Authors: Janis Lane
Table of Contents
WHISPERS OF DANGER AND LOVE
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
WHISPERS OF DANGER AND LOVE
Cover Design by Melody A. Pond
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Published in the United States of America by
Soul Mate Publishing
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Macedon, New York, 14502
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Yes, in the poor man’s garden grow
Far more than herbs and flowers-
ind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,
And joy for weary hours.
—Mary Howett, “The Poor Man’s Garden”
Dedicated to gardeners the wold over
and to those who love them.
May your life be filled with sunshine,
enough rain to make your garden grow,
and a few weeds to keep you humble.
Testosterone surged as six half-naked men sped around the backyard, slapping the ball with grunts of satisfaction followed by abject moans of despair when they missed. Well-developed muscles glistened with sweat as they rippled.
Detective David Larkin, enjoying a late summer day off, would not admit to fatigue. Early thirties was not too old to play a rousing game of volleyball. Hoping to end the game, he gave an overhead slam all he had. At the last minute, his foot slipped in the long grass, causing him to pull back.
The ball flew to one side, hit the post, and arched high, clearing the tall hedge which separated the backyard from the property next door. The men stopped, stock-still, gazing with grinning faces as the ball hung suspended in the air momentarily before it started its downward swing. A couple of “wahoos” and some light applause provided sound effects. Shortly after the ball disappeared from view, a shrill, panicked scream pierced the air.
Larkin, assuming responsibility, trotted over and thrust his head through the dense foliage, earning him a long scratch down one grizzled chin.
A trim, rounded bottom and a better-than-average pair of decidedly feminine long legs, short shorts, and bare feet captured his attention as he frantically scanned the area. Her head hidden from his view, the noisy creature sobbed as she bent over the flower garden in front of her.
Did the volleyball harm a pet?
David tried to push his shoulders through the hedge. It may have been the only time in his life he regretted the width. While he struggled, his neighbor shouted ang
rily at him.
“Larkin! Do you see what you’ve done, you clumsily beast?”
He struggled to follow her fingers pointing at the ground. Her face was red, and he imagined waves of fury escaping from the top of her pretty head.
He actually couldn’t see, although he spotted a reddish-purple lump at the base of those bare toes.
Was something bleeding?
A surge of adrenaline gave his pulse a jump, and he struggled with the hedge a moment more before he gave up and pulled himself back through. He ran a few steps toward the back where he remembered a narrow opening. A quick sideways thrust gained entry to the garden next door.
“Did I hurt your little dog, Cher?”
He reached the side of the curly haired brunette and stared down at the carnage.
“This is yours.” She picked up the volleyball gingerly with fingertips and shoved it in his face. “I do not own a dog. I have never owned a dog. Dogs dig up gardens,” she said, ice dripping from a pair of lips that would have been inviting had they not been stretched thin over clenched teeth.
David clasped the ball between his hands. Even he could appreciate the odiferous fumes wafting from the well-used volleyball, now with a dark red smear on one side. He didn’t think it was blood.
“I’m sorry,” he said, even as he appraised with interest the trim figure bristling in front of him. “What did I hit?” He tried without success to peer around her at the lump. All he could see was a drawing tablet with a sketch teetering on the edge of a folding table. A plant, perhaps? Had he crushed a plant of some sort?
“This lily, now ruined for the rest of the season”—she paused and pointed for emphasis—“is a one-of-a-kind.” She caught her breath and shuddered before rushing on. “It’s a new kind of lily. It is so new there is no name for it as yet.”
David relaxed. It wasn’t a pet, but only some old plant. What an alarmist! The same old Cher, always making a fuss. Those screams had sounded seriously like something critical. He’d been on the verge of dialing 911 and had made ready to initiate first aid. He’d just had a refresher course. His superior, Detective Kevin Fowler, had insisted all the staff stay current, but he was pleased he didn’t need to use it today.
“I’m sorry about your plant, hon. Lucky someone wasn’t hurt.” He patted her awkwardly on the nearest shoulder, which she jerked angrily away. She turned her back to him and took a step.
Noise from the hedge caught his attention and he laughed to see heads popping through the foliage. The scene resembled some crazy carnival game of disjointed heads.
One of his buddies, a broad grin on his face and his head stuck through the hedge called out, “Hey, Dave. I gotta go. See you next week, and we’ll finish the game.” Two other heads, which had popped through the thick foliage, presented faces that sparkled with delight when they spotted the attractive woman with the thunderous expression.
“Oh-oh. Got your hands full now, Dave. Think you can handle that all by yourself? Go easy, now, big fellow. We don’t want anyone hurt.”
“Sure you don’t need company over there?”
“Might as well call the game. Looks like you got some fixing up to do, ole buddy. See you next week.” The heads popped back through the hedge, and David turned to his neighbor.
“Been a long time, Cher. I guess you know I just moved into my grandmother’s house.” He grinned at her while he twirled the volleyball up and down. How grownup she appeared from the last time he had seen her. How many years had it been? Obviously too long! He hadn’t remembered those long legs. The rest of her wasn’t bad either, in spite of the unfriendly expression she telegraphed. He had to restrain himself from reaching over and giving her the big bear hug he longed to do.
She stared up at him through narrowed eyes. “Yes, and the several years I lived next door to that lovely lady, never once did a prize lily get destroyed by a flying anything!” She turned her back to him again and knelt with a sorrowful expression beside the crushed blossom.
He glanced again at the sketchpad to see what it might have looked like before his fateful overhead smash
A lily wasn’t all that special. It shouldn’t be difficult to find another. He shrugged. “Well, I gotta go and get cleaned up. I really am sorry about your posy, but it’s nice to see you again after all this time.” He flashed her his famous, winsome grin guaranteed to tempt even the most truculent conquest to his side. He received a stony glare in return.
Okay. Obviously she was still angry. He might need to work a bit on this one; buy her a bouquet of flowers or something. Chocolate, they all like chocolate anything. He gave her a half salute while she stared coldly over her shoulder at him. He trotted down the hedge line and disappeared through the pass through.
After her new neighbor left, Cheryl tried to settle back to her work. Her column wouldn’t write itself and she respected the deadline.
The “Right Way” to Garden
Frequently I am asked to discuss the “right way” to garden, which is a tough question for me to answer. Actually, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “right way.” There is only what makes the gardener happy with her/his efforts, with the caveat, of course, that your neighbors haven’t called the zoning board of appeals to complain, or all the plants haven’t died from lack of attention to the placement.
“Total Beast! Always been a beast, is still a beast,” Cher spit out between tightly clamped jaws, feeling a vein throb in her forehead. She took a deep breath trying valiantly to regain her composure and still her racing pulse. A moment ago, she was content in her peaceful garden sketching an exciting new specimen. Now her blood pressure must be off the scale and her temper set on boil. The unexpected appearance of David Larkin had caught her completely unaware. Sure, she had heard the noise from next door and regretted the absence of her lovely older neighbor, who shared her love of gardening, but she hadn’t thought to be confronted by his presence so soon.
“Why did I think he would sell the house? Should’ve known he would cause the maximum of confusion. Always did, always will.” Cheryl scanned the border of her blazing, full-bloom perennial flowerbeds. The sight usually gave her a feeling of pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. Her nerves slowly settled and finally she turned back to her laptop.
Take the perennial, Anthemis, a pretty
-yellow daisy, for example. The more you love it, tend it, pamper it, the less successful you will become. This plant thrives on neglect and is a perfect choice for a casual approach to gardening. So one of the first questions I usually ask a client is how much time does the gardener intend to spend “hands on” with her/his plants.
Cheryl tried without success to thrust aside the vision of a broad-shouldered, naked chest of a brute of a male with an untidy thatch of coal-black hair falling into his face, as he invaded her garden, bringing with him his usual chaos. Her garden column had to be completed by this afternoon and emailed before five. She was acutely regretting that she had left it until the last minute, but she hadn’t wanted to wait another day to sketch the long-awaited bloom of the cultivated hybrid lily. Surging fury tightened her throat at the sight of the crushed petals. She had so carefully tended the cultivation of this bulb. A two-year project was just now coming to an end. A glimpse only of the gorgeous bloom, and smash, it was over.
Who cared how handsome he was? Those shoulders could have been on a wrestler, but who wanted a sports jock for a neighbor? She was still grieving for the gracious lady from next door who had shared her passion for gardening. What kind of grandson never visited his grandmother?
One lady I know works full time, volunteers in several worthwhile charities, and is—with her husband—raising two healthy children. She also has a love of gardening. Her backyard is a showpiece of colorful elegance. How does she accomplish this, which, I might add, she does with grace and talent? The answer is easy: Her garden is tightly organized.
From experience, she knows which plants grow best and where. Out her back door and off her deck she designated a three-by-four-foot plot for brightly colored annuals. Visible from her breakfast table, this tightly contained garden adds to the enjoyment of her first cup of coffee every morning. Spikes of Rocket snapdragons bloom with a ring of white, sweet alyssum. For variety, she might change the type of annuals each year.
“Always breaking my things,” Cheryl fumed with her head whirling with unbidden memories. She stomped her foot. “Who was it who broke my best tea set? Who teased Nana’s parrot until it squawked every time he came near?
“Beast! Why, oh why, couldn’t a nice family with sweet little girls move in next door?” she moaned aloud. She leaned over and petulantly yanked a weed up by the roots and shook it hard. Soil flew everywhere, including in her face and on her blouse.
Two baskets of pansies in one lightly shaded corner are still merrily smiling with their blotched faces. At the end of the season, after the first frost, this prepared lady pulls up and discards the colorful annuals, gives the bed a quick mulch, and then adds whimsical statuary to mark the spot. Snow soon gives the bed a seasonal cover, but the tall statue adds winter interest.
“I swear, if he starts aggravating me . . .” Cher paused, trying to calm herself, and then continued.
The rest of the yard? On the deck, a new variety of dwarf blueberries thrive in good-sized, decorative urns to mark one side of a picnic table complete with a brightly stripped umbrella. Not only did the short shrubs sport attractive foliage but produced edible berries in summer and showy red leaves in the fall.
After trying, without much success, to put her anger to one side, Cheryl stood and paced to the mailbox and back. “He hung my doll with my jump rope. Broke my skates with his big, beastie feet.” Then she resettled, her fingers on the keyboard of her laptop.
More potted plants were located strategically around the yard where container gardening was used to good advantage. While the various pots needed to be watered frequently—a chore she hired out to her teenagers for a raise in their allowances—there was almost zero need for weeding. Controlled, almost a minimalist approach, would be a name for this type of gardening. It works well for her, fits into her time schedule and her need to enjoy a growing bright spot here and there. This lady is a gardener. She has found a way for her garden to match her lifestyle.
Cheryl paused when she heard the tinkle of a bell toward the front of her cottage. It was late in the day for a customer, but there hadn’t been many lately. She ended the column with a promise to discuss a different type of gardening for next week, closed her laptop with a snap, and ran toward the front door. It was not smart to ignore potential customers. A hurried peek at her curls and a swipe toward a smear of dirt on one cheek, and she was through the hall and into what once was a living room, now remodeled into a compact gardening shop.
“Hi. I’m here to make amends.” Looming, shutting out the light, Brute the Lily Killer, stood filling the room with his beastly body full of rippling muscles and a smattering of black chest hair peeking from the neck of his red polo shirt. Streaks from a comb through his thick, black hair hinted it was still wet from his shower. It wasn’t raining. He was several inches taller than her five-foot-five. She had to look up at him while he directed an—she knew it had to be fake—apologetic eye back down at her. He had rich brown eyes with golden flecks, long curly lashes. She re-tagged him a browned-eyed Giant Lily Killer.
From behind his back, he brought three hothouse roses and held them forward. Over in the corner, a large red parrot paced uneasily back and forth on its perch.
“Ack! Naughty boy! Naughty boy!” The parrot squawked and ruffled its feathers.
Larkin spotted the bird and smiled boldly. “I really am sorry I squished your plant, but I’m glad it wasn’t more serious.” He eyed the parrot. “Pretty Polly, want a cracker?” Larkin asked in a singsong, teasing voice.