Home > The Little Flower Shop

The Little Flower Shop
Author: Lori Foster

A barefoot wedding on the beach. A novel idea that the tiny town of Cemetery, Indiana, had fully embraced. As Emily Lucretia looked around at all the naked feet on women, men and kids, as well as the bride and groom, she couldn’t help but smile. After such a long day, it’d be so nice to do the same, to kick off her dress sandals and wiggle her toes in the summer-warm sand.
Of course, she didn’t. For whatever reason, that type of carefree enjoyment wasn’t in her DNA. Long ago she’d accepted being the proverbial stick-in-the-mud, as her ex-husband had labeled her.
But, she told herself, she was also a perfectionist, and even after a day in the late-August heat, her flower arrangements still looked incredible. Yardley, the stunning bride, had been thrilled with them all.
Above the sound of music, conversation, and laughter, Emily heard a group splash into the lake. Swimming at a wedding. How fun was that?
The day of celebration had, for many, turned into a real party once the ceremony had concluded. The air was humid but fresh, the mood mellow and festive. Scents from the flowers mingled with sunscreen, roasted pork over an open spit, and breezes across the water.
Nearly everyone from Cemetery had turned out for the wedding until the beach had been filled. It was an unfortunate name for the friendly town, yet the people were wonderful, and Emily loved the quaint area with all her heart.
Carefully maneuvering from one decorative stepping stone to another, Emily fluffed and straightened the various arrangements. From pink peonies and blue hydrangeas to freesia and gardenias, anemones and daisies to rosebuds and baby’s breath, it was a beautifully colorful wedding, ideal for the setting and exactly what the bride had requested.
Emily heard laughter and looked up to see a group of women toasting Yardley as she and her new husband prepared to leave. Yardley made such a beautiful bride, and as the town’s wedding planner, she was in her element. She’d known exactly what she wanted, and how she wanted it, yet she’d never expected the area businesses to make the wedding a gift.
The entire town loved Yardley—with good reason. Thanks to her, the matriarch and great-granddaughter of the town founder had loosened up enough to remove the town’s name of “Cemetery” from every local business.
Before Yardley had won that particular argument through persistence laced with kindness, Emily had suffered the misfortune of running “Cemetery Florals,” which made it seem that she only supplied flowers for burials. Actually, the small town didn’t even have a cemetery. Those who passed away were buried in Allbee, the next town over.
“You’re still wearing shoes.”
Jumping at the sound of that deep, rich voice coming from right behind her, Emily turned too fast and almost stumbled off the stepping stone. Saul Culver reached out and caught her arm, his hand big and warm against her bare elbow as he steadied her.
She looked up, way up, into incredibly nice green eyes, then down to those broad shoulders and the open front of Saul’s shirt.
“Careful,” he said, releasing her and then pressing a wine cooler into her hand. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Emily took the frosty bottle automatically, realized what it was, and tried to hand it back. “I can’t have this,” she protested. At forty-one, she was well past the age of drinking on the beach, especially during a job. “I’m working.”
“Em, no one is working.”
Saul was the only one who shortened her name...and from him, she liked it. “Says the man who only just stepped away from the firepit.” She breathed in the scent of smoked wood laced with his sun-warmed hair and skin—such a pleasant mix.
The wedding, followed immediately by a reception, had gone on for hours now and everyone was a little wilted, pleasantly so.
Somehow, for Saul, it only made him more appealing.
“That wasn’t work,” he protested. “Not really, since I had plenty of helpers.”
Yes, she’d noticed that. A lot of men had enjoyed chatting with Saul as he’d roasted meat over the fire, but then, all the women, married and single, too young and too old, had at one point or another visited with him, also.
Repeatedly, Emily had found her gaze on him.
A few times, he’d gazed back.
It means nothing. Over the past few months, she’d started to wonder if she and Saul might...but no. For one thing, she was older than him. Okay, not by much, but still. At her age, every year counted.
For another thing, Saul was fun—everyone in Cemetery would say so. Within minutes of meeting him, vacationers would smile and relax. The townspeople went to him whenever they had a joke to tell, or if they needed cheering up. His brand of comfort was good food, a drink or two, and plenty of humor.
She, however, was merely pleasant. No one laughed it up with her. No one told her dirty jokes or made sexy suggestions.
She was merely Emily Lucretia, the “flower lady.”
Most of her friends treated her like a grandma. Granted, forty-one wasn’t young, but she didn’t really consider it old, either.
“The food is all but gone,” Saul said. “Everyone brought their appetite. Of course, fresh air and sunshine could make anyone hungry.”
“Don’t be modest,” she chided. “It’s the excellent food that really mattered.”
Being the owner of a local barbecue restaurant, Saul had generously supplied a big portion of the scrumptious meat for the wedding. Sallie had donated a gorgeous wedding cake from her bakery shop, Sallie’s By The Shore, and Daniel had gifted the newlyweds a honeymoon at the bride’s favorite feature in the town, the Honeymoon Cottage. Emily had, naturally, decorated with flowers, and everyone else had brought side dishes and drinks.
The wedding was the town’s gift to Yardley, because she was a gift to all of them.
“Em?” Dipping down to better meet her gaze, Saul asked, “You okay?”
Blinking fast, Emily realized that for a second there she’d been lost in thought. “I’m fine.” She tried a quick smile. “Wasn’t it a beautiful wedding?”
He nodded. “Casual but somehow classy, too.”
“Like Yardley.” As the day had progressed and night approached, the sun seemed to rest on the lake, coloring the sky in pastel hues that reflected on the surface of the water. Several men had asked her to dance, but she’d declined. To keep herself busy, she made sure the flowers stayed fresh. “The weather couldn’t be more perfect.”