A Perfect Bloom 22 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 22 – Alex Ankarr

And Cory can hear very well for himself, how unpleasantly bitter and negative he sounds with his diatribe. It’s not as if he likes it himself. But he’s had a couple of disagreeable pseudo-romantic experiences, in his past history. Any rich guy has. It tends to embitter you. Even Adam, who makes six figures a year as a consulting company lawyer, was, he suspects, not entirely… unaffected, or impartial, when it came to Cory’s inherited fortune. He thinks it helped, as far as their getting together in the first place was concerned. And then, Cory’s lack of deep and abiding interest in money for its own sake, as opposed to building up and protecting the company his family created, was maybe the death knell to their subdued squib of a romance.

And it’s not as if this looks good, on the surface, this thing with Sam. Maybe Cory’s just protecting himself, not getting his hopes up.

He expects the protest and mockery, from Linnet, to be immediate and derisive. She may not take him quite seriously, but she is a good friend, and often-times his greatest champion, a tough and protective supporter. Now, though, she’s just watching him, chewing on her lower lip, rocking back and forth on the stiletto heel of her shoe.

Cory is a bit offended by her lack of protest, actually. After a moment he risks a look upward at her – she has about an inch on him, in her highest heels. And she grins, because she’s caught him doing it. “Is that what you really think?” she asks, and then just leaves it at that. Which is pretty concise, for Linnet.

Cory is apparently too-visibly pondering an answer, because it provokes Linnet into a peal of laughter. “Or do you just want to tout it as a possibility, and then be talked out of it?” she asks, mercifully making his internal indecision explicit.

Cory nods, because she lets it hang, and isn’t going to let him get away with no response.

Linnet looks up at him with her face coyly down-turned, from up under lashes that are groomed and delicately lashed. “Want to know what I think? No frills, for real?” she asks.

“I suppose so,” Cory says doubtfully. Maybe it’s best to get it all in one go, both barrels at the one time. Even if he might need emergency medical treatment for wounded feelings and hurty emotions, afterwards.

Linnet nods, approves. “I think you don’t really think that,” she says, leaning up against the green-tinged toughened glass. “And nor do I. But I’ve got reasons. When I see someone come sniffing around here, around you – mister boss-man – I don’t mess about. I do my research. Even if I don’t think I really need to. (Never liked Adam, you remember that?) And you’ve been watching Sam, when you’ve had the chance. But I’ve been watching him watching you, when you haven’t spotted him. He’s been very careful at it. But not enough to get past me.”

 

 

© 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 21 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 21 – Alex Ankarr

Linnet ambles over to him, arms folded, and she nods. “Right. Didn’t think so. He doesn’t strike me as the homicidal type,” she says.

“You’re assuming –” Cory begins, but Linnet interrupts him.

“Yeah, I’m assuming,” she says, her voice quite exasperated. “Seriously, who else is it going to be? And operating on that assumption – why don’t you look happier? If you’re not in fear of your life, then why aren’t you bounding up and down with glee, Cory-boy? I mean, you’ve been gazing at him worshipfully from afar for weeks, now…”

“Oh, give it a rest, missy,” Cory mutters, sulkily, toeing at the floor-level frame of the window. “I have not.”

And Linnet lets that one go, giving full credit to her – although Cory possibly wouldn’t pass a lie-detector test with it. She hasn’t let up altogether, though. “Well,” she says, and the way she won’t drop her gaze from him might as well be a prod right in his ribs, with how close up to him she’s standing. “However you like it. But I’d expect you to be happier than you are – now that we strongly suspect that the object of your alleged affections is setting about an epic, Regency-style courtship. Even I’m impressed with it. And I’m not easy to impress in the romantic arena, Cory. As we know. So why aren’t you impressed? Why aren’t you dancing with glee and all ready to get wooed and romanced, flushed and happy? Why do you look like a thundercloud just opened up over your head, boom, and you forgot your umbrella?”

Her tone is critical, now, and it isn’t helping. Cory puts his hand to his brow, where his headache is developing. He sighs. “Look, I…” he begins, and chews his mumbling lip over the false start. “Let’s say it is Sam. Well, that’s very nice. As far as it goes. I mean,” he says, voice suddenly, rapidly picking up sharpness and sarcasm, as he gets up a bit of velocity. “Isn’t it great? I’ve got a crush on an ex-con, who has probably noticed how pole-axed I was on our first meeting. And has done a back of the rolling papers packet calculation, and come up with a nice round figure for what it’d be worth, to get me in the bag. In the sack. Under the thumb and lovesick. However you want to put 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 20 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 20 – Alex Ankarr

It’s the one with the roses. One of the ones with rose references, at least – the fifty-fourth sonnet. (Of course it’s one with rose references. What other one would he choose?) It could be interpreted a lot of different ways. But it seems to Cory, that it’s praising his sterling qualities, quite apart from his physical charms. Which is, er, flattering in various ways. He supposes.

And he really has to be the most complete fool living, to be standing here at his desk, looking down at it quite still and with a burn over his cheeks. Feeling a little tingling wooziness that is unbecoming to anyone over seventeen, with an international company to run.

And that unwariness is also what renders him vulnerable to Linnet’s attack. She’s the one who brought him his mail, it’s true, then made herself scarce in the name of making travel bookings. But he should have gone through the day’s post now, be sitting down, be making calls and thinking through the order of business and…

She’s up behind him and peering over his shoulder, with one hand clamping his hand in place where it holds the paper, a vice to prevent him pulling it away. And the way that she whistles and laughs in his ear, sends a chill through every blood vessel in him. “My, my,” she coos in his ear. “He’s got it bad, this guy, right?”

And Cory is quite proud, that he manages to keep his voice steady and sarcastic, in return. “What are you talking about?” he asks snootily, even though they both know perfectly well. “I receive a mysterious anonymous message in the mail, and you immediately make assumptions. Instead of exhibiting a proper, appropriate concern, and instituting inquiries, and possibly calling the police.”

Linnet just snorts with laughter, at this sally. “The police? What am I going to tell them, that you’re getting threatening haiku in the post? What are they going to do except laugh at me?” She seems to pause and consider a moment, gets another good look at the poem. “Well. I suppose old Bill did rather harp on the graveyard motifs and gloomy endings. Are you worried?”

Cory snorts with laughter himself, if of a rather sardonic kind. And he yanks the paper out of her hand, while she’s unwary, and goes back to the tall windows, exactly where he’d stood on the Monday, with that damn rose in his hand. This time, there’s no Sam in sight. Not pruning the bushes, not mowing the lawn, not stealing flowers either. “Hardly,” he says, absently. And he continues staring, as if that might conjure Sam up out of the thin mist.

 

 

© 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 19 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 19 – Alex Ankarr

WEDNESDAY

It’s not as if Cory expects to receive another blossom, on the Wednesday. After all, a single incident doesn’t amount to a pattern. Even two doesn’t count, according to the vague detective story maxim that he can’t quite remember at the moment, not if he was pushed to it.

And he didn’t receive one on the Tuesday, after all. No. That was the cake. The two incidents might be completely unrelated. …Well, maybe.

Of course, that’s assuming that he’s even right in the first place, in fingering Sam as the likeliest suspect for a bloom-stealer and an illicit present giver. (Can the rose even be termed a present, Cory wonders, considering that the entire production and products and saleable goods of the company, every line and every invention and every IP patent and trademark, can be said to be Cory’s property, in essence. And that, no matter how it might be tied up in trusts and limited companies and separate organisations, really, what it boils down to is that Rocque Industries belongs to Cory Rocque.

He doesn’t really care. These are still probably – easily – the most romantic gestures anyone’s ever made to him. Even if laced with a little bit of a smirk. And now that he’s actually had a chance to sit down and chat a little with Sam – however shyly – he knows that that smirk is most probably welded to Sam’s face, can’t be gotten off.

What he does receive this Wednesday morning, in the mail delivered to his desk by Linnet, and along with all of the regular business mail fodder that he scans and diverts or dumps in the trash-can, is a poem.

A poem. Fuck, is he officially being courted here? Cory feels a flush colonize his cheeks with military ambition, and perhaps his hands aren’t quite steady as he holds the thick coarse-grained cream paper, slightly inexpertly calligraphed with a sonnet. Well, it’s not written – as in composed – by Sam, that much is what first springs swift to Cory’s eye.

(Yes, he’s assuming it’s from Sam. Yes, he could be wrong. But two anonymous suitors, in the one week, seems a bit of an unlikely stretch, to Cory. He knows perfectly well that he’s attractive enough – in a way – quite apart from being loaded, young-ish, single and eligible. People have admired his pretty eyes and nice, if shortish musculature, before now. He’s not a blushing virgin. He might blush, quite often, at least, but he’s not a virgin, anyhow. But two secret admirers? He doesn’t think so. That would be pushing it a bit, just in terms of freak coincidences.)

It’s Shakespeare, then – one of the sonnets, a hackneyed but perfectly respectable choice. If it was something less universally known, then he might think that Sam was hoping to get away with illegitimately passing it off as his own work. But no, not possibly in this case. He thinks that Sam is only making a pretty present of it – and has clearly taken some care with his choice of paper and his penmanship.

 

 

© 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 18 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 18 – Alex Ankarr

So he swings on by the parking lot, nodding at the pleasant-mannered security guy who smiles at him with slightly puzzled deference. Is he normally here at this time of day? No. Is he usually giving his vintage Italian performance car a careful once-over? No… But then, there isn’t, normally, anything to see. Now he’s received the hint, and now he’s looking, and now… It’s on the hood, tied to one of the windscreen wipers. A little cream gift box, tied up with red tape. If Cory casts a shifty look about him before detaching and opening it… Well, he may be a little embarrassed. And certainly a bit stirred up about it.

It’s a cupcake. A very fancy, designer-y one, beautifully made. But something about it also screams ‘home-made’ – a slight unevenness, an artisanal lack of preoccupation with perfection, in favour of real excellence. It isn’t pink, or flashy, or obviously romantic – it’s something spicy, with a kick to the scent, and topped with dark chocolate. The only romantic hint to it is a tiny white chocolate heart, squished onto one corner of the dark icing.

Cory rather hurriedly exits the parking zone, and he’s blushing as he licks icing from his fingers. It’s delicious.

There’s no note, any more than there was with the bloom. He doesn’t spend an awful lot of time wondering who it’s from, though.

Maybe partially because he fields a call, once he gets back into the office, from Adam. Adam, his ex-boyfriend, and a lawyer who’s a legal advisor to the Rocque company on international trade issues. He’s conscious, as he makes an appointment with Adam for the Thursday coming, to discuss moving into new markets, how Adam would disapprove of the icing on his fingers, and the extra sugar and innutritious sweetness in his diet, and of his crush on a blue-collar new recruit. (Adam is a bit of a snob, it has to be admitted.) But then, Adam pretty much disapproved of Cory himself, even while they were together – too soft, too credulous, too clingy, too open and trusting… Cory was always, always, too much something or other for Adam, never quite coming up to the mark of Adam’s expectations.

Probably a good thing Adam dumped him at New Year, then. He’d definitely disapprove of Sam.

 

 

 

© 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 17 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 17 – Alex Ankarr

Well, under those circumstances, he could quite easily bottle out. Who could think the worse of him for that? He wouldn’t even think any the worse of himself, for turning tail and just running. But he doesn’t, just the same. The word itself only hesitates a moment on his lips, before he’s got it out and irrecoverable in the dusty air of the little office. “Cory,” he says, eyes on Sam who’s looking at him full and direct, gazing in a way that he hasn’t done since that first interview, when Cory stumbled into the room and was caught up in his eyes, sufficiently that he hasn’t been able to escape again since that day.

Sam had been gazing back on that day too, it’s perfectly true. And it’s the same today, as he repeats back Cory’s own words from his own lips. “Cory,” he says, and if he wasn’t smiling when he began saying it, there’s a smile on his lips in the moment that it leaves them. “I passed your car in the executive parking zone when I was heading over to the hothouses earlier… Cory. It’s a beautiful motor. But I think it needs valeting, tidying up… a close eye on it. You should go have a look. Cory.”

Oh, the flush burns, scalds his cheeks, as they stare into each other’s eyes and Cory remembers that Mr Siles is right there watching them. It’s not as if they’re alone. “Sam…” he says, hand still on the door-knob, as he digests that little hint, as he searches for some method of farewell that’s less formal and pompous than ‘good-bye’, less juvenile than ‘see ya later’, less idiotic than ‘cheerio’… He can’t find anything. So he just grins helplessly and pauses wordlessly for a moment, mouth open like a village yokel. And then his eyes flicker between the two of them – the new ex-con intern, and his supervisor, who’s looking at Cory with a very thoughtful expression right now. And he abruptly shuts the door on the both of them.

And shivers a bit, standing in front of it. Oh, what the hell, what kind of a fool has he just made of himself? But it’s done, whatever it is. And now, with what is probably the greatest wisdom that he’s shown regarding anything he’s dealt with today, he turns tail, and heads off back to his own office, three buildings and two floors and a million miles in status away.

Linnet will look after him, once he gets back there, he thinks. She’ll sort out his frazzled brain. Someone will have to.

 

 

 

© 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 16 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 16 – Alex Ankarr

“Arh, he’s a real good lad,” Mr Siles agrees, nodding. “And very keen on the roses,” he adds, with a rather sharp nod at Sam. Who chooses for some reason to flush up again, and to begin tidying away bowls of water and bandages with a bowed head, and a look on his face like a boy who’s been caught out up to mischief and told off. “But I came to tell you, Mr Rocque,” Mr Siles adds, turning back to him once more, “that you’re wanted by your assistant, by Linnet. I expect you must have mislaid your phone, and the intercom here in the glasshouses is having a service and switched off at the moment.”

And when Cory feels around in his breast pockets, his trouser pockets, anywhere he might expect to locate his phone, it’s perfectly true. He’s put it down somewhere – just the way that Linnet is always telling him off about – and not picked it up again, damn it. He could borrow a phone, or use the land-line in the office and call her. But as it happens, he’s glad enough to get out of there. He’s feeling quite flushed and quite daft, and as if he’s no doubt betrayed his adolescent crush in a dozen different ways.

“I’ll leave you in peace,” he says, theoretically to Mr Siles, although in practice it’s Sam’s eyes he’s meeting, and Sam he’s actually speaking to. And he’s at the door before Mr Siles can even so much as respond. But it’s Sam who has the first word in, in bidding him goodbye, managing to get there before Cory shuts the door and is heading for the safety of the hills, or at least the safety of his own office.

“Good-bye, Mr Rocque,” is all he says, and it’s an innocuous enough farewell, when Cory manages to meet his eyes. He gets a firm grip on the door-handle, suddenly longing to get out of there and stop looking like such a fool.

But he can’t quite let that mode of address slide by him, all the same. In the space of fifteen minutes, he’s pretty sure that they’ve come far enough that they can’t possibly still be on the kind of terms where ‘sir’ and ‘mister’ would be appropriate forms of address. In fact he can’t just walk away and allow that to stand, not now. So he pauses and hesitates, in the doorway, aware that not only Sam, but also Mr Siles, is watching him as he does so.

 

 

 

© 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.