Em, who's always wanted a large family, doesn't mind his disinterest. At thirty-two, she's decided she doesn't need a husband to have a child or to adopt one. First, she's going to fulfill her dream of setting up her own landscape design business in upstate New York and has promised to continue to help run her grandmother's flower shop.
It isn't until Em and Devin become friends that Em realizes she might want more than friendship from him. But with his work in Miami and Costa Rica and her busy life in New York, it's out of the question until something happens that changes everything, even a couple of hearts.
|Publisher:||Wild Quail Publishing LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)|
About the Author
While growing up, she was drawn to the idea of writing stories from a young age. Books were always present, being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. All in her family shared information from the books in general conversation, giving them a wealth of knowledge and vivid imaginations.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming novels about women who face unexpected challenges, meet them with strength, and find love and happiness along the way. Her best-selling books are based, in part, on many of the places she's lived or visited and on the interesting people she's met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many loyal readers love. Ms. Keim loves to hear from her readers and appreciates their enthusiasm for her stories.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed this book. If you have, please help other readers discover it by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or the site of your choice. And please check out the Hartwell Women Series, the Fat Fridays Group, and The Beach House Hotel series. ALL THE BOOKS ARE NOW AVAILABLE IN AUDIO on Audible and iTunes! So fun to have these characters come alive!”
Read an Excerpt
Emerson "Em" Jordan closed her eyes as the sound of the music enveloped her in a cloud of happiness. She was taking part in her sister's wedding at a resort along the Gulf Coast of Florida, but in her mind, it might as well be her own celebration. The dreamy man holding her hadn't proposed yet, but she was pretty sure he soon would. She'd dropped all kinds of hints about a Valentine engagement and a wedding a year later on Valentine's Day. It had been a dream of hers from the time she was a girl.
In a burst of noise, the image of dancing disappeared. Em sat bolt upright in bed and stared out her bedroom window. Through the glass she saw a colorful display of fireworks, and then she heard another loud bang.
Em lowered her head into her hands and sobbed as she recalled what had happened earlier that evening. The Fourth of July picnic turned into a disaster when her boyfriend, Jared King, had announced he needed to talk to her about something important. When she saw his serious expression and how he was shuffling his feet, a nervous habit of his, her stomach did a somersault. She'd watched her family and friends head out to walk the four blocks to the town park to watch the fireworks and wished she could run after them.
As he studied her, Jared took a deep breath and let it out slowly. " Like I said, we need to talk. I can't do this any longer. I love you, Em, I do, but I'm not in love with you. It's time to call it quits."
She lifted a hand to her cheek as if he'd slapped her and reeled away from him. "You're breaking up with me? Like this?"
He sighed. "It's not working. And it's not going to."
Shocked, she stared at him wide eyed, certain she was about to throw up. She staggered over to one of the picnic tables set up in her parents' backyard and plopped down on the bench beside it. Bending over, Em put her head between her legs hoping to stop the world around her from spinning.
"Are you all right?" Jared asked, standing a safe distance from her.
Anger straightened her. "I'm not all right, Jared King! You just broke my heart! I'm not sure I'll ever be all right again!"
"I'm sorry, Em. I really am." He'd simply turned and walked away, leaving her to clutch her body, too weak to run after him, her dreams scattered around her like crushed blossoms.
* * *
For the next few weeks, Em managed to continue working at the family's flower shop, but, in truth, she barely functioned. Jagged edges of her broken heart kept poking her insides, taking away her breath, stealing the cheerfulness she usually wore like a comfortable old sweater to protect her. Not even the sweet smell of freesia in the flower shop could chase away the pain of Jared's words. It was a good thing that Jared lived in New York City, an hour away. She couldn't bear to see him.
She returned to her task of putting together a basket of summer wild flowers. She loved making things look as natural as possible, and woven baskets were good containers for the colorful blooms.
"How are you coming with the Williams order?" her grandmother, Julia Jordan, asked as she entered the work area.
"Almost done," Em said, standing back to appraise the placement of flowers.
"Looks wonderful, sweetheart." After the death of her husband many years ago, her grandmother had opened the flower shop she'd named Rainbow's End in their small, upstate town of Ellenton, New York. In her late sixties, Julia was still an attractive woman with gray hair cut in a bob, sparkling eyes, and a face that reflected beauty enhanced by her inner peace. Em smiled. Of all the people in the family, her grandmother understood her best. Two optimists who came together. Didn't the name of her flower shop say it all?
Later, as Em was putting together a bouquet for a husband to send as a surprise to his wife, she couldn't hold back the question that had been gnawing at her insides. "Gran, Jared told me he loved me, but he wasn't in love with me." It still hurt to say the words. Her grandmother's blue-eyed gaze, so like her own, rested on her thoughtfully. "He wasn't the right man. Don't worry. You have time."
"But, Gran, I'll be thirty-two next spring! And every man I meet ends up being wrong for me. First, there was Garrett. He turned out to be gay, for heaven's sake."
Gran clucked her tongue. "The opera singer in New York was the hardest for me to imagine your marrying. Imagine him already married to a concert pianist on tour!" "Yeah, that was another bad time. He'd told me he was lonely. I thought it was because he was living so far away from family. I didn't imagine him having a wife. Neither he nor news releases ever mentioned it."
Gran placed a hand on Em's shoulder. "I'm so glad you agreed to come back to Ellenton to live. The trouble with you, Emerson, is you want to believe only the best in everybody in every aspect of your life. That makes you a special person, but one who is bound to get hurt."
"I know everyone teases me about being a Pollyanna, but I'd prefer to live happily rather than face doom and gloom all the time."
Gran drew her into a hug. "Maybe it's time for you to have a change of heart, become a little more careful, more realistic. Nothing too drastic, mind you."
Em laid the red rose in her hand on the workbench. "Are you saying it's time for me to grow up?"
"In a way," she said kindly, brushing Em's long, blond hair away from her face. "You and I, we're two of a kind. We dream of what could be without seeing things as they really are. Who knew my husband would die at a young age, leaving me with a young son to raise and no money?"
"I'm glad you decided to open a flower shop. I love it." Em drew a shaky breath. "But, Gran, I hope you understand I can't go through Valentine's Day working here. That's when Jared was supposed to propose to me."
"No worries. I already figured that out. Besides, my neighbor, Marilyn, needs to find a job. I promised I'd hire her on a part-time basis, thinking if she worked out, I'd bring her on board full-time before the holidays. That will give you a chance to start thinking about opening the landscape design business you've been talking about."
Relief sprinted through Em. She'd never want to hurt her grandmother, but no way, no how could she endure making beautiful bouquets, lovely nosegays, or single-rose love letters of her own design for others during the romantic time of Valentine's Day.
* * *
As fall hurried through September and October toward the holidays, depression hit Em hard. She had no intention of dating anyone, but still, holidays were no time to be alone. She was struggling to find something to make her feel more positive about her life.
"Why don't you go away for Valentine's Day?" her sister, Elena, suggested. "I have the perfect place for you. Remember the house Mom and Dad thought of renting for my wedding? Seashell Cottage? Maybe that's something you could do. Get a friend to share the cost, then go and have fun! I'll text you the number for the rental agency."
Em felt like magically flying through space to Philadelphia to give her sister a hug. "That's perfect! I'll look them up on the web and give them a call. Thank you, sis. That would be a wonderful break for me — a break I really need. I'm pretty sure I can talk Kat into going with me. She's single again and is as depressed as I am."
They chatted for a few minutes longer, and then Em clicked off the call and hurried over to the computer in the flower shop. She found the website easily, and before she could stop to think about it, she called the rental office.
"Palm Rentals and Realty," a cheerful voice answered. When Em queried her about Seashell Cottage, the woman at the end of the line said, "Funny you should call. The young, married couple who were going to rent it cancelled yesterday. It seems she's pregnant and won't be able to travel at that time. Any chance you could take all ten days they had? It's the only free time we have for the winter."
"I think so. Let me speak to my friend, and I'll confirm that with you by the end of the day."
Em clicked off the call and immediately called Kat.
"Whassup?" said Kat.
"I've got the perfect plan for Valentine's Day," said Em, unable to hold back her excitement. "I want you to go to Florida with me for ten days. Go to the website for Seashell Cottage and tell me what you think. We could share the cost, have a great getaway, and forget our dating troubles."
A customer walked into the flower shop. "I've got to go. Call me back ASAP."
With a new spring in her step, Em went to the front of the store and took down the information for an anniversary bouquet. The older, gray-haired gentleman dictating what he wanted was adorable. Wearing jeans and a bright-blue flannel shirt that matched his eyes, he seemed full of life as he spoke.
"Where do you want this delivered?" Em asked him.
The man gave her the address of the St. Mark's Rehabilitation Center. "This isn't for my wife. I promised an old, deceased friend that I'd take care of this for him for as long as his wife lived."
"You mean before he died he asked you to do this for him?" Em's eyes filled with tears. It was such a romantic gesture.
"Yes. I live in the next town, but each year I come and place the order for him."
"I've been working here for only a few months, but that is the sweetest thing I've ever heard," gushed Em, blinking rapidly to stave off fresh tears.
Just then, her grandmother entered the store carrying a small pile of mail. She waved at the gentleman. "Well, Michael, nice to see you. That time of year again?"
"Hi, Julia. It's good to see you." He exchanged smiles with Em's grandmother.
"I was sorry to learn about Angie's death," Julia told him. "How are you doing?"
He shook his head. "After a year of mourning, I think I'm finally ready to accept she's gone. In fact, I was hoping I could convince you to go to dinner with me. May I call you?"
"I'd like that, Michael. Thank you." A rosy hue filled Gran's cheeks.
Observing them, Em's heart filled. Was this a love story in the making? From the looks they were giving each other, it might be. She could already see how perfect the two of them would be together.
Michael shuffled his feet. "Well, I guess I'd better go. I'm meeting a bunch of guys for coffee. We do this once a week."
"That sounds very nice," said Julia. "Sort of like my group of women meeting for wine and talk every week."
They stood facing one another. Em wondered if they realized the smiles stretched across their faces were telling a story of their own.
Michael turned to go and then turned back. "I'll call you later today, Julia."
"That will be fine. I'll wait for your call."
After he left the shop, Em faced her grandmother. "I think he likes you, Gran. Really likes you, if you know what I mean."
Her grandmother shook her head. "That's what I meant the other day, Emerson. You take a moment and weave it into a romantic fairy tale. A bit more realism will keep you from getting hurt. Michael is a lovely man, as was his wife, Angie. We'll go out to dinner and enjoy ourselves, but that's it. I have no intention of falling in love at my age. Why would I want to change my life? I have all the freedom I want without getting entangled with someone else."
Em let out a sigh. "Okay. I won't mention it again."
"That's my darling granddaughter," Julia said, patting her on the shoulder, a little sign of encouragement. "Now let's see what else is happening here."
She bustled away toward the back of the shop, leaving Em to wonder why her grandmother wasn't the least bit romantic. Maybe, as you got as old as her grandmother, dating, marriage, and everything that went with them just weren't important anymore. Em was cutting the thorns off the stem of a yellow rose when Kat returned her phone call.
"What do you think?" Em whispered a silent prayer for a positive response.
"I'm in. I can pay my share. The place is fantastic, and I have leftover vacation from this year that I can apply to next year and not miss out on my normal number of vacation days. I've already checked out bikinis online. I found a black one that even I think is dangerous."
Em laughed. Kat had a beautiful, tall, lean body and liked to show it off. This easy acceptance of herself was part of the fun of being with her.
"I'm so happy you'll do this. Knowing I won't have to cope with Valentine's Day will help me get through Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I've gone out a couple of times since Dave suddenly decided we weren't a couple, but I'm sick and tired of the dating scene here in the city."
"Come on out to the country for a weekend," said Em. "It'll give you a change of pace."
"I might do that," said Kat. "A change will do me good. I'd better go. Boss man is coming."
Em clicked off the call. Her previous boss didn't condone use of cell phones during work hours. In his early sixties, he didn't understand younger people's use of social media or the need to even occasionally, not frequently, check one's cell for updates and social news.
As Em called the realty company, excitement poured through her like a balm to heal her wounds. "We'll take it for the full ten days." She smiled as she uttered the words, already feeling better about the future. Maybe Gran was right, she thought. She didn't need a man to make her happy. She had girlfriends like Kat.
* * *
The week leading up to Thanksgiving began the blur of long days preparing fall flower arrangements for individual customers and business clients as far away as New York City who depended on Rainbow's End to decorate their offices. It hadn't been easy for Gran to build such a strong business, but she had a way of appealing to people with a sense of honesty that most liked.
Thanksgiving was spent at her parents' house, with Elena, her husband, Andrew, and their dachshund, Daisy, a nice addition to the usual presence of her parents and Gran.
After the Thanksgiving meal, Elena and Em were happy to do the dishes for an opportunity to talk privately.
"I want to thank you again for the suggestion of renting Seashell Cottage in February," Em told her sister. "It's made such a big difference to me to have that to look forward to."
"Have you heard anything from Jared?" Elena asked, giving her a worried look.
"Not one word," said Em, as she stacked dishes beside the sink. "It's just as well. I've decided to follow Gran's idea and not worry about finding a man. As she says, she has a lot of freedom, and she wants to keep it that way. Me, too. I'm done with dating."
Elena finished rinsing a large serving platter and studied her. "That doesn't sound like you, Em. You've always wanted to be married, have a big, fancy wedding, and a lot of kids. As a young girl, you had more dolls than anyone else, declaring them your family."
"I know, but Gran says I have to be more realistic, that I always fantasize about things. Better for me to change, stop looking at relationships through pretty rose-colored glasses, and protect my heart."
Elena frowned at her. "She's telling you that because you two are so alike. Gran's heart got broken, but that doesn't mean yours will be broken again."
Em held up her hand to stop her. "I don't want to talk about it. Right now, I have to get through Christmas and New Year's, then I can relax and think about my trip to Florida."
"Okay. I won't say another word, but I do worry about you. How are things going here?"
"I love working in the flower shop. And I've been thinking about going into the landscape design business. That's another reason for not rushing into a new relationship."
"Your own business? Like you always talked about before you got into marketing?" Elena asked. "That's a great idea. You're so creative! I wish I had your talent."
"Ha! You're like Dad. All business. What would Andrew have done without your support to get him through medical school?"
"Yeah, but accounting is boring to some people," sighed Elena.
"Jared wasn't boring," said Em, and stopped. "Come to think of it, sometimes he was. Especially when he discussed some of the work he was doing for clients. Not actual names, of course, but numbers and details that seemed very complicated and, yes, downright dull."
Em smiled at her sister. "But you're not boring. In fact, you're bright and beautiful." Two years older than she, Elena was a pretty, down-to-earth person who exuded a lot of warmth along with a quick, eager brain. She had the Jordan strong nose, and a hint of pink in her blond tresses, making them a strawberry-blond that nicely offset her green eyes.
Elena hugged Em. "Thanks. I need to hear things like that, especially now that I'm starting to show my pregnancy and am feeling quite heavy."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Change of Heart"
Copyright © 2019 Judith Keim.
Excerpted by permission of Wild Quail Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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