If someone went to the trouble of sending him two dozen red roses, Jared Padalecki wanted to know why.
And actually, there was no special reason for this lavish bouquet that had been delivered to his shop on a Friday evening.
Jared's little shop couldn't be more unusual. His little barber and nail salon was located alongside five other shops in Tucson's premier country and western hangout block. The highlight of the Rowdy Ranch Entertainment Centre was a huge dance floor with two bars, countless bar tables, and a now-stationary food truck that stood on one side and provided guests with finger food.
Many doubted whether the small shop, which didn't seem to fit into the noisy environment at all, would be successful. But Jared and Kim, his employee, proved them all wrong.
It was not unusual that an occasional guest attempted to approach Jared, as his unbitten neck betrayed his obviously single omega status. Still, Jared was more than surprised when he entered his shop and was greeted by the intense scent of roses.
"You must have made a lasting impression," Kim remarked as her boss entered. She was wearing a pair of tight dark blue jeans and a black top that revealed her colourful tattooed arms. She was ten years older than Jared, but she could handle scissors like no one else. After her partner died, the widowed Omega was looking for a new challenge and a secure job for herself. Jared was initially unsure whether the shop would hold up to begin with, but he offered Kim the job anyway.
The two of them grew together like peas and carrots, even if Kim sometimes mothered thirty-year-old Jared a little. The male Omegahad long since ceased to regard her as an employee, but rather as a partner in the business.
While Kim juggled a stack of towels with one hand, she pulled out a slim envelope from the flowers. "And you're always telling me there's no Alpha in your life right now."
Jared took the envelope from her and opened it. "There isn't one either. I really don't know..." Jared stared at the card that had been inside the envelope.
Thank you for believing in me. Kurt Fuller.
"So?" Kim stepped up next to Jared and read the card as well. "Oh my goodness, Jared. Kurt Fuller! Did you talk to him in person after the trial?"
"No, of course not." Jared tried to explain the man's strange gesture logically. "I was the foreman of the jury. Maybe he thinks I'm somehow responsible for his acquittal."
"Maybe, but how did he find out where you worked in the first place?"
Jared thought back to the trial that had taken place over the last two days. "He was sitting in the courtroom when the jury was selected. We had to say our names and our jobs out loud." He noticed Kim's worried look. "It wouldn’t have been too hard to find me. ."
Kim shuddered. "I don't have a good feeling about this, Jared. After all, the man was charged with rape of an Omega."
"And he was found innocent." Jared looked at Kim firmly. "He had a fair trial. Now he should be treated like anyone else."
"Still, he had to look for you." Kim pointed out and looked at the flowers. "What's a few more handfuls of dollars after the money his father paid for that shark of a lawyer. It looks like Angel Motors is treating the whole thing like the closing of a business deal and is now handing out gifts."
"You are biased," Jared rebuked her. Kim seemed to be supposing that Kurt’s lawyerhad deceived the jury and the court. But that was not the case. The prosecution had simply not had enough evidence to convict Kurt Fuller as the rapist.
Jared hung up his jacket. He wore a blue and black checked shirt and Washed out jeans whose countless holes reveal quite a bit of skin. On the other hand, his light brown boots almost disappeared under the flap of the pants.
His hair was almost shoulder length and tied in a loose knot so as not to disturb him at work. Nevertheless, he had to keep fixing an unruly strand behind his ear.
"The article in the press was also biased, and you're prejudiced because he's rich."
"You're damn right I am. If the tabloids are to be believed, the guy is a party animal who hasn't done a single day's real work in the forty years he's been in the world. And he has a condescending opinion of Omegas. For me, that's quite enough to dislike him." Angrily she puts her fists on her hips.
It wasn't that Jared couldn't relate to her discomfort, but it had been his job to approach this neutrally, so he replied calmly. "But that alone doesn't make him a criminal."
Kim shook her head. "That's so typical of you. You just want to see the good in everyone. Some day you’ll end up putting yourself in danger."
"Don't worry." Jared knew Kim wasn't intentionally teasing him. She just always said freely what she thought, which was a trait he usually liked a lot about her. "I have some work to catch up on," he said, changing the subject. He wanted to put the last few days and the trial behind him for good. The mental burden of deciding the fate of the defendant, but also of the plaintiff, took more out of him than he initially wanted to admit .
Kim stroked a petal, bent over and drew in the scent of roses. "Do you want to keep them?"
"No, I don’t." Jared tore the card into four neat pieces. "Sending me flowers just because I did my civic duty is not in very good taste. But he's probably so happy about his acquittal that he didn't even think about the impression his gesture would make. It makes it look as if he wanted to pay me."
"Then give me the flowers. I find a great place for them. Right in the trash bin!"
"Fine, but only if you take them home right after work."
Jared went to one of the wall cupboards and took out a vase. He filled it with water and put the roses in it.
"Please tell me you like the colour," came a voice from behind Jared.
Shocked, he looked around and gazed into the blue eyes of Kurt Fuller.
Jensen Ackles opened the heavy oak door of the Rowdy Ranch and was greeted directly by a Dolly Parton song blaring from the large speakers.
He pushed back his hat and looked around. Immediately he spotted Fuller talking to a tall, lean man wearing a blue flannel shirt and washed-out jeans. Jensen narrowed his eyes. The clothes made the man look somewhat different, but Jensen could swear this was the young man his sister had told him was the foreman of the jury. The loose clothing didn’t disguise a slender figure. In his hand, the young man was holding a vase of roses.
Fuller was also wearing cowboy clothes - a boldly patterned shirt, ridiculously tight black jeans, and a black hat. How convenient for Fuller that an Omega had presided over the jury, Jensen thought, and that he works at this Entertainment center. True, the young man was impressively tall, broad shoulders and hands that would hardly have suggested an Omega. But Jensen recognized the slim waist and a slight dip in his lower back that accented a well-shaped ass, Also the fascinating eyes, almost cat-like, which betrayed his status and, of course, the fact that his sister had told him about the man.
In the casual way Jensen had perfected over the years, he strolled in their direction. He wanted to find out without causing a stir, not yet, if his gut feeling was right and if the flowers were from Fuller.
Jensen hadn't been to the Rowdy Ranch in years. During his childhood, this building had been a large discount department store. Now it provided space for two bars, about fifteen pool tables, and a not inconsiderable number of pinball machines and video games and a big dance floor. The new management had replaced the live band with a DJ, and there was a food truck in the corner.
The stores in the back corner were also a recent addition. The leather boutique selling boots and cowboy hats, and the faux - old fashioned photo store, where you could dress up and have your picture taken as a cowboy, gambler, or saloon girl still made sense to Jensen. But what was a barbershop, where Fuller was currently standing , doing in this environment? It seemed a strange place to have one's haircut, next to all the people dancing and partying.
There wasn't much activity at this time of day, but in a few hours people would be crowding in, since the Rowdy Ranch had become one of the most popular nightclubs in town.
Three pool tables, unoccupied at the moment, were located right in front of the stores. Jensen went to the one closest to the barbershop and took a cue. He took his time circling the corner?as he listened intently to what Fuller was saying to the Omega.
"I watched you during the trial," Fuller said to Jared. "I knew right away that you didn't believe all the stuff the prosecutor was bringing against me."
"I was just trying to be fair," the young man replied. His voice was pleasant and slid over Jensen's skin like a gentle touch. He shivered for a moment. In a different situation, Jensen would surely have wanted to find out more about what the Omega was doing to him. But not tonight.
"Oh, you were the fairest of them all, Jared," Fuller said. "That's why I sent you the flowers."
Jensen gritted his teeth. So the rotten roses actually came from that son of a bitch! Flowers for the jury foreman, and Fuller was even addressing the Omega by his first name in a familiar manner. The cue trembled in Jensen’s hand. Jensen placed it on the green felt and held on to the edge of the table. Keep your temper! he admonished himself. A moment later, Jensen walked to the bar, away from this fine couple. He had already heard enough.
He would wait until Fuller left. Then he would get his hair cut at this ridiculous salon to find out about this man named Jared. Maybe Fuller had bribed all the jurors. If that was the case, Jensen would find out. And one day he would see this bastard convicted. The jury had acquitted him, but he, Jensen, knew that Kurt Fuller had raped Jensen's sister.