Authors: Mary Manners
Tags: #christian Fiction
Lilies and Lies
Wildflowers and Wishes #3
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Lilies and Lies
COPYRIGHT 2014 by Mary Manners
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Contact Information: [email protected]
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version(R), NIV(R), Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Cover Art by Nicola Martinez
White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC
First White Rose Edition, 2014
Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-331-5
Published in the United States of America
Marianne Evans...your sweet spirit uplifts me at every turn. I praise God for your friendship. May His light shine on you all the days of your life.
Praise for Mary Manners
Mary Manners is one of those authors...I know that I will always love and enjoy any of her books... ~ Paula Phillips on
Between the beautiful view she paints with her opening words, and the emotional turmoil in the hero's heart, Ms. Manners drew me into this story from the start. ~ Donna Basinow on
Lesson in Lone Creek
Manners spins a tale of second chances, tender love, and family relationships that touch the soul. ~ Marianne Evans on
Faith and love can get you through anything. That is the message that is woven throughout Mended Heart. An engaging couple and vibrant supporting cast are the star players in this tale of two people finding peace... and each other. ~The Romance Reviews on
A heartwarming tale you won't want to miss. ~ Happily Ever After Reviews on
This book is unputdownable, as it's believable and loveable characters leap from the pages. Ms. Manners conveys a rich depth of emotion on each page, going from laughter to tears to heart stopping moments almost effortlessly. ~ Clare Revell on
Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
Maddie Cutler tugged the floral cart toward the entrance to Cutler Nursery and hoisted a ceramic planter loaded with an arrangement of Stargazer lilies onto the pavement. Their vibrant white, red, and pink splash of color paled only to the heavenly scent of the blooms. The robust, majestic perennials remained her all-time favorite, and she took extra-special care with them as she nestled each planter among others filled with dahlias, gladiolus, and peonies. The lovely aroma was sure to entice customers into an impulse purchase, one they'd be delighted to splurge on. She knew once a Stargazer was sampled, the buyer was forever hooked.
“That's just a bit of overkill, don't you think?”
She turned to find her oldest brother, Wyatt, coming up behind her. Maddie knew by the tight set of his jaw as he approached that he had intentions to nitpick her work. He wasn't a fan of the stargazers or any of the blooms, really, which was a constant source of friction between them. Mattie got lost in the beauty and didn't worry so much about the bottom line but Wyatt, well, when it came to blooms Wyatt was all business.
She supposed he had to be all about the dollar signs. After all, Wyatt maintained the financial records for Cutler nursery. By all accounts, he'd restored the business from ashes and continued to spearhead its success. As he approached, Maddie tried to remember all that her eldest brother had sacrificed for the good of the family.
Wyatt's height blocked the sun, and the dark texture of his hair and eyes reminded her once again that in the looks department she was the odd manâor should she say, womanâout. Being the only female sibling of the Cutler clan was like a sole romance novel mistakenly nestled atop a library shelf laden with gritty westerns. Add to that the fact that she was the only fair-skinned, fair-haired sibling in the bunch, and she stuck out like a sore thumb in the family photos.
Maddie ran a hand through her long, strawberry-blonde hair, muttering at the early-September humidity that turned the curls to a mass of frizz. Freckles popped along her fair skin, and she wished once again that she took after her brothers, who'd inherited a flawless, dusky skin-tone from their mother's Italian side of the familyâone that tanned to an enticing bronze beneath the slightest kiss of sunlight. Maddie, on the other hand, was clothed in Irish skin that merely burned and splotchedâand not necessarily in that order.
She drew a breath as she tucked a stray strand of frizz back into the elastic band that held her hair. “It's not overkill at all. I thought the blooms might add a splash of scent as well as a waterfall of color to the entrance. It's tooâ¦structured around here. We're not stocking a grocery store, you know. Besides, I love the sweet fragrance.”
“That structure is called organization, something we've worked hard to maintain here. And the Stargazer scent is a little too over-the-top for me when they're all huddled together, especially so close to the entrance. But I can see why you'd like them.” Wyatt scratched his chin, considering. “Do me a favor and scatter them a bit.”
“If we scatter them they'll be more difficult to find. And I'm not the only one who favors them. Dad liked them, too.” She thought of her father, Rick Cutler, and the way he'd brought generous clippings of Stargazers to her mother, Hattie, every Friday evening until his death.
The bloom symbolized devotion, and Maddie wished she'd one day discover a love filled with as much devotion and mutual respect as her parents had shared. “Remember how he used to give a bouquet of fresh cuttings to Mom every week?”
“I do. Nice gesture, but the whole house used to stink from them. Just as the scent of one bouquet faded, he'd bring in more blooms.”
“Stink?” Maddie's mouth dropped open. How was she ever going to survive working at the nursery with such a baboon at the helm? Maybe she should have appealed to Peyton for a job at her floral shop upon her return home from college, instead. At least Peyton understood the beauty and texture of flowers, not just the dollar signs they might bring. And, after all, she and Peyton were now sisters-in-law since her brother Reese had married Peyton last spring. “My goodness, Wyatt, but aren't you a spoilsport? Is it because you miss Dad so?”
“I'm just....” For a moment, Wyatt's jaw went slack and Maddie thought he might admit that, somewhere beneath the Teflon exterior, he had a heart as soft as a marshmallow. She'd glimpsed it from time to time, when he worried over Mom or patted Kami's belly, mounded with the impending birth of his first child. “We all miss Dad. Now, please, don't place too many pots out here. We don't want to drive customers away with the overwhelming smell.”
“It's not a
, like week-old spoiled beef or soiled running socks. It's a
“Call it whatever you'd like. Remember that we're running a business here, Maddie. We can't act impulsively and on emotions alone.”
“By the book, all rightâthat's you, Wyatt. Never impulsive or emotional.” Maddie clucked her tongue while she gave her head a slight toss, swishing her ponytail. “You need to let loose moreâ¦relax a little.”
“No time to relax. Someone has to keep tabs on things around here.”
“Have at it. I prefer to immerse myself in the pleasing
of Stargazers instead of in the staleness of your stuffy office, with my nose poked into a spreadsheet all day long. Good grief, that's like a death sentence.”
“Then stick to things out here. Just be sure to check Reese's design sheets before you move anything else around. There
a method to our madness, you know.”
“I understand that. But, there's nothing wrong with being just a tiny bit impulsive. It adds some excitement to the daily grind.” Maddie placed the last planter alongside the others and stood to face him. “Speaking of the daily grindâ¦I'm going to need the truck to take a shipment of Aztec grass and a flat of river rock over to Marcus. He's working that landscaping job on Oak Street, and the erosion problem is worse than he thought. Now the customer wants to add an additional buffer against the elements, hence the grass and stone.”
“Why don't you let Reese get it?” Wyatt's expression clouded with the protective big-brother look Maddie had grown accustomed to through her childhood years.
At a full seven years older, Maddie knew that Wyatt thought of himself as a surrogate parent, especially since their dad's death three years ago. She'd hoped he'd eased up in the bossiness department while she was away at college, but by the way his gaze narrowed, she assumed he still wore the big-brother label like a badge of honor.
“You haven't had much experience driving the truck. I'd rather you didn't mess with it now.” The look of displeasure on his face, coupled with the condescending words, ignited Maddie's temper.
“Mess with it?” Maddie might have spat bullets. Wyatt had a penchant for getting on her last nerve, but this was really too much. She placed a hand on one hip and lifted her chin. If she didn't stand her ground nowâ¦ “Have you forgotten I drove trucks for a full year during my internship in Nashville? FYI, I can shift gears sleeping. There's no reason to trouble Reese. He's busy in the grafting house, and I can handle this delivery just fine.”
“Have you forgotten that you managed to put your car into a ditch not once but
during the past six months?” He raised a pair of fingers to drive the point home.
“I can't help it if a puppy ran into the street. I certainly wasn't going to plow into the poor thing.”
“And that accident at the intersection of Fourth and Cogdill?”
“I'm telling you the light was still green.”
“That's not what was stated in the police report. Anyway, that aside, Reese mentioned the brakes seemed a little loose the last time he took the truck. I'm planning to have Gunnar take a look-see.”
At the mention of Gunnar Holt, Maddie's temper stalled. He owned a garage on the west end of the boulevard, and Wyatt had commented more than once that Gunnar often worked his magic on Cutler Nursery's trucks. No one knew mechanics as well as Gunnarâhe had the golden touch. He'd patched countless dings and rotated the tires on Maddie's sedan and even fixed the fuel line during a college break last summer, charging her only a batch of her soon-to-be-world-famous double-fudge brownies. But, though she'd tried her best to engage him in conversation while he performed repairs on her car, she'd found him to be as tight-lipped and closed-off as a man could manage to be around a woman. Next to Gunnar, her stiff-necked brother was a wild and footloose renegade.
Yet, the thought of Gunnar brought a smile to Maddie's lips. She brushed her hands together, wiping crumbs of soil from her fingers as she imagined Gunnar's lean, good looks and the southern drawl of his deep voice. His grey eyes could burn a hole through water with their intensity, and his longish, jet-black hair gave him just enough of a dangerous look to kick her pulse into an allegro tempo. He knew his way around tools, his movements in the shop like an expertly-choreographed dance.