Sunday, February 15, 2015

Southern Charm Short: A Belated Valentine's Surprise

Southern Charm
A short story with Samuel Ashford and Dakota Mitchell
Takes place after the Southern Charm grand re-opening

Since the grand re-opening of the restored and upgraded Southern Charm B&B in Shore Breeze, Florida, Samuel Ashford found himself working harder than ever when he was in his family’s corporation. Sent to simply check out an aging B&B and decide to save or restore it, Samuel fell in love with the small town set on a spit of land in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola. He also fell deeply in love with the head chef, Dakota Mitchell, of the B&B’s popular restaurant, Southern Delights.

Pushing hard to make sure the Valentine’s Day weekend meant the Charm’s rooms were booked solid, Samuel was grateful it was over. He faxed the positive memo and early numbers from Chandler about the successful weekend to his family. With the last business finished, he shut everything down and went to find his lover.

The kitchen was darkened with Dorian and another helper doing the last of the cleaning.

“Hey, Dor, where’s Dakota?” Samuel asked.

“Home,” Dorian said. “He’s waiting for you.”

“Oh. Thought he would wait. Night!”

Leaving the Charm through the back door, he strolled across the expansive patio. He breathed in the night air, still holding a crisp chill in the breeze from the latest cold front. He had been afraid the cooler weather would cause people to cancel, but compared to places in the North, they flocked to the Panhandle. He figured clear weather in the chilly 60s was more pleasant than shoveling several feet of snow.

He followed the quiet path from the Charm, through the natural landscape their friend, Reece, created to surround the Owner’s Cabin restored and expanded. Samuel designed the new layout with an architect and their contractor, Sully. It was home. His home with Dakota.

Stopping at the base of the stairs, Samuel lifted his gaze to study the raised home. It was a smaller version of the Charm, but a little modernized with a vast expanse of windows and more open floorplan. He never felt more at home than this place. It was nothing compared to the sterilized feel of his old hotel suite.

Climbing the stairs, Samuel paused to stare at the large red satin bow attached to the door. As he drew closer, he saw a white envelope and pulled it free. Bemused, he opened and tugged out the note.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

A surprise you will find at the end of the red ribbon.
Follow it and the clues.
Gather the roses.
Seek and you will find your true love.

Curious as all hell, Samuel plucked the long-stem rose from the bow, opened the door and stepped inside. He discovered the wide red ribbon stretched across the floor. Kicking off his shoes and letting his jacket slide off, he followed the ribbon as it led to the expansive opened kitchen.

The ribbon wandered up the island and another bow sat next to a small plate with two chocolate covered strawberries, a glass of champagne, and a single red rose. Another card propped next to the gifts.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

Ooh. Look. A chocolate delight. A bubbly drink.
The aroma of a red red rose.
Seek to find the next gift.

Chuckling at the horrible attempt of poetic words, Samuel moaned with pleasure as he bit into the massive red berry. He adored when Dakota created his own chocolate. To have it covering fresh strawberries was one of Samuel’s favorites. He ate both within seconds, licked his fingers clean, and washed everything with the glass of champagne. He picked up the rose, smelled the rich blossom, and continued on the ribbon path.

It led outside next where he found another bow, a rose, and a message.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

The smell of the ocean.
A brisk breeze touching your face.
The grit of sand on your feet.
Upon this beach, I discovered my love.
Seek to find the next gift.

Samuel wondered if Dakota could get any cornier. He couldn’t believe how much time Dakota spent on this and if he had any help. Turning, he followed the ribbon’s next destination. It was back into the living room and by the flat screen TV. It was attached to a smaller bow situated by the collection set of movies along with the rose and a note.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

Cuddling on the sofa.
Laughter filling the room.
Snuggling with you.
Best way to spend my days.
Seek to find the next gift.

Chuckling at the memories of the hours they spent watching the movies, with Dakota and others giving him and Chandler a proper gay’s man education in film. Mostly it was all about farts and sex jokes with a few things going boom.

Rising as he sniffed the three roses, Samuel followed the ribbon’s next destination and saw it climb the stairs to their master suite. With a hand on the smooth bannister, he climbed the stairs and saw a large bow awaiting on the top.

Turning to enter the suite, he found Dakota standing in tailored pants, a crisp white shirt, barefoot, amongst hundreds of petals scattered around him on the hardwood floor.

“Dakota, this is… I can’t believe what you did. How long did this take?” Samuel asked as he stepped forward.

Dakota lifted a hand to make Samuel stop. “Did you enjoy the little journey?”

“Yes. It was beautiful.”

Clearing his throat, Dakota stared at Samuel. “Since the first moment we banged the ever living hell outta one another in the hallway, to finding you on the beach, to watching your sleepy expression and determination to follow me at the crack of dawn, and discovering your love of my beloved Charm and quaint little town, I’ve… never been the same man. You changed me for the better, Samuel Ashford. You not only restored my beloved Charm, but my battered heart.”

Samuel listened to Dakota. Tears welled in his eyes.

Dakota dropped to one knee amongst the petals and held out his cupped hands. A blue velvet box nestled between them.

“Samuel Ashford, I love you from the deepest part of my heart and soul. Will you grant me the honor of becoming my husband?” Dakota opened the box to reveal a pair of platinum bands with delicate rainbow chips of jewels in the center.

“Dakota… Oh… Dakota…” Samuel couldn’t get the words on his lips.

“Is that a yes?” Dakota asked, his voice shaky.

“Yes. Hell, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes!” Samuel threw himself against Dakota’s frame. He let the roses drop as he wrapped his arms around Dakota’s shoulders and covered his face with kisses. Planting his mouth on Dakota’s lips, he felt them rock back until Dakota got control and kissed him back.

Twisting them around, Dakota let Samuel lie back on the rose petals. He slid one band on Samuel’s finger and let Samuel place the matching band on his hand. He lifted Samuel’s hand and kissed the band and Samuel’s knuckles.

“I love you. Happy belated Valentine’s Day, my love,” Dakota whispered as he swooped in for another kiss.

Samuel knew this was by far his favorite Valentine’s Day. Even if it occurred five days later.

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