Who Loves You Best

Who Loves You Best by Tess Stimson

Book: Who Loves You Best by Tess Stimson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tess Stimson
supermarket opened just around the corner last month—”
    “We’re not competing with inexpensive mass-market flowers. We’ve never chased pennies on a bloom. It can’t have made that much difference—”
    “I don’t know.” Craig shrugs crossly. “I just look at the bottom line.”
    I shush him as a customer enters. Normally I’d let Molly, the Fulham manager, serve him, but I like to spend a few hours every week or so working on the floor at one of my shops. It keeps me grounded and in touch with my client base.
    “How can I help—”
    “Flowers,” he says shortly.
    Too angry for a funeral. Or a lover, unless he plans to beat her to death with the calla lilies. His brooding, bitter intensity fills the room like smoke.
    I hesitate, and then move towards a bank of glorious pink peonies.
    “Not those. She has enough secrets.”
    I glance up in surprise. Not many people know the Victorian language of flowers; certainly not—I hate to sound like Davina—an American. From the Deep South, judging by his mellow accent.
    “Yellow tulips?” I hazard.
    “Hopeless love and devotion? Hardly. And not abandonment,” he says dryly, as I reach for a small crystal bowl of anemones.
    Craig is agog. “What did you have in mind?” he asks breathlessly.
    For a long moment, the bitter American says nothing.
    “Lilies,” he says finally. “Lilies and jasmine.”
    Innocence and good luck. Somehow, I don’t think he means it as a compliment.
    Under his sardonic gaze, I deftly pull together a bouquet,weaving the jasmine through the lilies in a tight, crisp arrangement.
This
is why I love my shop, my job. These flowers won’t be thrust into someone’s hand, sniffed cursorily, jammed into a vase and forgotten. They will become part of someone’s story.
    I watch the American curiously as he pays and leaves without another word.
    I feel sorry for her, whoever she is.
    It’s ten to six by the time I get home, thanks to a security alert on the District & Circle Line. I expect Jenna to be champing at the bit, wanting to get ready, so I’m slightly surprised to find the house in near-darkness. She must have popped out for a minute.
    I hesitate by the drinks cupboard in the kitchen, then pour myself a very small gin and tonic. I’ve never really liked drinking alone. It feels … sordid, somehow.
    I kick off my shoes and tuck my feet up under me in a squishy armchair by the unlit fire. I’m exhausted, but it’s a satisfying weariness born of hard work, rather than quiet desperation. I don’t know how I ever thought I could look after the twins myself. I’m just not cut out to be a hands-on mother. That doesn’t mean I love them any less, does it?
    I pull a folder out of my leather satchel, and flip it open. I don’t know why our profits are suddenly down, but I refuse to sell out to the fern-and-carnations brigade who’d be just as happy with a cellophaned bunch of weeds from the garage forecourt. Craig means well, but I created my business for customers who understand the importance ofworking
with
nature, who know that stepping out of season, forcing flowers, goes against the order of things; customers who know that flowers mean so much
more
, like that strange, angry American.
    I must have fallen asleep, because I’m startled by a car alarm sounding outside in the street. I jolt awake, knocking the file onto the floor, and glance at the clock. Eight-fifteen!
    Where on earth is Jenna? And the twins?
    I stem an instant gut surge of panic. She’s probably gone to see a friend, lost track of the time, the traffic—
    She doesn’t answer her mobile. I call four times, growing more and more concerned. Davina is right. How much
do
I know about this girl? She’s only been here a few months.
Any
thing could have happened—
    Don’t be ridiculous. This is
Jenna
.
    I ring Fran, suddenly remembering that Jenna knows her nanny, Kirsty. They could have gone off together, forgotten to call—
    Except that Kirsty hasn’t heard

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