By Geri Krotow
Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.
Winter melted into spring, and Val relished the long season. Her daffodils and tulips came up magnificently in the front beds. She liked to think they greeted each guest at the resort. As she walked by the large ceramic pot she kept at the entrance, spots of bright pink caught her eye. She stopped and took a moment to finger her fuchsia blooms. It never ceased to delight her that a flower that was an annual in so many other parts of the country grew perennially on San Juan Island.
“The garden here is beautiful. I see you out in it a lot. Are you the only one who tends it?”
Lucas stood next to her and she straightened. He wore the BTS polo shirt, embroidered with their logo, and a pair of jeans that made her wonder why she’d never paid particular attention to men in jeans before.
“Yes, but I’m more of a maintenance gardener. The work was done before I purchased the place. The buildings were in disrepair and the main hotel needed some renovations, but the widow who sold it to me had kept the garden up for the twenty years after her husband died.”
“It shows.” He gazed around at the various blooms and she took the chance to look at him. She didn’t often get the chance to really study him without his knowing she was doing just that.
She didn’t want to scare him off.
You’re the one who’s afraid.
Agreeing to stay away from each other romantically had opened the door to a friendship they’d never had in college. She was surprised to discover how much she enjoyed working with him, whether it was listening to his concerns over a family member or gathering the supplies needed for an impromptu arts and crafts session.
“Are you still enjoying the pace here?” Restricting their conversation to work was far less taxing as far as her heart was concerned.
Lucas grinned. “Too much. I love the routine, the early-to-bed, the free time between workshops.” His eyes narrowed as he watched two eagles circling above them.
“I knew I was making a difference at Walter Reed, at least in the short run. Here, I know I can help surviving families go on to productive, enjoyable lives.” He turned his gaze back on her. “They’ve already done the hard grieving. My work is easy.”
“Are you kidding yourself with that kind of talk? Because you’re not kidding me. The clients across the board have commented positively on your input. You’re very talented at what you do, Lucas, and this place is just as important as a wounded vet center.”
“I didn’t mean to imply it’s not. Quite the opposite.” He placed his hand on her arm.
She relished the warmth—and accompanying spark.
“I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “It’s changing how I view my profession, how I want to go on after my time here is over.”
The desire his touch stirred sobered into regret.
“Well, you only have a couple more months. I’m sure you’ll make the most of it.” She gathered up her gardening tools and put them in her bucket, hoisting it onto her arm. Stepping away from him, she said, “See you back at the office.”
She walked off, unable to look at him. She didn’t want him to see how sad the thought of his leaving made her.
Much as she hoped for something beyond friendship, she couldn’t count on it. He hadn’t made any promises—or even hinted at a future.