Read His Work of Art Online

Authors: Shannyn Schroeder

His Work of Art

By Shannyn Schroeder
The O'Learys
More Than This
A Good Time
Something to Prove
Catch Your Breath
Just a Taste
Hold Me Close
Hot & Nerdy
Her Best Shot
Her Perfect Game
Her Winning Formula
His Work of Art
His New Jam
His Dream Role
Hot & Nerdy
His Work of Art
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
To my nerds—I love you
This second trilogy of Hot & Nerdy novellas were never supposed to be. I wrote the first three and never had any intention of writing more. Then one day, while talking with my daughter about Instagram and whether it was something I needed to do, the idea struck for nerdy guys. Both of my daughters jumped on the concept and filled pages with story ideas for me. While I didn't use many of their notes, they definitely got me moving, so I must thank them for the push. I hope my nerdy guys live up to your expectations. I also need to thank Robyn Bachar for helping me understand tabletop role-playing games and answering my silly questions. Any ridiculousness you find is on me. And finally, thank you to my editor, Peter Senftleben, who loved the Hot & Nerdy guys when they were barely a concept.
Chapter 1
dam Hayes stared at the black line drawing and wished for more inspiration. Something was off, but he couldn't quite figure it out. He'd thought that going over the pencil with ink would spark something, but he was still at a loss.
He normally enjoyed days like this at the comics shop. The periodic customer would break the monotony of his frozen brain, but the store was quiet enough that he could get some drawing done.
The masked superhero stared at him. Maybe if it was in color. In Adam's mind, he saw dark skin and darker eyes.
But skin tone and eye color wouldn't give him a name.
The door chimed and Adam looked up to see his friend, Free, walking in. Even from the other side of the store, Adam felt the temperature drop with the blast of cold air that followed Free.
“Hey, man, what's up?” Free called out.
“Nothing.” Adam gathered his pages and stacked them on the edge of the table. He walked to the counter to meet Free and took in his appearance. Brown tweed hat and long overcoat. “Meeting Cary at the gym?”
“No, I'm walking around looking like Sherlock Holmes because I thought it would be a good way to pick up a girl.”
“It might work. You have a bit of Benedict Cumberbatch going on.”
Free threw one of the gloves he'd just removed at Adam. It flopped on the counter.
“Last time I saw Cary he looked good. I thought you were done dressing up to get him through the workouts.”
“I probably could be. I think it's mostly habit now. He's come a long way, and I don't want him to lose motivation. Plus, I have an excuse to dress up.”
“You say shit like that and then you wonder why chicks think you're gay.”
Free rolled his eyes. Adam liked to give him a hard time. For most of his life, Free was a straitlaced banker-in-training, but his love of the theater had allowed him to become anyone he wanted.
Adam envied that skill.
“Where's Hunter? I thought you said three thirty.”
“He's late, like always.”
The door swung open again and Hunter strode in.
“Why did I have to come here if we're just talking about the New Year's Eve party? Couldn't we do this at home later?”
“Free has to meet Cary at the gym.”
“Then I have rehearsal,” Free added.
“Why couldn't it wait? We have like a month before the party.” He tucked his hands into the beat-up black leather jacket that he'd been wearing since high school.
Free straightened. “We need to talk about invitations. We don't want a repeat of last year.”
“Why not? Last year was epic.”
Adam crossed his arms. “Your word-of-mouth campaign led to an apartment full of strangers.”
“They weren't all strangers.”
“Just the entire marching band.”
“Not all of the band came, and it was fun.”
“Except for all the drunk bodies laying all over the place the following morning.”
Free held up his hands. “I can't say much about that since I don't live with you guys and therefore don't suffer those repercussions, but I agree that it was too crowded to actually have fun with friends.”
Adam pointed at Hunter. “And don't forget the catfight that broke out.”
“That wasn't my fault. I'm irresistible.” Hunter's gaze bounced back and forth between them. “Does that mean you guys are going to have dates this year?”
“Nope,” Adam answered. Somehow, he'd always managed to not have a girlfriend over the holidays. It wasn't like he planned it.
Free looked anywhere but at Hunter.
Hunter sighed. “You guys are pitiful. The epitome of nerds. You get dates, I won't tell everyone and their cousin to come to our party.”
“You have a date?” Free asked.
Hunter smiled. “Not yet. I have plenty of time. Working on some options.”
Hunter was always investigating his options. The door chimed, and Reese walked through the door with a smile on her face.
“Hi, Reese.”
She pulled up short and her eyes widened as she took Adam in, standing with his friends. She took a sharp left and started thumbing through a bin of comics.
Hunter looked at him with eyes almost as wide as Reese's. He then waved a hand toward Reese.
“What?” Adam whispered.
“Ask her, you idiot. She's cute.”
“She's not like that.”
Hunter shook his head. “Every girl is dateable.”
Free checked his watch. “As much as I love your verbal advice column, I have to head out to meet Cary. If I'm not there before him, he might chicken out.” He tugged his gloves back on and went to the door. Over his shoulder, he called, “See you later.”
Hunter zipped up his jacket. To Adam, he said, “See you at home?”
“Yeah. After closing.” He occasionally took the closing shift so his mom could have a free night, and it worked well with his class schedule.
Another customer walked in as Hunter left. Adam was almost able to forget Reese's presence, except now Hunter had put the idea of asking her out in his head. He shoved the thought aside and greeted his customer. “Anything special you're looking for today?”
“My son is eight and I want to get him some comics. But you know, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg because he's eight. He hasn't quite grasped the idea of taking care of his books.”
“There are lots of books for kids. We have a clearance section over here.” He led the way to the small bin and helped the guy pick out a few comics. Then he went back to his station behind the register to ring him up.
“Wow! You're actually good.”
Adam glanced over his shoulder at hearing Reese—words of surprise no guy ever wanted to hear—to see that she stood over his drawing table. Invading his space behind the counter. He thanked the customer in front of him and handed him his bag of comic books. He watched the customer leave before walking up behind Reese.
“Could you—” He gestured to the other side of the counter, the storefront for customers.
She shrugged. “Oh, sorry.” She moved to the other side, but continued talking. “It's just that I see you drawing all the time. I wanted to check it out.”
Adam moved his panels and sheets of paper back to the order in which he had them. Even if he were to invite her to look at his work, he wouldn't let her shuffle them like a deck of cards. Although she was now standing six feet away, he could still smell her lingering scent. Something soft, but he couldn't quite place it. He found it distracting.
While he continued to straighten his table, he asked, “Is there something you needed help finding?”
It was a ridiculous question because she was able to find things in the small store as easily as he could. She'd been coming in at least once a week for months, ever since one of their competitors had shut down. Reese had strolled in looking for the latest
comic and his life hadn't been the same since.
“So what are you drawing?”
“Nothing special. Just working up some ideas.”
“Those aren't random doodles. I know a superhero when I see one. Who is he?”
Adam set his papers back on the desk. He rubbed the back of his neck, irritation grinding into his muscles. “He doesn't have a name. Not yet anyway.”
“He's pretty awesome. You need to name him.”
“Yeah, I'll get right on that.” As if he hadn't already spent his entire afternoon doing just that. He crossed his arms. “So what are you here for today? You picked up all of your regular issues earlier this week.”
“I came to see you.” She leaned forward on the counter in front of the register. “I have a proposition for you.”
At least these were better words to hear than her first statement. He joined her and braced his palms on the glass and waited.
“I have to do a senior project. My plan is to publish an anthology of comics.”
They'd talked about comics plenty over the months. They both had strong opinions, and he enjoyed arguing with her. He also knew that she was a writer, not that he'd ever read any of her stuff.
“And?” he prompted.
“I need an artist. I have most of the stories done.” She tilted her head side to side, her straight dark hair swaying with the movement. Squinting her eyes, she said, “Well, they need polishing and maybe some revising, but I figure they'll get fine-tuned as we get to the storyboard phase.”
“We?” No way was she asking what he thought.
“If you agree to be my partner, yeah,
. I'm under a bit of a time crunch because I have to have things in place to start my crowd-funding campaign. So it'll be a lot of work, but you'll get paid. At least you will if the campaign gets funded. Plus, I figure we have holiday break coming up so we won't have to worry about classes.”
“You want me to illustrate your comics?” The thought was a massive blur in his brain. Working together on a comic was intense. He doubted they could get along long enough to complete anything. They managed to argue about just about everything related to comics.
“Yeah. I had the idea a couple of weeks ago when I saw you working at your table. You were so passionate and into it, that it swallowed you. I get like that when I'm in the zone writing. I need that kind of partner.” Her stormy blue eyes focused intently on him from beneath her shaggy bangs.
“Do I really need to point out that we don't get along?”
In truth, Reese was one of his all-time favorite customers. She was smart and argued with passion. It was almost enough for him to forgive her for choosing DC over Marvel.
“Who said we have to get along? I'm an excellent writer. From what I can see there, you're an excellent artist. Together, we can put together a fabulous book.” She leaned closer, almost to his side of the counter. “Afraid you can't handle me?”
He chuckled. “Sorry to disappoint, but you don't scare me. However, I don't like to waste my time.”
She eased back. “How about this? You can read the story for the first book. Then make your decision. But it'll have to be fast because I have to have everything in place before my campaign goes live. The book doesn't need to be complete, but I have to have enough to entice people to back me.”
The idea intrigued him, but Reese would never have been his first choice for a partner. Getting paid to draw was exactly what he was looking for. And if her campaign got fully funded, he would have a publication credit to his name. Having experience like that would help as he started his job hunt after graduation. “Bring it by. I'll take a look.”
Her face lit up almost as brightly as when she'd tried to convince him that Batman was better than Iron Man. “Excellent.” She reached into her messenger bag and pulled out a purple folder. “Here you go.”
He eyed the folder. “You were that sure that I'd say yes?”
She winked at him. “I was cautiously optimistic.”
He reached for the folder, but she tugged it back.
“For your eyes only.”
The guarded look in her eye made him pause. Who the hell did she think he would show this to? “Got it.” He accepted the folder. “When do you need an answer?”
“The sooner the better. I need to get moving.”
“Okay. I'll have a decision by next week when you come in for your books.”
She pulled a pen from one of the many pockets of her cargo pants, snatched the folder back, and scribbled on the cover. “Here's my number. Call me if you decide before then and we can come up with a plan.”
He stared at the number on the folder. “Okay.”
“See ya later, Cap'n.”
He shot her a dirty look. He hated the nickname she'd given him, Captain. When she first called him Captain, he'd assumed it was after Captain America, but she'd informed him that she went with a DC hero, Captain Atom, whose human last name was Adam. He liked her playfulness, but she could've chosen a cooler hero.
Reese Carter walked calmly to her car, nerves warming her from the inside out so much that she didn't even notice the wind whipping against her cheeks. Her stomach churned and her hand shook as she opened her car door. She started the engine and sat, settling her nerves and waiting for the car to warm up.
She couldn't believe she'd done it. She'd asked Adam to illustrate her comics. When she'd first walked into Comic Universe months ago, she had just prayed that she wouldn't find an asshole behind the counter who would talk down to her because she had a vagina.
Getting to know Adam had been an unexpected treat. Not only did he never question her choices, except for her love of DC, he also made her feel comfortable in his family's shop. Then last month, she'd seen him at the drawing table, totally immersed in what he was doing.

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