Lex Valentine: Do NOT Touch!
Yup! It’s week two and The Tutor is still only 99c/p. As promised, I’m going to give you tastey tidbits and titillating insights into Lex and Kelly’s world. Monday’s a good day to start at the beginning.
We have five senses. We use them all without thinking, but as a writer, I’ve always been intrigued by what it would be like to live without one – one that we use most often. If you’ve read The Initiation of Ms. Holly, then you know the story hinges on not being able to see the face of a lover. In To Rome with Lust, I concentrated on bringing the sense of smell to the forefront to the point of it being nearly a curse.
In The Tutor, I take away the one sense that we never lose, the one we most rely on in our everyday life. I take away the sense of touch. Sculptor, Lex Valentine is severely haphephobic — not being able to touch anyone else or allow himself to be touched. Within that context, I wanted to explore intimacy and how it would develop – if it even could develop – without the aid of human contact.
The Tutor Blurb:
Struggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal.
Do Not Touch! — The Tutor Excerpt:
“Get out! Get the hell out now! Dillon! Dillon get this bloody woman out of here!” Lex managed to keep his knees locked and his feet under him until the blasted model, robe slung hurriedly around her, clothes and bag bundled in her arms, was out the door and out of his sight, then he collapsed in a heap, the floor coming up to meet him with a breath-jarring thud – not that he could breathe anyway, not at the moment at least. The room spun around him like a tilt-a-whirl at an amusement park, and his skin slickened with cold sweat. He knew the fucking drill by now, but it never got any easier, and never got any better, not even when he was expecting it, and he sure as hell hadn’t been expecting it this time. As he fought back nausea and vertigo and several other little unpleasantries his doctor had slapped labels on so long ago that he couldn’t recall their names, he heard his PA passing the horrid model, who was now blubbering as though she were the injured party, off to V. Officially, V may have been just the housekeeper, but he and Dillon had long contended she was an alien sent from her distant planet to study earth and see if there was intelligent life. The Valentine House, they joked, was probably not the ideal place to succeed in her mission. Still the woman had persevered. They figured it was only because of her alien intellect and a sense of humor that allowed her to handle all the insanity with grace and aplomb.
Which was way more than he could manage at the moment, lying with his cheek pressed hard against the cool slate tiles of his studio, listening to the rush of footsteps and the woman’s nearly hysterical sobs as V – her name was Vida, but they’d always called her V, calmly led her away to someplace where she could change, have something warm to drink and maybe a bit of whatever Cookie had baked that day. After that, she’d be paid well for her traumatic efforts, politely reminded of the non-disclosure agreement she had signed before she came to model for Lex, and sent on her way. She would not be back.
Another treacherous tilting of the floor and a quick spin of the room had Lex praying to the gods of equilibrium and dignity that he could at least manage to keep his breakfast down. Though dignity was already well gone, he thought. Cautiously, he half opened one eye, and got a quick glimpse of a well polished pair of loafers before he slammed it shut again and decided there was wisdom in holding his fetal position on the studio floor for just a little bit longer, after all, Dillon had seen him in far worse situations.
“You gonna be all right?” Dillon asked softly.
Lex made some non-committal sound at the back of his throat – about all he could manage at the moment. He heard the brisk clip, clip of Dillon’s loafers across the slate, then the sound of running water and the footfalls of his return, and when Lex could smell the spicy dark scent of his PA’s soap, he risked reaching out for the glass of water, he knew the man had set down next to him.
“Anything else?” Dillon asked. “Do you need to throw up?”
“No. I’ll be fine,” he said, easing himself ever so carefully into a sitting position, still holding onto the floor with one hand and keeping one eye shut. He took a cautious sip of water. “She touched me,” he managed after he felt confident the water would stay down.
“I gathered.” Dillon said, settling on the floor next to him.
“She came up behind me while I was finishing up the sketch. Honestly I thought she was gone. She was supposed to be gone. And then she … Jesus, Dillon, the next thing I know, she’s all over me, and she was cold, so fucking cold.” For a second he thought he might change his mind about throwing up after all as, with a hard shudder, he recalled the chill of the woman’s bare flesh against him. “And I couldn’t get away from her. I couldn’t get her to leave me alone, and she was cold, she was just so cold.”
“Fuck, bro! I’m so damn sorry,” Dillon said. “I was just outside in the hallway. It all happened so fast.” The studio door was always kept open and, when Lex worked with a model, someone was always close by. But there had never been an incident before so protocol had gotten lax.
“I mean what the hell? I swear I didn’t do anything to make her think … I mean I wouldn’t. You know I wouldn’t.”
“I know that, man. I know that. Besides, she knew the rules. They all know the rules before they work with you.” He stood and looked around the room until he found the blanket Lex kept handy for models to wrap up in between sketches and on breaks, then laid it on the floor next to him and plopped back down. Lex pulled it around him with a shiver. Even in early summer, the studio was fairly cool and models were warned ahead of time that Lex preferred to work in an unheated space. “There’s just something about a vulnerable man that sort of gets the female of the species right here.” Dillon tapped his palm against his chest. “Makes ‘em want to get all nurturing and rescuey, you know?”
“I don’t look vulnerable. Do I look vulnerable to you? And I don’t need nurtured or rescued.”
“Trust me,” Dillon said, “you don’t have to be vulnerable for them to see you that way. And let’s face it; there you stand, the long suffering artist with that mussed hair and just the right amount of stubble like maybe you just got out of bed, and they start thinking maybe it should be them you just got out of bed with. Hell, bro, I’d be after you myself if I wasn’t your best friend.” He shrugged, “and if you were a little more versatile in your preferences.”
“Too damn bad I’m not, pal. It would sure make my life a whole lot easier.”
“Oh, I doubt it,” Dillon said with a shake of his head, and the smile on his face darkened. “I seriously doubt it.”
Dillon knew about complications in relationships. He knew way more than he ever told, Lex was sure. But at least Dillon could have a relationship.
“Is he all right?” there was a clatter of dishes and silver and V blew into the room with a tray loaded down like it was mealtime. “He didn’t throw up did he?” The two of them always talked about him as though he were their seriously ill patient who had lost all cognitive skills.
“No, he didn’t throw up,” Lex managed a fair imitation of her voice that earned him a jaundice look, but nothing else. If he didn’t throw up, V fed him. If he did, she waited an hour and then fed him. He grudgingly admitted that Dillon and V together knew exactly what he needed and they didn’t let him intimidate them out of it.
“Well then, he needs something warming to ground him. Cookie’s potato leek soup and a nice cup of chamomile tea is just the ticket,” she said, plopping down on the floor next to the two of them, managing, to his astonishment, not to spill either soup or tea in the process. Once seated, she efficiently poured tea as though they were at the dining room table rather than plunked down on the studio floor discussing his unexpected close encounter with said floor and what should now be done about it.
“I’m not hungry.” But he grudgingly spooned up some soup and swallowed it back just to make her leave him alone. He had to admit it tasted pretty damn good, so he had another one while they went right on talking about him as though he weren’t there.
“Well I can certainly understand why the poor woman thought he needed a little cuddling,” V said. “Look at how pale he is. He’s the epitome of the suffering artist.” She eyeballed the soup and then him with a gesture that needed no words, so he shoveled in another bite. “But I really thought Ms. Philips was a keeper. I thought she understood the ground rules and would abide by them. Poor dear was ever so upset when I left her with Cookie. I’m sure she’ll never do it again.”
“She won’t because she won’t get the chance,” Lex said, this time dropping the spoon back onto the tray with a loud clatter. “I can’t run that risk.” Besides, he didn’t want to try and sketch someone who had seen him so vulnerable, who had seen him … not at his best.
Dillon helped himself to one of the homemade Parmesan bread sticks and spoke around a mouthful. “I’ll start looking for someone else. We always get resumes. Most models would kill for an opportunity to work for him.” There they went again speaking around him.
“Don’t the two of you have things to do?” he said.
“Not till you finish your soup and drink some of that tea too. It’ll help calm you,” V replied.
He was their boss. He could force the issue, but they both knew he wouldn’t, and he knew that whatever it was they had to do would get done and then some.
“I’ll make sure he finishes, V, darling. Why don’t you go get on with the accounts? I know you’re up to your eye in it at the moment.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” she shoved her way to her feet with a cracking of joints heartily protesting time spent on the hard floor. “Make sure he doesn’t get up until he’s ready. And make sure he drinks that tea,” she called over her shoulder as she headed for the door, where she turned and gave him one more look-over just in case they’d missed something, just in case this time was different than all the other times they’d sat with him until he could function again. Something was different, but he wasn’t about to tell V that.
When they were both sure that the housekeeper was gone, Dillon turned his eagle eye on Lex. “Well?”
Lex did his best to focus on the last of the soup, but Dillon had been his best friend for years, long before he was his PA, and he didn’t miss much.
“You had a naked model with a very nice, very natural rack rubbing up against your back before you went ballistic on her and then hit the floor.”
“You’re seriously asking me if I got a hard-on from this whole experience?”
“Well, not the whole experience, obviously, but didn’t you, you know feel something before you felt what you usually feel.”
“Not long enough for it to cancel out the old reliable if that’s what you were hoping,” Lex said, downing the now tepid tea in a single gulp. He fought back a blush. “Besides, these days it wouldn’t matter if I were doing the accounts for V, I’d still be … uncomfortable. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “If I don’t figure out what the fuck my problem is, and soon, I’m going to have repetitive stress syndrome.” He flexed the fingers of his right hand. “Can’t be all that great for my work either.”
Dillon shot a glance back at the door on the outside chance that V might be eavesdropping, which the woman wasn’t above doing. Then he scooted a little closer, careful not to make any physical contact and spoke between barely parted lips. “I might have an idea.”
“You might?” Lex shooed the man away from the last breadstick with a snap of the napkin against his wrist, then grabbed it and chomped one end.
“Give me a little time to research it and I’ll get back to you.” He said, rubbing his wrist as though Lex had actually wounded him. Then he rose to his feet and left him to eat the last of his breadstick in peace.
He knew how Dillon was when he had an idea. He was never sure whether to be excited or terrified. He forced his way to his feet and turned his attention back to the half-finished sketch of Sally Philips now lying on the floor next to the over-turned easel among a scatter of other sketches. He had given the whole thing a shove when she’d trapped him between the easel and her half-naked body. Even as he shivered at the thought of her cold touch, he felt a tightening in his jeans. “Fuck,” he whispered under his breath. He wadded the drawing into a ball and tossed it across the room. Truth was he’d had a hard-on the whole time he was sketching her, but that was often a part of the creative process. He’d read enough to know that creative energy was very closely linked to sexual energy and libido, but under the circumstances he had very little outlet but a good jerk-off session. Surely Ms. Philips hadn’t noticed his chub. He never wore anything that might give away his secret when he was working with a model. Surely she hadn’t thought that he was interested. He wasn’t. Even if she had been his type, he had given up hopes of anything resembling a relationship or even a quickie with a stranger in an alley a long time ago. He righted the easel and picked up the sketches, organizing them and placing them back in the pad, careful to extract the ones he’d done of Sally Philips. A setback, indeed. They were nearly done – only a few more sketches and he’d have been ready to begin work on the sculpture for the new women and children’s hospital, but he knew he’d never be able to see sketches of her now without breaking into a cold sweat and feeling slightly nauseated, neither of which was conducive to creative efforts.
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