A Valentine For Lily, in the Anthology, Romancing the Pages
Lily Harris is a widow who runs her own florist shop and loves Valentine’s Day–it’s her Black Friday, with a major dash of love.
She is, however, a wee bit cynical about that once-a-year show of love. In fact, her favorite customer doesn’t do anything special for his lady love on Valentine’s Day. The mysterious Christopher Randolph has Lily’s shop deliver beautiful bouquets weekly to Mrs. Sandra Randolph. To Lily, he’s the most romantic husband in the world.
Or is he? Finding out the truth about Christopher will rock Lily’s ideas about romance, and Valentine’s Day, and happily-ever-after.
Buck drifted to his feet. Lily scowled and attacked the table with a paper towel, avoiding his eyes. “You’re a good interrogator, Buck. I’ve never told anyone I wanted to divorce Bill.” He wouldn’t deny it. He had always preferred playing “good cop”. And this has been my most gratifying interrogation. Funny, her truth-telling had made himfeel better. Maybe he could stop running. Except, if he stayed, sooner or later, he’d have to tell her his secrets.
Lily straightened. “But let’s talk about you now. Have you ever been married?”
She was going for sooner.
He inwardly groaned. He hated this part of the dating ritual, and he definitely wasn’t ready to share everything.
“How come? You’re a handsome guy.”
“The military’s a hard life for wives.”
“No wife, thus no kids.”READ MORE
She laughed at that. “An old-fashioned guy. Refreshing. So, are you home looking for a wife, now that you’re retired?”
Ouch. That was pretty direct. And no. His mother wanted him to take over the family business, but he hadn’t been planning on marriage or sticking around. He’d been telling himself he needed to regroup, grab some R&R. His plan was to cruise through town for the family holidays and Beth’s birthday, then head south, do a whole lot of fishing, and let the future find him.
That had been his plan. It suddenly seemed lame, and kind of lonely.
“Oh no, probably not,” Lily said. “I heard your family wants you to stay, but you’re not ready to settle down. Our nieces have high hopes for us, but don’t worry, there’s no pressure here. You’re free to go.”
She pressed her lips almost primly and crossed her arms. He suspected she wanted him to go now. He met her eyes and held them, and held them, and. . . Her eye began to twitch, her pupils expanded, and he heard her tapping her foot under the table.
The twenty-somethings he usually dated were never this twitchy. He sent her his best smile, the one that always charmed the ladies. “I definitely won’t leave before Valentine’s Day, since I now have a date.”
“Ah. So you’re leaving on the fifteenth.”
She didn’t bite on his teasing. That surprised him.
“Where will you go?”
“Where would you go, Lily?”
She blushed again. Frowned. Sent the floral refrigerator and its glassed-in buckets of tall bright flowers a dreamy look. Buck guessed she didn’t let herself think much about vacations.
“I’d find a tropical place,” she said, “where I could pluck wild orchids, slounge in a hammock, and see a skyful of constellations at night.”
Buck heard his own pulse pounding. He took a breath, and reached for her hand. “And you could fish?”
At his touch, she jumped. “If there’s water around.”
“I’ll go there with you,” he said.
Lily sighed again, pulled her hand away and grabbed the pizza box. “Do you want to take the leftovers home?”
“It was nice to meet you, Buck. You’ll find that Valentine’s date. It’s been a long day. I think I’ll call it a night, and take this upstairs.”
He whisked the box away from her and assumed his most innocent look. She was not getting rid of him yet. “I’ll go with you. I heard you have incredibly well-preserved subway tiles in that vintage apartment.”
“Crap,” she said, “Beth again.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not a nut. I have more levels of security clearance than you have flowers.”
“Buck. . .”
He resisted the urge to touch her. “We’re not done talking,” he said.