The wonderful Elizabeth Lister‘s Friday Flash Fiction challenges continue. I missed last week, but I’m back for the third, with this lovely piece of inspiration, below. These involve characters you’ll meet in my upcoming collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, from Bold Strokes Books. I went a bit over word count this week, but come on. Look at that guy.
“I have tea.” Michel held up two cups.
Clive barely moved his head, cracking a small embarrassed smile. “You’re a saint.”
Michel put one on the bedside table, turning to go.
“Wait,” Clive said.
“It’s just tea,” Michel said.
Clive shook his head. He stretched in the bed, and Michel worked hard to keep his eyes on Clive’s face. Shirtless, with the covers so low Michel was afraid to find out what else Clive shucked overnight, the bartender had an actual six-pack. The tattoo Michel had only glipsed fully revealed itself, crossing Clive’s left arm and shoulder, and some of his chest.
Michel felt tiny.
“Not for the tea.” Clive’s grin was somewhere between sleepy and amused. “For stuff I’m only vaguely remembering from last night.”
“Ah.” Michel’s face burned.
Clive shifted—eye contact, eye contact! He picked up the paper cup, taking a generous swallow.
“One of Ivan’s ‘recovery’ blends.” Michel nodded.
“I’m okay,” Clive said. “No hangover.”
“That’s so unfair,” Clive said. “I had a headache like you wouldn’t believe, and I only had three drinks.”
“Did I throw my shirt at you?”
“Uh. Not… I mean, yeah, but…” The question tripped up Michel’s tongue. “Yes. It was raining after the wake…” He sipped. Maybe ‘recovery’ worked on brains.
“So you took me home to have your way with me?” With Clive’s hair tousled like that, the smile, and his beard, he was pretty much the sexiest guy ever, and…
“No!” Michel said. “Of course not. You were a bit…”
“I was a lot.”
“Okay, yes. A lot drunk. My place was close. I couldn’t use my umbrella and help you walk—you’re heavy—and…”
Michel breathed. “Sorry.”
Clive looked around. “I don’t remember you joining me.”
“I slept on the couch.”
Clive’s eyebrow rose. “I fell all over you, you carried me home, I threw my clothes at you—”
“Because they were wet and I have a dryer.”
“—and you gave me your bed?”
“And now you get me tea. How’d you know I liked tea?”
“You said you only drank tea when Danya offered coffee after the wake.”
Clive lifted himself into a seated position. Muscles played along his chest and stomach. Michel stared into Clive’s eyes with nothing but prayer and willpower.
“I don’t normally get drunk.”
“You said that, too.” Michel couldn’t help but smile.
“Are you teasing? Is this you teasing?”
“Little bit.” Michel blushed. “It’s okay. You and Hans were close.”
“Like a second father. Or first, honestly, given what mine was like.” Clive took a deep breath. Michel tried not to watch what that did to his chest, and failed.
“Hans was an amazing man. If not for him, I’d never have opened the gallery.”
“Really?” Clive said. “Wait. We talked about that last night.”
Michel nodded, sipping.
“And you called me a hottie?”
Michel choked. He recovered after a moment, and put his cup down. “So, I don’t normally drink, either…”
Clive patted the empty space beside him. “C’mere. It’s Sunday; it’s raining. Relax. Drink tea. Tell me your Hans stories. And maybe a few more confessions. Sober ones.”
Michel stared for two long seconds before he stripped off his shirt, and threw it.
Clive caught it with a grin.