You picked up your skirts and walked quickly down the castle hallway, doing your best not to trip over yourself as you rushed to Robert’s studio. Today was relatively unscheduled for you and you didn’t want to waste any time you had set aside to have your portrait done.
You couldn’t remember who it was that had suggested you have a new one made in the first place, but Giles had approved of the idea. When you had asked Robert if he was available to do it, he had given you a gentle smile and said that any time would work if you were the one to request it. Giles had rearranged some of your less important items that very day and had given you the rest of the early afternoon and evening to spend with Robert in his studio.
You finally reached the door and let the fabric slide out of your fingers, smoothing out the wrinkles with your shaking hands and taking a deep breath before knocking. Robert opened the door with a small smile on his face. You could see a stool standing in front of his easel with a large canvas resting on top, shining slightly with primer.
“Come on in,” Robert said, stepping back and allowing you the space to walk in front of him. “Please sit,” he added as he gestured to a chaise that sat a dozen feet in front of his setup.
You nodded and sank into the middle of the large cushion, flicking the bottom of your dress once again to settle around your feet. Looking around at the other paintings around the room, you felt your lips part slightly. It didn’t matter how many times you saw them, his art always put you in awe. “Robert, have I told you how much I love your work?”
“Yes,” his mouth curved into a small smile as he sat on his wooden stool, nearly polished on the top with use. “Many times before. Are you in a comfortable position?”
“Yes, I should be fine.” The chaise was comfortable under you, but you could already feel your back tire from the tall pose you had straightened in.
Robert started immediately, taking a graphite to the canvas. His gaze flickered from his work in front of him to examine you, lingering on yours when he looked at your face. Soon, he was just watching you, a hesitant look in his eyes.
“Is something the matter?”
“I feel like there is something missing. Stay right there, I will be right back.”
He stood and moved to his storage closet in the corner of the room, rummaging inside for a minute before humming in satisfaction, stepping up to you with a box in hand. He opened it to reveal a colorful scarf. It was beautiful and seemed to be made of air as he carefully wrapped it around your neck, his fingers lightly skimming over your clavicle as he tied the scarf, his warm breath brushing over your ears as he leaned over you.
Taking a few steps back he gave you an appraising look before smiling. “Much better.” He set the small box on the floor by his easel as he took up his previous spot, starting his sketching again.
You fought a blush as the close proximity and touches on your sensitive skin filled your stomach with butterflies. Robert had knotted the scarf beautifully and you didn’t have to look down on it to know it matched his own. Even in a situation like this, he was leaving a little reminder of himself on you.
“You are free to relax if you would like, but please stay in as similar of a pose as you can.”
Robert’s voice startled you out of your thoughts and you sighed in relief. You shook out your arms and sat back and watched with curiosity as Robert pulled out his paints and brushes. Mixing a few and only giving you spare glances now, he began to paint, his various brushes gliding, stroking, and spotting the canvas in front of him.
You couldn’t help but become entranced with his expressions as he painted. It didn’t matter the subject, but his warm gaze and careful hands breathed life into his work. You looked down from his eyes to his mouth, drawing far too much of your attention as he toyed at the corner of his bottom lip as he mixed paint to find the perfect shade. Sucking in a deep breath, you purposefully dragged your focus to the other paintings in the room to distract yourself from his handsome features.
An hour passed by with only the sound of brush on canvas and the clinking of glass as Robert cleaned his brushes. Your head drooped onto your chest, the feeling of the scarf on your chin shocking you back awake, startling you into awareness. Sheepishly, you looked up at Robert and without looking away from his work he said, “You are fine now if you want to lay down and take a nap.”
“I don’t mean to fall asleep, Robert. I’m sorry.”
“I’m used to it,” he finally peered over at you and smiled. “Go ahead and lay down.”
You took up his offer and slipped your shoes off on the floor, tucking your feet under your dress and up on the chaise as you angled yourself to rest your head on the single pillow. If he insisted, you weren’t going to pass up the chance to take a short rest. Too many early mornings and late events in the evenings had started to wear on you.
It wasn’t long before you fell asleep, the early afternoon light filtering into the room and making you comfortably warm. It only felt like only a few minutes had passed when you opened your eyes again, but you were surprised to see that the room was fairly dark but for a few candlelit lamps around Robert, who was still painting.
As though he could sense you waking, Robert paused and turned to face you, the flickering glow around him giving his face a softer aura than usual. His slow smile caused your heart to skip a beat.
“I...didn’t mean to sleep this long. I’m sorry,” you whispered, not wanting to break the comfortable silence in the room. “Are you still working on the portrait?”
Robert made a few finishing touches to the canvas in front of him before dunking the brush in water, rinsing it clean and drying it with a cloth. “No, it’s sitting by the window to dry.”
You turned your head to face the window to your right and saw the portrait, only slightly damp and shiny from wet paint. Like all of his paintings, it filled your entire being with warmth. Your hair was defined but soft, your mouth smiling lovingly, and your eyes. He captured in them a look of humor and grace. It was beautiful.
“I love it,” you said in a sigh. "You always make me look so beautiful." You felt a shift and turned back to find that Robert had sunk to his knees on the floor next to you. You closed your eyes as he reached out and smoothed a stray strand of hair away from your face. It was the lightest of touches, yet it sent a shiver down your spine and arms. You turned your head to follow the touch as his hand moved away, opening your eyes once more to find his much closer than before, mere inches away.
“You are beautiful,” Robert whispered, the breath of his words caressing your lips. So close, yet not nearly close enough. “It is my greatest pleasure to portray that in my work.” You felt your cheeks warm and you ducked your head in embarrassment. He brought his hand down from your face to stroke down your neck and arm until his fingers entangled with yours.
Gripping his hand tightly in yours, you murmured, nearly inaudible, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” The spark of heat in his eyes had you melting where you lay. Leaning over you, he brushed his lips along your brow, sliding down to press a gentle kiss to the corner of your jaw. “I love you, my beautiful princess.”