Say Yes by Kandi Steiner
One unforgettable summer…
When you’re an artist, everything has to be perfect.
Or so I thought, until my professor told me my perfection was boring and unoriginal. Studying abroad in Florence has taught me one thing: I know nothing when it comes to what makes art truly beautiful.
So, with my professor’s words in my ear, I step outside one evening and decide to say yes to any and everything I’m faced with until the sun rises.
Of course, I didn’t expect him to show up.
Liam Benson, the broody, sexy, tortured artist from my class who I can’t stand. He’s got a sour outlook on the world and an ego so big no one could properly stroke it to his satisfaction.
When he finds out what I’m doing, he hijacks my “yes” night.
And after just twelve hours with him, I’m desperate for more.
But Liam is running from more than I could ever understand, and with his heart guarded and mind made up about life, I don’t stand a chance.
I convince myself that we can keep it casual.
But walking away from him at the end of the summer is as impossible as painting outside the lines.
I used to think when you’re an artist, everything has to be perfect.
Turns out everything has to be painful, and messy, and fleeting.
If only I’d known that before I fell under Liam Benson’s spell.
Excerpt Say Yes by Kandi Steiner
So many emotions swirled inside me staring at that painting. Each new breath came shallower and shallower. My heart raced in my chest. My lips parted. My eyelids became heavy.
Before I could think to stop myself, I reached for the painting with the thumb of my right hand. I couldn’t explain it, but I was desperate to touch the oil, to feel the painting as if it were alive and breathing right alongside me.
“Like what you see?”
I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of a deep voice barreling from the classroom door, stumbling backward and barely catching myself before I toppled over the mess of barstools.
When I looked at the intruder, I found a smirking Liam Benson.
“Careful,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning against the doorframe. “Paint’s not quite dry yet.”
I zipped my lips together, standing straight and smoothing my left hand over my overalls while the other slid quietly into my pocket. “I wasn’t going to touch it.”
Liam arched a brow. “Weren’t you? Because it sure looked like—”
“I wasn’t,” I insisted, tucking my hair behind my ear. “I was just… there was a fly, and I was waving it away.”
“Ah,” he answered.
An uncomfortable silence fell between us, and I felt the weight of his eyes on me like they were strong hands pinning me to the very spot where I stood.
I cleared my throat, making my way across the room to grab my purse. “I was just leaving, so you can have the place to yourself.”
“I liked your piece.”
I stopped mid-step at that, frowning when I met his gaze.
“I’ve never seen someone capture light with oil like that — not in this century, anyway. And the detail of the buildings, the people in the streets… even the tiny lemons and oranges at the fruit stand had exquisite detail.”
My heart thumped hard in my chest, so loud and furious I heard it reverberate in my ears. “Are you making fun of me?”
“What?” he asked incredulously, pushing off where he was leaning against the doorframe. “Of course not.”
Liam watched me like I had three heads, his brows bent in concentration. I didn’t know him, and yet my annoyance for him was palpable. It shouldn’t have mattered to me that he showed up last minute and created something I never would have even thought of, but jealousy flickered like a candle in my gut, anyway.
“I mean, look, do I understand why Professor B wasn’t impressed?” he continued after a second, tilting his head this way and that. “Yeah. He sees your talent, though. He knows you’ve got something. He’s just challenging you to do more with it.”
“What, like paint pornography the way you did?”
He smirked. “Pornography, huh? Is that what you see when you look at it?”
“It’s what you painted.”
“Are you offended by female bodies?”
“No,” I scoffed. “I just… I don’t see how it relates to the assignment. He said to paint our first week in Florence. He said—”
All the blood drained from my face when it dawned on me that all those supple breasts and lush bottoms and thick thighs were exactly what filled his first week in Italy.
When my eyes flicked to his, he wore an amused smile, but didn’t offer any assistance in helping me put the pieces together.
“We just approached the assignment differently, that’s all,” he said after a moment with a shrug. “But no, I’m not making fun of you. What you painted is beautiful.”
I shook my head, adjusting my purse on my shoulder before I started for the door. “It’s nothing compared to yours,” I mumbled under my breath.
But before I could snake past him and retreat out the door, that stupid boy hooked his hand gently in the crook of my elbow, pulling me to a stop.
My breath caught, chest squeezing, and I could feel the warmth of his hand on my arm, could smell the peppermint on the wave of his breath where it swept over me.
If I turned my head just a quarter inch, I could see the scruff on his jaw up close, I could note the true color of his eyes, I could commit every shape of his face to memory and paint it later.
But I didn’t dare.
“I didn’t realize we were in competition,” he said, his voice low and melty like a stick of butter in a hot skillet.
I swallowed, but still didn’t lift my gaze to his. Instead, I shrugged him off and shoved through the door, back out into the warm summer evening.
This time, I went home.
But sleep never found me.