Good news. My newest book is almost done and I wanted to share the first chapter with you. I don't even have a title yet, but it's the 1st book in my Love and Flowers Trilogy and it's all about Garrett. You'll remember him as Jane Kendall's ex-boyfriend and the man who helped Taryn push Brogan over the edge. He's had his issues, (who doesn't?), but I've always had a soft spot for this guy.
Oh and before I forget, just to celebrate the fact that Summer is just around the corner and I'm in a really good mood, my book You Belong with Me is Free on Kindle for 5 days, so tell you friends! Here's the link.
Rayne stared out her window down at the landscapers and sighed. Pansies. Flats and flats of pansies. She bit her lip and glanced around the yard and remembered what it had looked like ten years ago when she’d come here with her grandmother. There had been zinnias and ice plant and gladiolus and hostas and bright orange poppies. Now she was going to be surrounded by pansies.
Rayne shook her head. No she wasn’t. She ran out of her bedroom and past her sister, Ivy who was coming out of the bathroom with a towel around her head and rushed down the stairs and out into the gentle sunlight. She was used to San Diego and this pale light was a welcome change. She put her hands on her hips and glanced around at the men unloading the flats and narrowed her eyes. There had to be someone in charge. She watched the men for a moment and then zeroed in on the tall man with his back to her standing by the door of a large truck. He had a phone to his ear as he ran his hand through his medium brown hair, cut brutally short.
Rayne cleared her throat lightly and clasped her hands. She wasn’t used to dealing with landscapers or men who looked like this guy. His gray t-shirt was straining over his shoulders and arms and she looked away as she realized she was checking out her landscaper. She closed her eyes briefly and smiled at herself. Who would have ever thought Rayne Nyman would be checking out her landscaper? Certainly none of her friends.
Rayne cleared her throat again as she leaned up against the truck and waited for the man to finish is conversation. She inched forward, listening in curiously.
“I don’t care how good looking she is, no more blind dates… forget it Rob, you and Wren will have to go to the concert Saturday without me . . . Uh uh. Besides, I don’t even know much about classical music. I’d be sitting there looking like an idiot. . . Yeah, yeah, I know I owe you. . . Ha! Yeah, I’ll talk to you later, bye.”
Rayne smiled politely as she waited for the man to turn around and notice her. He mumbled a few words and then shoved his phone in his pocket before pulling on gloves. He turned around and Rayne’s mouth fell open, her eyes going wide and her mouth going dry.
He. Was. Beautiful. She’d never in her life seen cheekbones like his. And his eyes were such a light shade of blue they were almost silver. Forget landscaping, this guy should be modeling.
“Hi there, what can I do for you?” he asked with a polite smile as he glanced over her head as if he was distracted.
Rayne let out a breath and stared at her feet for a moment before looking up again. She could do this.
“I’m Rayne Nyman the new owner of this home. It passed to me from my grandmother Marion Stewart when she died a year ago. I was upstairs and I noticed that you were getting ready to plant all of these um, pansies. I’d rather you didn’t,” she said and then watched as his blue eyes focused completely on her.
“It’s nice to meet you Rayne. My name is Garrett Murphy and I’m the owner of Murphy Landscaping. I’m sorry for your loss. So you don’t like flowers huh?” he said and then crossed his arms over his chest as he put all of his weight on one hip.
Rayne tried to drag her eyes away from the man’s muscular arms and decided to focus on his face. She was immediately draw to his cheek bones and his full mouth and was horrified to find that she was turning into a boy crazy airhead. She’d skipped that faze when she’d been a teenager, but none of the boys at her private school had looked like this either. She’d better play it safe and just look somewhere else.
Rayne turned her body around and looked at the handful of workers who were still gathering their shovels and bags of mulch.
“I do. I love flowers which is why I’d rather you didn’t plant these.”
Garrett glanced at the flats of marigolds and frowned. “Your property manager put in the order for flowers last month and with your budget which includes lawn care and weeding and trimming, these pansies are what you can afford.”
Rayne bit her lip, thinking of the millions of dollars that now sat in her bank account and sighed.
“Mr. Murphy, let me assure you I can afford something better. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you packed up the pansies and returned them.”
Garrett frowned and stared at her, his eyes going hard and she shivered before remembering to turn away. Much safer to stare at the bushes than her landscaper.
“Just pack them up and return them huh? So what would you like put in their place then?” he asked softly stepping closer to her.
Rayne could feel him move closer and gulped. He had so much energy she could feel it coming off of him in waves. She pushed her long brown hair over her shoulder nervously and straightened her shoulders. She was twenty-six years old. She was a mature, intelligent woman and she could have a basic conversation with a good looking man. She glanced at him quickly over her shoulder and felt the slam of attraction hit her again. Maybe.
“Since I was unaware that you were coming today I’d like the chance to work up some ideas tonight and then I could run them past you tomorrow or Wednesday. Would that be okay?”
She waited breathlessly for him to answer and felt a strange tension in her back. He was staring at her, she could feel it. She turned slowly and looked up at him as she bit her lip. His face slowly softened and he nodded his head.
“That sounds fine. What time tomorrow would you like to get together?” he asked taking out his phone and scrolling down to his calendar.
Rayne stepped closer. “I’m pretty open to be honest. My sister and I just moved in a few days ago and we’re still getting our bearings here.”
Garrett looked up and put his phone in his pocket. “Let’s meet for lunch then at The Iron Skillet and we could go over your ideas then.”
Rayne blinked in surprise and stared at the man. A lunch meeting? She narrowed her eyes at him and stepped back. “Don’t you have an office Mr. Murphy where we could meet at instead?”
Garrett shrugged and put his hands on his hips. “Ms. Nyman, I’m a busy man but if you’d like to wait until Thursday we can set up an appointment for ten in the morning if you’d feel more comfortable with that,” he said, his voice sounding stiff.
Rayne glanced at the empty flower beds and the wash of pale pastels from the flats of pansies and shook her head. “No, no, that’s fine. I’ll meet you tomorrow, where did you say?”
Garrett nodded his head. “The Iron Skillet. A buddy of mine owns it and they serve good food there. If you give me your phone number I can text you the address.”
Rayne told him her number and watched as he added it to his contacts. He looked up and smiled at her. “Okay then, I’ll see you tomorrow at one, Rayne. I’m curious about your ideas,” he said and then walked toward his men. “Okay guys, change of plans. Let’s pack up the flowers. We’re heading back to the nursery.”
Rayne walked slowly back to the house and stood in the shade of the porch as she watched the men repack the truck and drive away. As the truck turned the corner and disappeared from sight she let out the breath she’d been holding and shook her head as if to clear it. She’d never in her life been affected by a man as she had been by Garrett Murphy. She was used to musicians and businessmen and quiet, cool cerebral men whose clothes fell elegantly against their trim pale bodies. Garrett Murphy was a completely different kind of man than she was used to and she wasn’t sure how to react.
She grinned and walked back into her house. Throwing herself at him was probably a huge no-no. She thought of her ex-boyfriend, Liam Michaels and smiled. She had been friends with Liam most of her life since he was the son of her parents’ best friends. It was only natural that they dated on and off throughout school. Their families vacationed together and they were constantly thrown together. There had been other boys who had asked her out of course, but Liam had been safe. Too safe.
She frowned as she walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Last year Liam had asked her to marry him and she had said no. For no other reason than she hadn’t been in love with him. Her parents had been horrified that she’d turned Liam down. But it was her life and her heart and she wouldn’t marry a man just because it would be easy.
She wanted more. She wanted love. Her decision to break things off with Liam had hurt her relationship with her parents though. And it still tortured her that the last conversation they’d had before their car accident had been a fight over Liam. Her father had accused her of being shallow and uncaring and her mother had accused her of being selfish. She’d in turn accused them of caring more for Liam than they had for her and her feelings and it had gone downhill after that. She’d slammed out of the house and had gotten on a plane for New York. A month later, she’d been informed that her parents had died in a car accident on Pacific Highway. A car going over a hundred miles an hour had sideswiped them sending their car rolling.
That had been three months ago. She and her sister Ivy had been struggling ever since. With the death of her grandmother and now her parents, she had a completely different life than the carefree one she’d been enjoying so much. As a concert pianist with her parent’s backing and the acclaim of critics, she could play wherever and whenever she wanted to. She could travel through Europe which she’d done for the last few years or she could stay in the states. But she had Ivy to think of now. And her sister would come first. Always. Which is why she’d hired her friend Cleo to watch out for her.
She grabbed the carton of orange juice out of the fridge and poured herself a glass.
“Why’d you get rid of the lawn crew? I was looking forward to seeing some of the male species.”
Rayne smiled and turned around to see Cleo flop down on a chair, looking at her glumly. “Never fear, they’ll be back. They were getting ready to plant pansies and so I had to stop them. I’m meeting tomorrow with the owner to go over what I want.”
Cleo looked glum and rested her chin on her hands. “Knowing you, it’ll take a month to pick the best flowers. I was already planning on bringing out pitchers of lemonade and glasses. They’d all be so grateful they’d invite me to go dancing.”
Rayne raised an eyebrow and sat down across from her. “Dancing? With strange men? Come on Cleo, you’re smarter than that.”
Cleo glared at her and sat up. “No I’m not. It’s been months since I’ve gone dancing.”
Rayne’s smile slipped and she looked away. It had been three months. Ever since she’d gotten the police report from her parent’s car accident. There were witnesses who had sworn that the car who had rammed her parent’s Mercedes had done it on purpose.
“Hey, sorry. Look, forget it. No dancing. Just stop looking like I kicked a little puppy.”
Rayne shook her head and smiled. “No, it’s okay. Look, I’m sorry you’re bored Cleo, but this is serious to me. That’s why we’re here. I just lost my parents. I’m not about to let anyone take my sister from me.”
Cleo stared at her sadly and crossed her tanned, toned arms. “Or kill you.”
Rayne nodded and stared at her friend. “Or kill me. Which is something you won’t let happen.”
Cleo nodded her head solemnly. “I wish you’d hire a real body guard. I’m just a glorified yoga teacher and I can’t be two places at once anyways. If you’d hire that guy I was telling you about, I’d feel a lot better about you meeting up with your landscaper.”
Rayne frowned and studied her short nails. “You are a real body guard Cleo and you don’t just teach yoga. You’re the one who taught me everything I know about self-defense and you have a license to carry a gun.”
Cleo snorted and stood up to walk over to the fridge. “That’s not the real reason.”
Rayne shrugged and took a sip of her juice. “Ivy relaxes around you. You can protect us and help my sister too.”
Cleo shook her head and took out the pizza box from last night. “You should tell her Rayne.”
Rayne glared at Cleo and shook her head. “Absolutely not. She’s been through enough. She barely has her anxiety under control as it is. What would knowing there could possibly be someone trying to kill us do to her mental well-being?”
Cleo sighed and took a bite of the cold pepperoni pizza. “She’s tougher than she looks Rayne. Ever since you found out she has OCD and have her on the right medication, she’s been doing a lot better.”
Rayne groaned and leaned her head in her hands as she thought of last night as they stood in the bathroom and she’d watched as Ivy had died strands of her hair near her neck bright pink from a box she’d picked up at the drug store.
“She’s twenty-three and she looks like a drummer for a rock band,” she complained just as Ivy walked in the kitchen. Ivy narrowed her eyes at Rayne and walked over to the fridge.
“I look like a drummer? Exactly what I was going for since I’ve been thinking about starting a rock band.”
Rayne closed her eyes and massaged her temples. “Of course you were. So what are your plans for the day?” she asked politely.
Ivy shrugged and grabbed a jar of Nutella out of the cupboard and began smearing a large amount on the left over brioche Cleo had picked up at the local bakery yesterday.
“Cleo and I are going to rent some jet skis and head out on the water. You should come with us. You know, live a little.”
Rayne’s eyes drifted to the red lines on Ivy’s arm where she’s cut herself and wondered how a girl who had tried so hard to hurt herself was far better at living than she was.
“Next time,” she promised and watched as her little sister rolled her eyes.
“It’s always next time with you. What are you going to do here? Walk around the yard? Read? Seriously Rayne, come with us or Cleo and I are going to start thinking you’re completely dead inside.”
Rayne swallowed and looked away from her sister’s taunting eyes and out the window at the yard that was begging for color and life. She had been feeling dead inside. Completely gray and lifeless.
“Actually I’m going to be planning out the flower arrangements because I have a meeting with our landscaper tomorrow afternoon. You two go on without me. We can catch a movie tonight when you guys get back, okay?”
Ivy frowned but nodded her head and left the kitchen. Cleo walked over and touched her arm. “Don’t forget the alarm system and always have your mace nearby.”
Rayne nodded her head and smiled. “Of course. Which reminds me, sometime this week I want to go pick out a guard dog. It will be an added protection and it’ll be good for Ivy.”
Cleo nodded and tilted her head. “It’s okay sometimes to think about what would be good for you too you know.”
Rayne blushed and looked away as Cleo walked out of the kitchen. There was too much guilt to think about what would be good for her. Because the majority of the people she loved had died she was now a millionaire and the owner of a successful shipping business. It was such a horrible thing to think that because the people she loved had died, she profited. How could she enjoy that?
She stood up and walked over to the window and leaned her forehead against the cool glass. And to think that there was someone out there who very much wanted her and Ivy out of the way so that he could profit now. She thought of Graham Mitchell and shivered. Her half cousin from her grandmother’s first marriage had been very vocal about his fury at being cut out of their grandmother’s will. He had a posse of lawyers who had tried to contest her grandmother’s will but they’d failed. A month after learning the verdict, her parent’s had died. Graham Mitchell was determined to have his share one way or another.
She listened to her sister and Cleo laugh as they walked out the front door and knew she’d do anything to protect her sister from him. Even if it meant hiding out in Fircrest Washington while her private investigators worked to find evidence to prove that he had killed her parents.
** Copyrighted Material