Black Ties and White Lies: Chapter 36

Margo

My body stills against his. I turn my head, needing to look at him. I expect to find his usual smirk on his mouth. One that would tell me that he was joking, but I don’t find it. He looks right back at me, his eyebrows raised slightly, like he’s wanting me to call him out.

“You didn’t,” I breathe.

“You telling me that I’m lying?” he challenges.

I shake my head. “I just…”

Beck moves a wet piece of hair from my face. “Deep down, I think you knew there was something between us back then. I just think you didn’t want to admit it to yourself.”

My mind catapults to a memory I’ve worked hard at trying to forget. To one that wouldn’t ever truly go away, no matter how hard I tried.

I toss in bed, letting out an aggravated sigh that I haven’t been able to fall asleep. I spent an entire day in the sun, sleep should be reaching me easily. And yet it doesn’t.

Carter lets out a snore from behind me. I roll my eyes, annoyed he was able to fall asleep so quickly. Or maybe it’s the fact that he’d come in with promises of having sex with me. I’d argued at first, telling him we can’t possibly sleep together in the same house as the rest of the family. He’d had a good point when he said the beach house was fairly large. They wouldn’t be able to hear us. After his persistence, I’d agreed to it. It’d seemed like forever since we’d been intimate, and I missed my boyfriend.

Too bad he spent a few minutes fingering me and the moment I’d reached to return the favor, he’d stopped and complained of a headache from drinking all day. I hadn’t had an orgasm, and I nowhere near felt comfortable finding it for myself with him snoring next to me.

The inability to fall asleep mixed with the tightness in my stomach from being brought to the brink of release and not being able to get it has me throwing the soft sheet from my feet and getting up.

Carter doesn’t move an inch, too deep in sleep to notice his girlfriend leave the bed. I search for my things in the dark, sliding my flip flops on and grabbing my bag full of art supplies off the chair in the corner.

Stepping in front of the door, I take one last peek at Carter. Deep down, I think I’m hoping for him to wake up and ask me to come back to bed. I want the boyfriend who used to care about me back. Now, he seems disinterested in me, like I’m more of a nuisance than someone he loves. Every time I bring it up, he blames it on the stress of starting his first real job out of college. He keeps promising once he gets settled in there that things will change.

I won’t hold my breath. We’ve been making long distance work, but I’m moving out to California to be closer to him. Maybe that will change things. Deep down I’m worried that it won’t matter. Him wanting almost nothing to do with me anymore when we actually are together isn’t very promising. I still hold onto hope. He’s the only real boyfriend I’ve ever known, the only man I’ve ever loved. I want to cling to what we used to be—what we could be again—for as long as possible.

I stare at his sleeping form for a few more seconds before slipping out the bedroom door. I’ve luckily been able to memorize the layout of the house in the few days we’ve been staying with Carter’s family. Their vacation home is loads nicer than the actual home I grew up in. Just another reminder of how different the world I grew up in is from Carter’s.

In my few days of staying here, I’ve learned which floorboards creak and which ones don’t. I navigate them carefully, although I’m not sure it’s necessary. From Carter’s point earlier, I don’t think anyone in the house could hear me.

When I finally reach the backdoor of the kitchen, I let out the breath I was holding. I’m not sure if anyone in the Sinclair family would really care that I’m wandering their house in the middle of the night, but I’m not trying to figure it out either.

I hold the strap of my art bag tightly as I sprint toward the crashing waves of the ocean. As someone who grew up without anything scenic enough to stare at, the ocean has completely captivated me throughout this trip. While it wasn’t my first time seeing an ocean, it was my first time at a beach. From the moment my toes hit the sand, I’d dreamt about sitting in it and getting lost in my sketchbook.

I hadn’t exactly pictured doing it while I was reeling from another rejection from my boyfriend, but it didn’t matter. For a few peaceful hours, I don’t want to think of anything—including Carter.

I pull a towel I’d snatched from one of the pool chairs off my shoulder and lay it over the sand. Taking a seat, I open my bag and neatly place my supplies around me. I treated myself to a brand new set of drawing pencils before the trip, and I’ve been itching to put them to use. I’d attempted to draw by the pool today, but Carter kept bothering me, his wet body threatening to drip all over my favorite sketchbook.

Once everything is neatly laid out, I place my sketchbook in my lap. I’d begun a drawing earlier in the thirty minutes of peace I got when Carter fell asleep on one of the pool loungers. Since the moment I had to stop sketching to get ready for a fancy dinner with the Sinclair family, I’ve been dying to get back to it.

Call me inspired. I’d found a muse, and now with just the moon as my witness, I can get to sketching without anyone interrupting me.

I turn the pages in my book, admiring the past work I’ve kept in there. There’s rushed, rough sketches and one I’ve taken my time on, all works I’m still proud of deep down. One day, I’d give anything to see my very own drawings on display in a gallery, until then, me appreciating what I’ve worked on is enough.

Stopping on the one I was working on earlier, I trace my finger over the pencil strokes I’ve already created. My cheeks flush slightly at what my inspiration was—or who for that matter. The detail of the muscles is one I wish I could show somebody else. I’m impressed with my attention to detail on them.

I pick up one of my pencils, continuing to shade the perfect ridges of the abs I was working on. With the sound of crashing waves surrounding me, I get lost in the drawing. I don’t know how much time has passed when I suddenly feel hot.

My head shoots up, my eyes connecting with the very person I’ve spent god knows how long drawing in precise detail.

“Beck?” I ask in disbelief, snapping the book closed before he can get a look on what I’ve been working on. My neck prickles with heat as I pray in my head he didn’t see what I’d been drawing.

Carter’s elusive older brother stares down at me, no hint of emotion on his face. His lips are set in a scowl that I’ve learned in a very short amount of time he wears often. He keeps his hands tucked in the pockets of his nicely pressed shorts.

“You shouldn’t be out here alone.” His voice is rough, that one sentence almost more words than he’d uttered to me this entire weekend with his family.

I look up and down the beach, raising an eyebrow at him. “I don’t see any threats around here.”

He grunts, taking me by surprise when he takes a seat next to me. He carefully moves a few of my supplies out of the way, his huge body way too close to mine as we share the towel I’d snatched.

“What are you doing?” I hiss. My arms clutch my sketchbook to my chest for dear life. I hate to admit it to myself, but there’s a good chance he’s already seen what I was working on. I’m going to live in denial until he gives any indication he’d seen what’s inside.

Beck brings his knees to his chest, looping his arms around his legs and looking way too easy-going for this persona I’ve made up for him in my head. “I’m not leaving you out here alone,” he states. The abrasive tone of his voice makes it clear he’s not interested in me arguing.

I do it anyway.

“We’re on a private beach. I’m fine. I came out here to be alone, and you’re ruining that.”

He effortlessly reaches out and plucks the sketchbook from my arms. I screech, reaching across the towel to try and steal back my own property.

“Give that back right now!” I yell, my hand trying to yank the book free from his grasp.

He holds the book on the opposite side of him, pinning me with a stare that dares me to try and get it from him. I know it’s probably no use, but I’m going to melt into a puddle of embarrassment if he looks at what I’ve been drawing. I have to do everything in my power to get it from him.

My hands fall to my lap as I pretend to be disinterested in getting it back for the time being. “Has anyone ever told you it’s rude to steal someone else’s things?”

The only response I get from him is an amused chuckle under his breath.

Why does the tiniest twitch of his lip, the movement not even forming a smile, have heat washing over my entire body? I could blame it on embarrassment for what he might find, but I know it’s not that.

Beckham Sinclair is staring at me. It feels like he’s leaving so much unsaid with the way his eyes take their time running over my features.

My eyes flick to the sketchbook in his hands. “If I wanted to show you what I was drawing, I would. You have no right stealing it from me.”

“Don’t I?” His challenging stare says everything it needs to. The asshole definitely saw.

“First, you hijack the first chance at alone time I’ve had this weekend, and then you have the nerve to steal something that’s meant to be private. Are you always like this, Beckham?”

“It’s Beck.”

I roll my eyes. “Oh excuse me, Beckham.” I use the name on purpose just to annoy him. “I’ll get the memo to call you that when you stop being an ass and give me my drawings back.”

My stomach plummets when he lifts the cardboard cover of the book. At least there’s a small grace in the fact he doesn’t automatically flip to the newest page. He starts with the first page, his eyes raking over every pencil stroke I’d drawn.

He’s silent, taking his time looking over each drawing before flipping to the next. Eventually, he looks up at one I’d drawn of a man I’d seen eating alone at a cafe. One page had him seated at the table exactly as I’d seen him that early morning. The page after it was the life I’d made up in my head for him. He was walking through a Brownstone neighborhood in New York with his arm looped through a woman’s. In my head, this was the life he used to live before whatever transpired to have him eating alone that morning. I’d drawn him happily in love with the woman next to him, the two of them on a morning stroll with their tiny, yappy dog.

Beck pauses on the picture for a long time, flipping back to the previous page of the man before focusing on my re-imagined one again. His eyes look up to mine. There’s no longer humor in them. They’re serious, and I wish I knew him better to know what secrets lay beyond that penetrating indigo gaze of his. “These are breathtaking.”

I try to hide my gasp at his compliment. I’ve had plenty of people in my life tell me I’m talented, but for some reason, none of their opinions affected me the way his just did.

His stare is too much. It’s too intense. I have to look away, afraid the look on my face may show too much vulnerability to a man I barely know. “Thank you,” I mumble, brushing sand off the towel to give myself something to do.

I allow him to flip through the subsequent drawings, knowing there’s still a good amount left before he reaches the one I’ve drawn of him.

Once I’m confident he’s too focused on what he’s looking at in the book to pay attention to me, I make my move. Springing off the towel, I lunge for the book, attempting to snatch it from his unexpecting hands.

If it took him off guard, you’d never know. He easily rips the book from my grasp. I refuse to let go, resulting in him pulling me along with it. One large tug from him has the book coming free from my hands, but not at the expense of my body jerking into his lap in the process.

My hands find his body, running over his rock-hard abs, as I attempt to steady myself and prevent my body from crashing on top of his. The sudden movement has one of my thighs hiking over his, causing me to straddle him in a compromising position.

I should move.

If anyone were to happen on Beck and me right now, this position would have people automatically thinking the worst.

The problem is, I can’t. I’m stuck staring at him, marveling at the way his body feels underneath mine.

He lets the sketchbook fall from his hand. It lands next to him with a soft thud. With it no longer in his grip, I should feel safe. He isn’t focused on sorting through my drawings any longer, at least for the time being.

He’s focused on something much worse—me.

One of his large hands comes up to rest at the small of my back. It only hovers there, more of a tease of a touch than an actual touch. Still, it ignites fireworks low in my belly.

I come to the realization that I feel an intense need to kiss my boyfriend’s brother.

Maybe it’s still the lust from earlier rolling through my veins. Carter had gotten me so close to an orgasm before leaving me high and dry. I can blame the feelings passing through my body on that. But I know it really isn’t that. My body feels like a rubber band that’s been pulled taut, ready to snap from the tension at any moment. It doesn’t have anything to do with my boyfriend. It has everything to do with his brother.

In the company of the moonlight and the crashing waves, I can admit to myself I want Beckham Sinclair. Wholly, desperately, in a way so fiercely that I don’t care that I’m in a relationship with his brother.

His stare is so intense I’m wondering if he wants the same thing…

My gaze flicks to his lips. They’re so perfect, I want to know what they taste like. Is his kiss as demanding as his personality or is he softer when his lips press against another’s?

“Careful, Violet,” he warns. His hand moves from the small of my back, wrapping around my bicep. His grip is tight, his fingertips pressing into my tender skin. It’s almost like he’s trying to restrain himself. I could trick myself into thinking he’s a coiled rubber band about to snap as well.

My tongue peeks out to wet my lips. They suddenly feel dry under the intensity of his gaze. “Careful how?” He didn’t use the right name, but it doesn’t matter. It sounds phenomenal coming from his lips. Even if he has my name wrong, there’s no misinterpretation of who he wants at the moment. I can feel him stiffen underneath me. It’s clear what he wants. Me.

I don’t realize I’m doing it until he latches onto my hips, causing them to stop the rocking motion I’d begun. “Because I’m nowhere near good enough a man to deny my little brother’s girlfriend when her hips are moving against me like that.”

The moan that falls from my lips takes both of us off guard.

No, Margo. No.

I rip myself from his lap, falling onto the towel with an aggravated sigh.

What in the hell just happened?

My chest heaves, lust coursing through my veins. My body protests breaking the connection with Beck while my head scolds me for allowing it to happen.

What did his words mean?

I cover my eyes with my hands, letting out a groan. I don’t know how much time passes as I lie there, wondering why I don’t feel as regretful as I should. Instead of feeling remorse for wanting to kiss Carter’s brother, I feel aggravated that I stopped myself.

Only the sound of Beck clearing his throat could break me from my self-conflict.

“Your attention to detail is top-notch, Violet.”

My eyes widen as I quickly push myself up from the towel. “No,” I plead, only now remembering the thing that got me straddling Beck’s lap to begin with.

My sketchbook.

It’s too late. I find Beck staring at the picture I’d drawn the first day he’d arrived.

This one is much more innocent than the one he’ll find next.

I hadn’t felt as weird drawing this one sitting in the breakfast nook of the Sinclair house. Carter had left halfway right as I started it, saying he had to run into town. I hadn’t thought too deeply about why he was leaving me alone when he’d begged me to visit with him to begin with. It hadn’t mattered. My brain was focused on Beck sitting at the counter with his laptop, phone pressed to his ear as he discussed business with someone on the other line.

There were so many things I could’ve focused on as he sat working on the counter, but what I couldn’t stop looking at were his hands. He had defined veins on the top of them. Ones that rippled with every single one of his movements.

I’d told myself it was purely innocent as I’d begun to sketch the one whose fingers wrapped around the handle of a coffee mug. Hands are hands. I hadn’t wondered what those strong fingers felt like on intimate parts of me. Or what it’d feel like to have his fingers wrap around my throat the same way they did the mug.

I hadn’t thought of any of that. Or maybe I had. Either way, I’d spent an hour sketching the stupid Greetings From The Hamptons mug.

“That’s my favorite mug,” he quips, pinning me with a sultry smirk.

“A weird coincidence that I saw someone else with the exact same one,” I lie.

He gives me a knowing look. He knows I’m lying through my teeth. But he lets me have the lie. At least for the moment. When he turns the page, there won’t be any more pretending.

He prolongs the inevitable, letting me linger in the anticipation of him finding the more intimate sketch I’d drawn of him. I wait with bated breath until he finally turns the page, his lips turning into a frown when he takes in the picture I’d drawn of him.

He’d been laying by the pool, not working for the first time that weekend. The hard planes of muscles had caught me off guard when he’d walked out that afternoon. His swimming trunks had fit him perfectly, showing off a perfect ass. I’d never been more thankful for a pair of oversized sunglasses in my life. They allowed me to check him out without anyone seeing.

It may have been the backward baseball hat over his blond hair that threw me over the edge.

I’d never wanted to draw a human being more than I had in that moment.

The thing was, I didn’t want to create some other scenario for him for me to draw. I wanted to draw him exactly as he was, casually lounging by the pool. The moment was perfect enough as it was. He was perfect enough. I didn’t have to come up with some alternate life for him, because I couldn’t imagine him any other way than how he was at that moment.

It still started out fairly innocent when I had the time to draw him. I’d started with the tendril of hair that peeked out from underneath his hat. He’d had a pair of wayfarer sunglasses covering his eyes that I’d drawn. I’d taken my time sketching the hard set of his jaw, his perfectly straight nose and the curve of his defined Adam’s apple.

Then things got a bit more…not innocent.

I’d stared at his defined pecs, wondering what they’d feel like to the touch. I’d been finishing the slopes and planes of his abs when Beck happened upon me tonight.

He takes me by surprise by placing the book back into my lap. I’d expected him to spend more time looking at the picture I’d drawn of him, or at least for him to give me shit about it. He does neither of those things.

I can’t move as he watches me. I wonder how often he uses that same stare in a boardroom. It’s commanding. With one look, he can pin you to your spot.

His fingers find the collar of his shirt. In one fluid movement, he tugs the shirt off. He balls up the fabric and throws it next to him.

“What are you doing?” I whisper. My voice betrays me. I can’t say anything more, too caught up in staring at the skin he’d just bared to me.

He leans back, propping himself up by the elbows. I only last a few seconds staring into his eyes until I can’t help but look at his perfectly sculpted muscles.

“Beck?” My voice comes out as a squeak. I hate that he’s not a man of many words. I’m left wondering what he’s thinking. I wished he’d say whatever is on his mind so I didn’t have to fill in the blanks.

“Finish it,” he clips.

I pull my gaze from the splatter of hair above the waistband of his shorts. “What?”

He growls, his eyes ushering to the picture in my lap. “You don’t have to study me from afar. I’m right here, Violet. Finish it for me.”

I’m right here, Violet. Words have never been hotter, and he didn’t even have my name right.

I bite my tongue, not wanting to correct him. I don’t know where he got the impression that was my name, but I don’t hate it coming from his lips. Telling him he’s got the wrong person would ruin whatever is happening between us right now. The last thing I want to do is break what is happening between us, no matter how wrong it is.

He shifts on the towel. It feels weird to be allowed free rein of staring at the way his muscles flex with each movement.

I stare at him, unsure. It feels way less innocent than it did earlier today with him laid out in front of me, a willing participant. “I um…” I don’t know what to say. This was the last thing I’d expected.

The confident look on his face has me picking up my pencil. He seems so sure, it’s like through his concrete resolve that I have no option but do as he wishes.

This should feel weird. It should feel off. Neither of those are how it feels. It’s thrilling. It feels right. It’s like there’s nothing else I should be doing under the moonlight than sketching every perfect inch of Beckham Sinclair.

My fingers clutch the pencil for dear life. I have to erase something almost immediately after picking back up, my nerves getting the better of me.

I can feel his gaze hot on me as I study him. I’ve already drawn his face, so I don’t have to look him in the eyes. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling him look at me. I want to ask him what he’s thinking. Or how he knew I was out here to begin with, but my mouth stays shut.

Right now, it feels like things should be silent. That the only sounds around us should be the scratch of my pencil on paper mixing with the sound of the waves. It’s incredibly peaceful.

I work on getting a rough sketch of the muscles along his hips. They’re huge. I don’t know what he does to get them so defined, but whatever it is, it’s working. As I bring the muscles to life, shading in different colors, I can’t help but think about where the muscles lead to. They dip into his shorts, leading to something forbidden.

In the silence of the moment, I want to know what Beck looks like underneath. I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself. Does that dirty blond hair go all the way down? Are there muscles hiding underneath his shorts that I need to pay attention to?

Beck breaks me from my dirty thoughts. He adjusts the waistband of his shorts, pulling it down slightly to show off even more of his skin. With his pants lowered an inch, I can see that the newly exposed skin is a shade lighter than the rest of him. It isn’t as pink from the burn of the sun.

Neither one of us speak for minutes, maybe even hours. I don’t know exactly how long we spend out there. By the time I’m done drawing him, the sun has barely begun to rise. It’s pretty, pink and orange bleeding into the dark blue of the night sky.

The deep color of the ocean reminds me of the indigo color of his eyes.

I lean in, blowing some pencil shavings off the piece of paper. “It’s done,” I tell him quietly, shy being in his presence all over again. Soon he’ll realize that I’d started completely over. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to capture the look on his face in this moment, the two of us alone under the moonlight, so I could keep it and remember it forever.

He sits up. Part of me hopes that he’ll immediately put his shirt on so I can stop fantasizing about the muscles I’d just spent hours drawing. He doesn’t allow me the mercy. His shirt remains off. Worse, he brings his body close to mine to look at the sketchbook in my lap.

His breath tickles my neck as he inspects it. It’s an excruciating few seconds of silence as he observes what I’d spent so long working on. I begin to panic that he hates it, that I’ve done something wrong when he lets out a long sigh.

“Your talent is unbelievable. You’re unbelievable.”

I fight the urge to tell him it wasn’t hard when the subject was someone as perfect as him. All I manage is a small thank you.

I look down, proud of what I’ve created. It’s probably my best work, the details perfect.

Beck’s fingers grab my chin, lifting my face to stare at his.

For the briefest moment, I wonder if something like desire flashes through his eyes. I tell myself I’m making it up. This is Beckham Sinclair, Carter’s older brother. I’m probably the last person that could elicit a look of desire from him.

But…

The way he looks at me, his cold stare softening has me wondering. His lips press into a thin line, his jaw clenching. It’s like he’s working hard at keeping his mouth shut to keep himself from saying whatever is on his mind.

He traces over my lip with the pad of his thumb, leaning in a fraction of an inch.

He leans in closer. I lean in closer. Our breaths mingle.

I want him to kiss me.

I snap back to reality at the thought.

I scurry away from him, putting as much space between us as possible. I carelessly throw my art supplies into a bag, needing to get back to the house.

To get back to my boyfriend.

I’m trying to shove my box of pencils into the bag when it snaps open, pencils tumbling to the towel. I reach to grab them when he beats me to it.

“Look at me,” he demands. I do no such thing.

I can’t. Tears prick my eyes as I think about what I almost did. What I wanted to do.

What I still want to do.

When I shake my head, he stays quiet, although I can feel his stare boring into mine. If I looked up, I bet I’d find his normal, angry scowl on his face.

I swallow, feeling incredibly guilty. I look at my open sketchbook on the towel. With one loud rip, I tear what I’d just drawn and shove it into Beck’s naked chest.

“This is yours,” I force out. I don’t wait for any kind of response. I shove the book into my bag and leap to my feet.

I rush back toward the house when he grabs my elbow, spinning me to face him.

I was right. He looks angry. The muscle in his jaw feathers as he clenches his teeth. I look down to where he holds me. His hand is warm and firm against my skin. He takes the paper I’d tossed to him and hands it back to me. He pushes it into my chest, keeping his hand over mine to ensure I keep it there.

“Keep it as a reminder.”

“A reminder of what?”

“Of unfinished business. A reminder of the night you realized that things might not be as perfect with my brother as they seem.”

He leaves me standing there alone, holding the finished drawing of him. I stare at his retreating back, obsessing over the hidden meanings in every one of his words.

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