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Authors: Kelly McCrady

Hearts in Bloom

BOOK: Hearts in Bloom
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Hearts in Bloom

by

 

Kelly
McCrady

 

~~
Books by Kelly McCrady~~

 

Full Novels:

The Empire’s Edge

 

“Kelly
McCrady writes with elegance and grace, her style almost poetic in nature as she makes you wish you were part of her character's lives in even the smallest way. I must say she has gained a devout fan and I plan to seek out more from her in the very near future.”
–GMTA Reviews

 

“McCrady has created a beautifully layered world and characters who learn dangerous lessons about what they have been taught to assume, dangerous lessons that may turn out to be deadly should the king decide to sacrifice his pawns to save his crown...”
–Tonya Macalino

Short Stories:

Hearts in Bloom

Martial Hearts

Sweet Cicely

 

~~
Excerpt~~

Ivy read to chapter twenty of her novel and was on her way to twenty-one when the door opened, the bells jangling “customer, customer.” She set the e-reader out of sight.

In strode a sharp-dressed man.
ZZ Top and the hawt car
with the ‘80s chicks flew around her mind. Six feet of triangle man in button-down white cotton with a slick purple tie over tailored charcoal trousers approached the counter. He lifted Ray Bans off a perfect nose to slam her with hazel eyes seeking answers.

Will you hop up on the counter and let me do naughty things under your skirt?
Why yes, sir, I will.
Her heart slammed against her ribs in an uneven staccato and she dropped her gaze from his intensity like an acacia leaf folding before a locust. Drawn by palpable charisma, and trained in customer service, she looked up at him again.

He displayed beautiful teeth and shook her hand. “Hi. I’m CJ Wilson.”

Howdy-doo, mysterious CJ.

 

 

~~Dedication~~

To Patti Ann Colt, who always believes I can write. Thanks for helping me re-find my writing mojo.

 

 

~~
Acknowledgements~~

As far as I know, Oregon State University’s horticulture department does not have any faculty with the personal ethics issues Ivy talks about; I made “John” up. Ambrosia and Skate World, in contrast, are themselves.

Many thanks to Faith V. Smith for an invaluable critique of an early draft and to Patti Ann Colt for making me revise until it was truly good.

 

Hearts in Bloom

 

“I need to send the rattiest-looking bouquet you have.” The woman nipped a card off the rack and began filling it in with sharp strokes. Her manicured fingernails flashed in the morning sunlight coming through the flower shop’s south-facing window. High-end business attire left little doubt she could both afford good flowers and did not—this was a woman who demanded flowers get sent to her.

Ivy McVey glimpsed the language spilling from the poison pen and smiled, her snark-meter appreciating the woman’s gesture. The flowers were for someone who went back on a deal. “You’re free to look in the case but we make sure only the freshest—”

“Come on. Day olds, rejects—just scoop up something from the trash, stick it in a cheap plastic vase, and send it to this address.” She slapped a business card on the counter.

“I’ll see what I can do.” Ivy ducked around the wall to the back. The rejects box brimmed with imperfect or broken flowers, but the best ones would express displeasure as well as looking abused. Quickly she assembled a handful of damaged orange lilies, yellow carnations, purple carnations, wilted cyclamen, a browning hydrangea, and dead leaves. She selected a yellow plastic vase and then arranged the odd bouquet, filling in gaps in texture and height with broken dried straw and a teasel, leftover from last year’s crop of the spiky roadside weed. Satisfied, she carried the bouquet to the counter.

Sculpted coral lips peeled in a cat-smile. “Perfect.”

This CJ person must’ve really pissed her off
. “If you like, I can add a ribbon to—”

“Tell him he’ll have to deal with it. I won’t be back in for another twenty minutes.” Her unfocused eyes clued Ivy in to stop talking. That and the fingers she whipped up to touch the Bluetooth in her ear. She continued the conversation for a minute. “How much?”

Ivy waited, tapping the “no sale” on the register.

“How. Much?” The woman pointed to the ugly bouquet, eyebrows raised.

Oh
. “No charge for the flowers. Four ninety-five delivery.”

The woman slid a $5 bill onto the counter then stuffed the gold-clasped leather wallet back into her embossed python Coach handbag. She whirled then strode for the door, yapping into her phone again, four-inch heels—the kind with the fat toes—clicking over the threshold.

“Style, she haz it,” Ivy quipped, nesting the card within the arrangement. She put the bouquet in the refrigerator, in line for her brother to deliver that afternoon.

No one else came into the shop. Mornings after commute hour were often dull on the Thurston end of Main Street. Ivy indulged in a new book on her e-reader.  At 11:30, the minivan’s buzzing motor told her Jake had returned from morning deliveries. A moment later, he crashed through the back door, boots thumping across the linoleum. The bathroom door closed, fan flipped on. Yep, her brother, right on time.

Ivy wished she could work in the greenhouses but someone needed to mind the shop. The regular girl had gotten married; how dare she honeymoon and leave the shop for a week? Seriously, she wished Beth all the best, but Ivy and Jake had to pick up the slack, making for long hours of nothing to do.

The Coach
bag woman was the perfect example for why Ivy preferred the greenhouse to the counter position. No people. Just row after row of green growing things to water, fertilize, and prune. Plus she wanted to check on her experiment. She had given up grad school and a research position at Oregon State to come back to the family business. John had treated her like a buggy potato, but that didn’t mean she needed to abandon her science altogether.
“People are guessing we’re involved. We have to be more careful, especially because my divorce isn’t final, and I don't think I should be your advisor anymore,”
he said, that last morning in bed. Ivy sucked a full breath through her nose—pressing back remembered pain.

Jake finished in the bathroom then stuck his head around the corner from the back. “Hey, sis.”

“Hey. You missed a real winner earlier, but you’ll get to see the other end of it.”

“What?”

“Look in the fridge.” Ivy followed him to the cold case.

While he raised his eyebrows at the ugly bouquet, she outlined what had transpired. He nodded at her choices. “Subtle.”

“Hey, if you’re gonna insult with flowers, do it right.”

They chatted about girls, baseball, and shop supplies over sandwiches at the tiny desk in the back, one ear open for the bell at the front door, in case anyone came in.

“Should I take these out now?” He lifted his green McVey Gardens baseball cap, scratched shaggy brown locks into disarranged fluff then settled the hat back over them.

“Sure.  It’s slow today. Lemme know what the reaction is when you hand that one over.”

He gave her his best cheeky grin then loaded a carton with the flowers for delivery. The noon hour picked up with people coming in on their lunch breaks then slowed again as predicted. Jake returned, collected orders, left again. Apparently, “CJ” hadn’t been present at the address, so Jake had left the flowers with some woman.

Ivy read to chapter twenty of her novel and was on her way to twenty-one when the door opened, the bells jangling “customer, customer.” She set the e-reader out of sight.

In strode a sharp-dressed man.
ZZ Top and the hawt car
with the ‘80s chicks flew around her mind. Six feet of triangle man in button-down white cotton with a slick purple tie over tailored charcoal trousers approached the counter. He lifted Ray Bans off a perfect nose to slam her with hazel eyes seeking answers.

Will you hop up on the counter and let me do naughty things under your skirt?
Why yes, sir, I will.
Her heart slammed against her ribs in an uneven staccato and she dropped her gaze from his intensity like an acacia leaf folding before a locust. Drawn by palpable charisma, and trained in customer service, she looked up at him again.

He displayed beautiful teeth and shook her hand. “Hi. I’m CJ Wilson.”

Howdy-doo, mysterious CJ. Must be gay; what else about him would get a girl that chuffed?
His hand was strong, smooth and warm. Good salesman shake.

He gestured with a hand at his shoulder height. “Did a blonde come in here today—yea-tall, most of it high heel, angry?”

“Maybe.”

“Talked at you rather than to you and had someone on her Bluetooth at the same time?”

“That would be her.” Ivy cracked a grin. Her pulse returned to normal but interest had been piqued.

He smiled and assumed an easy posture. “Sorry about that. Business dispute.” His gaze made a quick dash to her breasts then he walked slowly around the small shop. “Is this your only storefront for McVey Gardens?”

“Yes. We do most of our business with wholesalers through our greenhouses.” Ivy crossed her arms, wishing her florist apron covered her thin T-shirt. He might think it was too cold in here from her reaction to his ogling her boobs.
Okay, not gay. But are they acceptable?

Nodding, he scanned the case full of pre-made bouquets Ivy had assembled before opening, the cut flower display, the potted African violets and cyclamen.

“Is there something I can help you say with flowers, Mr. Wilson?”

“Ah, flowers do speak, but few know how to hear them anymore.” Returning to the counter he leaned on the surface with one elbow. “That’s where I might be able to help you.” He produced a business card from his palm as if by magic and offered it to her, pinched between two fingers.

She accepted the same card she’d seen that morning, which now rested in the recycle box under the counter. It read:

CJ Wilson

Marketing consultant

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Ivy.”

“Do you have a manager, Ivy?”

“Not in the store, but my mother is the person you’d want to bring any advertising work to.”

“And who is your mother?”

“Sandra McVey.”

He did a small double-take. “Not only family-owned but family-run.” Recovering his composure, he continued, “I noticed McVey Gardens has a limited Web presence. Have you, as a company, given any thought to how your business can grow with Web exposure? A website with order links, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In…”

He named others but Ivy’s eyes had glazed over. She waved a hand weakly between them. “Hold on there, soldier. You’re speaking geek.”

“Exactly. You need a translator. That’s where I come in. I review your business with an in-depth interview then work with you to create a Web presence that suits and enhances your business. McVey Gardens has been around for a long time—it’s time to move into the 21
st
century.”

She shifted to the other foot. “What do you charge for this service?”

“Initially, dinner out.” That charming smile lit his face again. “I’ll wine you and dine you and ask a few questions, lay out my fee schedule. If you’re agreeable to more, or more to the point, if your mother or accountant or marketing staff are happy with my portfolio, I’ll do the in-depth interviewing. I need to see what platforms work best for you.”

“I have no authority to make decisions toward spending company money”—
not true
—“so why wine and dine me?”

“Because you intrigue me. And because you called me frigid, heartless, misanthropic, and expressed sadness, capriciousness, dislike and disappointment over a broken agreement—with flowers.”

Ivy stared, open-mouthed. He’d done his homework. “Who are you?”

“Do we have a date?”

Ivy tipped her head to the right, considering. “Ambrosia. Tomorrow night, 7 p.m. Meet me there.”

“Excellent.” Sunglasses flipped open in one hand and he slid them onto his face. “Gotta run. People to do, things to see.”

Ivy blinked into the afternoon glare at his retreating back. Resisting the urge to paste herself to the front window to watch him enter his car took massive effort. Two cars left the tiny strip mall parking lot at once, so she wasn’t certain which was his. Her shallow end hoped it was the silver BMW.

At dinner that evening in the McVey home, Ivy told her parents about the bouquet and the business details of CJ’s proposal.

Her mother nodded. “That might not be a bad idea. I’m afraid I’m too old to learn all this computer jargon and be a Twitterhead or what have you.”

“Tweeter,” her father said, not looking up from his plate.

“We’ll leave you in charge of this one, Ivy. If it seems like a good deal, let’s do it—having one guy who specializes in this sort of thing is going to be easier than hunting down all those people ourselves and hiring someone we don’t know to build a website. I’m sure CJ knows the right folks to do that sort of thing.”

“I’m meeting with him tomorrow night. Over dinner,” she admitted quickly.

Jake scrutinized her but said nothing.

As Ivy got ready for bed that evening, her brother knocked on her door.
She let him in and returned to the sink to avoid drooling toothpaste down her micro fleece sleep shirt.

“What kind of penis-extension does he drive?”

She spit. “I don’t know.”

“Come on. Camero? Lamborghini?”

“Have you ever seen a Lamborghini in Springfield?” She rinsed her toothbrush and banged it on the side of the sink to shake excess water out. After drying her chin with the hand towel, she leaned against the bathroom doorframe. “Seriously, I didn’t see his car.” She grinned. “But there was a silver Beemer in the parking lot.”

“Ha!” Jake laughed in triumph. “You’re such a car slut.”

“Am not.”

“When was the last time you dated a guy who just drove a Toyota or something?”

“I don’t remember. High school. Whatever. Go away.”

Jake shook his head. “You’ve got to give up your Ken doll habit, sis. For a girl who prefers to be elbow-deep in manure blowing pollen around with a feather, you shoot too high. You don’t want a guy like that. Why do you keep looking at them?”

“Because they’re pretty. Good night.” She shoved him toward the door.

But the look he gave her pierced her heart. “I’m tired of them proving how shallow they are. With every one, you’ve closed off the fun sister I used to know and get more snarky. You deserve better.”

BOOK: Hearts in Bloom
4.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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