A Perfect Bloom 43 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 43 – Alex Ankarr

“Oh well, if that’s the issue,” Cory says easily. “I can easily think of something that will more than do.” And his hand is still in Sam’s hand – warm, how warm – as he leans up, leans forward and opens his mouth a little. Perhaps they make an odd, incongruous couple, Cory in made to measure tailoring, Sam in his overall with cap still in hand.

Neither of them are thinking about that much, as they kiss, most likely. And the rose is still held tight in Sam’s hand, as his other arm pulls Cory close. Gifts have been given, and their hearts stolen. And they still have two days of the week to come, a weekend free together, the two of them and a stolen rose.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 42 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 42 – Alex Ankarr

It wouldn’t be true to say that the warmth immediately floods back into Sam’s face, not right away. But there’s a cautious kind of hopefulness that takes away the tight… well, misery, it looked like, a moment ago. “Really?” he asks. A beautiful, charismatic, talented ex-con shouldn’t be capable of looking so gentle, so soft and innocent suddenly – should be hardened into cynicism by bitter experience. But it seems that’s not the case.

“Really,” Cory says firmly. And – because he simply wants to know – he asks, “If you hadn’t seen me with Adam – and that really was absolutely nothing, by the way, a storm in a teacup there – what were you going to give me? Today?” And he thinks he can safely say that, now. Even without explicit admission, it’s not exactly a secret between them, who gave him this week’s gifts.

There’s a shyness – amazing, with the level of cheek and confidence that Cory knows he has in him – that has Sam’s eyes evading his, casting down, before he can speak. But then he does speak. “I hadn’t worked it out,” he says, mumbling slightly. “I – don’t have anything.” He fidgets, and is clearly feeling the omission as a bit of a faux pas. But Cory can sort that out easy enough.

He could perhaps, have been more stealthy with the rose. But it still counts, he feels. He brought it specially, after all, and after all… He already knows that, out of all the hybrids the company produces, this is Sam’s favourite. And perhaps an unoriginal idea for his own gift only fits the pattern Sam’s established, he thinks. A stolen rose, imperfect baking, a copied poem and slightly inexpert guitar playing. And now, Cory himself, copying Sam’s original idea, and reaching out to take his hand, as he holds out a rose that’s second-hand and still lovely.

“There is a fifth present,” he says softly. “If you’ll take mine, and excuse me just copying your first idea.” Sam’s eyes on the rose are warm, but there’s a slight reluctance in the way he takes it, fingers closing carefully over the thin de-thorned stem.

“But I don’t have anything to give you back. Something for you,” he repeats himself, helplessly.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 41 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 41 – Alex Ankarr

Cory feels dizzy, like he’s missed something, been spun around and can’t re-acclimatize. “But he did,” he says, uncertainly. “He got my attention. He has it.”

But Sam shakes his head definitely, still not looking at him. “Not the right way,” he says with certainty. “Not if he saw you…” Oh, these pauses and hesitations are going to kill Cory, what with the suspense, the open-mouthed eagerness. He could shake Sam to get the full explanation out of him. Except that that is something that would be a lot more than frowned upon, by his own Human Resources department. And also, even if he would actually do something like that, Sam has about six inches and twenty pounds on him, so that it wouldn’t be the greatest idea in the world in any case.

“Saw me?” he repeats. It’s about the only gambit he has left.

“With somebody,” Sam says. And oh, the light and the life and the enthusiasm and shy amusement, it all drains out of his face. “In the rose-gardens, yesterday. A visitor, I saw him arrive. And then, then I saw him…”

Well. It seems as if there’s only one incident that Sam can mean. But it isn’t possible, is it?

“He kissed me,” Cory says slowly. Because that, and Adam, is surely what Sam is meaning, with his face all tight and the pleasure and direct warmth gone out of it. “But there was no-one around,” he says, protestingly. He doesn’t like to think of Sam seeing such a daft and meaningless little contretemps, doesn’t like to think of him disturbed by it. This disturbed, and he clearly is. “No-one could have seen us.”

“No?” Sam asks wryly, and he’s looking direct at Cory now for sure, examining his face carefully, like he doesn’t want to miss a thing, miss a trick, miss the exact facts and the truth. “I was up high, on a ladder against the south wall,” he says, explaining, mouth a line that suggests he’s no happier for doing it. “Trimming the Virginia creeper we have growing there. I didn’t mean to spy,” he says, and boy, that’s stiff, that’s uncomfortable.

At least Cory knows what the trouble is, now. He’s hesitant himself, when he moves a little closer, slow and cautious. “You didn’t see as much as you thought, maybe,” he says, awkward. “That was my old boyfriend. I have to admit it. But he’s also a consultant for us, on overseas trading difficulties. What you saw…” He pauses. “It wasn’t instigated by me. And it didn’t lead to anything more. And there’s nothing between me and him. Not now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 40 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 40 – Alex Ankarr

Sam is up quite close at this point, although not looking directly into Cory’s eyes. His own eyes are cast down, and he’s not really making much effort not to smile at this point. His lashes cast shade on his cheeks, against a background of dark cypress foliage and up above, just the hinting beginnings of a rosy early sunset. It’s beautiful, the view. Not quite as beautiful as Sam, but still.

“Did you dance to it?” Sam’s voice is soft, now – and finally, he’s looking into Cory’s eyes. Seriously, and really wanting to know, Cory can tell.

Perhaps there’s a coy twist to Cory’s mouth, when he says, “Maybe I did. Or maybe not.” (He had).

“And today?” Sam asks. “What did you receive today?”

That’s the question, of course. “You’re assuming I did,” Cory says, slow. “One gift after another after another. It would be greedy to expect the stream of them to continue permanently. Wouldn’t it?”

Sam looks away, over the hedges, into the bright, pinkening sky. “Maybe someone just likes to please you.”

“Someone very sweet,” Cory says. He feels his throat thicken up, because this really is almost too sweet to be borne. It makes the muffin seem like plain bread. “In any case, today it seems the week of spoiling Cory Rocque has come to an end. And it may in fact be greedy of me… It very probably is. But even so, I can’t help wondering why.”

The rose he’s brought is hanging loosely in his hand, almost loosely enough to drop. And Sam’s eyes drift and follow it, briefly, before being trained firmly back up to Cory’s face again. Sam opens his mouth, and visibly deliberates before he speaks. And sighs, too. “Well,” he says. “Suppose they were from a person with a lot of very foolish ideas in his head.” Now his gaze wanders away, travelling out into the far distance, the sky and the valley, fields and motorways and tiny tiny sheep in the hills. “Someone trying to…” He hesitates. “Trying to get your attention, thinking it might lead somewhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 39 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 39 – Alex Ankarr

And, through the slanting cool sunshine, he squints back at Sam. In his free hand he has the rose, and he knows damn well that Sam must have spotted it by this point. But neither of them bring it up, not a word, not a flicker either. It’s not the moment.

Sam certainly doesn’t refer to it. “Was it good?” he asks. God almighty, no-one has ever looked quite that innocent so far this century, either.

And Cory allows a finger to stray across his lips, as he considers the question, as he remembers the really exquisite texture and smoothness of that rich dark icing, the richly spicy scent of the muffin itself, the moist sugary sweetness of the fruit on his lips and tongue…

He hears a swift breath taken in behind him, and recalls himself to the conversation. “More than good,” he says, smiling down into the water, as the koi gives him a disgusted look at the lack of snacks provided, and dives back down into the depths. “Do you know anything about baking, Sam?” he asks. And if Sam can do innocent, then by God, so can Cory, when called upon for it.

“Me?” Sam asks, after a pause. And that’s all he has to say about that, which is telling. “And after the cake?” he asks, which is a transparent distraction. As well as a giveaway. As Cory straightens up from the pond wall, and turns back to face Sam, he can see on Sam’s face, like it’s written there clear in a fancy serif font, the sudden realisation of what he’s given away. And also, there’s the moment where he decides to front it out, to admit nothing. The wisest course of action, if in doubt, and Cory has to salute him on it. He would be excellent in business…

“After?” Cory says. He doesn’t feel a lot like torturing Sam with this any further, now. Well, not much, anyway. “Oh… let me see,” he stalls, and lists them off on his fingers. “Wednesday – since you ask – I did get another mysterious gift. A hand-calligraphed Shakespearean sonnet, actually. Very pretty… very romantic. And on the Thursday – yesterday,” he adds, “someone made me a mix-tape and left it in my office.” Now, the mix-tape. There’s Sam’s actual voice on the mix-tape, however briefly. It would be harder for him to deny knowledge and… culpability, regarding that one. Not that there’s any question of denying it, not with the both of them dancing around the entire question like it’s contagious, and they’re very carefully not touching upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 38 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 38 – Alex Ankarr

“You were only teasing me,” Cory finishes for him, with a wide grin. “Didn’t I know it, too. Okay, when you caught me re-purposing my own flowers,” he corrects, “and you very kindly stopped me from bleeding to death out in the grounds…”

Sam gives a snort at that. But he doesn’t quibble with Cory’s description of events, not more than giving him a side-eyed slight grin that makes fun of Cory’s hyperbole all by itself. It’s a pleasure, being made fun of in that tacit way by Sam, and it emboldens Cory to continue. “Bleeding to death,” he repeats emphatically, with a grin of his own. “Well. I think I mentioned to you at the time, that I was taking a sample, to help me investigate the mysterious appearance of another flower. In my own office, as it happens. On my desk. Just this last Monday morning. No note, no identification, and nobody putting their hand up to having put a flower there. Fascinating mystery, isn’t it, Sam? It would make anybody curious, don’t you think?”

The twisting smile that Sam is trying to keep off his face is quite admission enough for certainty, as far as Cory is concerned. But he manages to fight it off, and to raise an eyebrow in as good an approximation of innocence as can be expected, given the circumstances. Quite creditable, really. There’s a little pause, while Cory waits for Sam to comment, to crack, to give way under this pressure. Of course, he doesn’t. He only puts a politely enquiring look on his face instead. It’s all but a dare for Cory to suggest anything, impute anything, to go on.

So Cory goes on – with a very dry note in his voice. In the warmth of the very late summer sun, and in the enclosed, maybe twenty foot by twenty foot middle of the maze, surrounded by greenery, it’s like they have their own little private enclosure, as if no-one else is ever going to find them. Maybe it’s just an illusion, but it’s comforting, and Cory sure likes the feeling of being secluded away from everything. With Sam.

“So, that was the first curious… incident,” he says. And he takes a step, or two, very casually – not to bring him up face to face with Sam. But, as he swivels round to face in the same direction, he’s standing side by side with him, both of them looking over the long lush green valley, beyond the hedges of the maze, that the company grounds – here in the central branch, the headquarters – stands in. Sam doesn’t give any outer sign that he notices, or is aware of, the realignment. But somehow, Cory can feel the stillness, stiffening, the awareness in the lines of his body, even so. He’s noticed.

Cory doesn’t make like he’s realised that, though – he just carries on like nothing’s happened, quite blasé. This is possibly the most savoir faire he’s ever managed to achieve with another person. He doesn’t even know where it’s coming from. “Then there’s the Tuesday,” he says, coming forward a little, leaning one knee on the wall of the lily pond to stare down into the dark cavernous depths of it, where koi carp lurk, swinging suddenly, orangely, up from the depths to nip at flies and fingers that trail in the water, to disturb the round calm flat plates of the green lily leaves and their waxily scent-dense blooms. And Cory is staring down at it, letting a koi nibble at his fingers as he trails them, as he says, “Tuesday – and this is a mystery too, wait ’til you hear it – I got a gift of a cupcake. Did you ever hear the like of that?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 37 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

Download complete ebook for FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/brg91A

A Perfect Bloom 37 – Alex Ankarr

Then there’s a step from just behind him, and ah yes, that feels about right. So he swivels around to see, and yes, it’s Sam, just the way it should be. Cory smiles. But Sam looks more hesitant. He’s wearing his dark blue overalls, and a blue shirt underneath them, but his peaked cap is swinging in his hands, restlessly dropping from finger to finger.

“Sam,” Cory says, feeling the warmth and light of the moment. He steps closer.

“Mr Rocque,” Sam says politely, and that’s what breaks the moment, halts Cory in his stride.

“Really?” he asks, a little amused, and cocks his head at Sam, sharp. “I seem to remember that we’d got a little bit past that. Last time we met,” he reminds Sam, and lifts his hand up. The dressing on it is fresh – and not really necessary by now. But he’d decided, last night, that the bit of decoratively useless bandaging wouldn’t hurt, as a conversation starter, if he managed to bump into Sam again.

They’re up a little bit closer, now, and Sam looks uncomfortable. He’d had no trouble with eye-contact – flirty and glancing – on the Tuesday, playing with Cory’s fingers as he bandaged, stopping his breath. But now it seems to be more of a difficulty, and there’s a flush on his cheeks clearly visible in the late afternoon sunlight, as well as the fact that he’s turning his head away, refusing to look Cory in the face.

It’s intriguing, but troubling too. Cory is more careful with his next attempt at communication, his voice softer. He’s very aware of the rose behind his back, rolled from hand to hand, the fine green stem pliable – and de-thorned – in his fingers. “You know, when you caught me stealing Mr Siles’ flowers, on Tuesday,” he begins.

And that gets him a direct look, and a little grin. “I do know that they’re your flowers,” Sam says, obviously impulsively and before he has any chance to think better of it. “I was only…” and he hesitates. Possibly he flushes some more. Certainly his cheeks look that bit brighter, and he is beautiful when he’s flushed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.