Valentine’s Day at the Book Boutique

I thought you might enjoy this Valentine’s Day extract from A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Over

Luke (Molly’s employee at the bookstore) took a bite of the home-baked, heart-shaped cookie Molly had just offered him. She’d brought a plateful of them into work that morning.

“Hmm. Not bad. I think I’ll save one for later, too.” Wrapping a cookie in a paper towel, he hid it below the desk. “Some people say Valentine’s Day is overrated, but I enjoy it.” He was honoring the day with his bow tie with the pink hearts.

“I agree it’s too commercialized,” Molly said. “People in clothes with hearts on them, for instance.” She feigned an innocent smile.

Luke frowned. “Too much, you think?” He touched his tie.

“No, of course not. At least it’s more restrained than the one with the cupids you wore the other day.” She smiled at him. “It may be all hype, but it’s fun too. And you have to admit it’s what drives sales in February.”

“It does. Though we sell plenty of romance novels year-round, don’t we?” He shrugged. “I guess love is always in fashion.”

“Everyone can use a little love. Look at Tom and Bonnie and the effect love had on them. Plus, that genre has a huge audience. All kinds of people.” She gave him a look but read nothing in his face.

Luke smiled. “So, you’re a hopeless romantic, eh? Doubtless, you like those gewgaws you sell along with the books.”

“Gewgaws?” Molly laughed. “You and your medieval vocabulary. And I do like them. They’re corny, but people buy them. Surely even you can’t resist this one, can you?”

She picked up a small teddy bear wearing glasses and reading a tiny book. “All he needs is a bow tie like yours, and he’d be a perfect addition to your mantelpiece,” she teased.

Luke looked appalled. “Are you nuts? I would never… a stuffed bear in my living room? So tasteless.”

Molly tried to keep a straight face, but failed spectacularly and began laughing.

“You should see your expression. It was worth suggesting just for that!”

As she tidied the display, the van from Sarah’s Flowers and Gifts pulled up in front of the store. She didn’t recognize the driver—probably hired by Sarah for the day to help handle the orders. He sported the name of the flower shop on his dark-blue jacket and walked in carrying a vase with a dozen yellow roses in it, tied up with matching ribbon.

“Delivery for Stevenson,” he announced.

Her first reaction was delight. Quickly followed by bewilderment. “That’s me, I guess.” Molly was doubtful. “Who are they from?”

“I don’t know, ma’am. You’ll have to check the note. Got a bunch of deliveries today. Bunch. Get it?” He gave her a wink and headed for the door.

The envelope tucked into the flowers had her name on it. Sarah would never have made a mistake. Molly hesitated before opening the little heart-shaped card.

Inside, the only message said: “From an admirer,” and someone had typed it.

An anonymous valentine? She bent her head and sniffed the bouquet. She could definitely detect the faint scent of roses. How lovely.

“Are those for me?” said Luke, appearing from the back room, where he’d been unpacking a box of new novels. He grinned at her. “Guess not, huh? Since you’re reading the card. So, who’s your fan?”

She shrugged. “There’s no clue on the card.” How could she find out who they were from? Perhaps better not to know. It surely wasn’t anyone she’d dated recently. All those relationships ended with Molly giving them a piece of her mind.

Luke’s voice broke into her thoughts. “What about calling Sarah—the florist?” he prompted.

“What? Oh, right. Good thought.” She checked the card again and punched in the number on her phone.

A woman, sounding slightly harassed, answered. “Sarah’s Flowers and Gifts. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Sarah didn’t sound like she was enjoying today much. Molly supposed that being the biggest day of the year for cut flowers—or was that Mother’s Day—she was extra busy. No, Mother’s Day meant chocolates, didn’t it?

“Is there something I can do for you?” Sarah sounded as though the last thing she wanted was one more order to deal with. In the past, Molly might have apologized and hung up, but today she needed to know.

“Sarah, it’s me, Molly.”

“Oh. Hi, there. You don’t need flowers, do you? I’ve practically nothing left. Just some gladiolus and a few daffodils.”

“No, not right now, thanks. Anyway, your guy delivered some beautiful yellow roses to me at the Book Boutique, and I wondered who sent them. Can you tell me?”

“Just a second. Let me check my records.”

Molly heard her put down the phone and the tapping of keys on a computer before Sarah picked up again.

“I can’t, I’m sorry. The purchaser ordered them online and insisted on remaining anonymous. Why, is there anything wrong?”

“No, not at all. I’d like to thank the sender.”

“It’s romantic, don’t you think? Look, I hate to cut you short, but the other line is ringing. So, if there’s nothing else…”

Molly hung up. She should just enjoy the roses.


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