“You’re here again?”
Sonny Carisi looked up from his sketchpad from where he sat, one long leg crossed over the other, on the window bench of the flower shop, turning his head in the direction of the voice that spoke to him. Rafael Barba had noticed how often the younger man frequented his shop with an extra pencil behind his ear and his sketchbook in hand, admiring the colourful bouquets of flowers and rare plants. He concentrated hard on his drawings, his tongue poking out between his teeth. He was rather adorable, attractive even. He enjoyed watching him indulge in his passion right here in his shop. Rafael leaned on the counter, coffee cup in hand as Sonny smiled in his direction.
“Morning, Rafael,” he said. “Just admiring the new additions to the shop …” He held up his sketchpad and let Rafael see his drawings. Sonny was an amazing artist, he and his friend’s, Amanda and Nick, had just opened the tattoo shop just across the street from Rafael’s shop. They were a talented trio and Rafael spoke to them often, Sonny more often than the other two. He admired the drawings Sonny showed him, smiling at the young man.
“You’re a talented guy, Sonny,” he said. “Busy today?”
“Got a full schedule today. Amanda’s gonna add a new tattoo to my arm later today too. About time I got a new one,” he said. Rafael’s eyes fell to Sonny’s arms, which were covered with colourful artwork, his shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows to show it all off. He had a tattoo that peeked out over the top of his shirt collar too, making Rafael wonder how much of the rest of his body was covered in ink.
“You’re going to run out of space, then what will you do?” he asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
“I’ve plenty of room left, you just can’t see,” he said, winking at the other man. Rafael blushed at his words, his mind wandering. “If you ever want inked, you come and see me.” The other man smiled into his coffee cup.
“I may take you up on that,” Rafael said and Sonny’s mouth fell open, not expecting him to say that.
“Yeah? Well, that’s settled. You come book in with me,” he said with another quick wink. Rafael smiled back and he continued to watch Sonny draw the flowers he saw in front of him until the door opened and Amanda poked her head in.
“Morning, Barba …” she called before she turned to Sonny. “Your 10am is here early, Sonny. Ready to get started?” Sonny closed over his sketchpad and put the pencil back behind his other ear before he stood, straightening his waistcoat.
“Be over in a few minutes,” he said and Amanda nodded, disappearing out the door again. Sonny moved up to the counter, leaning down on his elbows, eyes meeting Rafael’s. “So … are we going to ignore the elephant in the room here?”
“I’m not sure I follow …” Rafael said, leaning down on his own elbows, face to face with Sonny, his eyes tracing over the colourful artwork on Sonny’s skin.
“I like you, Rafael. You’re a good man. Not everyone would let me sit and sketch in their shop and you’ve let me do it with no complaint since day one. You’re also smokin’ hot and, to tell the truth, I come over to sketch but I like being in your company. You’re like the added bonus to your already amazing shop,” he said and Rafael felt his cheeks burn hot, standing up straight and clearing his throat, but Sonny carried on speaking before he could get a chance. “Do you want to get a drink sometime, or dinner?”
“Sonny, you’re great, really. But I’m at least ten years older than you …”
“Pfft, who doesn’t like an older man?” Sonny teased, smirking which made Rafael smile too, looking down at the counter to hide his blushing. “Come on, Raf. Maybe one day you can see all my tattoos, huh?” He shuffled his elbows forward on the counter, closer to Rafael, before he reached with one hand for Rafael’s, his own heavily inked skin against the older man’s blank canvas a vast contrast. Rafael looked down at their hands, the blood red rose tattooed on the back of Sonny’s hand before joining up to another piece on his forearm and further up, disappearing under his shirtsleeve. He touched the back of Sonny’s hand with his fingers, tracing the lines of the designs that suited the man beautifully. How he’d love to trace the rest of his body with his fingers too. He sighed gently before he met Sonny’s eyes once more. He was ready to speak when Sonny suddenly piped up again. “Listen, I gotta go start my 10am. Come by the shop later. Give you time to think about my offer. I get off at six.” Rafael swallowed hard but nodded, removing his hand from Sonny’s and letting the other man gather up his sketchpad and go for the door.
“See you later, Raf.” Then he was gone. Rafael let out the breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. He took another drink of his coffee, which was now cold, before the phone ringing startled him. He wasn’t going to be able to focus for the rest of the day.
He closed the shop at five like he normally did, staying back to do some inventory and prep a few orders for the next day but before he knew it, six rolled around and he left the shop, jacket on and messenger bag flung over his shoulder as he locked the door behind him and moved across the street to the tattoo parlour, the light up sign in the window still declaring ‘we’re open’. He slipped in the door, rock music playing over the speakers in the waiting area. Nick was sitting behind the reception desk, his own sketchpad open on the desk in front of him, looking up at the sound of the door opening. He smiled at Rafael, nodding his head at him.
“Hey, Barba. Sonny’s just about done. He said you’d be in,” Nick said. Rafael nodded. “Take a seat.” Rafael put his bag down on the chair and he took a seat, picking up one of the portfolios on the table, labeled ‘Sonny Carisi.’ He opened it and flicked through the designs, which truly showed just how talented Sonny was. There was a few pictures of him when he was in the middle of a session with a client, smiling brightly and laughing, obviously putting the client at ease. He truly was a gentleman. Voices suddenly made him look up and the beaded curtain over the door moved and Sonny stepped out, minus his waistcoat and shirt, jeans slung low on his hips so the waistband of his boxers were showing. Sonny stopped at the sight of Rafael with his portfolio on his knee, smiling brightly at him.
“Hey,” he said, turning his body completely towards Rafael. It gave the older man a chance to see the tattoos on his chest. He had a wrapped up bicep and up to his shoulder, indicating a new tattoo. He could see the colours through the wrap, excited to see it once it was healed. But the rest of his body was lean and toned and he was sure he could feel himself drooling. He closed over the book and put it back on the table, standing from the chair. Nick handed Sonny his shirt and Rafael found that he was disappointed that he was covering up.
“I, um … I wondered if your offer of dinner was still on the table?” he asked. Sonny grinned as he buttoned up his shirt, tucking himself in before he pulled on his waistcoat.
“Sure is. What do you fancy?” he asked and Rafael bit his lip to stop himself saying you .
“There’s that new Italian place down the street,” he said.
“Sounds perfect,” Sonny said, stepping close to Rafael. He lifted his hand to Rafael’s cheek and he leaned down to press a chaste kiss to his lips. The older man allowed the kiss before he realised that Nick and Amanda were standing there, huge grins on their faces. Sonny looked over his shoulder at them, rolling his eyes. “Come on …” he took Rafael’s hand. ”Let’s go.”
“Lead the way.”