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A Rose in Bloom
 

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A Rose in Bloom


  A Rose in Bloom

  The Complete Serial Romance

  by

  Tamie Dearen

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author. To the extent any real names of individuals, locations, businesses or organizations are included in the book, they are used fictitiously and not intended to be taken otherwise.

  A Rose in Bloom:

  The Complete Serial Romance

  by Tamie Dearen

  Copyright © 2015

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means now known or hereafter invented, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

  Table of Contents

  A Rose in Bloom

  Table of Contents

  Note from the Author

  Dedication

  Acknowledgements

  Part 1: Caught in the Act

  Part 2: Goose Bumps

  Part 3: Frozen

  Part 4: Under Arrest

  Part 5: Obstructing Justice

  Part 6: An Invitation

  Part 7: Sleepless Night

  Part 8: A Thorny Situation

  Part 9: Divided Attention

  Part 10: All Tied Up

  Part 11: Mincing Words

  Part 12: Wedding Jitters

  Part 13: Misconception Stemming

  Part 14: Disconnect

  Part 15: Shattered Glass

  Part 16: Bloody Rose

  Part 17: Forget-Me-Not

  Part 18: Shaken, Not Stirred

  Part 19: Cutting it Short

  Part 20: Turning the Tables

  Part 21: A Cup of Coffee

  Part 22: A Little Too Hot

  Part 23: Tears

  Part 24: Remorse

  Part 25: A Cup of Tea Cures All

  Part 26: Making Amends

  Part 27: Discarded Rose

  Part 28: Winning the Race

  Part 29: Falling in Love

  Part 30: Rose’s Evil Eye

  Part 31: Chick Flick Escape

  Part 32: Tug-of-War

  Part 33: Breathtaking

  Part 34: I’ll Take Him

  Part 35: Follow Your Dreams

  Part 36: Happily Ever After

  From the Author

  Noelle’s Golden Christmas

  About the Author

  Note from the Author

  A Rose in Bloom was originally written and shared on my blog, week by week, as a serial story, and is now compiled as a single collection in novella form.

  Dedication

  To all my fans who read this story, week after week, impatiently waiting for the next installment.

  Acknowledgements

  Thank you to everyone at the office who put up with me writing every single spare minute. Thanks to my husband for keeping me fed and forcing me to go to bed at midnight so I could still work in the mornings. Thanks to my beta readers for your precious feedback. Thanks to my editor and cover designer for your hard work. Thanks to my fans for encouraging me to keep writing when I was exhausted. Love you all!

  I have one special fan to thank… Holli Davila, who won a special contest to be a cameo character in this book. Thanks for being an awesome supporter, Holli!

  Part 1: Caught in the Act

  ELYSSA ROSE didn't need a man in her life. She definitely didn't need Jaxon McCall in her life. No man had ever managed to irritate her as much as this one did. Of course she knew that was his goal. He wanted her to give up on her dream. He wanted her to throw in the towel after only one month. Oh, he didn't really care about her or her dream. In fact he'd have been happy for her to pursue her dream as long as she did it in another location. He didn't care one whit about her—he was only interested in her building.

  She stood in the side window of her corner shop, A Rose in Bloom, pretending to rearrange a couple of flower vases while glancing across the street. She could see through the large glass window to the inside of the fitness center where a number of people were lifting free weights in some kind of unison dance. She strained her eyes, but she didn't think she could see Jaxon, known as “Mack” by his friends. For a moment she thought she spied him, but when the man twisted her direction she could tell it was someone different. Jaxon's shoulders were definitely broader, and he had a more well-defined six pack. In fact, his was more of an eight-pack in her opinion.

  Not that she found him attractive. He was so obnoxious she could never be attracted to him. Oh, he had all the right stuff—an incredible body, piercing blue eyes, dark hair, cropped close on the side and wavy on top, a chiseled chin, dimples that danced when he laughed. But he thought he was God's gift to women, and he couldn't understand why she didn't fall all over him like all the other females he met. In other circumstances she might have considered dating him, but she hated him with a vengeance. He was doing everything in his power to discourage her in her efforts to turn the building her uncle had left her into a successful flower shop. She'd seen him looking lustfully in her direction from his gym window. But he wasn't lusting after her—he only wanted her building.

  She put her hands on her hips and glared as if she could sear him with her eyes wherever he was hiding, probably in the back office of his small gym. He could lust all he wanted, but she would never give up her shop. Sure, business was slow right now, but she was saving plenty of money by living in the small apartment on the upper floor. She was strong and determined, and she was gifted with flower arrangements. She only had to hold out until she was discovered, and her business would take off. And she had plenty of time to work on her flowers since she had no social life whatsoever.

  "Why don't you come try us out?" She jumped as the deep voice behind her jarred her out of her reverie. The object of her hatred was standing behind her, and he'd caught her staring at his gym. She paused to move a vase of flowers to a different shelf before turning to face him.

  Part 2: Goose Bumps

  “I’M NOT INTERESTED—” Elyssa started to speak, but the words stuck in her throat. Opening and closing her mouth like a guppy, she stared at his bare chest. Well, she didn’t just stare at his chest—she also checked out his tight abs. And then her eyes dropped down to his legs, following the line of his well-defined quads down to his shins, backed by bulging calf muscles. What am I doing? She forced her eyes back to his face where she discovered a satisfied smirk.

  The blood throbbed in her temples as she glared at him. “I think you’re in the wrong place… the homeless shelter is down the street, six blocks from here.”

  “Homeless shelter?” He blinked, tightening his lips just enough to make one cheek dip in, hinting at a dimple.

  “I assume that’s where you belong since you don’t have any clothes to wear.”

  He glanced down at his chest and back, a slow grin spreading on his face. “I was working out, and I forgot I hadn’t put my shirt back on.”

  “I’ll thank you not to come into my shop without a shirt in the future.”

  Donning a t-shirt he’d evidently carried inside, he waggled his brows. “I’m just glad to know we have a future.”

  “We don’t have a future!” she sputtered. Slamming her hands onto her hips, she took a few steps toward him with what she hoped was an intimidating expression on her face. “What do you want, anyway? Why are you in here?”

  He held up his palms. “Wait! Don’t go all postal on me. I only wanted to offer you a smoothie, a protein drink … On the house. We’ve got a promotion going on, and I thought you might like to come over and try one.”

 
“I detest smoothies.”

  His eyes widened. “That’s because you haven’t tasted one of mine.”

  “Believe me, I won’t like your smoothies, either. Why would anyone want to blend a bunch of healthy things into a drink? Turkey, egg, and broccoli. Wheat germ and brussel sprouts. Smoothies are gross.”

  “But mine—”

  “The only thing I want to mix into a drink is a slash of cream in my coffee. And I can just go upstairs to my apartment to get it.”

  She rolled her eyes at him, knowing his invitation was only a ploy to get her to look at his building. Judging from his guilty half-smile, she knew he knew that she knew. So far, she’d refused to even consider trading spaces. He wanted her to move to his smaller building so he could have her larger space. Well, that’s not going to happen.

  *****

  His smug grin morphed into a wide O. “You’re living upstairs? In this building? By yourself?”

  “Yes, of course. It saves me a lot of money in living expenses, so I have plenty to last until A Rose in Bloom is making money. So you see, there’s no reason for me to consider moving my shop to a smaller building, like yours.” She savored her moment of triumph.

  “This neighborhood isn’t safe for a girl at night.” His brows furrowed over his eyes, making him look stern. “There are two nightclubs just up the street, and all the other businesses except my gym are closed in the evening. In fact, we always assign a guy to walk girls to their cars after dark.”

  “Well, I don’t really go outside after dark.” Elyssa crossed her arms, trying to keep her voice steady and confident.

  Without responding to her remark, he strode to the front door of the shop, fingering the lock. “You have a deadbolt here right next to the single pane glass window in this door. Anyone could break in.”

  Peering over his shoulder, she inspected the tarnished lock. “I’d hear them if they broke the window.”

  “Yeah? So what would you do if you heard someone break the window?”

  “I would… I would call the police. Nine-one-one.” A slight warble in her voice betrayed her uncertainty, but fortunately, he seemed oblivious.

  “And by the time the police got here, you could already be dead.”

  “Fine! I’ll buy a better lock. Now please go away.”

  “Look, Elyssa—” His hand touched her arm, sending an electric current all the way down her spine.

  Jerking away, she rubbed at her skin to rid herself of the goose bumps peppering her entire arm. Please, don’t let him notice.

  The corner of his mouth twitched, and the gaze from his deep blue eyes seemed to burn right through her corneas. “Perhaps you should turn your thermostat up. You seem to… eh-hem… have a chill.”

  Part 3: Frozen

  HOW CAN I FEEL ATTRACTED to the man who’s trying to ruin me? Crossing her arms over her chest, Elyssa gave herself a pinch on the sensitive underarm flesh. Presto—no more chill-bumps. Plus, the pain helped her think more clearly.

  She ignored his snarky remark. “Right now, I’ve got a lot of work to do. So if you’re quite done, you can be on your way.”

  He raised his eyebrows as he glanced around the empty store. “You don’t seem very busy. What’s your hurry?”

  “I happen to have a big event booked this weekend. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Carringtons?”

  He let out a low whistle in response. “The Carringtons, huh? I don’t envy you trying to please them. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Just because I don't see eye to eye with them doesn't mean they won't like you. After all, I am from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.”

  “No, no, no! Don’t tell me anything bad about them. I really need this party to go well. I need to fit in with the people who have money to spend on flowers and events, so I have to like them.”

  He spit out a rueful chuckle. “You don’t have to like them—you only have to tolerate them and be polite. Believe me, those rich society people lump all the rest of us together as wannabes.”

  “Listen to you. You lumped all rich society people together and criticized them as a whole. You’re just as prejudiced and judgmental. I don’t believe all of them are like that, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think they’ll like me once they get to know me, whether or not I have money. After all, I have talent.”

  He opened his mouth as if to speak, but must have changed his mind. Instead he pressed his lips together in a firm line while warring emotions played across his face. “Fine. But when you get hurt, don’t come running to me.” He turned his head away from her as if she’d done something to offend him.

  “I’ve lived twenty-five years without your help. I don’t think I’m going to need it now.” She grasped at her anger, using it to tamp down her attraction.

  His penetrating stare pierced her eyes. Seconds felt like hours. Can he read my mind?

  “Don’t move.” His hand lifted, moving slowly toward her face.

  Frozen in place, she held her breath as his fingertips brushed her hair, her face warming at the slight touch. Her nerve endings ignited, and her heart pounded inside her chest. The comforting outrage she’d welcomed only seconds before dissipated into the air, leaving her defenseless against his sensual onslaught.

  I can’t let him think this kind of forward behavior is allowed or, even worse, enjoyed. I should pull away or slap his face or tell him off. Instead she stood frozen and helpless, mesmerized by his proximity, her mouth too dry to speak.

  His hand withdrew, grasping a small green leaf between his fingers, which he waved before her eyes. “I don’t think you meant to be wearing this in your hair.” His eyes twinkled as he smirked.

  I hate this man.

  Part 4: Under Arrest

  “I’M OUTTA HERE, MACK. Are you sure you don’t want to join us for a drink at O’Brian’s? Lisa and Janie are gonna be there.”

  “No thanks, Nate. I’m in strict training.” But that wasn’t the real reason he didn’t join his friends. He wanted to check on Elyssa, but he didn’t want anyone to know. He’d been distracted all day, ever since their early morning conversation. He turned out the lights, glancing out the window toward her flower shop, wondering if she’d had someone work on her security. He couldn’t see her front door from his vantage point on the side street.

  She had to be the most frustrating girl he’d ever dealt with. In every encounter thus far, they’d ended up in an argument. She obviously hated him, although he’d caught her admiring his physique a few times. In fact, their mutual physical attraction almost overrode their personality conflicts…almost, but not quite. She was so stubborn she wouldn’t even talk to him about the possibility of selling her building. It’s not like he wanted to steal it from her—he’d made a really good offer.

  He locked the door and started toward his car, but stopped in midstride. He wouldn’t be able to sleep if he didn’t check on Elyssa’s lock. With a heavy sigh, he trotted across the dimly lit street and around to her front door. It was too dark to tell if the lock had been changed, so he pulled out his cell phone to use a flashlight app. It seemed to be the same deadbolt as before. He shone his light inside through the window, trying to see the lock. Even with his face pressed against the door, he couldn’t tell if there was a keyed lock or a deadbolt.

  “Don’t move! Just put your hands up and turn around slowly.”

  Jaxon groaned, rotating to find a policeman with his hand on the holster of his gun. “Officer, I can explain.”

  “I’m sure you can. You’ll have a chance to do just that down at the station.”

  “But I’m a friend of the shop-owner. I was just checking on her lock.”

  “Sure you were.”

  “No, really. I own the gym across the street. I’m Jaxon McCall, and I own Fitness Connection. I was talking to Elyssa Rose this morning about her security.”

  The lights came on in the shop behind him, and he sighed with relief. Elyssa would straighten this whole thing out. He saw her through t
he door window as he turned slightly, keeping his hands up since the policeman still had his hand on his gun. The door opened and she stepped outside, wearing a t-shirt and shorts that exposed her long, shapely legs.

  “What seems to be the problem, officer?”

  “I found this man trying to break into your shop.”

  “Hey! I wasn’t trying to break in. I was just looking inside.”

  “He claims to be a friend of yours.”

  She moved to a better vantage point and studied him from head to toe, frowning as he squirmed a bit.

  “Nope. This is no friend of mine.”

  Part 5: Obstructing Justice

  WHAT? JACKSON GAPED AT HER. But she leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed, her lips rolled in like she was suppressing a smile.

  “Elyssa! Tell him the truth! Tell him you know me!”

  “Turn around and put your hands on the wall!” barked the policeman.

  “Elyssa!”

  “I know who he is, officer, but he isn’t a friend.” She was obviously enjoying this a little too much.

  “Tell him who I am. Tell him I wasn’t trying to break in your door.”

  “Lady, do you want to file charges against him or not?”

  Elyssa took a step forward, her slow perusal covering him from head to toe. She cocked her head to one side. “Well…”

  “Please, Elyssa.” I can’t believe she’s making me beg. I’m going to make her pay for this.

  “No, he’s actually quite harmless. A little irritating sometimes, but harmless. His name is Jaxon McCall, and he owns the gym in the building across the side street.”

  The policeman relaxed his stance and pulled out his phone, tapping on the screen. “That corroborates the story he told me. I’m Officer Landry. What’s your name, ma’am?”

 
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