"You need to get out more," Tamara said. She was lounging on the couch with a glass of red wine in one hand, and her tone suggested that she wasn't going to let Regina argue with her. "When was the last time you actually left the house?"
Regina sighed. This was a conversation they'd had too many times over the past few months.
"This morning, when I took Henry to school."
"That doesn't count."
"Because you don't talk to anyone – you just drop him off and then leave."
"I go to work," Regina bristled.
"You work from home and only speak to people via email. Besides me and your son, who was the last human you had actual contact with?"
Regina looked up from her position on the living room floor, where she'd been busily tidying up the remains of Henry's science homework. "Are you going to tell me that the cashier at the grocery store doesn't count?"
"Then Robin, a week ago."
"Regina," Tamara sighed, leaning forward onto her knees. "You know this isn't healthy, right? If your ex-husband is your only source of adult conversation then something has gone very wrong."
Regina scooped up the remaining coloured pens. "I'm fine. I'm busy all day with my clients and I spend my evenings with Henry. I'm happy."
"I've known you for 10 years," Tamara said slightly more gently. "You're not. Ever since the divorce, you just lock yourself up day after day and let life rush past you."
"No, I don't."
A voice wafted over from the staircase. "You do, Mom."
Regina turned to her son and glared. "Who asked you?"
"No one," Henry chirped. He was wearing his pyjamas and carrying an empty water glass. "But Tamara's right – you need a hobby."
"Thank you, young man, for getting involved in a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with you."
Henry grinned. "No problem. Let me know the next time you need an unwanted opinion."
He tripped off into the kitchen to refill his glass, and Regina fell back against the foot of the couch with a sigh.
"I'm doing my best," she said. "But it's hard. I haven't felt like myself since Robin left."
"I get that, Regina, I really do, but you can't just coop yourself up in here hoping that he'll come back."
"I'm not hoping he'll come back," Regina protested, speaking quietly so that her son wouldn't hear. "I don't miss him."
"I know you don't, but you do miss the companionship," Tamara said. "You need friends, or at least a reason to leave the house. You'll never meet someone new if you're stuck in here all day."
"I've only been divorced for a year. I'm not looking for someone new."
"Even better," Tamara said cheerfully, reaching out for Regina's laptop. "The best people always come along when you're not expecting them."
She started typing, and after a minute Regina was forced to cave to her curiosity. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for evening classes," Tamara replied. With a groan, Regina pushed herself off the floor and joined her on the sofa.
"But I don't want to do an evening class."
"Sure you do," Tamara said. "It'll be good for you."
"I have a 10-year-old son, if you recall. Am I supposed to just leave him on his own?"
"You know I'll watch him whenever you need me to. Anything to actually get you out the house."
"Am I coming to stay with you, Aunt Tamara?" Henry suddenly piped up from across the room, the kitchen door swinging shut behind him.
Before Regina could scoff and protest, Tamara was answering, "You sure are, little man. Your mom's going to go make some new friends."
"But I don't want to do any of these," Regina said, her eyes on the listing that Tamara was scrolling through. "I'm 37 years old and I'm not about to learn how to do macramé, thank you."
"That might be a bit retro," Tamara admitted, wrinkling her nose. "Henry – help us out. What should your mom do?"
"Henry is supposed to be in bed," Regina interrupted, but her son was already wedging himself between the two of them over the back of the couch.
"How about a book club?" he asked. "You like reading."
"I like reading by myself," Regina said. "I don't need other people sitting around telling me about the symbolism of a pair of red curtains."
"Gardening, then. You like that too."
"At night time?"
"Fine," he huffed. They kept scrolling, and then he said, "Look! An art class."
"Henry," Regina sighed. "You know full well that I can't draw."
"That's not true – you always help me do my diagrams for science and they're really good."
"Being able to draw the life cycle of a plant does not make me a budding artist."
"Um," Tamara interjected. "Actually, I think Regina might be right about this one."
"How?" Henry demanded. Without a word, Tamara tilted the laptop toward Regina so she could read the class description more thoroughly.
"Oh," she said, her cheeks turning pink. "Right."
"What?" Henry asked, peering at it. "'Life drawing class.' What does that mean? You're just drawing stuff from life?"
"It when you draw people, Henry," Tamara said, then leaned right into his ear with a smirk. "Naked people."
Henry almost fell off the couch in sheer horror. "Ew! Why would you want to do that?"
"I guess it's supposed to be a challenge."
"That's gross," Henry said, finally backing off. "Grown-ups are weird."
Regina sent him off to bed with a firm ruffle of his hair. Once she heard his door click shut, she turned back to the computer.
Much to her annoyance, Tamara was still reading the description for the life drawing class.
"Tamara. Drop it."
"Because the point still stands," Regina said. "I'm not an artist. I don't want to go to some dusty community college just to be told by a middle-aged hippy that I don't know how to shade properly."
Tamara was suddenly smirking again. "I have a solution, in that case."
Tamara pointed to a line of text at the bottom of the page.
We're always looking for new life models – if you're interested, contact Eugenia Lucas on the number below. All body types welcome.
There was also a line detailing the pitiful payment of $25 for a two-hour sitting, but that wasn't the reason why Regina was snorting so emphatically.
"What?" Tamara asked. "It's perfect."
"It's insane," Regina corrected. "Why is your automatic thought after me saying 'I don't want to draw naked people' that I must want to be the naked person instead?"
"Regina," Tamara said coolly. "You don't want to do anything. You need to try something that will get you out of your frigid little comfort zone, and this is perfect. You won't even have to talk to anyone – you can just show up for a couple of hours, get your hot MILF body out, and make a few people blush. Easy."
Regina scoffed. "You're a moron. I'm not even considering this."
"You are," Tamara said, because she knew her too damn well. "I can tell."
Glaring back at her, Regina tried to summon a comeback. The problem was, though, that a tiny part of her did actually like the sound of it – sure, it would be mortifying and terrifying and ultimately pointless, but getting out of the house and doing something a tiny bit scary sounded kind of fun. Her life was dull, and maybe it was what she needed right then.
She caught sight of the smug expression on Tamara's face and sighed. "I hate you."
"Just call her," Tamara said. "What harm can it do?"
"I could end up actually having to disrobe in front of a room of strangers."
"Sounds like a fun Wednesday night to me," Tamara said. "Just do it. Otherwise I'll sign you up for this pottery class here, and we both know how much you hate getting your hands dirty."
With a groan, Regina pulled out her cell. "Fine. But she probably won't even answer at this time."
She was wrong – Eugenia picked up with a brusque "Yes?" after two rings.
"Ms Lucas," Regina said, trying to ignore the excited grin on Tamara's face. "I… My name is Regina Mills. I'm sorry for disturbing you – I just saw your advert for life models online and was wondering if you could tell me more about it."
"Ah," Eugenia said, sounding marginally less hostile. "Well, we're all booked up for the next couple of months. I can put you on our reserve list, though."
Regina frowned. "You're booked up?"
"I'm afraid so. Life modelling is a competitive game – we're essentially paying people to sit still for two hours. I have dozens of college students who are interested just for the extra cash."
"Oh," Regina said. She couldn't explain why she felt so disappointed by that. "I see. Well – I guess you can put me on your back-up list, then? How often do openings come up?"
"Infrequently," Eugenia said, scribbling something in the background. "But I'll be sure to let you know if one does."
She took down Regina's name and number, then hung up. There was a bitter taste in Regina's mouth when she put her phone back on the coffee table.
"Well then," she said. "I tried."
"You did," Tamara admitted. "You got lucky, I guess. Now, let's try and find something else for you to do while I've got you somewhat willing."
"Sure," Regina said, her voice sounding flat. "Go ahead."
Tamara eventually bullied Regina into signing up for a cooking class. Regina had told her countless times that she already knew how to cook, which made it pointless, but Tamara wouldn't listen to that reasoning – she put her name down for the 'beginner's introduction to advanced gourmet' and even offered to pay the fee if that would shut her up, then she'd come round to collect Henry on the first Tuesday night. Regina traipsed off to the class and dutifully learned how to make bouillabaisse. She didn't say a word to anyone during the whole two hours.
The next week, she returned and was absolutely determined to try harder this time. She stood close to a table of young women who already appeared to know one another and tried to make eye contact. One of them smiled faintly at her, then turned away without a word. Regina skulked off to her cooking station and endured the rest of the class in silence. When she got home, she looked up the college's cancellation policy.
"You look grouchy," Henry said the next morning. She scowled at him.
"I'm not grouchy. I'm tired. I was out late learning how to make mille-feuille, remember?"
"You didn't enjoy it, then?"
"Not especially," she sighed. "I think I'm going to stop going."
"Mom," he whined. "You can't quit right away. It takes time to make new friends."
"Right, and that's already the case when you're 10 – by the time you're my age, it's basically impossible," Regina said, dropping her cereal spoon with a clatter. "You should go get ready for school."
Henry skulked upstairs with a grumble. Once Regina had dropped him off, she went into her home office and settled down at the computer.
She worked as a freelance legal advisor, which meant spending long days holed up with her books and emails and very rarely leaving the house to actually meet people. Sometimes it felt like she'd spent her whole life in one windowless room or another, waiting for someone to talk to her.
Her cell phone started ringing and she picked it up with a crisp, "Regina Mills."
"Regina," the woman at the other end said. "It's Eugenia Lucas. From the life drawing class."
Regina nearly slipped out of her chair. "Oh! Oh. Ms Lucas – how are you?"
"I've been better," Eugenia sighed. "Seems like some sort of bug is going round campus and 90 percent of my regular models are out sick. I'm working my way through my reserve list trying to find someone who can make tonight's class. Is there any chance you're free?"
Regina's mouth popped open. As disappointed as she'd been when the teacher had first rejected her, terror was immediately fizzing inside her.
"Tonight?" she asked, hoping the shake in her voice wasn't too audible.
"Yes – I realise it's last minute, but I'd be very grateful."
After opening her mouth and then closing it again a few times, Regina heard herself stammer, "S-sure. I mean… fine. Yes. Why not."
"Oh, excellent. I really do appreciate it. Do you have a pen and paper? I'll give you all the details you need. Have you ever done one of these classes before?"
As she chattered away in the background, Regina rummaged for her work phone and started typing out a text.
Tamara – I don't suppose you're free to watch Henry again tonight?
She couldn't tell Henry where she was going – the disgust on his face would have tipped her back into not leaving the house. Instead, she pretended that she'd made a friend at her dismal cooking class and was going out for dinner.
Tamara, unfortunately, knew the real reason.
"You're going to kill them," she hissed in Regina's ear as she came round to collect Henry. "Please, God, count how many boners you cause."
"Tamara," Regina shoved her away. "You're disgusting."
"What? You're going to have a lot of time to kill. Might as well use it to boost your ego."
Rolling her eyes, Regina pushed Tamara back out the front door just as Henry came thundering down the stairs. "I'll stop by in the morning to take Henry to school."
"Don't worry about that – I'll get him there. You'll need the morning to recover."
"Why?" Henry piped up. "Is Mom going to get drunk?"
"Wildly drunk," Tamara said, her eyes glinting. "Your mom's leaving her comfort zone big time tonight."
"That's good. Can we go now?" Henry asked with total disinterest, because Tamara had a PS4 and that was precisely the reason why he always wanted to go over there rather than simply letting Tamara stay at theirs.
"Sure thing, kiddo. Go wait in the car."
Henry gave his mother a hug and then scampered off down the path. Regina looked expectantly at Tamara, who was still loitering on the doorstep.
"I just wanted to say good luck," Tamara said, surprising her with a hug of her own. "I'm proud of you for going."
"Thanks," Regina said uncertainly. "I feel… really sick."
"You don't need to be nervous. You know how hot you are."
Objectively, Regina did. She worked out five times a week and even giving birth to a nine-pound baby hadn't done much to ruin her taut abdominals. Aside from a few silvery stretch marks that she actually happened to love, her body was good. Great, even.
She'd only been naked in front of two people, though – Robin, and then Graham, the awful one-night stand she'd tripped into a week after Robin had announced he was leaving because he'd fallen in love with his secretary.
The thought of stripping off in front of an entire room of total strangers made her go hot and then cold all over, but she shook off the anxiety. She'd committed to this, and she was going to see it through. Tamara had been right all along – it really was time to get out of her comfort zone.
"At least I'll only be doing it once," she said, squeezing Tamara's shoulder. "And you'll drop it after this, right?"
"I promise," Tamara said. "Now, text me later. I still want that boner count."
"Get out," Regina said flatly. Tamara disappeared with a grin, and Regina was left to stew in her own terror until she finally left 20 minutes later.
The classroom at the community college was smaller than she'd been expecting. In her head, she'd pictured some kind of cavernous cafeteria complete with strip lighting and the residual smell of baked potatoes, but it was actually more like a homey living room. A circle of wooden chairs and easels lined the perimeter of it, and in the centre was a series of large blocks, where she had to assume she'd be nonchalantly draping herself for the next two hours.
"You must be Regina," a voice boomed at her from across the room. Regina looked up to find a portly woman with grey hair and tiny half-moon glasses making her way toward her.
"I am," Regina said slowly. "Are you Eugenia?"
"It seems that way," she replied, holding out a hand. It was splattered with dried paint. "Thanks for coming in on such short notice. I don't know what these filthy college kids are getting up to, but as soon as one of them gets sick, they all do. It's like a damn petri dish on campus."
"Right," Regina said, glancing around. Her stomach was twisting.
"Nervous?" Eugenia asked, leading her toward the back of the room. "Don't be. These guys are just here in their spare time and have seen it all before. Don't be surprised if they don't even seem to be interested in you physically."
"Right," Regina repeated. She wished she'd brought some water with her.
"I have some brandy if you need to take the edge off," Eugenia said, reading her thoughts.
"Oh. Um – that's okay. I have to drive later," Regina replied. "So, what do I…?"
"Class starts in 15 minutes," Eugenia answered. "There's an office back there where you can get undressed and leave your bag and clothes. Did you remember to bring a bathrobe?"
Regina gestured to the bulky bag on her shoulder.
"Good. Get that on and you can either wait in the back room or come back out here. The students will start arriving pretty soon, and then once it hits 8:30 you just get your robe off and I'll put you in position."
She spoke so casually, and Regina couldn't tell whether than made her feel better or worse.
"I see," she said. "And how many different…?"
"Three poses," Eugenia anticipated her question yet again. She was rummaging through her desk for some slightly sorry-looking art supplies. "The first two are 30 minutes each, and the final one is an hour. There won't be time for breaks so if you need the bathroom or to have a drink or anything, do all of that now."
The door behind them opened and a couple of students walked in. They were both women, and neither of them could have been older than 30. Regina clutched her bag more tightly to her side.
"I'm fine," she said, although she knew she didn't sound it. "I guess I'll go get changed, then."
"Room's over there," Eugenia said, gesturing to the far corner.
Taking a deep breath, Regina walked off with as much purpose as she could summon. She already hated this – she was so used to commanding authority over everyone during her work, to the point where people rarely wanted talk to her because she was so scary and intimidating. Her clients did whatever she asked without question, as did the other legal advisors whenever they felt the need to contact her. And yet here she was, trembling because she was uncomfortable and desperately wishing she could go back home and crawl into bed.
She wasn't going to, though. Now she was there and she felt possibly more terrified than she'd ever been before in her life, she was determined to push herself through it. It was just two hours, and after that she never had to come back. No one would even care that she was there, anyway – like Eugenia said, they'd already seen it all. They'd probably just be glad that her breasts were still pointing in the right direction.
Regina stepped into the tiny office and shut the door behind her. She undressed quickly, trying to ignore the chill and focusing instead on the fact that she'd shaved and exfoliated and moisturised and, as far as any of these budding artists would be concerned, she looked pretty damn good.
She trailed her fingers over the stretch marks on her stomach, feeling uncertain about them for the first time in about nine years. But before she could spiral into a whole new mess of anxiety, she grabbed the robe out of her bag and pulled it on.
There was a mirror hanging above a messy desk, and she took a second to look at herself. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, but the rest of her could still pass for being calm and collected. She took a deep breath and put on the expression that Henry always called her 'Evil Queen' face. He only saw it when she was telling him to do his homework or go to bed, and as effective as it was, her son still found it slightly hilarious.
The woman in the mirror looked cold and uncaring. Regina instantly felt better.
"Alright," she muttered to herself, tightening her belt. "Showtime."
Emma kicked the door of her car shut. The damn engine had cut out on the ride over, and although she'd just about managed to get it started again, she was late. Not late enough to have missed the start of class, but enough to attract Eugenia's icy glare when she eventually tumbled through the door.
She grabbed her art supplies from the back seat and hurried across the parking lot. The community college was a sprawling brown building all built across one level, and as with every other school in existence, the art department was hidden at the very back like some kind of shameful secret. Emma all but ran across the scrubby courtyard to get to it, dropping a pencil on the way and swearing as she skidded to a halt so she could go back and retrieve it.
This weekly art class was the only reprieve Emma got from the rest of her ridiculous life. She was a bail bondsperson and had been for three years. It paid the bills – it paid them well, in fact – and technically she was pretty good at it, but she couldn't pretend that she enjoyed it. She finished every day feeling exhausted and angry, and there was only so much bourbon she could drink to make the bitter taste in her mouth go away. Since she wasn't one for relaxing bubble baths, she'd had to find a hobby instead.
When she'd been growing up in the foster system, art was one of very few things that she actually enjoyed. Even when the other kids found her rough sketches of trees or dragons or misshapen cats and dogs and laughed hysterically at them, she kept going. As she grew older, she got better at it. In high school she hadn't been particularly adept at math or biology or even PE, but she was good at art. She could hole away in the art department for hours and ignore the fact that the world outside was fucking terrible.
Taking two hours a week to draw the curves of people's bodies was maybe the only thing keeping her sane.
She hurried into the main foyer and headed toward the small classroom at the back where they did they life drawing class. She hoped her favourite model was in tonight – he was a huge, cheerful man whom they affectionately called Tiny, and he was by far the most interesting person to try and carve out with chalk and charcoal.
She glanced at her watch just before she opened the door: 8:32pm. If she was lucky, they wouldn't have even started yet.
Emma opened the door a crack and slipped inside. She didn't look at the centre of the room, because making eye contact with the life model right as you brought a cold breeze in from outside was one of her least favourite things to do, but she caught sight of Eugenia's displeased scowl as she skulked round the circle of chairs looking for an empty spot. She found one on the other side of the room and sat down with a thump, dropping her backpack at her feet and rummaging around for her supplies. Eugenia provided the huge pieces of paper, but the scrabble for half-chewed pencils and crumbled charcoal had gotten too much for Emma after two classes, so she'd started bringing her own a few months ago.
She took a breath and looked up. Every drop of blood in her body rushed up to her face.
The model was new – Emma knew that for a fact. She would have been able to recognise those dark eyes anywhere. She was older than the college students who Eugenia often paraded through, but not old enough to stop Emma's face from burning bright red. Her dark brown hair skimmed over her shoulders and was impossibly glossy under the soft lights, and her lips were pouted as she held Emma's gaze.
Under all that, she was naked. She was perfect. She was so beautiful that Emma nearly knocked her easel over.
"Emma," Eugenia hissed from behind her. "You're already late – would you care to start drawing before the entire half hour is over?"
Emma jumped in her seat, looking down at her blank paper, before glancing back up. The model was still watching her, but it almost looked like she was smirking. She was standing in a typically simple first pose – one hand over her stomach, the other on her hip – and her chin was raised slightly, but she didn't look away from Emma as she struggled to regain her composure.
Regina could feel her cheeks getting hotter, and she hoped it wasn't showing. The blonde woman who'd tumbled in late had given her the exact reaction she'd been secretly hoping for – the one that no one else in the class had, because they'd all been too busy examining her like she was a wooden mannequin – and all of a sudden, she was glad she'd come. Just like that.
Taking off the robe had been the most terrifying five seconds of her life, including the time when she'd told her mother that she was getting married at the age of 25, but once that first awful moment had been over and done with, it actually wasn't too scary at all. No one had laughed, or leered, or made a muttered comment behind her turned back. The students had simply dived into their work, eager to start working with a new body, and Regina realised quickly that that's all she was to them – a body.
It was a strangely comforting thought.
The blonde woman in front of her, though – Emma, she thought she'd heard Eugenia snapping at her – obviously hadn't got that memo. Her eyes had gone straight from Regina's face to her breasts and then paused dramatically at the junction of her thighs, and even in the dim light, Regina had seen how red her cheeks had gotten. She'd looked away immediately, obviously trying not to make Regina uncomfortable or make a total fool out of herself, but it was too late. Regina had already seen something that looked like awe on her face.
She tried not to smirk when she was supposed to be maintaining a neutral expression, but it was hard.
The poor woman looked completely at a loss. She was glancing around at her neighbours' easels to see how far they'd gotten with their sketches, then she slowly picked up a piece of charcoal. Regina saw the deep breath she took before she forced herself to look up again.
Regina so wanted to look away, to give her a chance to regain her composure, but God help her – she couldn't do it. The edges of the room were too dark for her to be able to make out any specific features, but she was certain that Emma's eyes were green. Her curls were long and a bright, bright blonde, and they were totally at odds with the way her face seemed to settle into a permanent frown. The corners of her mouth pointed downward, and Regina couldn't help but wonder if they stayed like that when she was smiling.
She really wanted to see her smile, she realised. She wanted to see her maybe-green eyes gleam.
Emma took another steadying breath and lifted her charcoal to the paper. She glanced up, found herself staring directly at Regina's breasts, and looked away again.
Panic was throbbing in her temples. She could feel herself starting to sweat.
Get a hold of yourself, you stupid fucking lesbian, she told herself. She'd never had this problem with any of the other models, even the 21-year-old college girls who didn't need to wear bras. With them, she'd been able to look at them objectively as a matter of shapes and angles and shadows. She hadn't worried about getting arrested for being a big fat pervert because she simply didn't care very much about them.
This woman, though – this woman was making her thighs clench together of their own accord. Even looking at her felt wrong. She felt like she didn't deserve it.
When she glanced up again, the model had finally averted her gaze. Emma sighed with relief and forced herself to take a proper look, absorbing every part of her from her luxurious hair down to her perfectly painted toenails.
Her pussy was totally waxed. When Emma realised that, she nearly choked.
Dragging her eyes away from that little surprise, she lifted her gaze a few inches and focused on the model's stomach. The muscles were toned, maybe even more toned than Emma's own, and there wasn't much definition to her waist. Emma found that she liked that – her body was tight and compact, and it looked like it wouldn't go down easy in a fight.
Then Emma noticed the faint silvery lines that ran over her abdomen like spider's webs. They were too pronounced to be simply from puberty, and they made Emma pause. She had to assume they meant that this woman was a mother, and she couldn't tell whether that was an upsetting thought or not. Clearly she was straight, although she wasn't wearing a wedding ring, so although it was disappointing, she wasn't exactly surprised by the realisation. But the thought of her with a son or daughter was weirdly endearing. Emma wondered what kind of parent she was.
"Emma," Eugenia snapped from directly behind her. "You haven't even started."
Deliberately not looking up at the model, whose attention was on her again, Emma gritted out, "I know. I'm studying the shape."
"Regina's the smallest model we've had in about six weeks. It doesn't take that much studying," Eugenia said. "Get a move on."
She walked off, leaving Emma reeling but also throbbing from the knowledge of what this beautiful woman's name was. Regina.
She glanced up, caught her eye, and smiled weakly. Regina sucked in her cheeks in an attempt to not laugh.
Emma finally went back to her paper, lifting her charcoal and sketching out a basic outline. It was wobbly, and it was immediately wrong. She gritted her teeth and tried again, immediately making it worse.
Sudden perfectionism washed over her, and she screwed the paper up and threw it to the floor. She could feel two dark eyes watching her curiously as she started again. Her second attempt was marginally better so she stuck with it, focusing on Regina's body because she couldn't look at her face without turning beet red. She glanced up and took in the firm plane of her shoulders, the way her breasts were lifted by her stance, the toned arc of her biceps. She sketched out the curve of her ass and the lines of her thighs. By the time the half hour was up, she had something that almost looked like her.
"Where's her head?" Eugenia demanded, making Emma jump yet again. Regina had finished with her first pose and was sitting on the edge of one of the boxes, waiting for her next instruction. She watched the interaction in front of her with great interest, even though she knew she was being nosey – she decided she was probably allowed to be, though. She had her breasts out for them, after all.
"I ran out of time," Emma said. Eugenia scoffed.
"You did not. You always start with the face normally – it's your strongest area."
Emma grimaced, glancing up to find Regina watching her with amusement. She had her hands tucked beneath her thighs and she was swinging her legs. In that position, her breasts were pushed together and they looked even more enticing than before.
"I know, but I… decided to mix things up," Emma said weakly.
"Well, that would be fine if you'd done the rest of the body properly," Eugenia scoffed. She leaned over Emma's shoulder and jabbed at the drawing with her finger. "What's this?"
Emma blinked. "Her arm."
"Regina doesn't have meaty ham arms," Eugenia said. "Look at how slim and toned she is. You haven't captured any of her properly."
Regina could see the excruciating pain that this woman was in, and she couldn't help but laugh. Emma was wriggling uncomfortably in her chair, and when she tried to justify her terrible drawing with, "I'm sorry, I guess I'm not really in the right mindset today," it just made her appear even more endearing.
Eugenia snorted at the excuse. "You can say that again. Try harder for the next pose – I know you can do better than this."
She finally walked off to look at someone else's work, leaving Emma to sweat with sheer mortification. When she glanced up, Regina wasn't looking back at her, but she was smiling. Her eyes were on the ground and she was still trying not to laugh.
When Eugenia was done commenting on everyone's sketches, she turned back to Regina and said, "I actually quite like this for the second pose. Are you happy to stay this way?"
Regina nodded. "Sure."
"But," Eugenia continued, looking pointedly at Emma. "I want you to face in the other direction. It seems you're distracting people on this side of the class."
Emma blushed furiously as Regina turned away, grabbing the blanket that she was sitting on and taking it to the other edge of the platform. When she was perched on the boxes again, Eugenia instructed her to sit up straighter and cross her ankles. From that position, Emma could see the sharp jut of her shoulder blades and the long channel of her spine. She breathed a sigh of relief – she could deal with all that, and the fact that she now had a perfect view of the most sublime ass she'd ever seen before in her life, as long as Regina's eyes weren't on her.
The second half hour started, and this time Emma dove in. She blocked out the rest of the room – including Eugenia, who was still skulking around like a shark off the Gold Coast – and focused on Regina's body. She somehow looked even more perfect from behind – more vulnerable, maybe, and yet strong enough that Emma could see the muscles shifting beneath her skin whenever she breathed in. She sketched the ribs that were just about visible in certain lights, the cluster of freckles on one shoulder, the glimmer of her hair as it fell down the back of her neck. She was so lost in it all that she barely noticed when Eugenia called out for them to stop.
Emma felt somehow breathless as she waited for their teacher to walk back round again. Ahead of her, Regina was still sitting, but she was stretching out her legs and tilting her head from left to right as she worked the kinks out of her neck. Emma saw a tendon in her back shift, and she shivered all over.
"Ah," Eugenia suddenly said, sneaking up on her yet again. "Now, this is more like it. You found your stride."
Emma blushed again, though thankfully it was from pride this time. The sketch was good, she had to admit – she knew she wasn't the best in the class by a long shot, but occasionally she shone through with something really great. This was one of them.
Regina heard the exchange going on behind her and she longed to turn and look, but she forced herself not to. She knew she was the reason why Emma had done so badly the first time round: every time they'd made eye contract, she'd turned red and looked away. Emma had eventually stopped looking at her entirely, because it was far easier to just guess what she looked like than it was to draw someone who kept curiously watching you in return.
Spending the next half hour facing away from her had been painful, but Regina had enjoyed knowing that Emma's eyes were on her. She'd felt them burning into her shoulders. Any time she shifted position ever so slightly, she thought she could feel two green eyes latching onto the way her muscles moved. She knew she was supposed to stay still, but it was impossible when there was such a warm gaze on her body.
"Regina," Eugenia said, and she finally turned her head. "Are you ready for the final pose?"
"Of course," Regina said, going to stand up. Then she paused. She adjusted the position of her thighs, and then froze entirely.
Oh my God. She swallowed hard, hoping that no one sitting opposite her was watching. She parted her legs again and felt the exact same sensation directly between them: it was hot and cloying, and she usually only felt it very late at night once Henry had gone to bed and the parental lock on the Wi-Fi had been switched off.
She was soaked.
She'd been breathing fast for the past hour, but she'd chosen to blame it on the nerves and the fact that 20 sets of eyes were on her naked body. Now, though, she knew she'd been kidding herself. She didn't care about a single other person in that room – all she'd been thinking about for every second since she'd arrived was the blonde woman who couldn't take her eyes off of her, who was obviously fascinated by her, and who seemed to like looking at her in a way that was considerably more personal than just an artist staring at someone who'd been hired to take her clothes off.
Fuck, she groaned to herself, keeping her thighs pressed together as she waited for Eugenia to rearrange the boxes until they almost resembled a low table.
"Right," Eugenia said when she was done. "We normally get the models to do a lying-down pose for the final hour, if that works for you?"
Regina nodded. "Fine."
"Good. So, hop up on there – maybe you can drape the blanket over part of your body to give everyone the chance to work on their fabrics."
Regina slowly lowered herself onto the boxes, uncertain whether she was safer keeping her head or her throbbing pussy closer to where Emma was sitting. In the end, she decided to stretch out perpendicular to her, so Emma could see the full length of her and the lift of her breasts. She grabbed the blanket and draped it carefully over her pelvis, hoping that it would stop anyone from noticing the pearly liquid that was seeping down from her pussy and towards her ass.
"Bend your right leg," Eugenia instructed. It was the leg on Emma's side, so at least Regina would look good to her, but she immediately felt a burst of air against her wet skin as she shifted position. She clamped her thighs together and prayed that there weren't any lights in the room that would be able to glisten off of her.
"And lift your left arm over your head," Eugenia continued. "Excellent. And… turn your head to the right. Just like that."
Regina did as she was told and found herself face to face with Emma once more. She couldn't help but smile. It was shakily returned.
"No grinning," Eugenia scolded. "I need you looking stoic. Emma, can you stop making our life models laugh, please?"
Emma snorted into her sketchbook. She didn't correct her.
"I'll do my best."
As the last hour slipped by, Regina felt her pulse get even faster. Her eyes stayed on Emma, but this time round Emma seemed to have finally gotten used to it – she had a faint frown on her face as she concentrated on her work, and when she went to draw Regina's eyes and nose, she didn't waver. Regina just stared evenly back at her, momentarily wondering whether the drawing was going to turn out like a carbon copy of the one from Titanic before getting distracted again by the way that Emma was biting her lip. She reached up to brush her hair out of her eyes and immediately got charcoal on her forehead.
Forcing herself not to smile at this ridiculously endearing woman, Regina focused on keeping her breathing even. Goose pimples were prickling across her entire body even though the room was warm, and every few minutes she felt the pool of wetness between her legs sink lower. She grimaced, imagining getting up and finding a dark patch on the blanket beneath her hips, but then Emma's gaze flicked up and looked at her again. All her embarrassment faded when she had those soft eyes on her.
The class passed too quickly. When Eugenia called out that it was 10:30pm and they were done, Regina nearly moaned in protest.
"Let's give our wonderful model a hand," the teacher said, grabbing Regina's bathrobe and handing it to her. Suddenly self-conscious, Regina shrugged it on and knotted the belt as the students gave her a half-hearted round of applause.
"How did you find it?" Eugenia asked her as everyone began to pack up. Regina perched herself on the edge of the boxes again, her hands clasped between her knees.
"Nerve-wracking," Regina admitted. "But I enjoyed it. I think."
"The first time is always intimidating, but you did great. I'll keep you on our list if you're interested in trying it again?"
Regina glanced to the side and caught sight of Emma. Someone had obviously told her about the charcoal on her forehead and she was frantically trying to scrub it away.
"Sure," Regina heard herself say, tearing her gaze away. "I'd like that."
"Excellent. Now, feel free to go round and take a look at the drawings – most of the students will be happy for you to take photos as well. Or you can just head home," Eugenia said, then paused. "No, wait. I need to go write your check. Don't go anywhere."
She rushed off to grab it, leaving Regina perched uncomfortably with her thighs still sticking together.
Telling herself that she didn't need to be shy now that 20 people had seen her ass, she got up and started to slowly walk around the room. Most of the students had already put their sketches away, but a few were still out and the artists were more than happy for her to take a look at them. A few of them even talked to her, asking whether she'd be back and what she'd thought of the experience. Regina smiled and responded to them as fully as she could, because as nice and surprising as it was to be having actual, human conversations with the people who'd just been drawing the scars and moles and stretch marks that littered her naked body, her attention was still elsewhere.
Emma was packing up, but Regina could see that she still had her sketches out. Her hands were covered in charcoal, and every time she tried to put something into her backpack, it just spread further.
Regina excused herself and slowly walked over. Emma seemingly didn't see her coming, because she carried on scrubbing at her hands and frowning to herself until Regina was right by her side. Regina opened her mouth to say something, then she caught sight of the drawings. Her sentence dried up in her throat.
They were good. Not the best in the class – Regina could already see that much – but there was something about them that sucked the breath clean from her lungs. The one from the disastrous first pose was half hidden beneath the others, but the second two were bold and expressive and glimmering with Emma's own personality. Regina leaned forward to look at the expression on her own face – her dark eyes were glinting, and Emma had managed to capture her Evil Queen smirk. In spite of everything, she found herself wishing that she could show Henry.
"Oh," Emma said, suddenly noticing that someone was standing beside her. That one syllable sounded dry and painful. "Hey."
Regina smiled back at her, but didn't respond. She was still examining the drawings, taking in the shading of her muscles and the slope of her stomach. She looked good naked, she already knew that, but these somehow made her look even better. It wasn't even that Emma had been exaggerating her features – her breasts were still smaller than average, and her waist didn't have much curve to it. Emma had just captured something about her that the others hadn't, and she couldn't stop staring.
"You…" Regina said eventually. "You have a talent."
Emma blushed furiously. "Not really. It's just a hobby."
"You're not an art student?"
"No," Emma laughed slightly. "I'm 27. I just come here in the evenings."
"I see," Regina replied, looking back at the sketch. "Can I take a photo of these?"
Emma's foot slipped on the shiny floor. "What? Really?"
"Only if you're okay with it," Regina began uncertainly, but Emma was already leaping to her feet.
"Of course," she blurted out. "I was just surprised. No one normally asks that from me."
Regina smiled at her. "People are idiots."
"That's… true," Emma said, looking down at her charcoal-covered hands. "But anyway – yeah. Of course you can."
"Great," Regina said. "Can you wait a moment while I get my phone?"
"Sure. I need to go clean up anyway."
Emma paused like she was about to say something else, then thought better of it. With an awkward smile, she turned and rushed out into the hall, going in the direction of the bathroom.
Regina went into the office and hurriedly pulled her clothes back on. One quick dip between her legs told her just how drenched she was.
Blushing hard, she finished getting changed and glanced in the mirror. How was it possible that her eyes already looked slightly brighter?
When she returned to the classroom, most of the students had left. Eugenia handed her her check and thanked her again, and Regina was left to amble back toward Emma's easel. The drawings were still there, but Emma was nowhere to be seen,
She took a couple of photos, then a couple more as she waited for Emma to come back. Eventually, the room emptied out entirely. Knowing she was overstaying her welcome, Regina waved goodbye to Eugenia and slipped out into the foyer. It was deserted, and Regina wondered whether she should hang around a bit longer.
Don't be crazy, she scolded herself. She's a stranger. Go home and leave her in peace.
Disappointment threatened to choke her, but she followed her own advice. When she got home, the house was quiet without Henry running around. Regina went straight to bed.
Before she turned the lights off, she pulled her phone back out and – ignoring the increasingly curious messages from Tamara – opened her camera roll. The sketches were there, not quite as impressive as they had been in real life but just as mesmerising. Regina scrolled through them again and again, her heart pounding harder as she remembered the feeling of Emma's eyes on her naked body. She thought about the awkward smile she'd given her, and the wetness between her thighs immediately grew.
Dropping her phone to one side, Regina slid her hand into her panties and moaned. She was soaked, and the fabric was clinging to her. It didn't take long before she'd worked her way up to an orgasm that left her trembling and gasping, and when she came all she could think of was Emma's downturned lips, her permanent frown, her green eyes flashing and her blonde curls tickling as she hovered above Regina's body and kissed her way down, down, down.