“Ms. Dalton?” A light tap on her open door drew her attention away from the computer screen where she had been tracking inventory and preparing an invoice. One of her employees stood in the doorway with a tiny smile playing on his lips. “You have a… delivery.”
“Can’t Benjamin handle it in receiving?” She cocked her head to the side.
“This one requires your signature, and it came to the front desk, not out back.”
Melissa was intrigued but took a few seconds to close out the screens she had open and lock her computer. At the counter stood a delivery man from the local flower shop holding a single pink rose and a tiny note. She hesitated, took a deep breath, confidently squared her shoulders and felt her face flush, knowing every man in the café was watching to see her reaction. She looked up at the delivery man.
“Do you really need my signature for this?”
“No, not really.” He shook his head. “The gentleman just asked me to make sure I hand it directly to you and not just leave it on the counter.”
“Thank you, Dave.” She read the embroidered name on his polo shirt. She held the rose close to her face to allow for the obligatory sniff test, then opened the little card. No name. Just a phone number and a single, carefully scrawled word.
Melissa allowed a tiny smile to creep across her face, knowing every guy in the building wanted to see her face when she read the note, then turned and walked back to her office without saying another word or glancing over at them.
She sat down in her rolling chair, leaned back and glanced out the window. She closed her eyes and held the rose to her face again, drinking in the aroma. Then she pulled herself forward and reached for her cell phone. One quick text and then it's back to work.
She hit ‘send’ and logged back into her computer. Still think I smell bad, huh?
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
That one text led to a back & forth conversation that lasted all afternoon. Melissa found it easier to talk to him if she wasn’t distracted by his light brown eyes and sandy-colored hair. He was planting, but modern technology allowed a farmer to sit in an air-conditioned cab and let the tractor do most of the work.
By the time nine o’clock rolled around, Melissa had shared half her life story, and she had a working knowledge of Troy’s crop rotation, the layout of all 160 acres of his fields, the names of the chickens that roamed freely in his yard, and the dimensions of every room in the new house he was building near the little village of Pratt Lake. She’d never been to Pratt Lake, but suddenly had a strong desire to drive out into the country and see the landscape.
By the time she got done working it was too late for dinner, so they settled for an ice cream cone and a stroll through downtown Lowell. The old Historical Museum rose majestically from the town square casting shadows on the little building next door. They walked past closed storefronts along the cobblestone street and came to the corner near the fire station.
“See that little restaurant?” Troy pointed down the street at the side of a brick building.
“Brickstone Oven? Is it a bakery?”
“Sort of,” he answered, then began to pull her back the way they’d come. “They make a great chicken salad and have the best pot roast you’ve ever tasted. We should go to lunch next week.”
“Are you asking me on a date, Mister Weller?” She pretended to be coy and even batted her eyelashes at him playfully.
“I believe I am, Ms. Dalton.”
“Well, I accept. What day should we go?”
“It’s supposed to rain on Monday…” Troy suggested.
“The place will be pretty packed then.” She looked up at him and pursed her lips slightly.
“That’s good. You’ll have a chance to meet the whole community.”
“I think half the town’s been sitting in the little café most mornings.” Melissa kicked a little rock, and it tumbled a few feet ahead of them, resting near the edge of the gutter. “I think I’ve already met half the community.”
Troy tapped the little rock with his foot, and it fell over the side of the curb. He faked a country drawl and bumped her shoulder playfully. “Well, then you’ll get to meet the other half.” Then he cleared his throat and apologized. “I’ll be kind of busy over the weekend with family stuff, but I’ll pick you up a little before noon on Monday, okay? Get a table before the crowds invade.”
“Is it that good of a bakery that there will be crowds?”
“You never know…” He chuckled. “It is going to rain.” He walked her back to where they’d parked their cars and held open her door like a gentleman. He shut her into her car, and she thought she saw him wink just slightly as he took a step back. She smiled, started the ignition, and pulled slowly from the parking lot with a content sigh and a soft grin on her face.
Book Club Discussion Question: Not really a question, I just can't wait for you to see the next few chapters!