Ten minutes later the gorillas in uniform ordered me out of there and on request pointed me in the direction of the cloakrooms. There was an annoying amount of paint on me by this stage. I’d stuck two pieces of hastily filched newspaper to the soles of my feet and had so much paint on my fingers that I needed to open the swing-door of the bathroom with my bum.
I held my hands up like the virulent evidence from a crime-scene. The place was empty, but steamy. It was some kind of locker room. Antique, with black and white floor tiles and exposed copper pipes. Lime yellow walls peeled at the cornices. I padded on over to the gargantuan sinks when someone opened a cubicle door to my right and a figure stepped out. I jumped.
Jesus. It was him, in just a pair of black trousers. He stopped, regarded me, and pulled his fly up slowly. The sound echoed in the room.
“Shit, you scared me,” I croaked.
He cocked his head at me. That thick hair was wet.
“This is the staff locker room,” Martinez said mildly. “For gents.”
“Oh, crap,” I said. Somehow I couldn’t stop swearing.
“But you’re welcome,” he added, leaning back against the tiled wall of the cubicle and crossing his arms. His pecs flexed against the smooth, almost hairless quality of that broad chest. His olive-coloured skin took on a slight sheen in this light. “It would be a pity to get paint on that sweater.”
Did he mean Peter’s dreadful cardie? How embarrassing.
“That colour looks familiar,” he added, glancing at my red feet. And my oversized men’s jeans, which, on consideration, were probably Peter’s too.
“I didn’t touch it…” I mumbled, heat rushing into my face. I felt faint.
“No, it looks like you fell on it.” He shifted his weight onto one leg and crossed the other over it, becoming even more casual. I tried not to look at his perfect body, but I couldn’t look at his face either, so I just stared at the floor like a naughty schoolgirl.
Which is so not a good role for me. I hated school. I even struggle with university, because I’ve been a rebel all my life. Something inside me snapped and I jerked my chin up, looking him in the eye. “I helped with the clean-up?” I suggested, sounding bolder than I really felt.
He laughed. “Okay, we can go with that.”
“I wanted to touch you?” I don’t know why I said that. It just slipped out. Seriously, I had no control.
Martinez smiled knowingly. Steam still emanated from the changing room behind him, which I assumed also contained a shower. He looked like a real live pin-up. May: Mr Italy. He bowed his head. It was an oddly defeated gesture. His breathing became slightly accelerated.
“There’s a sink over there,” he said. “Do you need help getting your foot into it?”
I laughed, though my heart crashed to the ground. “No thanks, I’ve already put my foot in it plenty.” I stalked past him stiff-legged, as the newspapers beneath my feet turned to papier-mâché on the damp floor. I was probably leaving a trail of red paint that the officials could follow…straight to the staff showers.
What on earth possessed me to mention touching him?
“A Painting Major?” he asked, still leaning calmly against the outside wall of the shower. I could see from his reflection in the mirror that he was watching my bum.
“Nope, feet of clay,” I said, shrugging. Jeez. First I’d been completely inappropriate, and now I was making appalling puns.
“I know it’s…unfashionable.”
He chuckled. “Art? Unfashionable?”
The pompous prick. I turned the water on loudly and ran my hands under it. A large red smear stayed behind on the brass tap.
“Is this oil?” I asked, rubbing.
“Your powers of observation, Ms…?”
“Pollock,” I muttered.
“Not oil,” he continued. “A fast-drying polymer resin.”
“God.” I heaved my right foot up into the sink and nearly fell over. Then I scratched at the newspaper, which was firmly encrusted to my sole. I whipped it out again, christening the floor with pink water.
This is just fantastic.
“I won’t be long,” I shot over my shoulder.
“Do you do this often?”
“What?” I asked, quietly alarmed.
“Roll in paint and then head for the men’s showers to get it off?”
I had to laugh again, turning to him. He looked straight into me, just as he had in the Master-class. “No, do you?” The atmosphere between us, which had been kind of flirty but awkward from the first, suddenly got several degrees hotter. I turned back to the sink in a hurry and stuck my other foot in. I wobbled. Before I knew what he was doing or could stop it, Martinez Di Ser Piero stepped forward and steadied me with a hand to my hip.
A jolt shot right through me. His touch was like molten lead running under my skin, a hotline to my pussy. I jerked involuntarily as I was squeezed by a spasm of desire, and caught my breath.
“Oh yes,” he said, near my ear. “All the time.” Up close, right behind me, tension in his voice. “How old are you, anyway?”
It was a weird question. For some reason it turned me on beyond sanity.
A pause. “How old do you want me to be?”