American Beauty, Book 1
After her parents’ tragic deaths, Elisa Snow wanted nothing more than to escape her past. Eighteen and alone, she fled her quaint English village and moved to the United States. A starving science student by day and an artist’s muse by night, Elisa has slowly built a new life. She never dreamed she would lose everything again.
She’s one week from graduation when her visa is unexpectedly denied. Given thirty days to leave the country, she must face the one thing she cannot survive again—saying goodbye and leaving her home. Yet within minutes of her world shattering, she meets a man with the power to piece it back together.
After finishing his tour of duty in Iraq, Aiden Hale traded battlefields for boardrooms, becoming one of the most successful venture capitalists in the nation. But all his wealth can’t buy him reprieve from the horrific memories of war. The only thing that gives him peace is a painting of Elisa.
Drawn together by their invisible wounds, they begin a passionate affair as they race against the clock to defy their pasts—and fight for their future.
Earlier versions of this book were posted on the author’s blog under the titles of The Master’s Muse and 30 Nights of Snow, using the pen name Ani Surnois, and has since been extensively edited.
©2015 Ani Keating
EXCERPT: SEEING AIDEN
A tall man, dressed in a tailored charcoal suit, white shirt and cobalt-blue tie, is standing a few feet from the gallery desk, scrutinizing a painting. His dark brown hair is swept back in casual waves. His eyes burn an intense sapphire blue. On the corner of his right eye is an inch-long scar, bleached by time. Beautiful in its savagery. Like something sharp could not resist his beauty but ricocheted at the last minute, desperate to mark him as its own, yet unable to defile him.
Attractive. Much, much too attractive. In fact, only someone so bewildering could reach me in this final hour. For a wild second, I wonder whether my brain has snapped and has created him, like a hallucination, to get me through the next thirty-seven days alive.
Despite his magnetic pull, something about his posture creates a force field around him. Untouchable. Distant. He stands straight, away from everything, his back angled toward the wall. His broad shoulders are tense, as though he senses an invisible, uninvited presence behind him. I scan the gallery, expecting to see something or someone other than Kasia. But it’s utterly empty, except a tall man, the size of Shaquille O’Neal, standing in the far corner like a security guard.
“Would you like something to drink, Mr. Hale?” Kasia simpers, her voice higher than usual. She sounds like she is faking a British accent. I snort.
“No, thank you,” he answers coldly, continuing to stare at the painting in front of him.
I follow his gaze and stop. I feel a twinge of satisfaction to see that he is looking at a painting of me. Not that he would know that. I never model my face, just random parts of my body. This painting portrays only the curve of my throat and jawline, my hair slightly swept back, exposing the skin. The rest of the canvas recedes into darkness. That’s Javier’s style—he never paints blatantly erotic things like breasts, arse, pubic hair. That’s not the point, he says. The point is to force the viewer to imagine the rest of the beauty. Good thing too. I couldn’t have posed naked for anyone, especially Javier. Today, we are painting my waist and left hipbone, but I have a long white sheet to cover the rest of me.
“We could probably have that painting done in color as well.” Kasia is melting. “But the artist feels that the black, white and gray colors allow the real beauty to shine through.”
He does not respond to her. I feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Kasia now. Really, anyone would be a mess. I need to leave, but suddenly I want to hear his voice again. It’s cold and cutting, as if every word is intended to crack a canyon between him and the world. But it’s also hypnotic. Like you would do anything it bid you to do.
My short-lived sympathy evaporates like
“Isa! Why are you standing there? You know Brett’s instructions. Cleaning ladies in the back.” She cocks her head to the side, pointing to the back door that leads to Javier’s secret studio.
Fuck off, Kasia. I start to walk away but Mr. Hale turns to see what has offended Kasia. He moves with paradoxical military grace. Fluid, yet erect. As if he expects to defend himself at any point but is confident about the outcome. He regards me intently, his eyes narrowing slightly at the corners. There is something endless about his eyes—like you enter through them and perhaps never come out. For a moment, I panic that he can see a similarity between me and the woman in the painting. That he knows it’s me.
Ani Keating Bio
Ani Keating is an attorney, daughter, sister, and wife, living in the City of Roses, Oregon. When she is not in court or at the office helping clients sort through legal issues (and complaining about the photocopy machine), Ani explores her childhood passion for writing. Her first novel, Thirty Nights, is a sexy and heart-tugging story about love’s power to save and guide us even at our darkest moments.
Thirty Nights was originally posted online on fanfiction and on Ani’s popular blog. Over the course of eight short months, the story received more than half-million hits, 63,000 visitors, over 1,000 followers, and over 3,000 reviews and messages. It will be released for everyone on November 17, 2015. Its sequel, Ninety Days, is currently in the drafting stage.
When she is not writing, Ani spends endless hours at Powell’s Bookstore, exploring classics and latest releases. She also likes to stroll through the Portland Rose Garden, drool over shoes on any store window, and dance to everything from Beyoncé to Johnny Cash.
Web Site: www.anikeating.com
For inquires related to signings and book and movie rights, please contact her agent at email@example.com.