Authors: LR Potter
By LR Potter
Copyright 2013 LR Potter
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and
incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously
and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or
dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
may not be re-sold or given away to other
people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please
purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the
hard work of this author.
Copyediting and Cover Art By:
Photos used with permission by
people discover I’m a writer, the first question always asked is: Where do I
get the inspiration for my books? For me, it’s never one thing but usually a
series of small, non-related things. For this story, for example, I was
visiting my sister, who is a school teacher/ librarian, and is always a
fountain of random information. Through our discussions over a period of
several days, she brought up the word ‘squalid’, which I had to immediately
look up in the dictionary. During another conversation, she brought up how
prevalent human trafficking was in the United States, another thing I wasn’t
aware of. I dedicate this book to my sister, Pam, and the many others who,
usually unbeknownst to them, feed me tremendous inspiration. For all of you who
know a writer, be forewarned – be careful what you say and do – you never know
when it’ll turn up in a book!
Dear Reader, Flawed Beauty was originally entitled “Squalid”, and after reading
the story you will understand why. However, after much consideration, my editor
and I decided to rename it to something people could better identify with. We
hope you enjoy Flawed Beauty!
by filthiness and degradation from neglect or poverty; morally debased.
~Webster’s Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary
dandelion, dandelion wine; this little girl is mine, all mine,” the big, burly man
sang as he spun round and round with the little girl on his shoulders. He made
sure to hold her hands tight within his own.
“Sing it again, daddy,” the little
girl with big, bouncy blonde curls squealed.
Heaving her off his shoulders to hug
her tight to his chest, he said, “Aren’t you tired of that song?”
The little girl giggled in delight
and threw her arms around his neck.
“And why not?”
He grinned as he tweaked her nose.
“Because it’s about me,” she
“And why do you think it’s about
you, little girl?”
“And how do you know that?” he asked
with a grin.
“Because you told me and you
wouldn’t lie,” she said in such a serious tone, the man couldn’t help but
“I love you, Dandelion. Are you
going to stay with daddy forever and ever?”
“Yes! Forever and ever and ever,”
she squealed as she threw her small arms around his neck once more and planted
a sloppy, wet kiss on his smooth cheek.
Two hundred, twenty-seven dollars,
and thirty-three cents.
Two hundred, twenty-seven dollars, and thirty-three cents.
The cost of the
computer software package needed for her Graphic Arts college class rolled
around Tate Morgan’s mind. While she’d worked hard to receive a scholarship to
the University of Florida, it didn’t include books, living expenses, or
apparently costly computer software packages. The cost might as well have been
two million dollars. Even if she saved every penny she earned at Zeal’s as a
waitress, or from G-Force, one of Gainesville’s many 24/7 gyms where she taught
self-defense, she’d still never be able to afford the software program. It
wasn’t like she didn’t have other living expenses. Her boss at Zeal’s, Ezekiel
by all who knew him), had
graciously rented her the apartment above Zeal’s at a reasonable rate, but
still, it was an expense which had to be paid. She’d already cut back on her
weekly food allowance and lived mostly off inexpensive instant ramen noodles
for most meals. Just for an instant, she considered calling Toby, but quickly
dismissed it. She and Markus could barely make ends meet as it was.
Tate was brought back to the present
as the pert, slick-haired blonde, Tiffany Baker, who sat next to her in their
Photography Lighting class, continued on with whatever trivial matter consumed
her at the moment. Normally, with Tiffany, all she had to was nod occasionally
and offer a few uh-
“… And so, I was like, I don’t know
why I can’t have the three-hundred-twenty-five dollars for the boots. I mean,
everyone has them. It’s not like we live in the dark ages, right? Don’t they
want me to be happy? Don’t I deserve them? I mean, I maintain a solid
three-point-two grade point average. I think that warrants a little
consideration, don’t you?”
To Tate’s way of thinking, Tiffany
was what happened when a hummingbird was crossed with a Valley Girl.
Three hundred, twenty-five dollars for boots?
Tate gave a small shake of her head, but didn’t
comment. Tuning Tiffany out, Tate’s mind once more pondered her plight. If she
didn’t buy the software package, she couldn’t take the class. If she couldn’t
take the class, she wouldn’t be able to graduate at the end of the semester.
Raising a hand to rub the pressure building at her temples, Tate exhaled
So lost in her reverie, it took
Tiffany poking her in the arm for her to realize the class was over.
“Where were you, Tate? Come on. If
we hurry, we can get a snack before next class. What do you say?”
Tate gathered her books and put them
into her off-brand book bag.
Knowing she’d have to conserve every
penny now, she answered as they walked out of the room, “Uh, I’m not really
hungry, you go on and I’ll meet you in class. Okay?”
They’d just cleared the door when
Cary Olsen, a guy in the same class they’d just exited, placed a restraining
hand on Tate’s arm.
“Hey, Tate, can I talk to you for
just a second?”
She tensed a little at the contact
but didn’t flinch or jerk away from the touch.
“Sure, what’s up?”
Cary glanced uncertainly at Tiffany.
Taking the hint, Tiffany said, “I’ll
meet you in the next class.”
Tiffany skipped off after giving
Tate a small, knowing smile.
Cary rocked back and forth on the
balls of his feet nervously. “Uh, I was wondering if maybe you’d like to go the
movies or something
As she had many, many times in the
past, she responded with her pat answer, “I’m sorry, I have to work. But thanks
Before Cary had a chance to speak
again, Tate turned and made her way to her next class.
She’d barely sat down before Tiffany
jumped her. “Well, what’d he want?
As if I have to ask.”
Tiffany stared at her for moment.
“You turned him down, didn’t you? Why? He’s the perfect guy for you. He’s
good-looking, he works out like you do, and he makes good grades. You could do
Tate just shrugged her shoulders.
Tiffany came from a nice, normal family. She’d never understand why Tate felt
the need to keep people – men specifically – at arm’s length. They couldn’t be
trusted… not one of them.
Tate tugged at the hem of the purple
T-shirt with the very sparkly
embossed across the front. She
flipped her curly blonde hair away from her face as she made her way back to
the bar. Zeal’s, a thriving nightclub in downtown Gainesville, catered to the
younger college crowd. With its deep purple walls and pulsating lights, it
spoke of excitement and fun. Open six nights a week, a crowd could be found on
any of those nights, but the weekends were always twice as busy. Tonight, the
nightclub was unceremoniously busy; even for a Friday night. Tate had lost
count of the numerous trips she’d made back and forth to the bar.
She was thankful Thor was the
bartender on duty, or things would have really gotten backed up. Thor –
Thornton Graham – one of several bartenders employed by the nightclub, was a
big wall of a man who kept his head shaved and shiny. He had the greenest eyes
Tate had ever seen. He was a retired Marine who’d done as many had done before
him and retired to the land of liquid sunshine – Florida. He’d found retirement
lacking, however, and after taking a class on bartending at the local
vocational school, had come to work at Zeal’s.
Thor was also the reason she’d been
encouraged to come to Florida for college from her small town in Illinois. Thor
and her foster father, Markus, had been in the service together. Markus and
Toby, her foster parents, had felt confident Thor could keep a keen eye and a
strong hand on her. Thor had been instrumental in getting her the job at both
Zeal’s and G-Force.
Slinging her round tray onto the
bar’s shiny, polished surface, she waited patiently until Thor finished
preparing his signature sangria.
With a quick wink and a smile, he
said, while chewing aggressively on the gum in his mouth, “
can I get for you,
Blowing her unruly hair out of her
tawny eyes once again, she responded, “Three drafts, two house reds, and a Jack
straight up with a water back.”
With swift and economical movements,
Thor compiled the order and set the drinks on the tray. Reaching into her black
apron, she pulled out her bank and quickly added the cost of the drinks up in
her head before giving him the required amount of money.
“I’ll be back,” Tate murmured,
irritated to see her hair had once again fallen back into face. She was going
to have to stop and re-fashion her hair back into its elastic band. Maneuvering
through the maze of tables, Tate made her way back to her awaiting customers
and began placing the drinks in front of the requesting patrons. As she set
down the last beer, she felt the slide of a hand up her leg and land on her
butt. Gently, but firmly, she removed it, and placed it on the table with a
strained smile. While she was used to this type of behavior, it was still
frustrating. She’d dealt with his kind her whole life.
“Oh, baby. The things I could do to
you,” the young, blonde guy said salaciously.
She rolled her eyes and stepped away
from the table. Over her shoulder she replied, “Some things are better left a
Hoots of laughter followed as she
hurried off to the next table. She cringed at the thought of Blondie touching
her. As she hustled around the room, she became aware of the band setting up on
the dais in front of the dance floor.
, a local band made
up of a group of medical professionals – usually interns, hence their name –
from the nearby hospital, had been playing every Friday and Saturday night for
the past two months. The band was always in a constant state of flux, as its
members rotated in and out of the band according to their erratic hospital
On her way past, Tate stopped and
checked in with the only consistent member of the group, Dave Thompson, a local
dentist. Looking at Dave tonight, no one would ever guess his true profession.
He was dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt with
proclaimed across his chest. His dark hair was spiked up and he wore wide
leather bands around each wrist. While he was dressed like a rocker from a
hardcore rock band, the music they actually played was specifically to inspire
people to get onto the dance floor.
Can I get you guys anything from
the bar?” she asked.
Placing a hand over his heart, he
said with exaggeration, “Tate, you are an angel. Can we get some waters before
the first set?”
I’ll go now while I have a lull.”
Many male heads turned in her
direction as Tate made her way back to the bar. Her five-foot-four-inch frame
and rounded figure was the stuff men dreamed about. Her soft long, curly blonde
hair made her tawny eyes seem even sultrier. The fact she seemed shy and
awkward just added to her charm and desirability.
“Hey, Thor, can I get a dozen
bottled waters for the band?”
“You bet, doll.”
In less than a minute, he had a
dozen bottled waters on her tray. Moving quickly through the crowd en route to
the band, she’d gotten almost to her destination when the young, blonde guy
with the roaming hand grabbed her elbow, stopping her momentum. The stop jarred
her and sent her tray with the water bottles flying in every direction, and her
crashing to the floor. She watched as one of the bottles hit a dark-haired guy
in the back of the head.
Blondie reached down to help her up,
but she swatted his hands away.
“Please go back to your seat, sir,”
she said, with as much patience as she could muster.
“But I want to help you,” he
“I think you’ve helped me enough,
don’t you?” she all but snarled at him. Patience
From the corner of her eye, she saw
Thor clear the counter and make his way to her.
“Is there a problem here?” Thor
Intimidated by Thor’s height and
bulk, Blondie slowly backed away.
“Nope, no problem.”
Thor leaned down and lifted Tate off
the floor as if she were as light as a feather.
“It’s what I do,” he said with a
When he bent to retrieve the waters,
she pushed him toward the bar. “I got this.”
Tate bent and began to pick up the
bottles, trying to shake off her frustration at Blondie. Lost in her own
internal battle, it took her a moment to realize someone else was helping pick
up the waters – the dark-haired guy who’d been bashed by one of them.
“Sir, you don’t have to do that,”
she said to the guy’s back.
As the guy turned in her direction,
Tate raised her eyes up to his and paused, forgetting whatever she was about to
say next. A strange tightening grew in her chest. Quickly, she looked away,
embarrassed to have been caught staring. But no matter how quick she was to
divert her gaze, his image seemed to be scorched into her brain. There was no
other word to describe him but… breathtaking.
His dark hair was cut professionally
short with bangs, which swept to the side. The silky texture of his hair urged
her to want to run her fingers through it. His piercing blue eyes seemed almost
luminescent. He had a day or two worth of stubble on his face, which only
emphasized his eyes even more. He was easily six-foot-four and towered over her
when he stood. His worn jeans were casual, not too tight and not too loose; and
was very nondescript. His sleeves
were pushed back, revealing his tanned, muscular forearms, a look Tate found
particularly sexy. He was dressed average – but he was anything
average. Tate felt a peculiar sizzle from him, even at her distance. She felt
it low in her belly like the hum of electricity which fills the air seconds
before lightning strikes.
Unable to resist, she lifted her
eyes back up to his face. Her heart stopped when he flashed a knowing,
white-toothed smile, which caused dimples to appear. It dawned on her, he was
smirking at her. He knew the effect he had on women. She blushed when she
realized how she must look to him, staring up at him like a lovesick puppy with
her mouth open.
So lost in him, she forgot her own
previous question. “What?” she was forced ask.
He flashed another grin. “I
no problem. Glad to help out,” he told her as he
leaned down and set the bottles he’d gathered on the tray she’d placed on the
edge of the stage.
Dave Thompson made his way down to
, I see you wasted no time hitting
on the most beautiful gal in the bar,” he said with a grin.
“Guilty as charged, I’m afraid,”