Fantasma

An upcoming artist in Verona meets his new muse, the beautiful and quiet Fiore. Having met Fiore while searching for inspiration, Mercer is instantly drawn to the silent man who spends most of his time reading under a tree.
Eventually, they start dating.
What will happen to their new relationship when Mercer learns Fiore's past?

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1. Meeting My Muse | Mercer

I paced my penthouse like a caged lion. With a gallery opening in only a few weeks, I had been stuck inside painting for the past ten days and was just about ready to murder my manager if he didn't let me outside. My phone rang and I checked the screen:

Chiamata in Arrivo ...

Louis Albano

I clicked the glowing green button, "What?"

"Easy, Mercer," my manager's voice sounded through the speaker, "I'm calling to give you the next week off. Go take a walk in a park or do something. I can't have my star artist running out of inspiration, but come Monday you are to be back in your studio. Do I make myself clear?"

I blinked in surprise. Louis wasn't usually this lenient, "Of course and thanks. I was beginning to go crazy stuck in here."

I heard a snort on the other end, "Putting it mildly. I thought you were going to tear me a new one when I was there yesterday. See you Monday."

I ended the call and stretched. Excitement flashed through me as I hurriedly threw on some clothes. The jeans had paint splattered on them but most of my closet looked like that. The shirt was grey and, surprisingly, paint free. I'll take small miracles. I shoved my phone in my pocket and left my penthouse.

I weaved through the streets of Verona with an ease that was only gained from living in the city for years. I passed by several bustling vendors, rushing businessmen, and gossiping ladies as I made my way to the Parco delle Cascate. It was one of the most beautiful parks in the city if my opinion was asked. While not as accessible as some of the others,  the stunning waterfalls and rock formations hidden within the trees were worth the small hike. Being late July the weather was usually sweltering, but today it seemed to be uncommonly cool. 

I made the climb to the waterfalls easily; being an artist didn't mean I was lax in keeping fit. I walked around for a few moments to find the best spot to sketch from. It was while I was doing this that I met him.

He was just sitting in the shade of a tree, book in his lap. I approached him.

"Ciao," I called to him. He looked up from his book and turned the brightest set of blue eyes I'd ever seen to me.

"Hello," he tilted his head slightly, causing raven brown bangs to fall into his beautiful eyes.

Seeing that he wasn't going to say anything else, I introduced myself, "I'm Mercer Venturi. What are you reading?"

"It's called Il Conte di Monte Cristo," he said, showing me the worn cover, "And I'm Fiore DeRose."

"Pleasure to meet you, Fiore," I bowed dramatically. I glanced back at the waterfall and gaped at the perfect view and lighting. Without warning, I dropped to the ground beside him and flipped open my sketchpad. After a small shout of surprise, Fiore fell silent and the only sounds were the flipping of pages, the scratching of pencil on paper, and the roaring of the small waterfall. It was a very comfortable sort of companionship and it, along with the fresh air, soothed my cabin fever.

I don't know how long I was sketching, but a tap on my shoulder made me snap out of my trance. I turned to Fiore to see him holding out an unopened water bottle.

"You've been drawing for the past hour and it's starting to get warmer," he offered at my questioning gaze. I took the bottle. The cold liquid soothed my parched throat; I hadn't even realised that I was thirsty until then.

I thanked him once I was done. Fiore shrugged and went back to reading. I frowned at the lack of response and started to turn back to my drawing.

"You're welcome," I looked at him when the quiet response reached my ears, but he had his nose buried shyly in his book.

I gave a small smile and grabbed my sketch. Another half hour and it was done. I smiled proudly at the perfect replica on the paper. I would take it home and outline a canvas with the picture later. Satisfied, I flipped the sketchpad shut and put it away in my small bag. I settled back against the tree and watched Fiore read. He was already nearly finished. I zoned out, staring at the beauty my surroundings offered. I started when a book snapped shut.

"Scusi," Fiore said, standing, "I should be heading home."

I stood and held out my hand, "It was nice meeting you, Fiore."

Fiore hesitantly grasped my hand. The chill it had startled me; how could his hands be cold when it was so hot out?

He pulled back, "I've got to go."

He practically ran down the small trail. I stared after him for a few moments before gathering my things and leaving as well. It was time to transfer a sketch.

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