Lia had barely had time to get her palette closed and grab her sketchbook between the first rumble of distant thunder and the sky deciding to let go.
She ran awkwardly, half hunched over her supplies to keep the rain from ruining the watercolor she'd been working on.
By the time she'd managed to get under the pavilion's roof, her shoulders and hair were soaked through. The disheveled feeling wasn't helped by the fact that she'd lost her hairstick somewhere in the run. A wooden one, carved into a feather, her favorite, of course.
Let it go, she told herself. She spread her papers out on the table, the piece she'd been working on smeared beyond belief. The rest seemed to be intact, thank god. The idea of losing half a semester's worth of work had made her stomach drop. Looking at her current piece, she thought maybe she could work with the smears. Like looking through rain on a window.
Relieved, she pushed her wet hair back from her face-and froze.
"I, ah, sorry. I didn't mean to-"
In her mad dash, Lia had missed the pavilion's other occupant. A boy who looked almost as startled as she felt.
A boy with no shoes, and no shirt.
Rain speckled his bare chest, vying for space among his freckles. There was plenty of space for both. His chest was broad and defined, like the cover of a romance novel. His jeans hung low on his hips, her eyes drawn there by the trail of dark red hair-
She jerked her gaze up, taking in his damp auburn curls and his wide green eyes. No, not quite green, and not quite blue, either. His eyes were the color of the sea, or at least how she'd always imagined the sea. Lia had never been to a beach, but his eyes made her think of waves, whipped up by a flurry of wind, dashing themselves against a rocky shore.
She kicked herself, hand jerking into motion even as she scolded herself for staring, twice.
"Uh, hi, I'm Lia."
Her hand hung awkwardly between them, Lia remembering too late that not everyone had grown up on a steady diet of avian manners. To her relief and mortification, the boy reached out, power sparking between them. Ugh. She must be more flustered than she thought, for her aura to be so riled. Lia felt her face flame, and as soon as he released her hand her arms went around her middle. She could blame it on the chill of the rain, right?
"Gil. It's, uh, nice to meet you?"
"I'm so sorry to bother you," she stammered. "I didn't realize anyone was already in here-"
"It's no bother." His voice held the lazy cadence of someone struggling to equalize themselves. Maybe the power spark hadn't all been entirely one sided. That was… something. At least she wasn't the only one embarrassed, if his red-head nose to toes blush could be believed. It was actually pretty cute.
"I'm, uh, sorry about the rain," he added.
Lia shook herself, while he seemed to do the same.
"Never mind. It should let up soon—oh!" His gaze fell upon her sketches, spread out on the table. "Oh no! Your art..."
"It's fine," she said, toes curling. She had mixed feelings about her sketch book, in all its damp, half-conceived glory. And mixed feelings about Gil of the Cute Freckles moving to stand closer, examining her work.
"Will it be okay?" he asked. To her surprise, he seemed genuinely concerned, and ...hurt? No, almost guilty. Like this was somehow his fault.
"It's my own fault for coming out without an umbrella," she said hastily, anxious to reassure that it wasn't his fault—which again, was wild. Neither of them had any reason to feel this way. Rain happened. "And they're only concept sketches, anyways. I know better than to bring graded work outside."
"Graded?" he asked with interest. "You're a student?"
"Yup." She continued spreading her papers, to give her traitor eyes something to do. He'd almost caught her staring at his profile, trying to memorize the lines of his jaw—for her art. Of course, the instant he went back to looking at her work, she went back to looking at him. Those curls were to die for.
"Do you go to school here?" she ventured. Maybe if she could get her together and act like a normal person, this conversation could be salvaged.
"Ah, no. I'm visiting a cousin."
His answer was beyond guarded, and she wondered if he'd offended her. Or, maybe he was just really into her work? The way he was looking at him, fingers hovering over the lines...
"I kind of like them this way," he said, voice dreamy. It was clear he was half-distracted by her sketches, seeing what they could be, almost. Like she did. "Kinda like, like the rain was helping you. Like looking out through wet glass."
It was so close to her own thoughts that she could only stand there and stare.
Gil's blush deepened and he looked away. She busied herself spreading the already spread out papers, as if they needed more of her help. God she felt so stupid. It wasn't that she was inexperienced with talking to cute boys. Yeah, it had been a minute, but like, this was bad. If she had been Kyle, she'd have his number already and plans for a date.
Her hand brushed the flyer for the Best Show she'd gotten last night. Date.
She'd tucked it in her sketchbook with the intent of playing with the amazing scroll work on the side at some point. Now, her eyes fell on a bit of flash, an acrobat flying across the corner that read "Take the Leap".
Who was she to argue with a random flyer?
"Would you like to go with me?"