His Canvas

By: Tymber Dalton

Chapter One

I love my job.

Askel Hansen peered through the viewfinder at his latest model. She had gorgeous curves in all the right places, distinct lines, beautiful perfection. She wasn’t exactly his thing, but as a photographer, he could appreciate her appeal to others.

This shoot was for a regular paying client. They relied almost exclusively on him for their catalog images, meaning a day shooting on location in a gorgeous—if not sweltering—setting south of Crystal River, Florida.

It also meant excellent pay. When he finally returned to Sarasota later that evening, he knew he’d have a sizable check in his pocket without a hint of griping about his rates in the process. Not that he wished all his paying jobs were like this, because that would eventually get boring.

But he definitely didn’t mind doing these several times a year.

He straightened and tweaked the position of one of the light bouncers before he took his next round of shots. He’d been at it for a couple of hours already.

Mike Foster, head of the company he was shooting for today, walked down and stood on the dock, off to the side. “How’s it going, Kel?” he called out.

“She’s a beaut. I think you have a winner with this one.”

“Damn sure hope so. Put enough money into R&D on her.”

Kel walked over and made a slight adjustment to one of the ropes, which had shifted slightly with her movement, before taking another burst of pictures.

He’d already finished the close-ups, taking care of those inside before they’d moved her out to the docks for the full-on shots. It was fun exploring her many recesses, her tight, enclosed places.

It was a damn gorgeous boat. No doubt about it.

When Kel finally finished the photo shoot, Mike joined him on the dock where his company’s latest model sat slowly bobbing on the incoming tide. “Hey, I’m taking the wife and kids out on it in a little while. Going to run out the channel to the head marker and back, then go for dinner later. Want to join us?”

Mike’s two kids were adorable. Not that Kel had any desire for any of his own in the near future, but he’d also been photographing Mike’s kids in the ten years he’d been doing shoots for Mike’s company, Aqua-Knotics Industries. They had a small R&D facility just south of Crystal River, with their main production facility over on the east coast, near Ft. Lauderdale.

He’d originally met Mike and Julie Foster socially several years earlier. Kel had even been the one to jokingly suggest the name of Mike’s company when the boat designer quit his job with another manufacturer and went off on his own.

Hell, they both loved shibari. Mike couldn’t resist the chance to sneakily hide a clue about his kinky side out in the wide open, in both the company’s name and logo. When they had first met at Venture, a private BDSM club in Sarasota, Kel had been honing his rigging skills and his artistic photography techniques. Mike and Julie had lived in Sarasota before striking out with their new boat-building venture.

Mike strongly believed in the old chestnut of rising tides lifting all boats. Literally. He’d hired Kel as their photographer from the start based on their friendship.

Kel surely wasn’t complaining.

“I’d love to,” he told Mike. “Let me get my stuff packed.”

“Awesome. The kids’ll be happy to hear that. So will Julie.” He glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to hear. “So, how are things going with you? I heard from Mac and Sully it was a little rough there for a while.”

“I’m okay. But the next time you hear of me getting involved with someone who doesn’t have their shit together, please remind me that it’s not my circus and not my monkeys. Deal?”

Mike grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. “Deal.” His smile faded. “Sort of hoped she’d be the one for you.”

“Well, I did there, too, for a while. Until her crazy started showing.”

“Yeah, that’s never a good thing.”

* * * *

It was nearly ten that night by the time they finished dinner. Kel started his long trek home to Sarasota stuffed from an excellent seafood dinner and his voice slightly hoarse from hours of conversation, both having to shout to be heard while on the boat, and then lots of talking with his friends over their meal.

It was more than enough social interaction to sate him for weeks. Or longer.

It wasn’t that he was an introvert, or antisocial, or shy, or any of that. He just didn’t have any pressing need for company. He was fine living and—mostly—working alone. Other than his actual photo shoots, the bulk of his work was done at his apartment in the warehouse unit that backed up to Venture. Technically, he probably wasn’t supposed to be living there, but since he owned the warehouse complex, no one had complained about it.