Flowers for Jiri: Part 1
~ Eugene ~
“Are you Jiri?”
Turning, Jiri looked to the man standing on the other side of his art stall. He’d just finished setting up his booth for the Eugene Saturday Market. His 8x8 gazeebo had been a bit tricky to put up on his own this week, but his usual selling partner was out of town due to a family emergency. He’d agreed to put up his jewelry even while he wasn’t here. Not like it mattered, Jiri knew all of Makoto’s prices.
Jiri was a painter himself, and found the market to be a great place to sell his work. He worked with a wide range of mediums, and he’d recently started painting with nail polish as an experiment. He kind of liked the results too. This market, the fourth of the season, was the first time he would be showing his nail polish paintings to the public. Hopefully they were well received.
“So, are you?” the guy asked again when Jiri apparently didn’t answer fast enough for him.
“I am,” Jiri sighed. “Who’re you?”
“Here,” the guy handed over a tablet with a space for Jiri’s signature, and a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers consisting of white daffodils, purple hyacinths, and pink and red freesias paired with some young ferns and baby’s breath. “Someone must really like you,” the delivery guy said, accepting his tablet back after Jiri had signed it. “Well, good day!”
With that, Jiri was left with his flowers, confused and awed by the gift. He quickly found something to put them in, a large mason jar he’d purchased for his brushes, but hadn’t remembered to take out of his car, and snatched the card up that was nestled within the beautiful blossoms.
This is kind of embarrassing, as I’ve never done anything like this before, but I just wanted to say hello. I love your art, and I hope you like these flowers.
Jiri had no clue who Sloane was, but the man certainly had good taste in flowers. He was no poet, but that didn’t really matter. Clutching the letter to his chest, Jiri smiled. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had given him flowers. Leaning down, he breathed in the rich smelling aroma from the flowers and felt light headed. Why had this Sloane guy sent him flowers? Who was he? More importantly, Jiri hoped he’d introduce himself in person.
Then again, why would he? There was nothing too remarkable about Jiri. He was of average height, a bit on the chubby side. He wasn’t obese, but it probably wouldn’t hurt him to do a few sit ups. His long, mousy brown hair with highlights of paint was always pulled back in a ponytail. Then there was his face, round and completely average, minus the fact he had a baby face.
When Jiri considered his appearance, it just didn’t make sense that someone would send him flowers.
“Yes!” Jiri said, snapping out of his mixed thoughts and smiling at his first customer of the day.
As usual, the Eugene Saturday Market was packed, people milling about by the dozens. By one o’clock Jiri had already sold two paintings, and six of Makoto’s pieces as well. He’d even had a few people show an interest in his new works. One lady said she definitely wanted one, but needed to pick up a few things first. Jiri knew that meant it was a fifty-fifty percent chance of her returning for the piece, so he didn’t get his hopes up.
By one-thirty Jiri’s stomach was growling at him, demanding he get lunch now! Sighing, he grabbed his cell and sent a quick text to Carlos, a friend of his that ran a taco stall in the International Food Court that was part of the market. He’d seen him unloading when he showed up, so Jiri knew he was here. Chicken tacos were just what he needed today, that and a large cold Dr. Pepper.
“Hello.” That rich baritone voice drew Jiri from his phone and had him looking up into the deepest brown eyes he’d ever seen. This man was a regular, coming at least every other week, and he always bought something. “Have anything new today?”
“Of course,” Jiri beamed, proud of himself for not stuttering or squealing this time. He’d done both on several occasions and Makoto had teased him relentlessly for it. “These are my newest,” he said, producing his two finger nail polish paintings and three other canvases, one was an oil while the other two were acrylics.
As his customer looked over his works Jiri looked him over. He was strongly built, definitely someone who used his gym membership weekly, if not daily. His dark brown, nearly black hair had natural red highlights that caught the sun and added a burst of color to his trendy cut. He had a trim and manicured beard that just begged for someone to reach out and touch it. Of course all of it was topped off with a sharply tailored suit and a watch that probably cost more than Jiri’s ’93 Honda Accord.
Why a guy like this continued to frequent Jiri’s stall he couldn’t figure out, but he sure as shit wasn’t going to complain! The man was sex on two legs, and he counted the days until he got to see him again.
Turning, Jiri’s eyes caught sight of the flowers and a thought struck him. Was this Sloane? Unable to ask the man out right, for fear of looking like an idiot, Jiri reached for the flowers and set them on the table with a show of letting them get some sun. His customer definitely saw them, his gaze resting on the flowers for a moment before looking back to the paintings. Jiri couldn’t tell if there was recognition in his eyes or not during that all too brief moment.
“I’d like this one,” he said, indicating a 36-inch by 24-inch canvas with two lions painted in blues, purples, and black. It was one of the nail polish works he’d done. “How much?”
“Oh, um,” Jiri grabbed his phone and pulled the picture up on his online catalog. “One hundred, fifty.”
“A bit more than your usual, isn’t it?” the man asked, even as he reached for his wallet.
“Yeah, I used a new medium for that one and good nail polish is actually really expensive,” Jiri admitted.
“Well, it’s beautiful,” he said, handing Jiri one hundred sixty dollars, cash. Jiri quickly handed him back his change, a ten-dollar bill, and managed to smile politely as their fingers touched. His heart skipped a beat as his customer smiled at him, his teeth straight and white gleaming from behind perfectly sculpted pale pink lips.
Why the hell was he noticing how straight his teeth were?
“Nice flowers,” the man said, before walking away, his new piece of acquired art tucked under his arm.
Jiri sighed as he fell into his chair and leaned his elbows against the table. “Thanks,” he whispered. Maybe next time he’d get up the courage to ask him his name?
* * * *
Jiri was just pulling the canvases from his trunk when he heard Makoto call for him. With a sigh, he rested a rather large canvas against his car, and moved to the front of the stall where a delivery man was standing with another bouquet of flowers.
“Sign here,” he said. It was the same delivery man from last week. The flowers this time were all tulips of different colors.
Signing, Jiri tried to contain his excitement as he accepted the flowers and moved to set them in a vase. He’d brought one with him this time, hoping this would happen again. With shaking hands, he pulled out the note that was attached.
I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself last week, but I was too nervous to say anything. I’m glad you got the flowers. I hope this time I can introduce myself to you.
Jiri couldn’t help it, he sighed as he kissed the short letter. Maybe he was right and that regular customer was Sloane. Man, he hoped so.
“Another bouquet from your mystery man?” Makoto teased as he came up behind Jiri and rested his chin on his shoulder. “Lucky.”
“Like you don’t get enough presents from Morgan,” Jiri replied. At the mention of his boyfriend Makoto started smiling. Honestly, M ‘n’ M—their friends’ nickname for the couple—had been dating so long, that Jiri was surprised they were still so romantic with each other. Jiri was a bit jealous. He wanted something like that. Long term, and filled with romance.
Maybe this mysterious Sloane was his chance to have that?
“I’m going to get coffee. Be back,” Makoto announced.
With a brighter outlook on the day, Jiri finished setting up his canvases and helped Makoto with his displays. The weather was warming up, meaning today would be busy. Jiri took a quick glance around, ensuring everything was in the proper place, and sat down waiting for the first customers to start filtering into the park.
“Hello.” Jiri looked up from the sketch pad he was presently doodling in and smiled at Morgan.
“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in,” Jiri teased. “We were just talking about you.”
“Oh? Something good right?” Morgan asked.
“Honey bear!” Makoto squealed, coming back to the booth. He managed to set their coffee down before throwing himself into Morgan’s arms. “Morning!”
“Morning sugar,” Morgan smiled, kissing Makoto.
Jiri looked away, ignoring the pang of jealousy in his chest. His new sightline made him focus on his flowers, and he smiled.
“Would you look at that!” Makoto gushed. “Jiri’s falling in love with his mystery suitor.”
“What?” Morgan gawked at him.
“Oh shut it,” Jiri snipped. He wasn’t ready for the eternal honeymooners to be giving him shit about falling in love.
“Anyways,” Morgan pulled Makoto back to him, “I thought I’d drop by and give you these,” he produced two tickets from his back pocket, sending Makoto into another fit of squealing. Jiri loved his best friend, the man was irreplaceable, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to gag him every now and then.
“You got them! Oh, I love you!”
Jiri rolled his eyes as Makoto, quite literally, toppled Morgan to the ground as he kissed him in his enthusiasm. Seemed he’d be alone tonight. Good, he could use the time to work on his latest piece.
“Good morning. Nice sketch.” Jiri slammed the sketch book closed and looked up to see his regular customer standing in front of him, a small polite smile dancing on his lips. Nothing in the man’s posture or expression said ‘I’m secretly, madly in love with you!’ But, Jiri was still willing to hope.
“Morning,” Jiri said, his voice cracking. And here he’d thought he was over that. Desperately trying to hide the blush he could feel heating his cheeks, Jiri turned to his paintings. “This is my newest.”
The man looked over the canvas, but Jiri could tell he wasn’t focusing on the artwork today. No, instead his eyes kept traveling to a piece of Makoto’s jewelry. It was a beautiful loom beaded bracelet using only jade and topaz beads. The bracelet was ten rows thick making it a bit dainty for a man, though Jiri himself was fond of the piece. He’d even considered buying it a time or two. Hell, he’d modeled it several times during the market as he toyed with the idea.
“How much for the bracelet?” the customer asked and Jiri felt his hopes dash. A man didn’t buy something like that for another man. Meaning it had to be a gift, most likely for a woman.
“Oh,” Makoto stepped up, his eyes traveling to Jiri for a second before, focusing on the customer.
Jiri blocked the rest of the conversation out, standing and excusing himself with the excuse of needing food. He headed in the direction of the food court, but never entered it. Instead he veered off into the other stalls and window shopped.
He’d gotten his heart set on that customer being his mystery flower sender. It was entirely one sided on Jiri’s part, but it still hurt to have reality shoved back into his face.
Why did every guy he fell for have to be straight? Then again why was he surprised? There was no way a god like that would go for an average mortal like him.
“My life sucks,” Jiri whispered, kicking a small pebble.
It took him an hour to make a full circuit of the park before returning to his stall, where Makoto was happily engaging a young couple, showing off his paintings to the woman. At least he knew his friend had his back even when Jiri decided to run off in a fit.
“Here’s the artist himself,” Makoto beamed, waving Jiri over. “These two are in love with your rendition of Hercules and his twelve labors. I’ll let you take it from here.”
Jiri looked at the painting specified, smiling at the memories of when he’d painted it. He’d done it on a dare from Makoto who said he couldn’t do anything from a traditional myth or legend without adding his own flare. In the end, Makoto had been right. Jiri couldn’t paint a traditional scene without adding a touch of himself. But, he was an artist, and that naturally made him egotistical. Or so everyone said.
The background of the canvas was the twelve labors, done in Jiri’s own unique color choices, and set in a fractured pattern. Kind of like stain glass. Hercules stood directly in the center of the painting, his sculpted muscles and gleaming chest shown off in victory of his accomplishments. His face showed the tragedy of his past, and the remorse of the deaths of his family at his own hands.
“I have to have it,” the woman said. “How much?”
Jiri went about talking price, and care of the painting, especially care. The woman confessed to never having a hand painted picture before, which made Jiri extra attentive on his instructions when she asked.
The sale was made, and the couple left. The man kissing his wife and whispering something in her ear as they made their way to the next booth.
Damn, another happy couple to remind him of what he didn’t have.
“You okay?” Makoto asked, his hand resting on Jiri’s shoulder.
“No different than any other day,” Jiri answered, unable to say yes. He’d survive the heartache. He always did.
Leo Eaus, a warlock from a cursed coven, hopes to make up for the sins caused by his family in the past by working as an exorcist.
Agnar Landvik, a berserker bear shifter, only hopes to get through his lonely days without killing his friends in the Twin Ravens MC.
Their paths cross when Leo's job takes him to Tulsa Oklahoma. Agnar sees Leo as the end to his lonely days. Leo only sees what could happen to Agnar if Leo's secret was ever discovered.
While they struggle to come to an understanding and form the relationship destined to be theirs, trouble stirs in the shadows of Tulsa. It'll take Agnar and Leo working together to subdue this new threat.
Add in a snarky familiar that has an opinion about everything, a group of meddling biker enforcers, and a demonic grandfather and Leo's Salvation seems to be either within grasp or just out of reach.
Buy Links: Amazon: http://getbook.at/LeosSalvation
As always when he came to this club for a drink the music was deafening in its assault on his ears. Then again, there weren’t too many places in Tulsa where someone like him could get a drink and enjoy it in relative peace. That being the case, Agnar was willing to put up with the music.
He did have to admit though, the place looked good, for being a repurposed garage. After the main bar had imploded during the Halloween fiasco—blood wraiths and ghouls attacked the Twin Ravens trying to get to a young sabretooth child who was later adopted by Blood—Blood had made the decision to use the remaining garage as their base of operations for the time being. At least until the new bar could be built.
“Refill?” the new waitress asked. Agnar glanced at her just long enough to say yes. He knew better than to piss off Wrath and the little lady was his. “Be right back.”
Agnar nodded and continued to split his attention between the dancers on the floor and the girls on the stage. He wasn’t sure where he was supposed to look. The gentler sex never really did do it for him. In his entire six hundred twenty-seven years of being on this earth he hadn’t found a single female that even stirred his interest.
“Hey, you drinking alone?” Ignoring Coyote, Agnar accepted the drink from the waitress when she passed by. “Come on, let’s chat.”
“Go away,” Agnar responded. He wasn’t here to talk. Blood let him operate within the same area as the MC enforcers, but that didn’t make them chums.
Coyote huffed in irritation, “You really do have a stick up your ass.” Agnar said nothing to the obvious provocation of the Navajo shifter, as he left him to his bourbon on the rocks.
Deciding it was futile to try and watch the girls dancing, Agnar turned his attention to the people on the dance floor. Most were far too gone to even call what they were doing dancing, but it was still something to keep his mind occupied and off the endless parade of boredom and loneliness that seemed to be his life recently.
He watched as a group of men, drunk beyond what was considered safe for a human, were escorted to the door by Tank and a few other enforcers. They’d tried to climb up onto the stage and get to the girls. Look, don’t touch, was a major rule in any strip club.
As the group left a man slipped inside, a man that didn’t fit into the crowd. His dark brown hair, slicked back away from his face, and blue eyes were certainly an unusual combination that made him stand out as it was. It was his unease and how he stuck to the shadows that drew Agnar’s attention though. That and the long leather trench coat. The newcomer instantly slipped into a back table tucked into the folds of the shadows of the club and just sat there watching everything.
The guy tensed when Gin, the new waitress, approached the table. He seemed flustered as he ordered a drink, Agnar frowned when he realized the man hadn’t ordered alcohol but instead a club soda. Something was off with him.
Standing from his table, Agnar moved across the club until he was only one table away from the new guy. Maybe it was the fact he seemed suspicious that drew Agnar to him? His primary job as a bodyguard made him sensitive to such things. Still, that didn’t feel accurate. There was something else drawing him to the blue-eyed man.
Agnar tensed when he spotted what looked like a lizard’s head pop out of the man’s leather coat. It appeared to hiss into the man’s ear prompting the guy to say, “Witch craft, but not entirely human.”
Eyes narrowed, Agnar realized this was no mere human, as he’d first thought. The lizard hissed again and the newcomer snapped angrily. Something was definitely off here, and before Agnar could figure out what it was Tara—the bartender—stepped up to the table.
“Have something against my drink?” Tara demanded, her voice dripping with venom.
“I’m driving,” the man answered smoothly. “Last I checked it was illegal to drink and drive.”
“Why the fuck come to a bar to drink then?” Tara asked.
“First place I found,” he responded.
“Bullshit,” Tara hissed, her fangs flashing in what little light was provided in the club. “Who, or more accurately, what are you?”
Agnar watched as the man went ramrod straight, worry entering his light blue eyes. Why did Agnar get the feeling he wasn’t afraid so much of Tara but of her question?
“I have no idea what you mean,” he said, standing. “Thanks for the drink.” He placed a few bucks on the table and brushed passed Tara, “Blood sucker.”
“What did you call me?” Tara hissed.
Instantly Tank was beside the guy, grabbing his arm, and Agnar gaped as the large lizard he’d caught a glimpse of earlier emerged from the new guy’s coat and flat out bit the bouncer. It was easily four feet from nose to tail tip, but looked more like a salamander with obvious deep red scales. How in the hell had something like that stayed hidden beneath the man’s coat? What did he have, an extra dimensional pocket in there? And what in the hell was it? Agnar couldn’t remember seeing anything quite like that before. The closest creature he could think of was a Gila monster in resemblance.
“Back off bear.” Did that lizard just speak?
“A Salamander,” Tara gushed. “What the fuck? Who are you?”
“Told you this was a bad idea,” the Salamander hissed.
“A job’s a job,” the man replied. “Now just shut up and,” he froze, his eyes going wide as he started looking around the bar with a true look of panic now on his face.
Agnar stepped closer, a strange sensation making him move in to protect the guy. Shaking his head, he reminded himself the man was a stranger and was obviously some kind of supernatural. The fact he’d entered the MC without announcing himself could be seen as a threat. So why did he want to push Tank and Tara away from him and place himself between the guy and all those that would threaten him?
“What’s your name?” The appearance of Blood made this entire situation that much weirder.
The guy shook his head as if trying to clear it of a fog. No doubt Blood had been reading his mind, or at least trying to.
“Leo Eaus, I’m an exorcist.” Agnar almost laughed at that. Was this guy for real? An exorcist? Who the fuck did he think he was fooling with that line?
“Just roast them and let’s go,” the Salamander’s tail wrapped around Leo’s arm as he hissed at Blood. “We can still run.”
Leo nodded and whispered, “Incanto.”
Agnar opened his mouth to shout a warning when all the lights went out in the bar, followed by a pillar of flames engulfing Leo. The only thing Agnar registered in that split second between the lights going out and the fire surrounding him was that Leo’s eyes and hair had both changed color, each taking on the appearance of the very fire he called on. And then everything went dark.
About A.M. Halford
A.M. Halford lives in Southern Oregon and enjoys spending as much time outside as she possibly can. Her and her partner often find themselves hiking with their two dogs when the weather permits it. Fishing, camping, and photography are also activities she greatly enjoys. If the weather doesn’t permit going outside she can be found curled up with a sketch book, drawing whatever comes to mind.
A.M. got into writing as an outlet for personal therapy and has since expanded that into a hobby and profession that she enjoys. She often writes down anything that comes to mind, combing through the ideas and expanding on plots that sound the most interesting. She likes to write believable relations between people overcoming unfair hardships set before them. She always loves a happy ending and no matter the hell her characters go through they’ll always get their forever person.