Fate conspires to arrange a canvass of dramatic conflict for offspring of warring NYC art world royalty. The muses laugh as Romance takes center stage.
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David Michaels, heir to an artist legacy – his parents, Adrian Michaels, premier sculptor, and Elena Stefanova, patrician Russian impressionist – breaks away to start a Gallery in the shark infested waters of NYC’s art world. David and his General Manager/mistress approach the talented daughter of Adrian Michaels’ archrival, Jacqueline Maurer, to showcase the Gallery’s opening salvo. Jackie will not disrespect her Papa, the redoubtable Jacques Maurer, and declines.
David decides to pursue his prey using a fake identity as he descends on the University where Jackie is a student, bent on pressing his case but losing himself in his art and the incomparable talent of his prey.
Jackie has complications of her own – a relationship with her swimming coach – and an offer from Jacques to come home to Paris to work in his studio as partners. Torn between opposing factions and unsure of her heart, Jackie embraces her dark yearnings to produce the image that will ultimately captivate David.
Elena Stefanova must enter stage left to manipulate the warring muses, star crossed lovers and irascible enemies. Romance smiles wisely as David’s creation, The Raging Bull, pulls free of its confines.
“Dad. Mom. Janet couldn’t join us.”
David leaned down to give his mother a peck on the cheek. She looked as radiantly beautiful as ever, perhaps more so, age and wisdom conspiring to coat her with a patina of elegance and grace. Strong Russian genes and a lifetime of ballet training left her lean of build, ephemeral and compelling, a red-haired temptress with piercing green eyes and haughty demeanor. That Elena Stefanova had chosen oils over ballet was the dancing world’s greatest loss, but an uncommon gift to the savants with whom she shared a visionary’s dream. David had never been so much her child as her personal work of art, one she indulged and pampered. David idolized his mother, his approachable goddess, the one being who saw into his demented soul and loved him without reservation.
His father? Not so much. Adrian Michaels epitomized the alpha male. Ruggedly handsome, solid and square, he looked more a dock worker than a renowned sculptor. Adrian stood to shake his son’s hand, holding it a moment longer than necessary, staring David down in a long-suffering display of testosterone and dominance. David frowned and glared back at his father, taking the measure of a man in the prime of his life, masterful, sure of himself.
Adrian stood just shy of six feet tall, with an almost military bearing, though he’d never served. At fifty-six, he still retained a full head of hair, reddish brown shot through with silver. Like his son, he bore scars from mishaps in the studio, his a long slice running from his left temple down the axis of his cheek and ending at a strong square chin, David’s a scar bisecting his right eyebrow. Both had strong hands with short powerful fingers, gnarled knuckles, and chipped and tattered fingernails.
Adrian waved for David to sit. The three sorted out how the dinner would go down - David praying for a miracle, his mother hoping for peace, his father intent on having his way. The waiter entered the war zone, smiled pleasantly, then left with a thin sheen of sweat coating his forehead.
“About the commission, son.” David took a deep breathe and fingered the knife. His mother looked askance at Adrian and her son.
“Nyet. Nyet, ne sevodnya vecheram. Adrian, you promised…”
“What? I was just going to explain that I might need his help with the initial design elements.” Adrian glared at David. “After all, we sent you to the premier school for sculptors on the east coast. It wouldn’t kill you to apply some of that knowledge, now would it?”
Oh, here we go. Bring up Virginia Commonwealth University. How he spent five years and his inheritance squandering his talents. How he never lived up to his promise. How he pandered to a dark and forbidding world of sensual thematic elements – his father called them sick fucks – and how he’d now throw what little fame and security he’d earned down the toilet.
Elena sucked air audibly and tapped a fingernail against her water glass. The waiter slid her salad cautiously onto the table and backed away, almost bowing from the waist.
David turned to the waiter and growled, “Scotch, double, neat.”
“Make that two.” Adrian glanced at his wife, wearing her darkest Russian Princess visage, then thought about the odds of ever having sex with her again and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. “So, tell me about this gallery thing. How’s that going?”
David was used to his father’s whiplash changes of pace. He knew exactly what message his mother had sent, and the thought both embarrassed and tickled him no end. She was the only person in the universe who could rein in his dominating father with merely a look.
David opted to play along, for his mother’s sake, if nothing else. “It’s fine. We have three of the four artists signed already. Janet will head to Philadelphia to talk with the fourth – she does oils and mixed media. I’ve seen her work, and it’s unusual to say the least. She’s got a small following in Philly. I think we can blow her sky high into a major figure with the right exposure.”
Elena looked up with interest. “And who is this woman who has you so excited?”
Uh-oh. This might get tricky. “Her name is Jacqueline Maurel.”
“Maurel? You mean Jacques Maurel’s daughter? The student at Penn?” Adrian chugged his scotch and slammed the tumbler on the table so hard it made Elena’s salad plate jump.
Elena held up a hand. “I hear she is quite talented. But dark, very dark. I can understand what you see in her work. Two of a kind, I think. Yes, this makes sense to me.”
The waiter approached once again, slipping the salad plate away and bowing obeisance with shrimp and steamed vegetables. Adrian and David glared at each other, ignoring their plates with the blood-red chum masquerading as rare sirloin. David finally relented, his stomach giving a growl as the odor of man-food wafted past his nose. He hadn’t eaten all day. No point in letting the old man ruin a perfectly good piece of meat.
“So, Dad, when do you go to Dubai to scope out the hotel?”
Shifting attention to his father’s singular passion eased the conversation onto a less adversarial level. David actually enjoyed hearing his father wax poetic over his latest creation. He admired his father; he just didn’t want to be his clone. He was twenty-eight, after all - no longer a young man. He had a mind of his own, and dreams and goals that were his to win or lose. His father might cast a long shadow, but David vowed to thrust it aside and find his own version of light. Dinner passed, endured if not enjoyed.
On the sidewalk outside the restaurant, Elena reached up on tip-toe to hug and kiss her handsome son. “Be well, David. Call me.” She winked and turned away to enter the cab.
David shook his father’s hand and waved them off. He watched with sadness, wishing he could make his father proud. Perhaps someday. He hailed a cab and headed for Janet’s, not sure he was in the mood. Tonight had developed into nothing more than something to get through. He doubted Janet would even notice his lack of enthusiasm.