Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Kate Pavelle for stopping by today. Please give them a warm welcome.
Title: Lucky Starflowers
Author: Kate Pavelle
Publisher: Mugen Press
Cover Artist: Emma at hardcandypublishing.com
Release Date: 02/12/2016
Theodore inherited Starflowers. The flower shop gives Theodore’s life meaning after a depressing breakup. Focusing on work is easy when he’s absolutely sure there’s no space for a man in his life. If he did allow for a boyfriend, it would be someone boring and everyday. Someone unlike the exotic Attila. He’d have a cubicle job, wear a cheap suit, and drive a Kia.
Sam Grey is a professional gambler who got caught counting cards one too many times, and consequences can be severe. He got beaten up, robbed, injured, and ends up homeless in Pittsburgh, living out of his Porsche. His temporary job helping with the Valentine’s Day craze makes him yearn not only for the perky florist, but for a slower, friendlier way of life. When the shop runs into financial trouble, Sam’s dangerous and exotic skills might be just the thing to help Theodore and show him he’s not just a deadbeat moocher who’s “just passing through.”
Hi there! The book I’m currently pitching was reviewed by Cryselle, who liked it, but pointed out that I left a small, unsolved problem and it has been nagging her to the point where she said either I’ll write a short story, or she’ll commit fan fiction. I liked her solution to my boys’ problem, and after the tragic events in Orlando, I really needed to write some fluff. So here’s 5k of original content for Brandilyn, packaged as a special request by her reviewing colleague.
The rest of you will want to know that Kevin Chander narrated “Lucky Starflowers” and the narration is, IMHO, better than the book. Check it out on Audible and iTunes. Enjoy meeting Sam, a professional gambler, as he tries to make house with Theodore, a perfectionist florist.
Be well, everyone, and thank you for reading. ~Kate
July heat wrapped around Sam like a living thing as he gunned his red Porsche up Route 79, heading home to Pittsburgh. He kept the windows open, and the strains of techno blared as wind buffeted his ears. Changing up the sensations between silent, cooled air and sensory overload kept him alert behind the wheel. The pounding, hypnotic rhythm synchronized with the mile markers flashing by. He kept a lead foot on the gas as he powered through the curved uphills of the beautiful – yet humid – West Virginia landscape. Six hours down. And six more to go.
He couldn’t wait to see Theo again.
The sweet, snarky Theodore who had given him a temporary place to sleep in February, a shared bed in an attic apartment two floors above the Lucky Starflowers florist shop. His temporary home became permanent by mutual accord. He’d never thought he’d settle down, let alone in a place where Theo plied is magic, his cousin Rickey worked the numbers and tweaked their marketing plan, and where Sam helped out when he wasn’t playing cards.
Or studying other players’ poker games.
Or out of town, playing for cash.
His trip wasn’t terribly productive. At least Chattanooga was a great little town on an awesome river. Hotter than Pittsburgh and a bit slower-paced, but that was Tennessee for you. Sam had made sure to go out for a morning run every day, and he’d found a park where he did his calisthenics and core exercises. Playing poker demanded sitting for hours on end, and to remain alert and without postural pain, it sure helped to keep strong.
He had learned so much in his first plays with top professionals. As the tires hummed, eating the miles toward home, he was still replaying the games he had played in his mind, working the odds, debating could-have-beens.
Poker was awesome, but he’d been driving hard, and the odds he was running through his head had to do with his estimated time of arrival. He wanted to spend the night in the king-size bed of the second-floor apartment, which he was officially renting from Theo and Rickey. A two-room flat which he helped remodel, update, renovate. A little haven of soft luxury where he got to spoil his boyfriend with top-line everything. A place where Theo took to spending the night more and more often.
That pleased him. Sam was hoping that “more often” would turn to “forever.”
A CLICK turned the overhead lights off as Theodore plunged his shop into relative darkness. The dark outlines of potted plants stood in stark contrast against the yellow, sodium light glow of the street lamps outside. The little store was a mysterious jungle now, where exotic leaves and hanging wind chimes acquired a sinister cast.
Rickey was currently at Jenna’s place, probably grinning his sappy, in-love smiles in their apartment, and Sam was out of town on business. If you could call playing poker business. In any case, Theodore had trouble sleeping, and when he couldn’t sleep, he worked.
He put the unused buckets of flowers and greenery back into their new and expensive walk-in cooler, and set the prepared orders into boxes on a special shelf.
Birthday, three funerals, two babies, another birthday, a get-well special.
These were all internet orders, which he and Clarisse usually fulfilled early Monday morning. Getting a head start didn’t hurt, though, because instead of making arrangements and bouquets, they could start setting up materials for a wedding up in Allison Park a week from now. Back when he and Rickey had cleared the basement to store forty buckets of Valentine’s Day’s roses, he had never imagined the basement would become a secondary workshop area, and its slanted loading door would lead straight to the back of his delivery van.
Nine o’clock on Saturday night, and instead of bar-hopping or partying, Theo was working ahead. It wasn’t time pressure that drove him – no, it was the knowledge that somewhere south of Pittsburgh, an antiquated red Porsche was forging its way through the darkness, and the tired and road-weary Sam was at the wheel.
SAM pulled over at a truck stop in Morgantown, West Virginia, and topped off all liquids necessary for travel: gas, oil, windshield wiper fluid, ice water, and Red Bull. He used the bathroom, checked the snack display to see if there was anything he absolutely had to have (there wasn’t), and set out again.
Music didn’t do it for him anymore, and at eleven, he didn’t want to wake Theo up with a phone call. Theo’s cousin Rickey would still be up, though, because Jenna was a waitress, and on Saturdays she didn’t get home till two in the morning.
He pushed the button and activated voice control. “Call Rickey Moranni.”
“Do you want to call Ricky Moron’s home, work, or cell number?” His phone’s computerized voice always mispronounced Rickey’s last name in a most unflattering way, and it always asked the same, old, dumb question.
“Cell,” Sam said, enunciating clearly.
“Calling Ricky Moron now.”
Sam sighed. It used to be funny, but after ten hours of driving a cramped sports car where he felt every road bump in his lower back, humor was hard to come by.
Ricky answered right away. “Hey, Sam! Where are you, Tennessee?”
“Heya. Just past Morgantown. I figured you’d be up. Is it too late to chat?” Rickey had become a good friend, and Sam wanted to keep him that way.
“No it’s good, I was just playing a game. Let me sign off.” There was a pause, a few clicks, and a sound of an explosion. “There. So, what’s up? How did you do?”
“Eh,” Sam said noncommittally, “so-so. Amuse me, I’m bored driving this stupid fucking car. Why didn’t I get a sedan, again?”
“Because the poor sod who ran out of money bet his snazzy roadster in a game, and he was too cool to drive a sedan.” A pause. “How much did you lose?”
Sam growled. “You’d have to ask. Well, not a penny over the budget, that’s for sure. But enough about me. Tell me about your latest screw-up at the shop and make me feel less inadequate!”
As talented as Rickey was in business and accounting, his florist skills were barely usable. He tried hard, he really did, but he didn’t have an eye for either color or composition, and was sure to kill any plant within three days. Theo blamed it on the fact that Rickey didn’t have a gay bone in his body, but he kept pulling Rickey into the shop to help over and over, presumably in hope that if they sacrifice enough vegetation to the God of Floristry, it will magically “pray the straight away” and Rickey will become as handy with florist foam and sheers as he was with a financial spreadsheet.
“Well, dude,” Rickey said with a self-deprecating laugh, “you don’t even need to fish for new material. Remember those yellow peonies I sold for that August wedding?”
“Yeah, yeah, the ones that don’t exist.” Impossible to forget, with the way Sam had been stressing over an order he had to fulfill one way or another. “What, you have a solution?”
“No. We offered the Bridezilla yellow ranuncullus, but Bridezilla’s mother said no way, they were set on yellow peonies, and they were going to get them. And they paid their deposit, and other florists are kind of swamped on a short notice. And, incidentally, no other florist in Pittsburgh has yellow peonies, either. We have to perform, dude. If we don’t, we lose both money and reputation.”
They would, too. A crazy, huge thirty thousand dollar flower order at a prominent Pittsburgh venue would have been a logistical stretch even with commonly available materials. And that money was key – the ten thousand dollar profit would pay down all they owed on that fancy walk-in cooler.
“Can you spray-paint them?” Sam asked.
“Theo is a purist,” Rickey said. “You know he won’t like that.”
“Yeah but you guys do spray paint carnations for St. Patrick’s day, right? So what’s the problem?”
“It rubbing off on the white gown, mostly. I mean, if we could somehow… but we can’t. It’s not peony season anywhere in the world in August. Not unless you fly off to Japan, to Hokkaido where things bloom later, and happen across one of those ancestral tree peonies that grow around temples and shit. Can you imagine, sneaking over at night and doing away with a box of those? They’d crucify us!”
They laughed at he absurdity of it.
“I don’t think Shinto priests crucify people,” Sam said.
“What?” Theo’s voice crackled through the speakers.
“Can you hear me?”
The connection died in the shadow of a mountain. Even a dropped call did its job in filling Sam’s head and infusing him with a new spurt of energy.
Yellow peonies. How does one obtain them in August?
He sipped more cold Red Bull, mind filled with a vision of delicate, yellow petals as the miles passed under the indigo-black sky.
THE DASHBOARD clock said 02:04 when Sam pulled his parking space behind the store. The massive brick building looked a lot taller than three stories from the back because of the hill it was built upon, and a single glance told Sam that all the lights were off. Only the motion-sensor activated security light flooded the parking lot, illuminating his approach.
Sam pulled his garment bag from the back, rounded up the inevitable travel garbage along with his necessities in a canvas shopping bag, and quietly shut the door locked. The walk up the Thirty-Eight Street took him past the flower shop’s door on the corner, where he hung a right onto Butler Street. The shop windows were dark. Theodore was surely asleep.
He crept up to the front door that sat next to the Butler Street shop window. Sam was grateful when the overhead light blinked on, illuminating not just a renovated green door with antique carvings, but also an electronic keypad. Less than a minute later, he was in the narrow hallway. The old, narrow window over the door let in a rectangle of light that stretched along an ancient wall covered in a faded wallpaper with pastel green lines and dusty pink rosebuds. Aunt Rose’s decor still survived down here, and neither Theo nor Rickey mentioned updating it.
Sam smiled at the sentiment. Theo was so sweet. Theo was also asleep, and if Sam skipped the squeaky third step up, then…
The only door in the downstairs hallway opened, and Theo blinked at Sam from an office illuminated just by his computer screen.
“Did you fall asleep at your desk?” Sam dropped his bags and pulled Theo into a hug.
“Uh-huh. I just didn’t feel like going to bed for the longest time.”
They exchanged a formal kiss, the kind that said Good to see you, and by the way, I’m totally exhausted.
“I’m ready for bed. But I want to shower first,” Sam said. “I stink.”
“You smell heavenly.” Theo turned on the hallway light, turned off his computer, and locked the office. “You just want to fluff up after a long drive.”
Theo picked up one of Sam’s bag and preceded him upstairs. Sam headed straight for the bedroom to hang his suit and put his dirty clothes in the laundry, holding on to the tidy habits he had acquired when he had lived, for the most part, out of his car.
The off-white cotton blanket was pulled taut over the sheets and pillows, the way Theo must’ve made it that morning. If he had spent his long day in the shop, he needed some fluffing up as well. “Hon? Come shower with me?”
Theodore came in and shucked his clothes. “Sure.” The word ended in a yawn.
The bathroom was renovated in an antique way that let them keep the clawfoot bathtub, which meant keeping the outdated pipe around the top for a plastic shower curtain. Sam looked at the tub, then at Theo. “Had I gotten here by midnight, I’d have suggested a soak.”
Just ten minutes later, Sam pulled the sheet over them and draped his arm over Theo as he spooned him from behind. While falling asleep, he kept thinking of yellow peonies.
He had a crazy thought, an insane idea. Theo would never agree to even try it, because trying it would be expensive. It would require testing.
No… his plan was too far-fetched. Just a product of a long road and an overtired imagination. They’d have to rob a Shinto temple in Hokkaido after all.
“SO HOW was your trip?” Theo made the coffee because he was the only one who could do it just-so, and also because he wanted Sam to relax and update him on his activities in peace and quiet. The breakfast of bagels, eggs, and fruit was a low maintenance staple. Not as informal as just cereal, but not as high-level as real cooking.
“Good but unproductive, if that makes any sense,” Sam answered over a long sip of coffee, and as he launched into the details of his trip and the intricacies of the game, Theo leaned back and just watched. Absorbed. Enjoyed the view.
Sam’s intellect fascinated Theodore. He wasn’t all that artistic, but he cared about colors, and order, and about Theo’s fascination with everything beautiful. When Sam had offered to finance the renovation of Aunt Rose’s apartment so he could rent it, he didn’t do it just so he’d get a percentage of Lucky Starflowers. He did it to stay near him, and Theo knew that now. It had been apparent with every question he’d asked. What flooring would Theo recommend? What color of tiles in the kitchen? Open the kitchen up, or keep a separate dining room? Original claw tub, or a glass-and-tile shower enclosure?
Sam had let him design his dream apartment, and Theo almost felt guilty about spending so much time in what was, officially, Sam’s private space. At this rate, he might as well move in and rent the upstairs. But Sam needed his space, too, and there was nothing worse than jumping the gun. How many landlords invited themselves into their tenant’s home? Seriously?
“… so I have this project to research, and if I can do it now, we can be at your parent’s house by twelve-thirty,” Sam finished.
Theo jerked to full attention. He’d let his mind drift, fretting and worrying. But yeah, the obligatory family lunch happened every Sunday. “Okay. I’ll call Mom and let her know.”
SAM finished his coffee and rounded up their dishes into a tidy pile. “I got this,” he said, the way he’d been saying it for the last six weeks, ever since the fresh paint had dried and since he’d filled the kitchen cabinets with his sleek white dinner china.
The whole hypnotization of Theodore had gone well. He knew that nothing set Theo’s mind adrift as fast as a blow-by-blow account of a poker tournament, and when Sam mentioned his research, Theo would be relieved the horribly boring description was done.
It was sweet, the way he had sat and tried to pay attention, aching not to fret for the long eleven minutes and thirty-one seconds. Doing the dishes was the least Sam could do to make up for his little deceit.
It came to him last night in the car, in little, disjointed bits of memories. And then again later, as they were falling asleep. He’d made a mental note to follow up on his thoughts.
They didn’t really need yellow peonies. They only needed white ones.
HALF an hour later, Sam was bent over his laptop at Espresso a Mano. The coffee shop was just four storefronts down the street. The old, single-story brick building looked like it ha been a garage at some point, which only added to its charm.
Brendan, the tattooed barista who looked a little like Brad Pitt, came by with another cup of capuccino topped by a lovely floral design of milk foam and crema. “Hey, so how was your trip?”
“Okay,” Sam said truthfully. He eyed the coffee. “Wow, you’ve been practicing something new!”
“Yeah.” Brendan sat down next to him. “It’s slow for a Sunday. So what are you looking up, more poker tournaments?”
“No, not really.” He scanned Brendan with an assessing look. “Say, do you guys have any extra space out back? Like in your storage room. I need to try something with flowers, and Theo can’t find out.”
Brendan leaned forward. “Oh yeah? What is it?”
“Um.” Sam glanced to make sure their words didn’t travel. Then he leaned closer in, and told him.
RICKEY and Jenna ascended the long walkway and the few short steps to Aunt and Uncle Brenner’s modest home. Ever since Theo took up with Sam and he got serious with Jenna, family lunches turned into a crowded mess with an extended table and extra folding chairs all around. His mom convinced Theo’s mom to accept her donation of fancy paper plates, and to everyone’s relief, Theo’s mom did so, which lowered her stress level considerably.
“Hey, Rickey!” Sam waved, beckoning him to come out onto the deck out back. The kids were running around the yard, playing some kind of a game that involved waving sticks and screaming. Sam didn’t seem to mind. He propped his elbows on the railing next to Rickey, seemingly observing the rowdy cousins, and leaned closer so he couldn’t be overheard. “Don’t tell Theo, but I might’ve solved the yellow peony problem.”
Rickey’s jaw dropped, and he closed his mouth before he shook his head. “No way, man. We checked it out. The yellow hybrids out there? They are, like, bloody expensive. They are half Asian tree peonies and half the regular kind you see all over the place, I forget what they’re called. But just because a few fancy shops sell them for ten bucks a stem doesn’t mean we can. Not even if we let it eat all our profit. They just aren’t any. They are out of season in Peru, and no amount of money will coax them into growing right now.”
Sam’s face was entirely devoid of expression, which told Rickey he was up to something. Sam nodded. “Yeah. Let me switch it up on you. If I got you white peonies, could you work with that?”
“No,” Rickey groaned. “Those won’t be in season until September in the southern hemisphere, and March in the northern.”
“Except for Hokkaido,” Sam said forcefully.
“What, you crazy?” Rickey shook his head. “It’s not like we can pay for something like that, man. That’s daft.”
“Maybe, but think about it. Vancouver and Hokkaido have similar climates, right? And there are some award-winning floral designers out there. Vancouver, I mean. And,” Sam met his eyes, letting a bit of victorious emotion through, “there’s a grower out there, and she’ll still have some white peonies come August. If we pay, she’ll hold them for us and ship them a week ahead.”
Rickey frowned. Having expensive flowers air-lifted out of Vancouver on an emergency would make them super-duper-expensive. More than orchids, even. “But they’re white,” he said feebly, running the numbers in his head.
“Not for long, but we’ll have to test it first.”
“Test what?” Rickey wasn’t sure he liked the maniacal gleam in Sam’s eyes.
“The flowers I already ordered. Just twenty stems.”
“So, what, we’ll experiment with spray paint?” Rickey knew this was trouble waiting to happen. “She’s really picky, Sam. She’ll figure it out.” He didn’t need to specify that the woman he didn’t dare name was Bridezilla’s mother.
“Maybe not. Think of it as a poker bluff. She’ll see what she wants to see.” Sam chuckled. “Rickey, did you ever do that food coloring and celery experiment, back in second grade?”
A WEEK passed by. The whole crew pulled together, putting the Allison Park wedding together, delivering it, and setting it up.
“Looks great,” Sam hummed behind him. Theodore didn’t turn. He just leaned back, seeking Sam’s touch.
“Doesn’t it, though? All orange and fuchsia, with just a touch of purple. She wanted tropical.”
“And that’s what she got. It looks fabulous.” Sam pecked Theo on the neck from behind, making use of his height. “And just wait, the one in August will be even better!”
His stomach flipped at the mention of the dreaded disaster. He’d have to substitute roses and ranuncullus, drop the price in half, and swallow the losses somehow. “I’ll talk to her on Tuesday,” he said, and was appalled that his voice came out as a croak. “I mean, we told her they can’t be got. Or I did, but… shit, Sam.” He turned into Sam’s chest and accepted an embrace. “I wish you hadn’t brought it up.”
“Trust me,” Sam said. “I’m working on something.”
“What?” A glimmer of hope he felt died young. There was no way.
“A little sleight of hand. Not spray paint, don’t worry.”
“We don’t do sleight of hand, we’re the Lucky Starflowers,” Theodore said, but it came out as a defeated sigh.
“Please, Theo.” Sam grabbed his shoulder and made him look up. “I don’t want to get your hopes up, but this might work real well.”
LAST WEEK had been a torture. Sam wouldn’t budge and neither would Rickey, which, to Theodore, reeked of ultimate betrayal. Only their excited faces gave him hope.
He resolved to trust Sam. Not Rickey, because Rickey was a walking herbicidal disaster. Sam, though? He had that sweet and sensitive side, where he’d check the soil with his finger before dousing an unsuspecting plant with water. Overwatering was a leading cause of death to potted plants worldwide, but Sam, unlike Rickey, checked first.
Yes, Theo put his future in his lover’s hands.
And he fretted.
He investigated, too. Both guys were doing all the coffee runs to Espresso a Mano, and were drinking so much brew, it got downright suspicious. On Monday morning, once the wire orders were taken care of, Theodore left Clarisse in charge of the shop for the first time and ran over to the coffee shop.
“Just black, thanks!” Luck was with him. Brendan wasn’t there, and the girl Lisa must have not been in on whatever was going on, because when he leaned over and asked, “So, are Sam and Rickey here?” she just nodded.
“In the back,” she said. She smiled. “I hope your project works out!”
As she turned to the next customer, Theodore tiptoed over to the hallway behind the coffee bar. That’s where the bathrooms were, women’s on the right and men’s on the left, and straight ahead of him was a closed door.
A sign like that could mean only storage. They had a similar door at the flower shop.
Theo reached for the door knob and twisted it slowly, silently.
He pushed just a crack.
Rickey’s voice filtered his way through the narrow opening. “Batch Three seems to last longer, but the color’s kind of pale.”
“The temperature must interfere with the uptake.” Sam.
“I guess,” Rickey said, still out of sight. “Last thing we want is to deliver them and have them fall apart. You know how peonies just disintegrate, right? Like, after a rain?”
“Not really.” Sam sounded as though he was turned away from the door. Seeing his chance, Rickey started to push the door open a bit more.
“Hey.” A heavy hand landed on his shoulder. “Employees only.”
He whirled. Brandon looked a lot taller and broader than ever before, looming over him. “Sorry,” Theo whispered.
He gently shut the door.
Brandon let go of his shoulder.
“Is it going well, whatever they’re up to?” The pleading quality of his voice softened Brandon’s amusement, giving way to sympathy.
“Maybe? All I know is coffee. But they look happy, so it’s gotta be good, right?” With a gentle push to his shoulder, Theodore realized Brandon was walking him past the copper coffee counter and out the door.
“Trust Sam,” he said as he opened the door for him. “And trust your cousin. You have your skills, they have theirs.”
NOT saying anything for the rest of the day was a torture. Sam helped make some standard bouquets before he retired upstairs to study some big-shot poker player from Las Vegas, and Rickey was out making deliveries.
The Bridezilla and her mother were coming in the next day at two in the afternoon for an update, and to approve the last of his designs. Theodore has learned the hard way that the more specific he got on the description of his arrangements, the less leeway he’d have in case something went wrong.
Sam hadn’t promised him yellow peonies, but he told him, “Trust me.”
The promise was hard to keep. Just in case Sam couldn’t deliver whatever crazy scheme he cooked up, Theodore worked up plans and budgets using his backup materials of roses and ranuncullus, with a bit of Hawaiian starflowers for fragrance. The materials were tucked away in the back of the cooler, where the guys wouldn’t see.
Later that night, Theodore couldn’t stand it anymore. “They’re coming tomorrow at two, Sam. And they’ll want yellow peonies.”
Sam leaned over him, coming so close, he could smell his toothpaste. “Trust me,” Sam whispered. Then he brushed a delicate kiss at the bow of his mouth, another to the sensitive corner of his lips.
Theodore sighed. It was as though Sam was kissing his tension and stress away, and all he had to do was melt into their luxurious mattress and… let it be.
“Promise?” he whispered.
“Yeah. I’d never let you down.” And, as he let Sam make love to him that night, Theodore couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a gamble did he take this time.
ELEVEN clock rolled around when Sam let Rickey open the door so he could carry the big, cardboard box inside.
Theodore was checking a delivery sheet behind the counter. He looked up. Their eyes met. “Two o’clock today, Sam. I’m relying on you here.”
Sam grinned. “On me, and on Rickey, too. This was a team effort, babe, so give credit where credit’s due.” He bellied up to the counter and set the cardboard box down gently, but even so, Theo perked up at the sound of glassware chiming from within.
“You’ll be the death of me,” Theo said, punctuating his words with his trademark eye-roll. Both of you, seriously.”
Rickey elbowed him, and Sam let out an exaggerated sigh. “Okay, okay. He insisted I shouldn’t torture you any longer than necessary, but we needed to get enough data. So… here you go. The grand reveal!” He gestured to the closed box. The imprint on the side informed that it used to old individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper.
Not saying a word, Theodore opened the cardboard flaps. He gasped. “Yellow peonies? Where did you ever – I mean, guys! We know how hard they’re to get, and they’re out of season!”
“But the white ones aren’t, or not quite yet,” Sam said, feeling his lips stretch in a smile even he couldn’t control. “I had these flown in from Vancouver.”
“But they’re yellow.”
“Um…” Rickey broke in. “Theo, remember that experiment we did in Mrs. Dougherty’s class? The one where you stick celery into blue water?”
Sam leaned back, giving Theodore space. His lover was a purist, spray-painting flowers was an anathema. Could letting them sit in yellow food dye be much better?
“They’re yellow,” Theo finally said. He pulled one out and examined the petals. “The dye got absorbed along the veining, but you can’t really tell unless you know. The veining is so fine.”
“And they’re open all the way,” Rickey supplied, as though Theo was going to miss that fact. “You want that, right? Because if you want them closed, they don’t take up enough dye, so you’re kind of stuck. Unless you use orange, which looks kind of like this.” He pulled out a stem out of another beer bottle. “See? Darker, but with a bit more red in it. So you have to decide. We ran some tests, it’s all in my spreadsheet. The times, temperatures, conditions, the dye color and concentration…”
Rickey shut up as Theo waved his hand at him the most theatrical, flamboyant gesture Sam had ever seen him do. “You guys,” he said in a quiet rasp, staring down into the box. “You guys.”
“Babe?” Sam was pretty sure Theo was going to fall apart, but he looked up through his wet, long eyelashes, took a cleansing breath, and smiled. “I can’t believe you pulled this off. I’d have never… how much are these, again?”
THREE hours later, Theodore sat at the little garden table by the window while the Bridezilla tried to make her mother shut up about the stupid flowers already. “But Mom. Mom, I don’t care if we’re the first to have yellow peonies. I really don’t. It doesn’t really matter!”
The older woman, a well-preserved blonde, turned to her daughter. “Sarah, how can you say such a thing? I can’t believe you’re not the least bit nervous! You’re a bride!”
“Had I known you were going to have these flowers specially sourced from Vancouver, I’d have eloped.” She pressed her lips together, making them look thin and severe. “I told you already, Todd and I wanted everything sourced locally, and I don’t care what flowers we have. And you’re absolutely not serving lamb at the reception. The food’s coming from a local CSA. I already talked to the caterer. We’re sticking with vegan.”
“Mom. Unless you want us to elope…”
The mother of the bride’s thin-pressed lips looked much like her daughter’s.
“Actually,” Theodore chimed in, “had I known that you were going for local only, and if you’re willing to deal with a bit of a surprise, I can do your wedding flowers for a lot less, and they’ll be organic. There’s this retired farmer we know, and he grows dahlias. Old Mr. Legg will have a nice crop by then. I can reserve them for you special.” Theo gave the mother an apologetic smile. “He does grow a variety of yellows, if you’d like to stay with that, but his fuchsia-orange hybrid is unique to his farm. He even had it officially named and recognized.”
“Oh!” Sarah-the-Bridezilla said. “And it would be all organic and locally sourced?”
“That’s right,” Theodore nodded. “Lovely and pure, with herbs for a bit of fragrance.”
Bridezilla’s mother edged her way in again. “And you say this is an exclusive cultivar?”
“I’ll pay you the same if you guarantee that no other wedding uses this variety this year!”
“I’ll talk to him.” Theodore squirmed as he said that. “He might want a bonus, though. It’s a limited variety. He’s a famous dahlia breeder.”
ONCE the shop was closed for the night and customers were all gone, Rickey whooped. “I’m out of here. I don’t want to see another bridal consultation for, like, ever!”
The door shut behind him, and when the little bell stopped ringing, Sam turned to Theodore. “Have I let you down?”
“No. Of course not! You were fabulous.”
“So now you have business for old Mr. Legg, you can be the premier source of yellow peonies in Pittsburgh, and… do you really trust me?”
Theodore’s eyes softened. “You know I do.”
“So, theoretically speaking, if I asked you to move in with me, what would the odds be on you saying yes?”
Sam barely finished saying the last word when Theodore pulled him into a kiss. Not just a perfunctory Good to see you, but I’m totally exhausted kiss. Their lips met with heat and promise, and once Theodore tasted the sensitive inner side of Sam’s lip, he looked up at him, and smiled.
“Royal flush kinds of odds.”
Forever, Sam thought, but he didn’t voice it. Not yet. That was a discussion for another day.
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About the Author
Kate Pavelle writes gay romance, crime suspense, and urban fantasy. Her world has been warped by her foreign birth. Being a cancelled Czech, she’s been places and seen things, she’s known hunger and plentitude, she’s experienced profound love as well as a deep sense of loss. She’s recently surrendered her firearms, because change has to start at home.
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