High Art (Las Vegas Tales 2)
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Copyright ©2017 Amber Malloy
The bustle of the casino was nearly infectious. Bells from the slot machines rang as hard techno music played from the headlining acts. Fire-eaters and magicians dazzled the crowd while different performers danced around the grand party.
Simon smiled and waved at a few people he knew. He wanted to congratulate Bebe then leave. Not the same since his wife's death, he felt out of place.
The harsh tones of the slot machines changed to the soft strings of a violin the closer he got to the elegant stores of Armani, Gucci, and Burberry. Servers with trays of food and wine weaved through the crowd. He stopped in front of one of Bebe's murals. It depicted the building of the Vegas strip in the early 1960's. Throughout the casino's opening weekend Bebe would have three more showings. After tonight, he planned to leave Vegas.
Louisa would have loved the circus-type scene that played out in front of him. He missed his wife terribly. She'd been older than him by fifteen years, and her extended family was determined to make the process of his grieving worse.
"Thank you for coming."
Simon jumped. Immersed in the details of her work, he hadn't heard her approach. Bebe's slight smile told him she enjoyed surprising him. Before this afternoon it had been months since he'd laid eyes on her and he'd nearly forgotten how pretty she was.
When he'd walked in her studio and witnessed her talent and innocence firsthand, it stirred a sense of desire he thought he had lost. Chocolate brown and simply beautiful, and he didn't understand how she was single. From the moment Louisa had seen the artist's work she bragged about it non-stop.
His first glimpse of the painter was in a Times piece, a black and white photograph of a bedazzling genius. Simon had never understood how a woman as gorgeous as Bebe would need a benefactor... but then he'd met her. The title of socially awkward was the nicest compliment he could offer.
"I wouldn't miss it," he said. "Is the whole show an homage to Vegas?"
Her face never changed; she kept the same robotic expression as she passed him a glass of wine.
"Aren't you going to stay and see it?"
Simon put the glass to his lips and took a swig of the dry spirits. He hated to disappoint her.
"No, but I wanted to see your hard work and try to apologize for Louisa's family. You're simply too talented for your art to suffer over nonsense." He put his hand out for her to shake. It was a shame she was caught in the cross hairs of this mess.
Bebe stared at him for a moment before she stepped closer to him, ignoring his contrite peace offering. "I would like to make you a deal."
"I'm sorry, Bebe, but I don't have the finances that my wife did to pursue such an expensive --"
"That's not it." She shook her head with the same disinterested expression. "I understand Louisa had all the money."
From anyone else her words would have stung but not with Bebe. She held no malice in her heart.
"Soon you will have to go back to work, and when you do I would like to be your escort."
"Before you married Louisa you mingled and did business with the wealthy. The connections would help me immensely. If you hadn't noticed, I'm not exactly social."
An understatement. But he neglected to correct her. "What did you have in mind?"
"For you to introduce me to people who can support my endeavors."
"And what would I get from this?" he asked, amused. A pure artist to her heart, Bebe would stick out like a sore thumb.
"A diversion from the rich old women who will think you're available."
"I see... Well, thank you for the kind offer but --"
"And a fuck buddy without the expectation of an emotional relationship."