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Draven was the proud co-owner and manager of a thriving teashop, The Hatter’s Teapot – he’d been obsessed with Alice in Wonderland since he was a boy. The teashop was tastefully decorated with polished wooden floorboards and dark mahogany shelves laden with large midnight-green tins lining the walls. The glass-fronted counter at the back of the shop was made of the same attractive wood and had all manner of paraphernalia on display for the budding tea enthusiast. The pleasantly scented air held the aroma of a great many blends of tea.

While putting some cups and plates back into the small kitchen, he caught sight of himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. To say that he was less than impressed with what he saw would be an understatement. His beard was somewhat ratty, his eyebrows were bushy and his auburn hair urgently needed a good cut. He’d been comfort eating for the last few months – in particular, extra helpings of jam and cream on his scones with Molly – and was looking decidedly plump around the mid-section. It wasn’t a proper spare tire just yet, but well on the way to being fully inflated. Even though his beard mostly disguised it, Draven could also see the beginnings of a double chin.

I’m fat, scruffy and forty-six! I’m a mess. Who’d want me anyway?

Brooding over his appearance for the rest of the afternoon, Draven was in a distinctly grumpy mood come day’s end. It was right on closing time and Draven was alone in the shop, Molly having left early for a dentist appointment. He was in the process of locking the glass front door when he was startled by the sudden appearance of a youthful, Eurasian face in front of him.

“Please, tell me you’re not closed,” beseeched the lad. “I just need to buy one thing. It’s my mother’s birthday and she just adores the tea from your shop.”

Taking pity on the boy, and the fact that he had nowhere pressing to be since his children were staying with Josiah that week, Draven unlocked the door and allowed him in. The lad’s pleading liquid brown eyes may have also played a part.

“Thank you so much!” gushed the late customer. “I’ve been meaning to drop by all week but I kept procrastinating and now I’m desperate.”

“We can’t have that now, can we?” said Draven, in his warmest timbre. “What tea was it?”

“She likes three...Blue Alice, Caterpillar’s Dream and…ummm…Cheshire Moon.”

“Ah yes, some of my favorites. Your mother has good taste.”

“I guess…I prefer a good Dirty Chai myself.”

“Dare I ask what that is?” inquired Draven, half-afraid of the answer.

“Oh, it’s just a Chai Tea Latte with a shot or two of espresso.”

Sounds disgusting!

“Oh, well, that’s…interesting.”

“You should try it! It’ll bring your taste buds back to life,” remarked the lad with an impish regard. “Oh, sorry that’s probably rude. I’ve been told to always respect my elders.”

Cheeky bugger. He is a handsome boy, though. Stop it! He’s probably young enough to be your son!

“I think I can forgive you seeing as you’re being such a good son.”

“I try. Thanks again for letting me in, I really appreciate it.”

“My pleasure. Which tea would you like?”

“Can I get a small bag of each?”

“Most certainly.”

In a practiced manner, Draven rapidly located the teas and filled the order. After ringing up the sale, he showed his customer to the door and locked it behind him. The lad thanked him again before he gave Draven a quick flash of a grin before heading off down the street.

Such a beautiful smile. Stop it! Why? I’m only old, not dead.

As he turned back towards the counter to go over the daily takings, an unexpected movement caught Draven’s eye. Fluttering to the floor was a piece of brightly colored paper.

Must have been stuck in the mail slot.

Bending down to pick it up, Draven saw that there was a white rabbit embossed on a vibrant blue background. Underneath was the slogan – Hop Into Your Best Shape. Turning the paper over, Draven saw that it was a flyer for a personal trainer service. Glancing down at his midriff, Draven was reminded of his earlier encounter with the mirror. He struggled to remember the last time he did anything more strenuous than unpacking a new shipment of tea.

Maybe it’s a sign.

Flyer in hand, Draven returned to the counter and finished ringing off the till. As he counted the money his eyes kept being drawn back to the image of the rabbit. After losing his count for the third time, Draven knew what he had to do. Before he changed his mind, the tea merchant picked up the phone and called the number on the back of the flyer.

What have I got to lose?



Love Springs Anew

Excerpt:

Ebook ISBN 978-1-911478-16-4

Cover Price: 3.99

Length: 133 pdf Pages / 23000 words

Gay Fiction, Romance, Drama

Heat rating: 4