The Art of Stealing Kisses - Stella London


If life were a musical, I’d be singing a song about my happiness.

I practically skip out of my apartment into a rare day of San Francisco sunshine: nothing but beautiful Van Gogh-blue skies above and ahead. Since this is the real world though, I’m keeping myself from dancing in the street, instead expressing my joy in a slightly more normal way.

“How are you this morning?” I say brightly to a woman walking an adorable black Labrador. “What a cute dog!”

She eyes me cautiously and pulls her dog back. “Are you high?”

Maybe not so normal. “Just in a good mood,” I reply.

“Well. Isn’t that nice for you?” she snaps and moves on.

I can’t really blame her. Just a few days ago, if I’d seen me on the street, whistling as I walk with so much spring in my step I might bounce right over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’d have rolled my eyes, too. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and today, nothing is going to tarnish my rose-colored glasses.

“Taxi!” I wave at the passing traffic, smiling when a yellow cab pulls to the curb.

“Where to?” the driver asks when I get in.

“Financial district. I’m starting a new job.” A job I’ve been dreaming about for years. For my whole life, really.

“Congratulations,” he says, sounding as bored as possible.

I lean back in the cab seat, not even caring that it smells like feet, and gaze outside at the tall, gorgeous buildings lining the streets. A week ago, I had to force myself to see anything pretty in this same city as I headed into work at Carringer’s Auction House – to mop floors and get yelled at by the snootiest boss of all time. But thanks to what I like to believe is fate, a bit of luck, and a handsome stranger’s faith in my abilities, I’m on my way to an incredible opportunity as the new art consultant to one of the richest—and hottest—men on the planet. Not too shabby for someone who could barely get an interview last year.

“How’s your day going?” I ask the cabbie.

He frowns. “A dog peed on my shoes,” he says. “And now my fare won’t stop talking to me.”

“I promise not to pee on you at least,” I say. He finally cracks a smile, and I feel like I’ve done a good deed for the day.

My mom tried to teach me that what you send out into the world, the beauty you create or the negativity you unleash, will all come back to you. Karma, I guess, but to her it was always more like balance. A reminder that there’s someone on the end of every cruel word or bright smile. And today, I feel like all my own smiles and hard work over the years are finally coming back to me – the cab driver even wishes me ‘good luck’ as he drops me off in front of my new office: a steel and glass skyscraper that looks like it might touch the clouds. I’m beginning to understand what my Mom meant, and now I want my joy to ripple out to others. Maybe some of it will even reach her, wherever she is.

My heels click on the sidewalk as I bustle through the other professionals on their way to work. Just a few weeks ago, I was one of them: rushing so fast, I bumped into a stranger and spilled coffee all over his tie. But of course, he wasn’t a stranger for long. The handsome businessman turned out to be Charles St. Clair, the man who swept me off my feet and just hired me as his personal art consultant.

The elevator is sleek and shiny when I step into it, and I quickly check myself out in the silver elevator door, feeling my first shiver of nerves as I fix my bangs and smile to make sure there’s no lipstick on my teeth. I haven’t seen St. Clair since the night on my roof when he offered me the job, the heat between us sizzling on my skin. I don’t know what will happen or even what I want to happen, but I do know I want to look my best.

The elevator doors ding open, and before I can step out onto the polished wooden floors, a petite, curvy woman with cute glasses greets me. “Good morning, Miss Bennett!” She gestures for me to follow her. “I’m Maisie, Mr. St. Clair’s secretary, and I’m here to help with