She peered up at the artist’s twisted face and backed further down the steps. A doorknob poked her in the back. Panicked, she twisted it open and dashed into an unlit basement storeroom.
She stumbled forward into the dark, tripped over a metallic cylindrical object, and landed on her stomach. All the air whooshed out of her. Rectangular objects with sharp corners tumbled around her, jabbing her in the arms and neck. Rough cloth scrapped her skin.
On the staircase above her, the beast hovered in the doorway like a predator scenting his prey. For a second, he hesitated, then he dashed down the steps and moved toward her, huffing as he shoved objects out of the way. She pushed herself up on hands and knees and scuttled further into the dark.
“Sto diavólo. Where are you? If you destroy any of these paintings, I will have your hide or at least my lawyer will.” He came closer. “Busy man, my lawyer, and to think I almost didn’t hire one.”
She scrabbled back and touched torn canvas. Heavens, these were his paintings—the ones that sold for thousands of dollars.
She was in deep, deep trouble.
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So lovely to have you today, Zara!