Home > The Remake (Second Chance Flower Shop #4)

The Remake (Second Chance Flower Shop #4)
Author: Noelle Adams


One

 


IF ANYONE ASKED, BELINDA Phillips would have said that she was quite happy with her life, and she would have been telling them the truth.

She was thirty-two. Reasonably smart. Reasonably healthy and attractive and secure. She was the only CPA in her small town, so she had a thriving business. She enjoyed working with numbers, keeping accounts tidy, and helping people in her community save money to afford their dreams. Her parents died several years ago in a car accident, which was the hardest thing she’d ever lived through, but Belinda was close with her younger sister, and she had more than enough friends and acquaintances to keep her satisfied.

She wasn’t particularly drawn toward children, so her never-married status usually didn’t trouble her.

Usually.

Every once in a while, however, she indulged a fleeting thought. Everyone else in Azalea—the town in Virginia where she’d been born and still lived—was able to find someone to pair up with. Everyone else was capable of attracting at least a semidecent life partner.

But not her.

Men had never shown much interest in her at all.

It was confusing. Troubling. She knew—and repeatedly told herself—that she was a good-hearted person with plenty of positive attributes. Maybe she was a little bossy, but that was only because she liked to help other people and keep them in order. Bossy people found boyfriends and partners and spouses all the time. She’d seen it happen over and over again.

But not to her.

She didn’t need a husband. Or a boyfriend. Or any sort of admirer at all. She’d made herself a good life without one. But the truth was this—she occasionally wanted it. Or at least the opportunity to turn a man down.

She was thinking about this bewildering fact of her existence one morning in December as she sat at a booth in Anna’s Diner, finishing her coffee and working on her laptop. She had a small office in a storefront down the block where she met with clients, but she did most of her work at home. When she had a hard time getting started in the mornings, she came to work at Anna’s since the low-level buzz of voices and activity provided just enough distraction to keep the work from getting too tedious.

Today she hadn’t gotten much accomplished. It wasn’t because she wasn’t interested in making sense of the accounts from Jake Holston’s farm. They were a huge mess. Sorting through the chaos was like solving a difficult puzzle. Those were her favorite jobs, and this one was definitely a challenge.

Her primary source of distraction at the moment was the presence of the new man in town.

In a place as small as Azalea, the arrival of a new single and attractive man was a once-in-a-decade experience.

Charles Kensington had moved to town with his sister a few months ago. Charles was a writer, which was different enough of a career in their rural county to be exciting. His sister, Ariana, wasn’t currently employed, although she was looking to start a small business. Their family evidently had money, although Belinda hadn’t yet been able to figure out how much or where it was coming from. They were both perfectly polite but not forthcoming with background information.

And Charles was cute.

Very cute.

He looked to be about Belinda’s age with dark hair, dark eyes, and a slightly receding hairline that made him look thoughtful and intelligent. He had a quiet, sober manner she appreciated. He always spoke softly and was never rude or obnoxious. Everyone who met him liked him. Belinda liked him.

But he didn’t appear to be at all interested in her.

As far as she could tell, he was straight. He’d mentioned an ex-wife to old Mrs. Peterson, and his sister had implied he’d had a number of girlfriends in the past. Belinda thought the two of them probably had a lot in common, and she was as good a catch as anyone else in Azalea. But she’d been sitting there the whole time as Charles had come in, taken a stool at the counter, and eaten his breakfast. And he hadn’t glanced over at her once.

It wasn’t surprising. This kind of thing happened to Belinda all the time. Less now than it used to since the number of eligible men around had dwindled down to practically nothing. But she well remembered in school and college how it felt. To have her eye on an interesting guy only to watch how he completely ignored her in favor of someone else.

It made her stomach sink with an exhausted resignation.

She wasn’t sure why she’d expected anything to change, just because she was grown up now and more secure in who she was. It didn’t mean men would suddenly start falling for her when they never had before.

“Something wrong with you?”

The words startled her so much she jerked and made an embarrassing squeaking sound. Her hand had been around her coffee cup, and her sudden motion caused the liquid to slosh out of the mug and onto her fingers.

Glaring up at the source of this annoyance, she snapped, “Do you have to sneak up on people like that?”

“Did I sneak up?” Fitz asked blandly, his vivid blue eyes glinting with humor. “I walked in the door and came over here. It’s not my fault you were staring at someone else.”

Fitz had arrived in town several years ago and had provided no background at all about where he’d come from or why he’d chosen Azalea. He was probably around forty—although his age was hard to accurately pinpoint—and he lived in a run-down attic space in one of the downtown buildings. He supported himself by doing odd jobs, including for the flower shop that Belinda’s sister, Ria, owned with her friends. Fitz was obviously capable and intelligent, but he made no attempt to better himself or get a full-time job. His brown hair and thick beard were unkempt. His clothes were worn down to threads. And he always wore the same beat-up Army jacket, even on the hottest days of summer.

He was a ridiculous, obnoxious man, and he seemed to have taken it upon himself as a particular mission to get on Belinda’s nerves.

Her eyes narrowed as she tried to hide her embarrassment. Naturally, Fitz would be the one to notice her discreet and subtle observation of Charles. “I wasn’t staring at anyone. And nothing is wrong.”

“It sure looked like something was wrong. You were getting all droopy and forlorn, which isn’t like you at all.”

With an indignant gasp, she wiped the coffee off her hand with more force than was entirely necessary. “I was not droopy or forlorn. You’re imagining things.”

“I don’t think so.” Despite the typical dry amusement in his blue eyes, they were searching her face with an unmistakable scrutiny. Like he really did want to know what was wrong.

It rattled Belinda for no good reason. Despite her protestations, Fitz was right about her. She had been feeling sorry for herself and her profound lack of male attention. She didn’t like to be that way, and his sudden appearance and the resulting annoyance his presence always provoked in her immediately pulled her out of it. “I’m telling you that you are imagining things. You don’t know better about me than I know myself.”

“I don’t think I know better. I just think I’m more likely to tell me the truth than you are.”

It took a minute for her to process that roundabout remark. When she did, she gave him another scowl. “In what universe do you think I would owe you the truth about anything, much less myself?”

His mouth quirked up beneath his beard. “You don’t owe me anything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know anyway.”

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