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Authors: J.K. Pendragon

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Ink & Flowers

BOOK: Ink & Flowers
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Title Page

Book Details


Ink & Flowers

About the Author

Ink & Flowers
J. K. Pendragon

About to lose his apartment, and desperate to avoid having to move in with his horrendous relatives, shy art student Luke impulsively agrees to a deal from hell: sex with a man he doesn't know in exchange for a couch to sleep on.

His new "roommate" Cooper is everything that Luke hates: crude, uncouth, and covered in tattoos, not to mention openly gay. Luke has all but resigned himself to a miserable fate when it turns out Cooper might want something a little different than he expected.

Book Details

Ink & Flowers

By J.K. Pendragon

Published by Less Than Three Press LLC

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.

Edited by Amanda Jean

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju

This book is a work of fiction and all names, characters, places, and incidents are fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental.

First Edition June 2014

Copyright © 2014 by J.K. Pendragon

Printed in the United States of America

Digital ISBN 9781620043776

Print ISBN 9781620044148




Special thanks to everyone who worked tirelessly on this story: betas, editors and artists. I couldn't have done it without you!

Ink & Flowers

Two weeks.

Luke felt his heart drop into his stomach as his eyes skimmed the notice that was taped to his door. Two weeks to come up with two months unpaid rent, or that was it. No more apartment and good luck finding another one with his record.

He ripped the notice off the door and fumbled with the key. When the door was unlocked he quickly ducked into his apartment before tears began to form in his eyes.
Men don't cry
, he reminded himself, but he'd been failing on that front a lot lately.

What was he going to do? Right now all he wanted was to crawl into his bed and cry for the rest of the night, but that wasn't really an option. Of course this would happen on the day of his first shift in a week. Maybe Madison would be sick still and he could pick up her Saturday shift, but he doubted it. Four to ten and sixty measly dollars were all he was going to get for this week. And he was going to be late if he didn't hurry.

He dropped the notice on the counter and hopped over to his overflowing dresser, tugging off his paint-splattered jeans and T-shirt as he did so. His work clothes were crumpled on the floor by his bed, and he hurriedly attempted to smooth the wrinkles out with his palms as he put them on, hoping that Beth wouldn't notice and berate him for it.

Wallet and keys in hand, he surveyed the messy studio apartment, checking to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything vital. Dinner, he supposed, but there was barely anything in the fridge, and he'd already spent his last change on a muffin at school today. He'd just go without tonight.

It was busy when he arrived at the flower shop, and Beth immediately called him over to run the check-out while she caught up in the back. He'd been planning to beg her for more hours as soon as he got to work. As a result, the multitude of meticulously crafted arguments and pleas that he had constructed on his walk were now bouncing angrily around in his head with no outlet, and it was difficult to focus on his job.

"The flower food?" requested the customer across from him, and Luke realised that he had had to repeat himself.

"What about it?" he asked stupidly.

The man breathed out heavily through his nose. "Where is it?"

"Oh," stammered Luke, "I-it's in the package."

"Thank you," said the man, slowly and sarcastically, as if Luke was stupid.

Luke forced a tight smile, even though the man's hostility had caused his hands to shake slightly. "Have a good night," he choked out, and the man rolled his eyes and left with another snort.

Luke sighed, and looked up to greet the next customer.
Oh god, no

The man in front of him was utterly terrifying. He was over six feet tall and heavily muscled, and a myriad of grotesque tattoos covered every inch of his skin that wasn't obscured by the ratty sleeveless shirt he wore. His hair was closely cropped, his face square and angry. But his appearance wasn't what made Luke's blood run cold. Luke had met the man before, multiple times. In fact, he came in every Friday night, always when Luke was working, and purchased a bouquet of flowers. They were always pretty, girly bouquets, and Luke often found himself wondering what pretty, pink-daisy baby's-breath girly this guy thought he was courting. But then he remembered that the guy wasn't into women. At least, it didn't seem so, judging from the way he had acted towards Luke that one night.

The memory always served to make Luke's stomach twist. The tattooed man had come in one Friday night, sometime after his initial visit to pick up a bouquet of gerberas, when Luke was the only worker in the store. A silver flask had hung precariously from his meaty fingers,  he had stumbled towards the counter where Luke was standing and leaned over to breathe liquor-drenched air into his face.

"What time you close?" he had slurred, and Luke, backing away, had told him automatically.

"You got plans after?"

"No," Luke had said, his heart racing, and his finger close to the panic button under the desk. "I'm just going home. In a taxi."

"I was just wondering if you maybe wanted to come home with me. I'd treat you real good."

Luke closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe, to banish the memory. He didn't really like to think about what had happened next. He had acted a bit oddly, honestly. It was very unusual for him to ever raise his voice or shout at people, but he had screamed quite loudly at the man that he wasn't gay, and that the man needed to get out of his shop right away. It had been a good move though, because then the man left, his drunken face full of confusion, and had never come back inebriated or made a pass at Luke again. Luke wished sometimes that he could muster up that kind of courage in less frightening situations, but he never did manage to.

Luke had thought after that that the man might feel some semblance of remorse or attempt to apologize to Luke (his mind, as usual had run through the scenario multiple times, dreading it), but he never did. Maybe he didn't even remember it. Regardless, he still came back every Friday to buy his flowers, and then left without any trouble. Luke just had to remember that to get through the transaction and then it would be fine.

"Yo." The man sauntered up to the counter and set down his bouquet—daffodils with carnations. Luke stared at them for a moment and then snapped out of it to scan the bar code and remove the plastic wrapping.

"Paper or plastic?" he asked automatically, even though he knew the answer.

"Plastic." The man shoved his hands into his pockets and glanced around the shop as Luke got to work on the wrapping. The yellow-patterned plastic he had chosen was being difficult, crumpling and folding in the wrong direction. "Hey, you okay, man? Your hands are shaking."

The question only caused Luke to shake more, of course. "I'm fine," he murmured, and it came out sharper than he anticipated. "I'm just hungry," he added to soften it a bit.

The man shrugged. "Okay, whatever you say, man."

Luke finished up with the ribbon and shoved the bouquet at him. "Ten twelve."

The man paid with cash and Luke realized, relieved, that he was the last customer in line. Time to talk to Beth. All his arguments had vanished from his mind, and he vainly attempted to recall them as he ducked into the workroom where Beth was preparing shoots of baby's-breath.

"N-need to talk to you …" he murmured, and Beth looked up sharply.

"Sorry? What was that?"

"I—" Luke's throat clenched. "I need to talk to you about something."

Beth stared at him for a moment and then snapped her attention back to the baby's-breath. "Well, talk."

"I need more hours," Luke spat out. "I—I mean, if there was possibly any way you could … I thought maybe Madison might be able to work day shifts, o-or …"

"Madison needs to work weeknights so she can take care of the baby during the day, Luke, you know that." Well, she didn't seem angry, at least. But it didn't exactly seem like this was much of a discussion, either.

"Well, yes, I know, but I—it's just that I don't have enough for rent and …"

Beth finished up with the flowers and stood up straight, pulling the gloves from her hands. "So get a second job. I told you I'd be willing to schedule your shifts around something else."

"I've been looking, there's nothing."

"Really? The McDonald's across the street has had that ‘Now Hiring’ sign up for years. Ever since you left, I think."

"I don't—"

"Yes, I know, you don't
to work at McDonald's again." Beth sighed. "You're an adult, Luke. Sometimes we have to do things we don't like. Now, I know your aunts would be very happy to have you live with them free of charge while you go to school."

Luke flinched at the mention of his aunts, and Beth spared him a pitying eye-roll. "But if you insist on living on your own," she continued, "you have to support yourself. And I'm sorry, but I don't have any more hours to give you. Understand?"

Luke nodded, although it was more like his head was shaking in an up and down motion. He felt very close to being sick.

"Oh, don't give me that look." It seemed Beth's patience had run out. "Go and watch the front, I've got to bring in the delivery."

"I can do it."

watch the front."

Luke nodded and forced the rise of depression back down into his throat. Beth was right, of course. He was an adult, and he had two choices. He could live with his aunts, or he could take back his McDonald's job. He couldn't decide which particular thought was making him physically sick, or if it was the combination of the two.

The tattooed guy was still in the shop when he returned to the front. Luke wondered what he wanted; hoping that he had simply made a mistake with the order and the man wasn't going to proposition him again.

He acknowledged Luke as he entered and sauntered up to the counter, obviously in no rush. "You know," he said when he finally reached Luke, leaning a beefy arm against the counter, "I never got your name."

"Um, it's Luke."

"Luke," repeated the man. "Cooper," he thrust a hand out, and Luke took it automatically. His grip was firm, his hands large and calloused, and Luke felt for a moment like his hand was no longer his own. Then his grip receded, and Luke hurriedly dropped his hand to his side. "So, Luke. Money troubles?"

Luke felt his eyes go wide before he turned away to fumble with something—anything—next to the desk. "You heard," he muttered, picking up a damp cloth and furiously wiping at the clean counter.

"Yeah, couldn't help but overhear. Listen, I might have a place for you to stay." Cooper's tone was casual, almost flippant, but his eyes, when Luke dared to glance up at them, were serious.

"W-what you mean, like an apartment? I don't have any money, that's the problem."

"Well, you wouldn't have to pay rent. And it wouldn't be
apartment. It'd be mine."

"What, live with you?" Luke cringed at how disgusted his voice sounded, but really, what did Cooper expect?

Cooper seemed more amused than offended. "Yeah, with me." He said. "But it wouldn't be for free. There'd be, you know, terms."

. Luke's heart was beating furiously. Too much stress in one night, and he hadn't even been at work for an hour yet. What terms? The way Cooper had said it made it sound ominous, dangerous. He couldn't even imagine what kind of terms he had. Didn't want to imagine. His hands were shaking again.

Cooper sighed and shook his head. "Ah, I've shell-shocked you a bit," he suggested, glancing at Luke's hands. Luke hurriedly hid them under the counter. "No worries, man, take your time. Listen, you're off at ten, right?"

Luke nodded wordlessly. Did Cooper remember that night? Or had he just checked the store hours before he came in?

"Perfect, there's an all-night diner across the street, you know the one? By Mickey’s?" He raised his eyebrows at Luke's frozen state. "Meet me there, okay? That’s if you wanna discuss it." He took another look at Luke and chuckled. "Whatever, man, you're freaky. I'll see you tonight."

He left, and the chiming of the door shocked Luke back into the land of the living. Blood rushed into his face and he automatically clutched his hands to his stomach.

"What was that about?" Beth had returned from the back and was staring at Luke. "There a problem?"

Luke shook his head and swallowed. "No, no problem. I just … need to use the washroom."

Beth gave him another eye-roll and nodded him off.

BOOK: Ink & Flowers
12.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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