small town mysteries and romances

Bonita Y. McCoy

Seeds of Love 

Chapter One 

February

Julie Wilson looked through the peep hole to see who was banging on her apartment door. All she could make out was a variegated green plant. A mother-in-law tongue, to be sure. She recognized it immediately.

“I don’t want to talk to you, Marcus. Go away.” She turned from the door and plopped onto the couch in between two large blue pillows. A magazine lay on the coffee table in front of her alongside her computer and her graduate thesis regarding threatened and endangered plant species that she’d been working on all morning. She lifted the magazine and thumbed through the pages, ignoring the man on the other side of the door.

“Just hear me out. I wanted to return your plant. If you leave it in my office, I’ll kill it.”

Julie shot up, discarding the magazine. “Is that some kind of sick threat?”

“No, a fact. I’ve never been able to keep anything alive. I’m not a plant person.”

“You might not be a plant person, but you certainly have a way with women,” she mumbled as she marched to the door and swung it open. She reached out and snatched the plant from his hands. But before she could slam the door shut, he stuck his foot between it and the frame.

Julie pushed hard against the door, crushing his loafer.

 Sucking in air, he grabbed the door with his hand and pushed it back toward Julie.

She released the door, and he fell into the small entrance.

“Come on, Jules. I thought if we talked about it you might see my side.”

Julie stepped back and rolled her eyes. “Which side? The side where you’ve been dating, not one, but two, other women behind my back, or the side where when I caught you on a date with one of the said women, you wanted to make it sound as if I was the one being unreasonable? And don’t call me Jules.” She strode to the coffee table and deposited the plant on it with a thud.

“You are being unreasonable.” Marcus stood in the doorway, the February air chilling the room.

Julie waved her hand toward him, swatting away his words. “My grandfather used to call me Jules. It’s special, and I won’t have you ruin it.”

“Look, I never said we were exclusive.” He closed the door and moved toward her. His voice softened. “I often date beautiful women, of which you are the most delightfully beautiful. You enchant me. When I’m near you, I can’t think. Let me make this up to you.” He reached to take her in his arms, but she stepped back.

“Don’t touch me.” Embarrassment flooded over her. What a fool she’d been, eating up his ridiculous compliments like candy, always giving him the benefit of the doubt. But no more.

She turned her shoulder and crossed her arms to shield against his charms. “I guess all those times you told me you loved me didn’t indicate we were exclusive, Nor the fact that you repeatedly talked about a future with a beach house and dogs and a garden for me, that certainly wouldn’t lead me to think we were exclusive. No. I’m just a simpleton. A mere grad student with gullible written on my forehead in Sharpie.”

“Jules don’t be so hard on yourself. You know literary types like me, we feel and live in the moment. I do love you. Truly, I do, but I have feelings for others as well. It’s in my nature to admire and love beauty.”

She took two steps back and blinked to keep the tears at bay. She wouldn’t let him see her cry. Swallowing the shards of her broken pride, she managed to change the subject. “I suppose you heard Dr. Ferguson offered me the internship for the summer if I wanted to stay on campus.”

“I did. I’m so proud of you. Maybe we can make plans for a day trip to Chattanooga. Get away and celebrate.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I meant it when I said we’re over. I … I never should have gone out with you in the first place. I knew better, the age difference and you being on faculty. Our relationship was doomed from the start, but you made me believe—”

As her heart crumpled into ashes, she clasped onto an idea she’d been toying with. “Since you’ll be leaving on sabbatical in the fall, it’ll be easier for me if I’m not here this summer. The sooner we’re out of each other’s lives the better.” She studied the carpet for a moment. “I’ve been offered another job. It won’t be as prestigious, but at least, I can trust the people I’ll be working with.”

Marcus stepped toward her, pinning her against the chair that sat opposite the couch. “Jules, I care for you. Can’t we work this out? I’d like for us to still be friends.” He raised his hand to touch her cheek.

She turned away.

“No, Dr. Patterson. From now on, any interactions we have will be on a professional level.” She placed her hands on his chest and pushed hard against the soft fabric of his coat, moving him out of her way.

He grabbed her hand. “You don’t mean that, Jules.”

The heat of her ire rose to her cheeks “Yes, Dr. Patterson, I do. And if you ever call me Jules again,” she pulled her hand from his and pointed toward the coffee table, “you’ll be wearing that plant as a hat. Now, get out.”

                                                                                                                                ∞

The ice cream melted on her tongue, and she closed her eyes and rolled her shoulders. Every time she thought of that two-timing—no—three-timing jerk, she wanted to follow through on her threat. But instead of one plant on his head, she wanted to rub him down with poison ivy and buy up all the calamine lotion in the tri-state area.

She sighed and stuck her spoon in the container of chocolate swirl brownies.

The relationship had been doomed from the beginning. He’d somehow made her feel less. He downplayed her work with landscaping and dismissed any concerns she voiced about their differences. He’d only had eyes for himself. And well, every other pretty woman who came into view. She huffed. “Idiot.”

Now she needed to make the call about the other job. She smiled. She’d made it sound as if she’d taken an internship or planned to go on an expedition. She hadn’t lied, but she hadn’t gone out of her way to make sure he had the right picture.

She picked up her phone and scanned her favorites list. Tapping the well-known number, she dialed her sister, Paige, and waited for her to pick up.

“Hey, I was just thinking about you.”

“Hey, sis. How are you? Enjoying the thrills of small-town America?”

“Oh, more than I can say. There’s a carnival every night.” Paige laughed. “To be honest, I’m swamped. The business has grown every month since I opened my doors last May. I don’t think I can keep going without help.” She paused. “Have you given any thought to my offer?”

Julie leaned back against the couch and tucked her feet up under her. She hugged one of the pillows to her chest. “Actually, I have.”

“And?”

“If you’ll have me, I’d love to come.” Julie stared at the plant still sitting on the coffee table. “I think I need some time away.”

“Umm. That doesn’t sound good. What happened? Something with Mr. Dreamboat?”

“He turned out to be more like Dr. Shipwreck.” Julie bit her lip as she tried to decide how much to tell Paige. She had rushed into the relationship and given her whole heart. She didn’t want Paige to know how much it ached right now. “Let’s just say he thought dating was a group activity.”

“Oh no. We must be the world’s worst at picking men.”

“I know, right?” Julie said. “Every time I think I’ve found the one, he winds up being the wrong one.”

“Well, there is a bright side,” Paige said.

“What’s that?” Julie asked.

“At least you didn’t marry yours.” Paige sighed. “I talked with Mom and Dad last week. It’s definite they’re going to Scotland for the summer.”

“So, Tessa will be coming your way.” Julie threw the pillow back onto the couch and plopped against it, stretching out her legs.

“Yeah. Mom said she’ll finish up the semester mid-May, and they didn’t see any reason why she shouldn’t come straight here.”

Julie resisted the urge to groan. “Well, it is what it is. Perhaps a year of college has helped the wild child settle down.”

“I wouldn’t count on it. She posted on her page that she and three others from her Curb and Conserve group got thrown out of one of the stores in the mall last week for protesting the use of real fur in some of the coats they carried.”

“Sounds like a classic Tessa move. At least, you and I will be together to present a united front.”

Paige laughed. “I love Tessa but keeping her in check is like herding tornadoes.”

“Umm true,” Julie said. “Here’s hoping no one gets blown away.”