This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Lavender Rose Copyright © 2012 by Theo Fenraven
Cover Art by Theo Fenraven
Tris was right, Mal reflected as he tried for the hundredth time to get comfortable on the cot he’d been given upon arrival at the evacuation shelter, which was in the gym at the elementary school. The mattress was held together by lumps and bumps, and he slept poorly for a couple of hours before finally giving up. It had taken him a long time to get there, and all he wanted to do was return home.
A mother and her little girl sat on the floor nearby, leaning against the wall. They looked as tired as he felt.
“Want the bed?” Mal asked.
“You wouldn’t mind?” The woman held out her hand. “I’m Jess, and this is my daughter, Kim.”
“I’m Mal.” He leaned over to shake and then got to his feet to give them the cot. They sank down on it gratefully. Stretching the kinks out of his back, he said, “What’s the latest news?”
Jess and Kim curled up together, and the mother pulled a thin blanket over them both. “Bypassing Naples, still headed north. Holding steady at a three.” She smoothed the hair off her daughter’s forehead. “I live on the beach just north of town, so we’re staying a while longer, just in case.” Storm surge was nothing to ignore. It was the greatest cause of loss of life.
There was a sea of people in the building, lying down, sitting, and standing. The air smelled faintly of too many bodies. Mal was thirsty and hungry and missing Tristan, who was probably having a fine time alone at his resort, but Lavender Rose was near the beach, too, and he was worried about the blond man.
Picking up a bottle of water and a cheese sandwich on the way out, Mal returned to his car through driving rain. Dark clouds moved fast overhead, split by sporadic lightning, and wind tore at his hair and clothing. The car door nearly flew out of his hand when he opened it. A category three hurricane produced winds up to 110 miles per hour; Mal wondered how strong they were right now. Judging by the perpendicular angle of the palm tree fronds, it was getting up there.
He sat hunched over the steering wheel, appreciating the sudden cessation of wind, wondering if he was doing the right thing returning to the resort so soon. And then he recalled Tristan and him from a couple of days ago, getting ready for work, sharing the bathroom. Mal had teased him about the number of hair products on the shelf, and Tristan had merely smiled as he worked scented mousse through his golden strands. Mal noticed how they gleamed under the lights.
“Dear heart, one must pay a price for beauty. You adore my hair, admit it.”
Their eyes met in the mirror, and Mal grinned. “I love it,” he said softly, reaching out a hand to touch the short hairs at the back of his neck. The skin there was slightly rough and made Tris seem unexpectedly vulnerable. Almost, Mal said he loved him as he pressed his lips to that spot, but he knew the time wasn’t right, not yet, even though in that moment, he realized his life had changed forever and Tristan was a large part of that. Hell, Tristan was all of that.
Gazing out through the rain-washed windshield, he smiled in remembrance and started the car. He should never have left him.
He steered for home.
(to be continued)
If you are enjoying this story, please consider purchasing The Blue Paradise and Phoenix Rising when they are released this summer and fall by Dreamspinner Press. Follow me here, on twitter (@fenraven), or on G+ for book info, contest news, excerpts, and release dates.