When a man takes an unexpected turn and ends up where he isn’t supposed to be, his fate will bring him back to his own path. But when it happens to two people at once, their fates will interlink, and their paths ultimately entwine.
Aidan Ross had a long day ahead of him. First, he had to audition a few models for his upcoming project, then had to meet the gallery managers who were interested in showcasing his artworks and later that night, he was supposed to dine with his parents. Dinner with his father was more of a compulsion to him than a pleasure, so he always treated it as nothing more than an appointment that blocked a monthly calendar slot. Even though Aidan dreaded sitting across him that night, he also looked forward to meeting his mother and younger brother. They always made these family meetups at least a little more bearable.
First things first, of course.
He read the message Kim had sent just minutes before asking where he was.
In the elevator right now.
He thought for a moment and texted again.
Are all the guys here already?
Kim replied almost immediately.
And they’re brewing hot for you.
Aidan laughed to himself. The elevator door dinged and opened. He stepped out and walked down the lobby looking for his room number. The lobby was deserted, and it didn’t take long for him to realize this wasn’t his floor. “Shit!” he swore under his breath and headed back to the elevator in a hurry.
That’s when he ran into a man in a wheelchair. Aidan lost his balance and fell forward. The wheelchair wobbled and threatened to tip to one side. Thankfully, Aidan had the sense to hold onto it and save the man as well as himself from any mishap. When he looked up, his face was so close to the man’s that if he’d moved even an inch forward, their noses would have touched.
But he didn’t move. He couldn’t move.
The sight in front of him was picturesque. The man had shut his eyes tightly, obviously freaked out by the impact and expected the worst. But the natural beauty of his facial expression enchanted Aidan. He had never seen such a shiny, flawless skin on any man. It wasn’t makeup, he could tell. What stood out most was the man’s high cheekbones and full red lips.
The man slowly opened his eyes, and the blue orbs looked back curiously.
Aidan smiled and took a step backward to stand up straight on his feet again. “I hope you’re okay.”
“Uh-yeah.” The man nervously pushed back the strands of blond hair from off his forehead and said, “I’m so sorry. I was supposed to get out on the eleventh floor, and I just realized this isn’t it. I’m so stupid, I know.” His cheeks turned red.
Aidan laughed. “Apparently, so am I.”
“I mean I got off on the wrong floor too.” Aidan bent down to pick up his phone and checked it for any damage. Thankfully, there wasn’t a scratch on it. When he looked up, the man was ready to wheel his chair toward the elevator. “Do you need any help?”
“I’m good, thanks,” he said without giving Aidan another glance. The man wheeled himself ahead and reached the elevator. They rode up together. Aidan kept stealing glances at the man, who was keenly looking at the numbers changing on the screen.
When the elevator arrived on the tenth floor, Aidan double checked before getting off. He looked back to smile at the beautiful face. He knew he was making a mistake letting the guy go just like that. As the door slid to a close and Aidan struggled to say something, he caught the stranger giving an uncertain smile back.
It had taken a lot of effort from Aidan to try and get the man’s gorgeous face out of his mind but it still teased him every now and then as the morning progressed. As an artist, Aidan had developed the skill of appreciating true beauty when it surrounded him and easily identifying what could become a great painting. He was certain, if that particular man’s portrait could be added to his collection, it would become one of the finest works of art he had ever made.
But, sadly, he had missed an opportunity. And what were the chances he would meet the man again?
The models came and went. They auditioned, shared their portfolios and answered some of the questions Aidan had asked. Some did impress him quite a lot, but somewhere his mind still compared them with the guy he’d bumped into earlier, leaving him inexplicably with utter disappointment.
When the last guy had left, he watched as Kim’s head appeared through the half-open door. Kimberly Hobbs had worked for him for the past two years as his personal secretary. Since the beginning, they had bonded so well Kim knew exactly what Aidan wanted, and it almost always got done before he could tell her. She was in her mid-thirties and a mother of two, but she looked younger than his twenty-seven years. Blood red lipstick and brown hair tied up in a tight bun were the signature style she flaunted every single day.
“Do you know a Mr. Pattinson? I never saw him in any of your appointments, so I thought I’d ask.”
“Pattinson?” Aidan racked his brain to put any familiar face to that name, but nothing came up. “No, why?”
“There’s a guy here. He says his name is Rick Mahoney and that Mr. Pattinson sent him for the interview.”
Aidan had no clue who Rick Mahoney was or a Mr. Pattinson for that matter. Neither name rang any bells. He made a hand gesture signaling Kim to let him in. “I might as well meet him and see if I can remember anything,” he told her and waited.
Kim moved aside and held the door open for Rick. “Mr. Mahoney, my boss will see you now.”
A familiar face came into view as Rick entered, wheeling his chair inside the room, and Kim closed the door to give them some privacy. Aidan couldn’t help the grin on his face. Of course, he’d recognized this man. Not because he knew who Mr. Pattinson was—Rick was the same guy he’d met earlier that day. “Hey, you’re the guy on the wrong floor,” Aiden said it as a matter of fact. “Didn’t think we’d meet again so soon.” It was a pleasant surprise.
Rick seemed surprised too, and a bit intimidated. “I’m sorry, Mr. Gilbert. I didn’t realize it was you I ran into earlier.”
“Gilbert?” Aidan laughed. “I’m not Mr. Gilbert. My name’s Aidan Ross, and I’m an artist. I was interviewing male models here for my next set of paintings. Are here for that too?”
“No, no, no…” The color had drained from Rick’s face. “I’m not a model. I think I’m at the wrong interview.” Aidan tried to concentrate on the words as Rick rambled on but his nervousness amused him more. He’s so cute. “I came here for the bookkeeper’s job at the hotel. The hotel manager, Mr. Pattinson, told me I’d be interviewed by Mr. Gilbert on the tenth floor. I came here looking for him, and when I saw this lady talking to a guy about his interview, I assumed she was talking about Mr. Gilbert, so I asked, and she brought me here to see you.”
Ha! What are the odds?
“I’m really sorry for the confusion, Mr. Ross. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
Aidan waved his hand dismissively and smiled. “No bother at all!”
Rick shook his head, refusing to look Aidan in the eye. “I’m sure you’ve loads of errands to run. I’ll get out of your way.”
“Hey, wait!” Aidan called out as Rick was about to turn, the suddenness astounded him. Aidan chuckled. “Don’t you think it’s amazing?”
“That we met again so soon,” Aidan replied, barely containing his excitement. “I mean, I wanted to see you again so badly. And here you are. I still can’t believe it!”
Rick furrowed his brows. “Why did you want to see me again?” he asked.
“Because I like you,” he said without any hesitation.
“Yes, I love the way you look. You are a specimen of male beauty in its rarest form.” Aidan grinned.
Rick’s face flushed. “That’s enough.”
“Look, I’m an artist, and I’d hate to see such beauty going unnoticed. I want to paint you. I want to put you on my canvas and show it to the world.” He realized he had leaned over the desk too much and sat up, straightening the slim tie he wore. “So, will you let me? Draw you?”
Rick stared. He still remained near the door as if he was about to bolt. “Mr. Ross,” he said in a hoarse voice, then cleared his throat and continued, “are you mocking me?”
“Mock-what? No!” Aidan jumped out of his seat and went to stand in front of Rick. “I don’t think I introduced myself to you properly. People hardly recognize me by my real name, Aidan Ross. My artist name is Adonis. You might have heard of it.” The proud smile on his face faltered when Rick shook his head with uncertainty. “Art by Adonis? It’s almost like a brand now,” Aidan tried but Rick the head shook again.
This is embarrassing. “Well, I’m supposed to be famous now, anyway.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not you. I don’t follow any artists or their work.”
“You should, and you should start with me,” he said, giving Rick a lopsided smile. “But the point is—I’ve been looking for a few models to inspire my next set of paintings. Ever since this morning, I couldn’t help brainstorm some ideas to feature you in my works. Because you, Rick, are absolutely beautiful.”
“Um… I don’t think you’ve noticed, but I’m in a wheelchair.”
“I might have noticed that, yea.”
Rick sighed. “I’m not a model, Mr. Ross.”
“Great! Rookies are always the best to work with.”
His lips twitched but refrained from giving in to a smile. “It’s kind of you to offer, really. But I’d like to decline.” He turned his wheelchair around to leave.
However, Aidan couldn’t let him go. Fate had brought this man in front of him by accident twice.
It must be a sign, right?
Aidan took him gently by the bicep and stopped him. “Why? Is it about the money? Because I intend to pay you for your time. I can pay you by the hour. I usually pay my models twenty bucks, I’ll pay you twenty-five an hour.”
“Twenty-five?” His mouth fell.
“Alright, thirty. I’ll pay you thirty an hour. Five hours each day for five days.”
Rick swallowed visibly. “But…”
Aidan decided not to let him say anything but a confirmed yes. “I’ll take care of your meals too. And if you prefer, I can arrange for your transport from home and back. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”
“And if you want, I—”
“Stop!” Rick spoke a little louder than his usual placid tone which shocked Aidan. No one had ever talked to him like that. Normally, it would really piss him off. Surprisingly, right now, it didn’t. “It’s a more than generous offer. Believe me, I wasn’t saying no because I wanted more money for my time. Or offer me more perks. I won’t lie, I do need the money. But I won’t… I can’t let you waste your time and money on me because I don’t think I’m the right person to be your inspiration.”
Aidan stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you see even a hint of doubt in my eyes when I say you may be the best inspiration I’ll ever find for my paintings?” Rick didn’t respond. Their eyes battled each other in a continuous stare and Aidan didn’t dare look away. After a few seconds passed, Rick shook his head. Aidan smiled. “Then trust me when I tell you that you will be worth every penny I invest in you.”
For the very first time since they met, Rick smiled genuinely. “Thank you.”
“I don’t want you to thank me for stating a fact,” Aidan said. “What I want is for you to say yes to my offer.”
Rick giggled. He actually giggled. Aidan liked the sound. “I don’t think you ever take no for an answer, do you?”
He nodded. “Nope, that’s me in a nutshell.”
There was a moment of silence between them when Rick seemingly considered the deal. Then he said with almost complete confidence, “I’ll do it.”
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