I'll never forget the first time I saw him in the Academy Gallery. The paneled, arched walls framed him perfectly, accenting his classic features and the thick waves of hair that curled around his face. His muscles were strong and lean, his body beautifully shaped. He was so handsome it took my breath away.

I met him unexpectedly as I came around a corner, and when he caught my eye I became flustered and embarrassed. His eyes were pure and clear -- lovely. But his forehead was furrowed. He looked beautiful, but vulnerable, as if great sorrows haunted him. He stood in the midst of a group of people, and I wished we were alone. I couldn't meet his gaze. Flushed and nervous, I ducked back around the corner like a schoolgirl.

The thought of him soon overwhelmed my fears and I returned to the room. This time I let myself stare at him. I wanted to reach out, stroke his pale skin, run my hands over his fine cheekbones and the muscles in his neck. His lips were full and voluptuous, and my nipples hardened at the thought of kissing them. I pictured our bodies entwined and heat flared between my legs. Stunned by my reaction, I turned and rushed away again. I could feel his gaze follow me.

As I left the gallery, I thought about my family, which had sent me to Florence. They knew about my love of art and hoped that my actually seeing the works of the Great Masters would give me some direction. My mother worried about me.

"You're so impulsive, Lena. Your attention borders on the obsessive! Do you remember how many projects and causes you've picked up over the years? You find a new interest, spend every minute pursuing it, and then drop it like a lead weight when something new comes along! Sweetheart, don't you see that it's time to think about settling down? You can't go on like this forever."

She was right about my interests. Over the years, I'd been involved in a lot of things. I didn't see myself as a flake, however, but more as a student of human experience. I kept myself open to new interests, exploring them fully until I felt I'd learned all I could. Then I moved on.

I was sure this trip resulted from my latest obsession: Thomas. We'd met at a coffee shop downtown. He was an activist who spoke emphatically about injustice and I found his energy and enthusiasm attractive. By the time our coffees were reduced to a layer of grounds. I was hooked. My parents never approved of him. He barely made enough money to pay his bills and keep a roof over his head, and he always looked slightly rumpled and distant, as if he were thinking about something else.

I knew that as they had scraped together the money for my trip to Italy, they must have hoped that if I were out of sight of Thom, he would also be out of my mind.

And here I was after only three days in Florence, wondering if I'd found what I'd been seeking: the ultimate adventure in the form of a beautiful Italian man I'd never actually met.

I waited a day before returning to the gallery with my sketch pad. I didn't want to seem too eager. He was there, again surrounded by a group of people. I wasn't surprised. How could anyone resist such character, such beauty? I sat quietly on a nearby bench, pretending not to look at him, but secretly sketching the fine lines of his face and body. He was a wonderful model who showed no discomfort. He stood proudly.

I drew his face, his abundant hair. I wondered what his hair would smell like if I were to rest my face against the curve of his neck. I sketched his arms, his muscular chest. As my gaze lowered to the curls of hair below his navel, my face flushed hot with embarrassment. I packed up my things and fled the room. But I thought about him all night, imagining his large, smooth hands caressing my body.

I returned to the gallery again, summoning all my courage to finish my sketch. I began where I left off, letting my eyes rest on his slim hips, his strong thighs, the curled hair and smooth, pale member between his legs. The sketch is one of the best I've ever done. Guards passed periodically, talking in hushed tones and occasionally laughing. I expected they were talking about me. I'd been here several times, always going to the same room. Still, it's not unusual for art students to study a particular artist's craft or technique. They couldn't possibly know how I felt.

Just before closing time I got enough nerve to approach him. He was even more beautiful at close range. I could see the lines in his neck, the rippled muscles of his stomach, the veins in his feet. I could almost believe that he would smile and speak to me. I waited breathlessly, but he didn't. I collected my supplies and moved toward the exit.

On my way back to the hotel I said his name over and over again, like an incantation. "David... David... David." Perhaps it was some type of spell. If I called him enough, would he answer? I whispered his name at night to soothe myself to sleep and I thought of him as soon as I awoke. My sleep was restless and troubled. I could think only of him, alone in the silent gallery. I wished I could go to him, lead him from his lonely pedestal to my warm bed.

I received a postcard from my mother, loving and anxious. "Dearest Lena: We miss you and hope you're having a wonderful time. Please call -- I know you're okay, but I want to hear from you. Love, Mom."

Am I okay? I don't know.

I arrived at the gallery as soon as it opened and I stayed until it closed, always sketching his beautiful form. I whispered to him in my mind as I drew. I longed to take him in my arms, to kiss his neck, to cover his smooth cock with my mouth and feel it swell between my lips. The guards passed us more often than usual, sometimes casting worried glances in my direction. They are accustomed to art students, but I am an enigma.

Another postcard arrived. "Dear Lena: What is happening? Why haven't you called? I hope you're having so much fun that you've forgotten. See you in a week. Love, Mom."

A week? Was that all the time I had left? I looked at the date on my return ticket. My "week" had dwindled to four days.

I read somewhere that you can send your spirit out of your body as you sleep and each night I willed mine to do so, but awoke despairing. Only two days left.

The Signorina tells me that my mother called, anxious. I can't think. What can I do? How can I leave him? He haunts my every thought and action.

I cannot sleep at night. Finally, it is my last day. I cry out to him silently. Does he hear? Around three I seem to fall asleep, yet I am still aware of myself. I feel light, ethereal, and I am stunned as I recognize my surroundings. It is the gallery and he is here! He reaches his right hand out to me, taking mine and drawing me toward him. I feel the coolness of his skin against mine. His lips are full and resilient, tasting of stone and my sweat. We embrace. I feel the roughness of his chest against my nipples and the hardness of him between my legs. I wrap my own legs around him and moan as he enters me. I feel liquid inside me, oddly cool and damp, as we orgasm together.

I awaken on the steps of the gallery. I can still taste him, feel his body. I am sore from a night of lovemaking. Guards surround me, jabbering excitedly in Italian. Am I hurt? What happened? Where do I live? I refuse to see a doctor -- I am not ill. We return to my hotel, where the Signorina waits to help me pack. She scolds me in broken English. "The young Signorina should not worry her mama -- what carelessness! Hurry -- a taxi is coming!" She exclaims over my sketches, which litter the room. "What is this? Michelangelo is great, but this is not his only work! Is this all the Signorina has seen?"

I am caught. But I feel triumphant. No one knows all that I've seen, all that I've experienced these past two weeks. What has happened will last a lifetime. I know, because I have a secret.

They can take me away from Italy, but they cannot separate me from him. This is a child -- his child -- inside of me. Soon it will be obvious to everyone. It is our child, mine and his; our greatest work of art. No one can take him away from me. Not ever.

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