This is a never before seen excerpt from chapter 1 of White Roses. Comment on any post dated Nov 8 – 12 for a chance to win a copy of White Roses. Special drawing: If you’ve never won any of my books, you’re eligible to win a copy of White Roses and White Doves. Deadline for both drawings: Nov 13, 8:00 PM Central.
The back door flew open behind Adrea. She spun around to see a man. His shaggy, dishwater blond hair hung almost to his shoulders in greasy clumps, hiding his eyes. She sucked in a breath to scream, but his hand clamped over her mouth.
“I didn’t think I’d quite get that reaction.” Wade’s words slurred together.
If he hadn’t spoken, she wouldn’t have recognized him. Her gut twisted at a whiff of alcohol. She pushed his hand away, put some distance between them, and gulped deep breaths of blossom-perfumed air.
He’d lost weight. Gone was the handsome, well-groomed, charming man she’d once fallen in love with. Gone was the layered hairstyle, casually gelled back from his face. Gone was the self-confident golf instructor who’d put an engagement ring on her finger and promised to love only her. Wasted.
“What are you doing here? You’re not driving like this?”
“I hitched a ride and waited until Rachel left, so we could talk.”
“You were watching the shop?” She shivered. Someone spying on her, even someone she thought she knew, gave her the creeps.
“I knew she’d never let us talk in peace. Do you remember what day it is?”
How could I forget? Adrea closed her eyes, clutching the roses. “I’d like you to go now.”
He steepled his hands, as if in prayer. “Please, Adrea. Our second anniversary. Or it should have been anyway.”
“Wade, just go. We’re over. You’re engaged to—someone else.” She couldn’t bring herself to say the name. “I have to take these roses out front.”
“They can wait.” He grabbed the white roses, and they crashed to the floor, flinging water and twisted flowers.
“Look what you’ve done!” Fresh tears stung her eyes.
“Hey, don’t cry.” He moved toward her, ready to provide comfort.
She sidestepped him.
He tried to pull her into his arms.
“Don’t.” She jerked away and slapped him so hard her fingers stung.
The connecting door to the showroom opened.
Grayson hesitated, his gaze taking in the pretty florist he’d met at the church, the red handprint appearing on the man’s cheek, and finally the ruins of a flower arrangement on the floor.
He shut the door behind him. “Excuse me, but we heard a noise—the clerks were busy so I offered to check. Is there a problem?”
“Who are you?” The man looked from Grayson to a jittery Adrea, suspicion clouding his eyes. He took a menacing step toward Grayson.
Drunk, disorderly, disheveled. The shop’s back door stood open. Had this guy just wandered in off the street or did he know Adrea? Though Grayson barely knew her, she didn’t seem like the type to hang out with drunks. Yet, the man seemed possessive toward her.
“Just a customer.” Grayson offered his hand. “Grayson Sterling.”
The man’s jaw dropped. He stepped back. Without another word, he spun around and ran out the back door, slamming it behind him. Vase-laden shelves rattled in his wake, but nothing fell.
Odd reaction. Grayson turned back to Adrea.
With shaking hands, she pushed dark bangs out of her too shiny, midnight blue eyes.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine.” Her voice quivered.
Anything but fine. “I realize it’s none of my business, but should that guy be loose on the streets?”
“He’s drunk, but he said he’s not driving, and he’d never intentionally harm anyone.” She stooped to retrieve the container from the heap in the floor. “I’m afraid I dropped your flowers.”
He winced at the sight of the damaged roses, their heads forlornly nodding.
“I’m sorry. I’ll make a new arrangement.” A tear trickled down her cheek. She wiped it away. “It won’t take a minute.”
His gut twisted. “There’s no rush. My son’s begging to go to the park anyway.” He knelt to retrieve errant leaves and petals. “Let me help you clean up this mess.”
“That’s not necessary.” She grabbed several paper towels and sopped up the spill then took the refuse from him and threw it all in the trash. “I’ll take care of it.”
With trembling fingers, she plucked the flowers, ruined or not, from a block of foam and tossed them into a compost bin. She grabbed a contraption and began stripping the thorns from a few fresh roses on the counter.
He should go. But his feet wouldn’t move. The handprint on the drunk’s face proved she could take care of herself, yet she looked so shaken. So vulnerable.
She winced and blood dripped onto the translucent petals of a white rose.
“It’s nothing.” Calmly, she removed the embedded thorn and popped the fleshy part of her right thumb into her mouth, only to gag. She crumpled the crimson-stained rose in her fingers and tossed it in a compost bin.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
Come back November 15 for Lynette Sowell’s real life romance and a chance to win her book.