messy, it hurts, you have to sacrifice and through all of these experiences Helen matures into a woman who knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want—something which she would never have been able to realize had she not met the roguish Thomas Rodin and the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.)
It is said, “Nothing is ever wasted if you learn from it,” and that is true of the delicate woman from rural England, who one day said yes to opportunity. People often ask me, “Do these stories have a ‘happy ending?’ and I smile, because I believe that they do, perhaps not as clearly defined using the formula of a one man/one woman scenario—but a happy ending nonetheless. After all, love is messy…
The Master & the Muses-Excerpt: Helen meets Thomas for the first time.
“This is the woman I spoke to you about. Helen Bridgeton, I would like you to meet my brother, the extraordinary and gifted artist, Thomas Rodin.”
I was perhaps mesmerized by how accurate was William’s assessment of his brother. It was, I determined, the reason why I could not find my tongue. He was not particularly tall, but his manner and his odd clothing made him seem larger than life. The air fairly crackled in his presence. I found myself curtsying as if about to dance.
His eyes came alive and as though I was the only one in the room, he walked toward me, silently assessing me from head to toe. He wore the trousers of a proper gentleman, and so, too, the shoes. That, however, is where all semblance of the current era stopped. His coat, dark blue velvet and showing wear on the shoulder, was festooned with ornate blue seed pearls and stiff piping, reminding me of the clothes of the aristocratic wealthy clothes I’d seen in the paintings at the gallery. He wore a shirt, too, adorned with lace cuffs and on his fingers beautiful rings of gold, one bearing a black stone the size of a small bird's egg. The eclectic array of clothing and color enhanced his exotic olive skin, making him look like a painting come to life. Were it not for the shadow of his beard, the swagger of his walk, and the obvious gleam of sensuality in his eye, I would have taken him for a dandy. Instead, I found myself curiously drawn to him.
Yes, I had gravely underestimated the impact of his brother’s effect on me. I felt like a ripe apple being eyed for its tart sweetness.
“Turn,” he stated bluntly.
I blinked, pressing my lips together in uncertainty that I would pass muster. My eyes met William’s unreadable gaze. He nodded and I turned slowly, my fingers locked together, holding onto my braid.
Thomas reached for my hands and I relinquished my grasp and inspected them roughly, turning them back and forth. I grew uncomfortable at how long he studied them, praying he would not take note of how unkempt my nails were, how dry my skin was. I checked to be sure that William had not left me alone with his brother.
At last, Thomas drew my hands to his lips and kissed them with lingering reverence. His lip curled provocatively, highlighting slight cleft in his chin, giving character to his handsome face. His hair, a dark, unruly mop, produced a shock of curls that dipped low, covering one brow. The other brow, I noticed, bore a thin white scar slicing across its outer edge.
“My brother is to blame for that,” he spoke, cocking his brow as though reading my mind. His eyes narrowed joining his easy, predatory grin.
“Her hair is glorious. That deep russet-those mahogany undertones are positively scandalous! Dante's delight, you are a lovely gift to be certain. By all that is decadent, woman, your eyes alone have utterly captured me.” He strode over to William, grabbing him in a fierce embrace. “Well done, William, you have found us a ‘stunner’.”
“Now we must celebrate. Our cups—as our dear mother would say most devotedly—do runneth over, and so shall ours, down at McGivney’s.”
In two steps, he had returned, grabbing me around the waist, holding me close as he spun me around. The delight on his face reminded me of a child on Christmas morning. I clung to his broad shoulders, looking down at a face so closely resembling William’s, but with eyes that sparked mischievously. I caught Williams guarded expression as Thomas placed my feet to the floor.
“Now what shall I call you…my muse?” He narrowed his eyes studying me. I admit I was so smitten immediately by his zest for life that I quite forgot the obstacles facing me with taking on this position.
“My apologies, Mr. Rodin, but I have not yet accepted this position.”
He drew back in surprise, but he laughed aloud. “I like her, Will. She has a feisty spirit. Perhaps, we should consider paying her more?”
“What I would prefer is that you stop talking about me like I cannot hear.” I said with a boldness that surprised me.
Thomas took my chin between his fingers and his grin positively wicked. “Yes, you and I will get on quite well. I like a woman who knows her mind, who knows what she wants, and has no fear in obtaining it.”
Giveaway Question: Do you prefer the traditional happy ending or are you okay with a “satisfying ending?”
May the wind be at your back~