Once the door closed safely behind her, Ember leaned on it and held her hand to her racing heart. This new fear of men was driving her crazy! Just because the brothers were all well over six feet tall and full of muscles and broad shoulders, that didn't mean that they were out to hurt her. It confused Ember that one man could have done such a job on her.
Anger stirred in her and she vowed to fight the fear tooth--and--nail until it was gone. Satisfied with her decision, she went to get her new art supplies and took a deep breath before cautiously opening the door. Relief filled her when she saw an empty hallway until she turned the corner quickly and her body slammed into solid muscle. She shrieked, dropping the paper and pens to the floor.
She tried to back up but her arms were held in the strong grip of Phoenix's hands. "Are you all right, Little Flame?" His concerned eyes met hers and she caught her breath. This was the first time their eyes had met so close and a jolt went through her. His deep brown eyes were warm and liquid, filled with some unnamed emotion sending a quiver of response up her spine.
Cursing her pounding heart, Ember pulled away and dropped to a squat, quickly scrambling for her supplies. She mumbled, "I'm fine. This sure is one busy hallway."
Realizing she was joking, he chuckled. "We do have a lot of traffic here. Many a time I've been knocked on may a...my butt. Remember to look both ways and you'll be fine."
Relief shot through him at her calm acceptance of Misu's, and now his own run in with her. She was working on her fear. That was a good sign. As he bent down to pick up her scattered pencils, she shifted to reach for one and they bumped heads. Ember fell back and landed on her buttocks while Phoenix crashed into a table and tipped over a vase, catching it with his quick reflexes before it could crash to the ground.
"Ouch! Definitely a dangerous hall," she said with a grin, rubbing her forehead.
Phoenix stared at her. She was beautiful when she smiled. "You should do that more often, Little Flame."
Her questioning gaze had their eyes meeting again. "Do what? I'm not usually such a klutz." Grinning she bent to pick up more pencils.
"Smile. You have a beautiful smile. You should do it more often."
Uncomfortable with his focus on her, her cheeks warmed to a rosy hue. She quickly picked up the rest of the pencils and was about to stand when she found him by her side, taking her arm to help her up.
She was surprised that she didn't fear him anymore, and pleased by it, offering him a smile. "Thank you for your help. Did you want something from me?"
Her eyes met his again and he held back a groan as desire flashed through him. She had such a look of innocence about her. The fact that she was meeting his gaze, trusting him more, pleased him.
Smiling at her, he said, "I heard you met Misu in the hall and wanted to make sure you were okay--Are you?"
Nodding, she let out a chuckle. "He's nice. He promised to beat up Tadi if he hugs me again." Now her grin was wide and the smile showed in her eyes.
Mesmerized, Phoenix stared at her, holding his breath at the sudden pounding of his heart.
Feeling the nervous tension, Ember dropped her gaze. "Ah, I think I'd better get downstairs and get the portrait started. Keyanna will be waiting." She moved towards the stairs, but was stopped when his hand gently held her arm. Her eyes shot up to his and she waited, telling herself to be calm, be strong.
"I just want you to know that I'll be close by if you need me, Ember. Don't forget that."
His dark chocolate eyes held hers. Her throat suddenly tight, Ember whispered, said, "I'll remember, thank you." She turned and hurried down the stairs.
Phoenix watched her go and shuddered. She was definitely a distracting woman. He just hoped she didn't distract him from his job. More than he already was, he thought, adjusting his suddenly tight pants. Shaking his head, he followed her downstairs and went to find Misu.