supportive. But she couldn't imagine telling any of them how he'd bitten the nape of her neck, then have them groan and sigh in envy.

And that's what she wanted.

She couldn't call her mother and tell her she'd had the most incredible sex of her life with a man she was stumbling into love with.

It just wasn't the kind of conversation either of them would be comfortable having.

Though her instincts told her there was nothing she could say to shock Aubrey, and she was dead certain she'd get the exact reaction she was looking for from her new friend, Aubrey's connection to Seth made that possibility just a bit too sticky.

So she was on her own, Dru supposed. Which was exactly where she'd wanted to be in the first place. But now that she had something to share, now that she felt her life shifting under her feet, there was no one to reach out to.

It was her own doing, she admitted. She could either live with it, or begin to change it. Opening up meant more than taking a lover. It meant more than dipping a toe into the waters of a new friendship.

It meant work. So she'd work.

The bells on the front door jingled, signaling her first customer of the day. Dru squared her shoulders. She'd proven she could remake her life once. She could do it again.

Prepared to be more than the polite and efficient florist, she stepped out of the storeroom with a warm smile. "Good morning. How can I help you?"

"Oh, I'm not sure. I'm just going to look around."

"Help yourself. It's a gorgeous day, isn't it?" Dru walked over to prop open the front door. "Too gorgeous to be closed in. Are you visiting Saint Chris?"

"That's right," Gloria said. "Taking a nice little vacation."

"You picked a perfect time." Dru ignored a frisson of unease at the way she was being studied. "Are you here with your family?"

"No, just me." Gloria flicked fingers over the petals of an arrangement, and kept her eyes on Dru. "Sometimes a girl just has to get away on her own. You know?"

"Yes, I do." She didn't look like the type to spend time or money on flowers, Dru thought. She looked… hard, edgy—and cheap. Her shorts were too tight, too brief, and her top too snug.

When she caught what she thought was a whiff of whiskey along with the woman's florid perfume, she wondered if she was about to be robbed.

Then she dismissed the thought. Nobody robbed florists, certainly not in St. Chris. And if the woman had any sort of weapon it would have to be very, very tiny to be concealed under that outfit.

And to judge someone because she didn't care for the style of her dress wasn't the way to begin the new phase of becoming more personable with her customers.

"If you're looking for something to cheer up your hotel room while you're here, I have carnations on special this week. They have a nice fragrance and they're very low maintenance."

"That might work. You know, you look familiar, and you don't sound like a local. Maybe I've met you before. Do you spend much time in D.C.?"

Dru relaxed again. "I grew up there."

"That's got to be it. The minute I saw you, I thought… Wait a minute! You're Katherine's daughter. Prucilla—no, no, Drusilla."

Dru tried to imagine her mother having any sort of acquaintance with the thin, badly dressed woman who smelled of cheap perfume and whiskey. Then cursed herself for being a snob.

"That's right."

"Well, I'll be damned." Gloria planted her hands on her hips, made her smile large and friendly. She'd done her research. "What the hell are you doing down here?"

"I live here now. So you know my mother?"

"Sure, sure. I worked on several committees with Kathy. Haven't run into her in a while. I guess it's been three or four years. Last time, I think it was a fund-raiser for literacy. Book and author dinner at the Shoreham."

The event had been written up in The Washington Post, with enough detail in the archives Gloria had looked up on-line to make her claim smooth. "How is she, and your father?"

No, Dru thought, she wasn't a snob. She was simply a good judge of character. But she spoke evenly. "They're both very well, thank you. I'm sorry, I didn't get your name."

"It's Glo. Glo Harrow," she said, using her mother's maiden name. "Hell of a small world, huh? Seems to me the last time I talked to Kath, you were engaged. She was over the moon about that. Guess it didn't work out."

"No, it didn't."

"Well, men are like buses. Another one always comes along. You know, my mother's friendly with your grandfather." And that was true enough, though "acquainted" would have been more accurate. "The senator, he just keeps trucking along. A regular institution."

"He's an amazing man." Dru spoke coolly now.

"Gotta admire him. A man his age still active the way he is. Then you figure with the family money, he never had to work a day in his life, much less dedicate himself to politics. Tough arena, even for a young man, the way people like to sling mud these days."

"People have always slung mud. My family's never believed that financial advantage means letting someone else do the work."

"Gotta admire that, like I said."

When a man walked in, Dru bit down on her rising irritation and turned toward him. "Good morning."

"Hi. Hey, don't mind me, just finish what you're doing. I'm not in a rush."

"Would you like to look around some more, Ms. Harrow?"

"No." She'd spent more than enough time on this visit. "Why don't I take a dozen of those… what was on special?"

"Carnations." Dru gestured to the holding vase where she'd arranged samples in every color. "Would you like any specific color or combination?"

"No, no, just mix them up."

Gloria read the sign under the display and calculated it was a cheap enough price to pay for the up-close look. She took out cash, laid it on the counter.

Now that the contact had been made, Gloria wanted to be gone. She didn't care for the way the guy who'd come in was watching her and trying to pretend he wasn't watching her.

"I hope you enjoy them."

"I already am. Give my best to your mom when you talk to her," Gloria added as she started out.

"Oh, I will." Dru turned to her new customer. Some of the temper that had begun to simmer leaked out on her face.

"Bad time?"

"No, of course not." She readjusted her thoughts. "How can I help you?"

"First, I'm Will. Will McLean." He offered a hand.

"Oh, you're Aubrey's friend." Seriously cute, Aubrey had said. And with perfect accuracy, Dru decided as they shook hands. "It's nice to meet you."

"You, too. I just got off shift, figured on swinging by to see Aub—maybe catch up with Seth, before I go home and crash in a dark room for a few hours. Those flowers Seth got my girl a few weeks back were a really big hit. Can't let him get an edge on me. What've you got that'll knock her out, and make up for me working doubles most of the week?"

"How's your budget?"

"Just got paid." He patted his back pocket. "Sky's the limit."

"In that case, wait right here." She paused, reconsidered. The morning jolt wasn't going to spoil her plans for a more open Drusilla. "Better yet, come on back. If you like what I have in mind, you can sit down, get off your feet for a few minutes while I put them together for you."

"I look that bad?"

"You look exhausted." She gestured him back. "Go ahead, have a seat," she told him while she went to a refrigerated unit. "Delivered fresh this morning," she said as she took out a single long-stemmed rose in cotton-candy pink. "A dozen of these are guaranteed to knock her out."

He sniffed it when she held it out. "Smells great. Maybe I should make it two dozen. I've had to cancel two dates in the last ten days."

"Two dozen will put her in a coma."

"Perfect. Can you put them in one of those fancy boxes?"

"Absolutely." She moved to the work counter. "You and your brother are becoming my best customers. He bought me out of yellow roses about a week

ago."

"He got himself engaged."

"Yes, I know. He was floating along about six inches above ground. You and your brother and Seth have been friends a long time."

"Since we were kids," Will concurred. "I can't believe he's been back a month and I haven't been able to catch up with him. Dan says Seth's been pretty tied up himself between his work, the boatyard and you. Whoops." The crooked smile flashed as he rubbed his eyes. "Sorry. Tongue gets loose when I'm brain-dead."

"That's all right. I don't imagine it's a secret Seth and I are…" What? "Seeing each other," she decided.

Will did his best to stifle a yawn. "Well, if we ever get our schedules aligned, maybe the six of us can do something."

"I'd like that." Dru laid the roses and baby's breath in the tissue-lined box. "I'd like that a lot."

"Good. Ah, can I ask you something? That woman who was in here before? Was she hassling you?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I don't know, just a feeling. Plus there was something about her. I think I know her from somewhere. Can't put my finger on it, but it doesn't feel right. Do you know what I mean?"

"I know exactly what you mean." She glanced over at him. He was a friend of Aubrey's, of Seth's. The new, more open Dru was going to consider him a friend as well.

"She claimed to know my mother, but she didn't." No one, Dru thought, absolutely no one referred to her mother as Kathy. It was Katherine, and on rare occasions, Kate. But never Kathy, never Kath. "I don't know what she was after, but I'm glad you came in when you did."

"You want me to stick around awhile, in case she comes back?"

"No, but thanks. She doesn't worry me."

"You called her Harrow?" Will shook his head. "Doesn't ring any bells. But I know her from somewhere. When I come up with it, I'll let you know."

"I appreciate it."

IT WAS a mistake to call her mother. Dru realized it immediately. But she hadn't been able to get the morning customer out of her mind. The only way to check out the story was to ask.


Tags: Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga Romance
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