The British Billionaire's Baby

By: Cristina Grenier

CHAPTER 1 – The Artist and the Earl

It was perfect.

Unable to keep herself from smiling widely, Gabrielle Arnold gazed at the paint-streaked canvases before her with no small amount of pride. She’d been working on this piece for months and to finally see the culmination of her efforts was, as always, something worth waiting for.

The canvases sat before her, a three foot by five foot stretch that she had used her bare hands to cover in a myriad of colors and streaks. Though the piece seemed abstract by nature, Gabrielle had put thought into every detail, resulting in a well-balanced work that brought together several of her favorite themes: Freedom, passion, and diversity.

She herself was covered in the paint she liked to use from head to toe. Though she had specific clothes she was supposed to wear while she painted- old, used garments – she wasn’t beyond working in whatever she was wearing when inspiration struck her. This evening, she had ruined an old college t-shirt and a pair of dark wash jeans perhaps eight years old.

It was well worth it.

Clothes could be replaced – but the feeling that came from seeing her creativity personified – that was priceless.

“Oh, darling, that’s spectacular.”

She turned to see her long-time friend Tristan as he stepped into the room from the landing. As always, she was struck by the figure he cut – over six feet tall, clad impeccably in a black tailored suit with a red tie, his long dark hair plaited down his back and tied with a ribbon. The way he dressed was a bit archaic, but Tristan could afford not to give one whit what people thought of him. The successful interior designer had long made a name for himself and did as he pleased – in the most flamboyant of fashions.

In his hands he carried a wooden tray upon which sat a steaming muffin and a cup of coffee. It was around seven in the morning, and Gabrielle had been working all night. She, of course, hadn’t noticed the hours fly by. It was often like that when she lost herself in her work. “The lines are so crisp. And I like that you started with the epicenter here.”

Tristan set the tray down on a nearby table, fairly gliding over to the canvases to take a closer look. Gabrielle grinned as she watched him, unable to keep from thinking that it wasn’t quite fair that a man a foot taller than her could move with such inherent grace. Then again, she was sure that Tristan’s legs would probably look better than hers in heels – if he didn’t strut his stuff with twice the efficiency.

Ah the trials and tribulations of having a companion who attracted more men than you did. Bending, over, Tristan peered at some of the smaller details of the piece, his honey-colored eyes approving. “I think I like this one better than the last one.”

“’Devoted’?” Gabrielle inquired, wiping her forehead with the back of a hand and thusly smearing paint all over the last part of her body not already covered in it. “But I love ‘Devoted’.”

“Of course you do. So do I. This one just has a certain something...special.” Turning, Tristian snorted at the sight of his paint-covered friend. “Oh dear, Gabrielle. You’re in desperate need of a shower.”

“Food first.” The young woman punctuated, drifting towards the table where Tristan had set her food. She did her best to wipe her hands off on her jeans before touching his precious hand-picked ceramic mug. Judging by the expression on his face, she had done well. At any rate, he didn’t break out into hysterics as she took her first sip of life- giving coffee. As she picked up her muffin as well, Tristan sank into a chair across from her – it had been thankfully covered with a drop cloth to save the expensive fabric from Gabrielle’s creativity.

“So is this one going into the selling lot then?”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes as she took another bite of her muffin, thanking God for lemon poppy seed. “They all go into the selling lot, Tristan, but you know good and well no one wants to buy them.”

“That’s not true, sweetheart. We just need to get your name out there. These things take time.”

“Right.” Gabrielle chuckled indulgently. “I think at this point we’ve both accepted that I’m going to be a starving artist for the foreseeable future.”

In fact, Gabby had gone through only a relatively short time under the impression that she might make any kind of fortune as an artist. When she’d gone to school, her father had warned her that majoring in something like pre-law or pre-med would be to her best interests. Art, he’d repeatedly told her even before they had lost contact, was no honest way to make a living.

Of course, at the time she’d been young and impulsive – too headstrong to take seriously the opinion of a man who’d only just started to try to get to know her after her mother’s untimely death. She’d majored in painting and never looked back.

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