Twisted love by ANA HUANG ,chapter 14,AVA

I AGONIZED FOR DAYS OVER WHETHER TO SHOOT ALEX IN A STUDIO OR outdoors. I took all of my photoshoots seriously, but this one felt different. More intimate. More…life-changing, like it had the power to make or break me, and not just because I might submit it as part of my portfolio for the WYP fellowship. I would have Alex Volkov all to myself for two hours, and I wouldn’t squander a single second. I eventually chose to shoot him in a studio. I booked the space in the university’s photography building and waited, pulse thumping, for him to arrive. I was more nervous than I should be, but maybe that had something to do with the wildly inappropriate dream I’d had last night. One that featured me, Alex, and positions that would make an acrobat’s jaw drop. Even now, I flushed at the memory. To stave off the onslaught of unbidden, erotic images, I fiddled with my camera and stared outside the window, where hints of fall bloomed on the trees and leaves swirled lazily on soft gusts of wind. Red, yellow, orange— fire on air. A physical marker of the transition from the hot, halcyon days of summer to the icy, bone-chilling beauty of winter. It was September, but a different kind of winter whooshed in on a cloud of delicious spice and cool reserve. Alex entered the room, cutting a sleek, powerful figure in his all-black outfit—black coat, black pants, black shoes, black leather gloves. A sharp contrast to the pale beauty of his face.
My fingers tightened around my camera. My creative soul salivated, desperate to capture that mystery and lay it bare on the page. I’ve found that the quietest, most reserved people often make the best portrait subjects because the exercise doesn’t require them to speak; it requires them to feel. Those who bottle up their emotions every day feel the strongest and love the hardest; the best photographers are the ones who can capture each drop of emotion as it spills out and mold it into something visceral, relatable. Universal. Alex and I didn’t greet each other. No words, not so much as a nod. Instead, the air hummed with silence as he divested himself of his coat and gloves. It wasn’t overtly sexual, but everything about the man was sexual. The way his strong, deft fingers slid each button from its hole without so much as a pause or stumble; the way his shoulders and arms flexed beneath his shirt as he hung his coat on the hook by the door; the way he moved toward me like a panther stalking its prey, his eyes bright with scorching intensity. The velvety tips of butterfly wings brushed my heart, and I clutched my camera tighter, willing myself not to step back or tremble. Liquid warmth pooled in my stomach, and every inch of my body became a nerve ending, hypersensitized and throbbing with arousal. He hadn’t touched me, and I was already so turned on I trembled. I hadn’t thought that was possible outside romance novels and movies. Those green eyes flared, like he knew exactly what he did to me. How tight my nipples were beneath my thick sweater, how wet I was between my thighs. How much I wanted to devour him, to pour myself into the cracks of his soul so he would never be alone. “Where do you want me?” Gravel rasped his voice for the first time since I’d met him, turning the clear, authoritative tone into something darker. More sinful. Where did I want him? Everywhere. Over me. Beneath me. Inside me. I licked my suddenly dry lips. Alex’s gaze dropped to my mouth, and my entire body pulsed. No. I wasn’t a schoolgirl on a date. I was a professional. This was professional. A portrait session with a subject, just like countless other sessions I’d had in the past. Of course, I hadn’t wanted to throw any of my previous subjects on the
floor and ride them until kingdom come, but that was a minor detail. “Uh, here is fine,” I croaked, gesturing to the stool I’d set up on a plain white background. I’d kept today’s set up simple. I didn’t want anything to detract from Alex, not that they could. His presence obliterated everything around him until he was the only thing left standing. He folded himself gracefully on the stool while I checked my settings and snapped a few test shots. Even unposed, his photos jumped off the screen, his gorgeous features and piercing eyes tailor-made for the camera. I reigned in my shameless lust and spent the next hour coaxing him out of his shell, moving him into various poses, and encouraging him to relax. I wasn’t sure Alex understood the meaning of the word. The pictures so far were beautiful, but they lacked emotion. Without emotion, a beautiful photo is just a photo. I attempted to open him up with chitchat, talking to him about everything from the weather to Josh’s latest update to that day’s news, but he remained aloof and guarded. I tried a different tactic. “Tell me about your happiest memory.” Alex’s lips thinned. “I thought this was a photoshoot, not a therapy session.” “If it were a therapy session, I’d be charging you five hundred dollars an hour,” I quipped. “You have an inflated sense of your worth as a therapist.” “If you can’t afford me, just say so.” I snapped more pictures. Finally. A sign of life. The click and whir of the shutter filled the air. “Sweetheart, I could get you with a snap of my fingers, and I wouldn’t have to shell out a single penny.” I lowered my camera and glared at him. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” A tiny smirk tugged at the corner of Alex’s mouth. “It means you want me. You wear your emotions all over your face.” My thighs clenched, and my skin burned until I thought I’d collapse into a pile of ashes on the ground. “Now who’s the one with an inflated sense of self-worth?” I managed, my heart racing. Alex had never said anything so direct to me before. He usually shut down any hint of attraction between us, but here he was, talking
about me wanting him. He was right, but still. Alex leaned forward and clasped his hands loosely together. Graceful, casual but alert. Waiting to lure me into his trap. “Tell me it’s not true.” I licked my lips again, my throat parched, and his gaze zeroed in on my mouth. The small but unmistakable movement bolstered my confidence and compelled me to say something I would’ve never had the guts to say otherwise. “It’s true.” I almost smiled at the flare of surprise in his eyes. He hadn’t expected honesty. “But you want me too. Question is, are you too scared to admit it?” Alex’s thick, dark brows lowered. “I’m not scared of anything.” Lies. I would’ve believed him a month ago, but now I knew better. Everyone fears something; it’s what makes us human. And Alex Volkov—for all his control, all his power—was still wonderfully, frighteningly, heartbreakingly human. “That doesn’t answer my question.” I walked over to him, my camera swaying from the strap looped around my neck. He didn’t move an inch, not even when I brushed my fingers along his jaw. “Admit you want me, too.” I wasn’t sure where my boldness came from. I wasn’t Jules. I always waited for the guy to ask me out—partly out of fear of rejection, partly because I was too shy to make the first move. But I had a feeling if I waited for Alex, I might have to wait forever. It was time to take matters into my own hands “If I wanted you, I would’ve taken you already,” Alex said with lethal softness. “Unless you’re too scared.” I was playing with fire, but that was better than standing out in the cold alone. I stiffened when Alex trailed his fingers down my neck and over my shoulder. His lips curved into a smirk. “Nervous? I thought this was what you wanted,” he taunted. His hand dipped lower, closer to the curve of my breast. The ice pools in his eyes melted, revealing a blazing inferno that heated me from head to toe. My head spun. My nipples tightened into firm beads, and my pulse throbbed through every inch of my body. Somehow, it was worse that he wasn’t touching me where I ached most; the anticipation heightened my
senses, and my skin tingled with phantom caresses. “That’s not what I said,” I wheezed. Oh God, this was embarrassing. What had I been thinking? I wasn’t a femme fatale or a…a…whatever else was like a femme fatale. I couldn’t think straight. Alex grazed his thumb over my breast, and I moaned. Moaned. From a touch that lasted less than two seconds. I wanted to die. His pupils dilated until the green irises were eclipses ringed with jade fire. He dropped his hand, and cool air rushed in to replace the warmth of his touch. “Finish the photoshoot, Ava.” The roughness of his voice scraped against my skin. “What?” I was too shocked by the sudden change in the atmosphere to process his words. “The photoshoot. Finish it,” he gritted out. “Unless you want to start something you’re not ready to finish.” “I—” The photoshoot. Right. I backed away on unsteady legs and tried to refocus on the task at hand. Alex sat straight-backed, his face hard, while I circled him and captured every angle I could think of. The low hum of the heater was the only sound breaking the silence. “Okay. We’re done,” I said after twenty minutes of excruciating quiet. “Thanks—” Alex stood, grabbed his coat, and walked out without another word. “For doing this,” I finished, my words echoing in the empty room. I exhaled a long-held breath. Alex was the most mercurial person I knew. One minute, he was gentle and protective; the next, he was closed-off and distant. I scrolled through the photos, curious as to how they’d turned out. Oh. Wow. Alex’s emotions leaped off the screen after our…interaction, and yes, most of it was irritation, but irritation on him looked better than contentment on anyone else. The way the shadows hit the sharp lines of his brows, the glare of his eyes, the set of his jaw…these were possibly the best photos I’d ever taken. I paused at one of the last shots, and my heart stuttered to a stop. I’d been so busy snapping away I hadn’t paid attention in the moment,
but now I saw it clear as day. Stark desire scrawled across Alex’s face as he stared at me, his eyes burning through the camera and straight into my soul. It was the only photo where he wore that expression, so it must’ve been a momentary slip on his part. A stripping of his mask, if only for a few seconds. But here’s the thing: even a few seconds can change someone’s life. And as I turned off the camera and packed up my equipment with shaky hands, I couldn’t shake the feeling that mine had been altered forever.

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