Extract from Brushstrokes, chapter one

Charles could not believe his luck. He had not exactly been looking forward to a week’s work painting portraits of what he had assumed would be two spoilt, aristocratic French children. One of the reasons he had accepted the commission was that a ball was being held in honour of Henri’s 21st birthday and he had hoped to pick up some more work from the influential guests attending. He was totally taken aback by the beauty of Marie; she had the most beautiful face he had ever seen. It was perfectly symmetrical, which was so unusual as most people have asymmetric faces.

Her bright blue eyes and perfect complexion combined with her thick auburn hair and her slender figure was just an artist’s dream of perfection personified. He realised he would have to be extremely careful not to alert Marie herself, or her family, to his profound interest in her.He was careful to chat amicably to her parents and Henri over lunch and did not direct any questions at Marie. He could tell she was studying him surreptitiously but she carefully averted her eyes when he looked at her.

Monsieur Croizette suggested that he and Henri might show Charles around the estate and the area, to find a suitable place for Charles to paint Henri. Marie addressed her father, ‘Papa, may I join you on your ride as I could do with some fresh air as I didn’t get out yesterday due to the inclement weather?’ Her father smiled and replied, ‘Provided your studies are all up to date I don’t see why not… and you can be ready within the hour?’

Charles knew instantly that Marie had engineered this on purpose but from her father’s response it was obvious she was the favoured child, which meant he must be even more careful. Marie excused herself from the table and left to get changed.

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