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“I don’t know. To get it off your chest?”

“I’d rather everyone not know exactly how I feel all the time.”

“And I say exactly what I feel, when I feel it,” she said. “It’s how I form bonds. I hate being alone.”

“I love it.”

“Think Luke will leave you alone?” Ivy asked with a brow up.

“I’m not that lucky.” I looked around the shop, feeling the sharp edges of change in every corner. “It’s been you and me for so long. Having anyone in our space, interrupting our routine, will be hard. When that someone is Luke Bennet, we should just prepare for anarchy.”

She chuckled. “Oh, he’s not so bad.”

“Please. His head is so fat, I’m surprised he can fit through standard doorways.”

“I think he’s gotten just about anything—and anyone—he’s ever wanted,” she said, and I wasn’t sure if it was to argue with me or to agree.

“And yet his ambitions remain firmly in the gutter. Honestly, Luke is the patent opposite of everything I value—he’s aimless, unpredictable, unreliable. I can’t imagine why you’re shocked that I’m not his number one fan.”

“I’d take fan two-forty.” She shrugged, her eyes on the flowers. “I think he’s exciting, always was. Luke could make grocery shopping a good time. If ever I wanted an adventure, Luke was waiting with a hand extended and a wicked smile on his face.”

Adventure. The word struck me like flint and set an angry fire in my chest. I might need adventure, but not with him.

“Why do you look like you could spit acid?” she asked, snapping me back to myself.

“I don’t know,” I shot, annoyed.

“Tess,” she started, pausing until I met her eyes and she was sure she had my full attention, “Luke is a good guy, one you have not seen in years. One who has grown up, just like you. He’s Mrs. Bennet’s son, who came all the way back from California just to help out. Has he ever intentionally done anything to hurt you?”

“No,” I grumbled.

“Sixteen-year-old Tess is still butthurt about it.”

“It was a good kiss, and he should have remembered,” I joked.

“Yes, he should have. But if you really want reconciliation, then tell him.”

“I don’t want reconciliation, Ivy.”

“Why not?”

“It was ten years ago. He’d think it was ridiculous, and it is.”

“Then get over it and move on.”

“I have! It’s not like I have an effigy of him in my closet or anything, Ivy. It’s just that…” I sighed, running a hand over my face, then swearing when I remembered it was dusted with dirt. “He caught me by surprise yesterday,” I said, swiping at my face. “The knowledge that he’ll be working here with us every day is the worst news I’ve had in ages.”

She reached across the table and wiped away the dirt I’d been smearing around. “You were surprised. But he didn’t do anything wrong, did he?”

“Besides harass me? It doesn’t really absolve him that he thought I was you. If we had an HR department, they’d be having a field day.”

“Fair enough, but deep down, you know his intentions were innocent. Luke would never in a million years have come on to you like that. Right?”

My sigh weighed a thousand pounds. “I mean—”

“Right,” she answered for me. “And what about all the good things he’s done?”

“So far he’s groped me, been late, and if I had to guess, he’s about to bang Judy. What has he done right again?”

Ivy rolled her eyes so hard, her irises almost disappeared. “Came back to help Mrs. Bennet. Dropped everything to rush back. Came into the shop before noon. What?” she added, watching my expression. “That’s a big deal for him, and you know it. You’re just so focused on all the bad things, you can’t see the good.”

I was pouting, and I knew it. I just couldn’t seem to erase the expression her bitter truth had inspired. “The product of years of practice, I guess.”

“Well, maybe it’s time to unlearn it, if for no other reason than to keep the workplace hospitable. You’re going to make the flowers sad with all your bad energy.”

I chuckled, picking up my shears again to avoid her eyes. “We can’t have that.”

“No, we can’t. Give him a chance—if not for the shop, for Mrs. Bennet. It’d kill her to think you hated him like you seem to.”

For a moment, I imagined the sadness and disappointment on her face if she knew I’d rather eat mulch than make nice with Luke, and my guts twisted against the sight. “All right,” I conceded, snipping a branch off. “I’ll try to be good. But if he pushes it, I swear …” I pointed my shears at her in warning.

“Hey, if he deserves it, all bets are off.”

“If who deserves what? And who’s getting stabbed with those shears?”

Luke’s voice set my spine straight as an arrow, my gaze snapping up to find him standing at the end of the table.


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