The Holloway women each have a special gift, passed down through generations, each one a little different. Juliette possesses a magical green thumb, which makes her job managing the local florist shop a dream. She may be a bit wild, but she knows what she wants: to save enough money to buy the shop from her boss. Then in marches Logan O’Connor, more annoyingly handsome than ever, turning all her plans upside down.
Logan hasn’t been back on Pine Cove Island since he was eighteen and broke Juliette’s teenage heart. Now it turns out he’s her boss’s nephew—and will be spending his days remodeling the shop and barking orders. At her.
For the sake of the business, Juliette will have to ignore their simmering attraction and work with Logan. But that doesn’t mean she has to make things easy for him. Because no one knows better than she that one tiny, perfectly planted bit of garden magic could uproot Logan’s own plans and keep him out of her way. And nothing would make her happier. At least that’s what she thinks . . .
Praise for Tara Sheets’ previous book, Don't Call Me Cupcake
“I loved this book! Beautifully written and the story has stayed with me.”
“Funny, sexy, charming and full of practical magic. . . . Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will love this novel.”
—RT Book Reviews
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If a guy was going to fondle her petunias, the least he could do was act like he cared. Pawing at them with a big meaty ham fist while he stared absently out of her shop window was not cool.
Juliette Holloway frowned, swiping a lock of dark hair behind her ear. It was going to be a long day at Romeo's Florist Shop, and she still had two more flower arrangements to put together before the morning rush.
She leaned over the counter and called across the room. "Excuse me."
The guy messing with her petunia plant didn't move or turn around. He had broad shoulders, and his head almost reached the top of the door frame. In jeans, a gray T-shirt, and a baseball cap, he looked like one of those NFL athletes — completely out of place surrounded by the delicate summer blooms and hanging fuchsia baskets.
She called again, louder. "Hello?"
Nothing. He just kept running a giant hand over the fragile purple flowers.
Juliette bristled. The plant was her newest project. Normally, she could make anything grow and thrive. Like all Holloway women before her, she was born with a special gift. Hers was garden magic. A customer had given her the potted petunia after rescuing it from an office cubicle. The poor thing had been halfway to the grave, but she'd nurtured it back to life. And now some linebacker was mauling it.
She marched across the room and tapped the man firmly on his back. It was a rock-hard, muscular back. He was probably one of those gym guys who spent all day pumping iron. "Can you please not touch that?"
He swung around and pulled an earbud out of his ear. Loud, thumping music spewed from his headset. Even with a baseball cap and mirrored sunglasses, he looked vaguely familiar. Strong jaw with a light stubble, high cheekbones, full lips. A tiny prickle of recognition tiptoed down her spine.
She gestured to the pot of flowers. "Please don't touch my plant."
He frowned and pulled the other earbud out. "What's that?"
Juliette sighed. Gym rats. Brains in their biceps. She enunciated each word carefully. "Don't. Touch. My petunia."
His lips twitched. "I ..."
She closed her eyes, ignoring the flush of embarrassment creeping up her cheeks. Way to set yourself up, genius. Maybe he didn't notice.
"I'm not usually so forward." His deep voice hovered on the edge of laughter.
Okay, so he noticed. Big whoop. Whoever he was, he was immature, and she didn't have time for this. She grabbed the plant and turned away. The hem of her flowy skirt caught on the edge of a low shelf, and she yanked it free before escaping to the back counter.
"Have we met before?" he called.
She threw him a glance.
He gave her a slow smile that sent a jolt of physical awareness from the top of her head to the tips of her blue painted toenails. "I feel like I know you."
For a pickup line, it was pretty bad. But he had a million-dollar smile and knew how to use it. The face. The superhero physique. All he needed was a cape or a giant hammer, or something. He probably didn't have much practice with pickup lines because he didn't need any.
He sauntered toward her.
There was something familiar about the way he walked — like he owned the world — but she couldn't place him. When he reached the counter, she was glad to be on the other side. It wasn't that she felt threatened. At five feet nine inches, she was comfortable with tall people. But this guy towered over her, and when he looked at her like that, it was ... unsettling.
He took off the baseball cap and mussed his tawny hair.
Juliette sucked in a breath.
Then he removed the sunglasses and fixed her with a gaze as deep and dark as the earth after a rainstorm.
Something inside her cracked open, and a trickle of long-forgotten feelings threatened to bubble to the surface.
She took an involuntary step back, trying to hide her surprise by leaning casually against the wall. Supercool. She was an iceberg of cool. Except she misjudged the distance to the wall and stumbled.
"That bad, huh?" His mouth kicked up at one corner. It was the same cocky grin that had once made her naive teenage heart yearn for things that were impossible. Logan was four years older. He'd been far too busy with the cool kids to notice her. And when he finally did that night at his senior graduation party, it was only to judge her and find her lacking.
Stay icy. She gave a half shrug. "It's been a while."
"Over thirteen years."
She studied him from beneath her lashes. His face was deeply tanned, his features sharper and more defined. He had faint lines near the edges of his eyes, and there was a weariness in them she hadn't seen before. He'd grown up.
"Aren't you in the army, or something?" she asked. Three tours in Afghanistan, last she heard. But that was old gossip from years ago.
"I was." He shifted his gaze to the window. "But I'm done with that now."
She still couldn't believe he was standing there like some ghost from a past life. Pine Cove Island was about as small as any Pacific Northwest island town could get. The Logan she remembered had been a powerhouse of restless energy. He couldn't wait to leave. Nothing was going to stop him from getting out to see the world. Certainly not a fourteen-year-old nobody with stars in her eyes.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I've come home. Going to fix up my grandfather's old house near the woods. It's on the other side of yours, I think."
She nodded vaguely, even though her heart thumped in her chest. When she was little, she used to wander those woods, spying on him and his grandfather through the trees. Logan always seemed larger than life. A great mystery she wanted to solve. What must it have been like to have a family like his? To have people involved in your life who loved you and stuck around?
"So." He stepped away from the counter, glancing around the shop. "You work here."
"Yes." A twinge of pride settled over her. Her floral arrangements were the best on the island, and her creative designs won first place every spring at the Flower Bud Festival. Everyone knew the plants from Romeo's Florist Shop bloomed well past their season. Her magic growth potions kept them healthy and vibrant. All a person had to do was look at them to know they were special.
But Logan wasn't looking at the plants. He was peering over her shoulder, frowning at the back room.
Juliette cringed. She knew exactly what he saw. Floral wire and paper scattered across the cutting table. Wilted flowers and greenery all over the floor. Stacks of packing crates blocking the closet with the broken door, and random baskets overflowing with gardening tools and cleaning supplies.
She shifted uncomfortably. "It's a work in progress back there."
His calculating gaze took in the cluttered cash register area, her coffee cup sitting on a stack of inventory papers, and the pile of broken plastic pots in the corner of the room.
Juliette resisted the urge to throw a tarp over them. Why hadn't she taken them out to the recycle bin yet?
He slowly made his way around the shop, stopping to check out the cracked tile on the floor near the door. She'd been meaning to find a doormat big enough to hide it.
When he jiggled a wooden shelf to test it for sturdiness, irritation spiked. She bit the inside of her cheek and grabbed her coffee cup. Why was he ignoring her gorgeous plants and only focusing on the shop's flaws? Because he's still judging you. It's what he does.
Juliette smoothed her thrift store tank top and sipped her coffee, glaring at him over the rim of the cup. The hazelnut chocolatey goodness was almost enough to quell the wave of annoyance building inside her.
The moment he ran his finger along the chipped paint above the door frame, Juliette decided she'd had enough. Maybe the place was a little shabby around the edges, but she loved it like it was her own. And if everything went according to plan, someday soon it would be her own. The last thing she needed was some drill sergeant strolling around, assessing its faults. She half expected him to break out a white glove and check for dust.
"Is there something I can help you find?" she asked. The exit door, for example.
He didn't answer. When he came to the recycled wooden bookshelf filled with her handmade bath products, he poked at the basket of soap, frowning.
Juliette felt as if he were poking at her. She didn't have to take this. The sooner he left, the sooner she could quit this messed-up stroll down memory lane and get back to work.
"Any particular plant you need?" she prodded.
He flicked a glance at the ivy spilling over the top shelf. "I'm not really into plants."
He turned to look at her. "Why's that?"
"I'm not sure you could handle them." The Logan she remembered could never sit still. He was always flying from one activity to another like a cyclone, leaving everyone in the dust if they couldn't keep up. "It takes effort and patience to keep them green."
"I have a plant," he said. "It's green."
Juliette gave him a dubious look. "Cactus?" Those things could survive almost anything. Even cyclones.
"Plastic." He looked almost smug. "The best kind, if you ask me."
Oh, the end. Juliette gritted her teeth. She set her cup down, sloshing her mocha on the counter. "If you're not here for plants, what do you want?"
He gestured to the black truck parked on the street. "Lumber delivery. I need to know where to make the drop this evening."
Everything suddenly clicked into place. Her boss had mentioned a supply delivery for the new deck and greenhouse they were building for the remodel. It suited Logan to work at the lumberyard. It would give him a chance to put those stupid GI Joe muscles to good use.
Juliette pointed to the fence near the front walkway. "You can just leave it out there."
"I think it's better if I take it around to the back."
She pointed to the fence again. "Right there is fine."
Logan frowned. "Are you the only one here? I should talk to — "
"— I'm the manager," she said testily. "I'm in charge of this place."
He cocked an eyebrow.
"Yup." She threw her arms wide. "Just little old me. The manager. And I'm telling you to leave it out front near the fence."
Logan seemed about to say something, then decided against it.
She crossed her arms and stared into his dark eyes.
Neither of them spoke for several long moments.
Neither of them blinked.
It was a silent battle of wills. She wasn't going to look away, either. She could stand there all day, if she had to. Even though her delicious hazelnut mocha was sitting right in front of her, growing cold. Even though the extra vanilla whipped cream was probably already melted by now.
She licked her lips.
He blinked. His gaze flicked to her mouth.
When he turned to leave, she felt a surge of triumph. She was in charge. She was The Decider. So what if he crushed her silly hopes when she was young and vulnerable? He probably didn't even remember. And none of that mattered now. She was twenty-seven. All grown up, and nothing he said or did could get under her skin.
At the door, he paused and glanced back. "There is one plant I can handle just fine." A spark of mischief lit his eyes, but his expression was all politeness.
Juliette didn't trust it. "What would that be?"
"Petunias." He shot her a crocodile grin. "I'm really good at handling petunias."CHAPTER 2
After Logan left, Juliette threw herself into creating floral arrangements and helping customers. By noon, she'd already forgotten his visit. At least five or six times. Yup, everything had slipped back into business as usual. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, she'd give the day a solid seven. If it weren't for accidentally running a drug cartel, it might have even been an eight.
She peered through the ferns lining the florist shop window and lifted a small marijuana plant from its hiding place. It was gorgeous and healthy, of course. Why wouldn't it be? She'd unknowingly been watering it with her magic growth potion for the past week.
"You're not supposed to be here," she whispered.
The seedling didn't explain itself, but it didn't have to. Her new employee did.
Juliette marched to the back room, hating this part of her job. All her life, she just wanted to be around plants, and aside from her cottage by the woods, Romeo's Florist Shop was her favorite place on earth. Plants were her "family." She loved them and cared for them, and they grew roots and stuck around. People, on the other hand, weren't as dependable.
"Kevin," Juliette said. "We need to talk."
A lanky teenage boy with swoopy hair leaned against the back door, tapping on his cell phone. In rumpled pants and the same AC/DC shirt he'd worn three days in a row, he looked like he just rolled out of a mosh pit. "What's up, boss?"
"You don't have to call me boss. I told you, Juliette's fine."
He didn't glance up from his phone. "My mom said I have to be respectful or you'll cast a spell on me."
Juliette rolled her eyes. "I don't cast spells on people." Why did she bother? People would believe what they wanted. Holloway magic was subtle, and only used to help others. It didn't even work directly on herself. Most of the locals laughed it off as silly superstition, but some — like Kevin's mom, apparently — didn't want to take any chances.
"What about those potions?" he asked, still tapping away. Screenagers. Never let it be said they lacked focus.
"Those are essential oil blends," Juliette said in exasperation. "Made from things in my garden. To help people. I don't make anything dangerous."
"You make bath grenades," he said through a yawn.
"Bombs, Kevin," she sighed. "Bath bombs. For relaxation."
"I dunno, boss. Bombs aren't super chill."
Juliette shook her head. Poor Kevin. He wasn't the brightest flower on the vine. If she was ever going to convince Romeo, the owner, to sell her the shop when he retired, she had to prove she could manage it like an expert. That meant finding a trustworthy employee to help out, especially with the remodel coming up. But Kevin wasn't that person.
"Owned." He did a fist pump and glanced up, grinning. "I just beat my highest score on Junk Punk."
Juliette breathed deep, because patience was a virtue. At least that's what people said. She wouldn't know firsthand, but she was willing to give it a shot. Kevin was an okay kid, but she wasn't interested in babysitting. Most of the time, he showed up to work stoned. Just yesterday she caught him watering the orchids with a pitcher of lemonade.
She held the marijuana plant in the air, waving it to get his attention. "I found this hidden under the ferns."
Kevin's smile took an instant nosedive. "Aw, balls."
"You told me this wouldn't happen again," Juliette said, setting the plant on the cutting table. "You promised me."
"I know, but you can make anything grow. Can't you make an exception? No one has to know." The whine was teenaged to perfection with just the right notes of hope and cluelessness. "My friend has a buyer lined up for the rest of the summer. He says we'll make a killing if you help us. Besides, weed's legal now in Washington."
Juliette lifted his hoodie from a peg on the wall and handed it to him. "You can explain that to your mom when she asks why you got fired."
"Please don't tell my mom," Kevin moaned. "Wait — I'm fired?" His shoulders slumped. "Balls."
"Yeah, good luck with yours." She held the door open for him. "I've seen your mom when she's angry."
Kevin pulled on his hoodie, scowling.
Juliette felt a stab of pity for him. He seemed so anchorless. "Wait." She grabbed one of her hand-wrapped soaps from a basket and held it out. "Take this."
He was clearly unimpressed with her parting gift. "I have soap at home."
"This is different. And it smells good, see?" She pressed the pine-and- sandalwood-scented bar into his hand.
He shook his head. "I use Axe body spray. I don't need — "
"Girls like this way better, trust me. It'll help you."
Finally, a flash of interest. "Get chicks?" He sniffed it cautiously.
She pressed her lips together, choosing her words. "I think it could help in a lot of ways. Just try it, okay?"
A few minutes later, Juliette watched him drive away in his mom's gold minivan. The soap was charmed to help a person gain clarity and make good choices. She hoped he'd use it, but even without the magic, it was a win for Kevin. Because ... Axe body spray? Come on.
She closed the back door and thumped her head against it. He was the third person she'd fired in a month. Romeo wasn't going to be happy, and she really needed him happy. Her plan to buy the florist shop depended on it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Don't Touch My Petunia"
Copyright © 2018 Tara Sheets.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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