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By Maggie Shayne
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRosie pushed her glasses up higher on her nose and watched her grandmother's approach. She was glad of the long, winding path from the mansion to her own beloved little cottage, which had been built to house the Linden estate's gardener. The entire family had been scandalized when Rosie had returned home from college and claimed it as her own, two years ago.
Grandma Marjorie walked the path, wearing a floral print designer dress and a string of marble-sized pearls, looped around her neck three times and still hanging low. She wore matching earrings and bracelet and a wide-brimmed straw hat with roses embroidered all over it. Her horn-rimmed prescription sunglasses had diamond chips at the outer corners and her shoes cost three hundred bucks if they cost a nickel.
Not for the first time, Rosie wondered if she might have been adopted, or found on the doorstep one day. She strengthened her resolve, and continued pulling tiny weeds from the rich, dark soil of her flower bed, pretending not to notice Grandma Marjorie's approach.
The older woman stopped at the edge of the flower bed, planted her hands on her hips, and said, "My goodness, child, don't you get enough of digging in the dirt at the botanical gardens all day? I can't bear to think what your nails must look like!"
Rosie sat back on her heels, brushed the soil from her hands, and then glanced down at her nails. Specks of soil on her glasses made it hard to see very clearly, but she knew well enough what her nails looked like. "Good thing I don't model rings and bracelets or star in dish soap commercials for a living, I guess. I'd be out of a job."
"I suppose you think you're amusing. We both know you don't need to do anything at all for a living. Much less wallow in weed patches and exist on the pittance they pay you for it."
Smiling, Rosie got to her feet. "I like my job. And I like being independent. And by normal people's standards, they actually pay me pretty well." Her grandmother looked mildly annoyed, so Rosie gave up. She would never change the woman's mind about her own lifestyle choices. "Come on inside. You can rest a minute and I'll get you a cold drink. But don't waste your time trying to talk me into that Bluebonnet Ball again, Grams. You'd just be wasting your breath."
"Hmmph. Just because you live on your own earnings, doesn't mean you don't have to do as I say, young lady."
Rosie held the door for her. "Actually, Grams, that's pretty much exactly what it means."
Grandma Marjorie walked into the cottage, looking around and trying to hide her approval. Rosie had made the place into a personal paradise. Plants were everywhere, along with fountains and figurines. It was like an indoor garden, and she loved it. The old woman sighed and took a seat in a wicker rocking chair with a thick cushion. "Regardless of all your arguments to the contrary, my dear Rosemary, you are going to attend that ball."
"I buy my clothes retail, Grams. I don't own anything suitable and I don't have any interest in spending a week's salary on a dress." As she spoke, she walked into the tiny kitchen area, filled a glass with ice, then poured lemonade over it.
"Besides, I'm not the least bit interested in this sort of thing. You know that. Society bores me."
"Maybe so, dear, but do lunar orchids bore you?"
Rosie stopped halfway back to her grandmother, the glass in her hand shaking, cubes clinking against the glass. "What?"
"I have managed to procure an extremely rare African lunar orchid. You probably already know this, but this particular orchid blooms only three nights each year, during the full moon phase. This one is due to open on the night of the ball."
"You ... you ... who's taking care of it?"
"A competent gardener, dear."
"Gardener? A gardener? It should be under the care of a botanist. Do you have any idea how delicate -?"
"Oh, pish-tosh, child, it's only for a week, just until the ball. After that, I plan to give it away."
"Give it away?" She didn't mean to shout the question.
Grandma Marjorie smiled. "Yes. Why, would you like it?"
Rosie narrowed her eyes on the scheming, conniving, dear old woman. "Is this some kind of attempt to blackmail me into going to that stupid ball?"
"It's not blackmail, it's a bribe." She rose, taking the lemonade from Rosie's hands, drinking long and slow from the glass, then setting it on the wicker end table beside her chair. "The orchid will be at the center of the garden maze. Attend the ball, and it's yours."
Grandma Marjorie stood there, waiting, staring Rosie down, knowing she had won. She had made an offer that neither Rosie, nor any other botanist in her right mind, would refuse.
Sighing, Rosie nodded. "Fine," she said. "You win. I'll go to the ball."
"That's better," Grandma Marjorie said as she sauntered to the door, looking supremely triumphant. "See you Saturday night. Eight sharp."
Rosie sank into the chair her grandmother had vacated, feeling as if she'd just lost a major battle. She took her glasses off and used the end of her shirt to wipe the smudges from the lenses. "She's up to something," she muttered. "And like an idiot, I walked right into it."
Excerpted from Broken Silence by Maggie Shayne Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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