Iris boys box set, p.1

Iris Boys Box Set, page 1

 

Iris Boys Box Set
 



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Iris Boys Box Set


  The Iris Boys Series

  Lucy Smoke

  Contents

  Now or Never

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Epilogue

  Power & Choice

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Epilogue

  Leap of Faith

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Epilogue

  Cross my Heart

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Epilogue

  Forever & Always: An Iris Boys After Story

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Epilogue

  The End

  About the Author

  Also by Lucy Smoke

  Copyright © 2019 Lucy Smoke LLC

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission in writing from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of author’s rights.

  Any trademarks, service marks, product names or names featured are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no endorsement, implied or otherwise, if any such terms are used.

  The Iris Boys Series is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons, living or dead, places, events, or locales is purely coincidental. The author holds all rights to this work and it is illegal to reproduce this novel without written expressed consent from the author herself.

  Cover Design by Everyly Yours Designs

  Now or Never

  Prologue

  The sand sliding between my thighs woke me; the grimy, grainy feel of each sharp, cold quartz particle as they stuck to my wet skin, my clothes, and every crevice. I groaned under a pounding drum that beat against the inside of my skull. I pressed my palm to my forehead as if that could ease the pain.

  The air was chilled despite the place and the season, but the ocean at night was always like that. A few yards away, my best friend snored, curled up in her sleeping bag. Why we both thought a night on the beach would be the best graduation celebration was beyond me. It was a little early since neither of us had actually graduated or finished exams, but I had learned to take the good moments when I could get them. The sand between my toes and fingers cemented the choice we had made.

  I pushed dried strands of brown hair out of my face and peeked around, noting that everything was less blurry without a few bottles of alcohol running through my system. The ocean was beautiful; a sight I rarely came to see even though I lived less than an hour away. The waves crashing against the sandy hills of shells and minuscule rocks reminded me of being rocked back and forth as a young child after having nightmares. Lately, my mom rarely even acknowledged me, unless something was wrong – and something was always wrong.

  The brief feeling of peace was quickly and easily washed away. I shouldn't have taken the night off, I thought. We needed the money. Guilt crept in even as my headache faded. I sat up and looked over at the empty beer bottles scattered around. I had never been much of a drinker. I didn't even like beer, but after a few, I hadn't cared. The taste had gone away after the fourth or fifth bottle. At least, for me it had. It took Erika several more and a few loud complaints before she had raised the neck of her bottle up without flinching.

  With no real sleeping bag, I had spread a sheet out on the ground with a somewhat scratchy blanket that Erika had loaned me to sleep on. It was covered in sand, so I grabbed the blankets and moved several feet away to shake them out before rolling them up together and striding back towards Erika’s sleeping form.

  Staring at the ocean, so dark that it matched the sky and seemed to go on forever, I thought of all the ways things could have been different for me. Life could have been worse. It could have been better. I would have liked for it to have been better, but what was the use bemoaning something that never even was.

  I scanned the old watch my brother had passed down to me. It told me that the sun would be up in another two hours or so. Water flicked over my skin as I began to gather my belongings and put them in my satchel. I nudged Erika awake and she moaned, rolling over and mumbling something about five more minutes. I ignored her and continued to nudge until she was well and truly awake.

  "You have the internal alarm clock of an old lady," she accused, stretching. I shuddered as the bones in her joints cracked with a loud audacity that always seemed to surprise me.

  "We're gonna be late for school," I said.

  I didn't really care if we were late for school or not. With only a few weeks left until graduation, the last thing I cared about was tardiness. I did, however, need to get back to change and check on my mom. Erika grumbled, but thankfully began to pack her things before we headed back to the hotel parking lot that we had snuck into. Luckily, no parking violation waited on the windshield of her parents' rusted pick-up truck. We climbed into the cab, her behind the wheel and me in the passenger side, and settled in for the drive back.

  Nearly forty-five minutes later she pulled into Pendergrass Circle, stopping in front of the yellow-paneled, brown-roofed duplex that I lived in with my mom. I waved Erika off as I shut the front door and headed straight to my room. It seemed that almost as soon as I sat down on my sagging mattress, the house phone began to ring. I jumped up and ran for the hall to gr
ab it before the noise woke Mom up.

  "Hello?"

  "Why do you sound out of breath?" I sighed at the sound of Michael's voice.

  "Well, it's 7 am here, so I didn't want the phone to wake Mom up. Where are you?"

  My brother, Michael, had been given a full ride to a private college in upstate New York right out of high school. Four years and a bachelor's degree in business management later, he was indoctrinated as a recruiter for a company in the Big Apple itself. A part of me envied him the detachment he felt from our mom. There had been nothing but anger and bitterness between them when he had packed what little he had here, and left. It was nice to have my own room, but I still missed him.

  "I'm in Seattle right now, but I should be heading back to New York in another few hours. I'm waiting for a flight. How is she? Any better?"

  Michael only called every once in a while, never asking to speak to her, and I didn't blame him. She had accused him of stealing from her and thrown him out of the house several times before he turned eighteen. It was only later that we learned she had severe bipolar disorder and now, with the tumor in her brain, her moods were worse. Even with the medication doctors gave her to help counteract them, the cancer only ate up more of the kind loving mom she had been when we were young.

  "Nothing's changed," I said. "Everything's the same as always."

  "Okay." An extended silence hung between us.

  "Is there anything else?" I asked.

  "You graduate in a few weeks, don't you?"

  "Yeah." Like I could forget that school would be well and truly over and I could finally enter the working world full time. "Do you...I mean, are you...coming?"

  "I don't know if I'll be able to make it. I'll be sure to send a gift or something."

  "No," I said. "You don't have to do that."

  "I gotta go, Harlow. I'm about to board."

  "Okay, be safe."

  "Bye."

  I set the phone back in the cradle and walked towards my room, pausing to glance in on my mom. Her face was tilted towards the only window in her bedroom, the covers drawn to her chest as she breathed slowly. She looked so different from me, light blonde and gray strands spilling over her pillow. If she turned and opened her eyes, I would see pale, blue eyes that weren't anything like my brown ones. They were pretty, but painful to look at sometimes when she screamed and cried at me. Sometimes, I wish I could trade my brown eyes for her blue ones because maybe then, when I looked in the mirror I would be reminded of a younger version of my mom instead of a replica of a dad I hadn't known for very long.

  I closed the door and crept back to my room, quickly dressing for school and heading out to catch the bus.

  Chapter 1

  "Hey darl'n, let me get some of that sweet ass over here!" The rolling, deep, southern twang grated through my ears like the shards of glass I was piling into the dustpan near the front door. Even Joanna, the only other waitress on shift, rolled her eyes from across the room and sent me a sympathetic glance. I groaned inwardly as I looked over my shoulder. The spokesman, along with an identically dressed sidekick, slid into a booth in my section. I realized with disgust that it was, in fact, my ass they were drooling over as I bent down to shuffle and pick up the clinking pieces of glass I had dropped.

  After trashing the shattered bits, I returned from the kitchen just as the front door chimed and another man ducked in. His head swung low automatically in deference to his height. I looked him over, my eyes trailing up and up, and as he paused, the two redneck truckers began hollering for me again.

  "Give me one moment and I'll be right with you," I assured the giant. He nodded and simply took a seat at the counter.

  I flicked him an apologetic glance once more before hurrying through the nearly empty dining room towards the two truckers. They grew progressively louder until I reached them and then their catcalls and whistles abruptly came to an end. I held back the urge to pull the hem of my starched uniform lower and my neckline higher.

  "What can I get you, gentlemen?" The last word choked out of me as I gazed down at the greasy men with their balding heads hidden by fish-logo ball caps. Gentlemen, they certainly were not.

  "Well, hey there, Miss," The man on the right paused and leaned forward, squinting his eyes to read my name tag, "Harlow." He grinned like he'd found the secret to the universe in my name, and my panties would drop for him at any moment.

  Fat. Chance.

  My eyes rolled as I imagined how good it would feel to pour an entire pot of freshly-brewed, hot coffee on them. The waste of perfectly good coffee would be worth the looks on their faces. Their attention was unnerving. I could have been wearing a parka and thick jeans and I would have still felt exposed around these guys.

  "Two coffees, and we'll have the special if that special includes you."

  Did that line really work on girls? It took concentration to keep my disgust from showing. I really hoped they were good tippers, but by the look of them – dirty, ripped jeans and wife beaters that may have once, long ago, been white – I didn't have high hopes.

  "It doesn't," I said with a straight face, "but two coffees, coming right up."

  They chuckled as I walked away and I prayed that the skirt of my uniform hadn't ridden up.

  The giant had taken up a seat at the end of the counter and Joanna was at the back of her section, on the border of the convenience store entrance that shared our building. She giggled shamelessly, flirting with her newest boyfriend: Mark or Jim or Bobby, I couldn't remember. He had been in the restaurant every night this week.

  I sighed and decided that the two guys in my section weren't in any hurry and could wait a bit longer. I drifted to the tall stranger, pulling out my notepad to take his order.

  "Are you ready to order?"

  Sharp blue eyes centered on my face and I froze. He looked down at me, as someone with his height couldn't help but do. He must have been six and a half feet tall. As he stared, though, it didn't feel like he was ogling me the way most guys who came to Alex's Diner did. No, he appeared to be analyzing me, and by the time he turned back to his menu, I was sure he knew everything about me; how many times I forgot someone's take-out order, how uncomfortable I was with the guys at my back watching my every move, and how absolutely, bone-deep exhausted I was.

  "Yeah, I'd like a glass of sweet tea and the number two special." He glanced back at me as he closed his menu and returned it to its holder behind one of the little condiment baskets that lined the counter. "And if you could grab a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie too, that would be great." He smiled, a line of straight teeth beaming back at me.

  "Okay, sure. No problem."

  I shoved my pen and pad back into my apron without writing anything down and rushed to the back. I filled three mugs, imprinted with the Alex’s Diner logo, with hot, black coffee and loaded two little bowls with creamers. I paused when I reached the counter again, placing the tray of drinks down to fill a glass with sweet iced-tea. I'd argued with Joanna not to make it an hour before, but was thankful now that she hadn’t listened.

  I rushed back to the giant. Even sitting down, he towered over me. I guessed that he had sat at the bar because it was the only place in the diner where he wouldn't have had to cram his legs under the table. As it was, his large boots reached the floor quite easily, leaving enough room for him to bend his knees. A twinge of jealousy reminded me of how I always looked like a child, swinging my legs back and forth on those stools.

  I placed the tea in front of him and the cup of coffee next to it, with one of the bowls of creamers next to one of the condiment baskets. He flashed me a subdued, distracted smile as he perused his cell phone. The truckers had managed to calm down, I realized as I dropped off their coffees and creamers, engrossed in an animated conversation about a fishing trip one had gone on recently. When neither of them glanced at me, I thankfully hurried away.

  As I dropped off the tray, the door chimed again and I couldn't believe how many customers were arr
iving so late on a Thursday night. Maybe I would actually make enough this week to afford the minimum payment on my mom's latest hospital bill.

  I watched as a slender boy, about my age, strode in, his eyes wandering over the worn tile and 50s style counter. He stood out in the room with his dark hair slicked back, wearing slacks and a white button-up under a gray cardigan. My eyebrows rose when he sat directly next to the giant, picked up the cup of coffee and drank.

 
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