Park Avenue Prince(8)By: Louise Bay
“Different strokes,” I said. I’d always resisted the kind of man my parents wanted for me. Someone safe. A doctor, a lawyer from the right family, someone from the Upper East Side.
I’d never seen the appeal of a suit in the way Harper did. While there was no denying Max King, her husband, was handsome, he just wasn’t my type. I liked a guy I could daydream with, who was spontaneous, someone bohemian who could constantly surprise me. I didn’t want some guy who thought they could buy and sell people just like stocks and bonds—or art.
But Batman? He didn’t seem to fit into either mold. He dressed in a suit, but the questions he asked, the way he looked at me—it was as if he wanted to strip away anything inconsequential and dig deeper, into my soul.
Maybe I’d like to let him.
One week since the exhibition at Grace Astor Fine Art and I couldn’t remember a single piece of art that had been featured that night. Grace Astor, however? With her full mouth, curving waist and confused smile? Her I couldn’t seem to forget. My office was in midtown so when I’d finished for the day, I decided to take a walk and pay Grace a visit. The only art I did vaguely remember were the pieces she’d hidden away. I wanted to see them and her again.
The bell above the door dinged as I entered the gallery, seemingly at odds with the modern paintings on the wall. Despite my distaste for the work, the little red stickers below each painting told me the exhibition had been successful.
I had no interest in anything at the front of the gallery, so I strode toward the back to find Ms. Astor’s hidden stash.
“Good afternoon,” a woman called from behind me over the clip of heels. I turned to find Ms. Astor walking briskly toward me wearing a tight blue dress that hit just below the knee and thick, black-rimmed glasses. She was like a fantasy Lois Lane, though something about this woman’s frown, the determined look on her face, told me she was the hero of her story, not the sidekick.
“Ms. Astor,” I said, hoping she’d remember me.
She slowed and surprise replaced her frown. “Mr. Shaw, isn’t it?”
I put out my hand to greet her. “Indeed.” I flashed her a grin. Angie had told me my smile could make a woman’s panties drop from ten yards away. Unfortunately, Grace didn’t look impressed, just confused. She took my hand, and I gripped it tightly, holding on a little too long.
“How can I help you?” she asked, as she glanced down to our hands. I released her and she exhaled.
“I came to have another look,” I said, pointing to her hidden collection. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” she replied as we walked toward the back.
“Did the exhibition do well?” I asked, hoping she’d give something away in her response about her relationship with the artist. His hands had been all over her before she’d given me a tour of her gallery.
“Yes, almost everything sold that night or in the following days once the reviews were published.”
I nodded, trying to leave space for her to say something more. Wanting to watch her mouth curl around the words she spoke.
“I have four pieces left if you’d like me to show you?”
“Like I said, not my thing.”
We stood in front of the hidden collection.
“You like your art more classic,” she said as we both stared at the art. It wasn’t a question.
I stuffed my hands in my pockets. “Honestly, I don’t know. I’m new to all this.” Ordinarily, I was very careful about what I revealed to people. I’d learned quickly that business and Manhattan were full of bullshitters who didn’t want to be reminded of their own flaws and weaknesses, which meant you couldn’t reveal yours. It was a game—if everyone kept pretending, no one would be found out. As much as I was an outsider, I proficiently played the role of someone who belonged.
“New to what?” Grace asked.
“Art,” I replied. “I’m not sure what I like.”
“But you like these?” She nodded her head toward the paintings we were looking at.
I nodded. “I guess.” I was drawn in by their intimacy and mystery, but I had no idea whether or not they were investment pieces.