“Come on, Poppy,” Lily said. “The faster we get everything set up, the faster we can get back to the shop.”
Poppy looked out at the beautiful grounds of the McGill estate where she and her sisters, Lily and Rose, were delivering flowers.
At seventeen years old it was the last thing she wanted to be doing on a sunny summer day. But nothing that she wanted in life had ever been hers.
Their mother died from a hit-and-run accident last summer, and Lily, who was eighteen at the time, said she’d keep the three girls together. Little did Poppy know that meant her sister would marry the man who owned the flower shop where they and their mom worked.
Lily hadn’t even told her and Rose she was married for months, letting them continue to live above the shop—Blossoms—until school started.
Then Lily spilled the beans and said they were moving to Carl Blossoms’ house.
Sure, it was the nicest place they’d ever lived and she was happy the three girls were all together. Carl was nice enough to them, but they were on their own, working more often than not.
Lily continued with her plan to go to college last year and commuted while she worked at the flower shop, cared for the home they lived in, and took care of her new, much older husband. Poppy and Rose’s lives hadn’t changed all that much to the outside eye.
But inside it was hard.
Starting her senior year of high school next month would be just another year of the looks, the laughs, and the teasing of what she was and how her sister married an older man for his money.
She’d never said those words to Lily and wouldn’t. Carl might have had more money than they’d ever seen, but it was nothing like the grounds she was standing on now.
“I’m working as fast as I can,” she said. Lily was always in a rush to get it all done. Poppy, she just wanted to enjoy her surroundings. The carefree one. The happy one—at least to those on the outside—the party girl.
Middle child syndrome. Yeah, she had it. She liked attention because she didn’t think she got much of it growing up.
Their mother tried to raise the three girls alone, but as horrible as it sounded, Holly Bloom was on the flighty side. And Poppy knew she took after her and had it pointed out enough.
“We’ve got a lot of deliveries today,” Lily said. “The three of us move faster than the other staff.”
Poppy let out a sigh and then went back to the van to get the bouquets that Carl had been putting together for the past few days.
The McGills were a big deal in Mystic. This was their summer home. She was sure they had homes all over the world. She wasn’t even sure where their money was from, but it was millions. Probably billions. If anyone made that much. She’d have no clue what that kind of money would feel like.
She grabbed one of the vases and was carrying it across the grounds when she saw a boy coming out of a shed with a hammer in his hand. Probably help too.
“Hi,” she said. He was hot. Really hot. Brown hair, dark eyes, much taller than her and she was figuring about her age.
He smiled and made his way closer. “Those sure are pretty,” he said of the flowers in the vase.
“Thanks. Just getting everything set up for the party tonight. You?”
“Trying to fix a nail sticking out of the window sill. I’m Reese.”
“As in peanut butter cups?” she asked, tilting her head.
“Yes. And you are?”
“Poppy,” she said.
“As in a flower?” he asked back with a huge grin on his face.
“Very much so.”
“Poppy,” she heard Rose yell, then turned. “Come on.”
“Sorry,” she said. “My older sister, Lily, is a little bit of a tyrant when it comes to schedules and she’s got my younger sister, Rose, following behind.”
“So you all have flower names?” he asked, his grin never leaving his face.
“We do. Does anyone else in your family have candy bar names?”
“You’re funny. And cute. I don’t suppose you could maybe catch a movie or something tonight?”
“I’d love to,” she said. Maybe this day wasn’t going to be a total waste.
“Why don’t you give me your address and I can pick you up when it works for you?”
“How about seven?” she said. She could sneak out and say she was meeting friends. “But I’ll meet you.”
She’d just take Lily’s car. It was their mother’s old car and Lily would be home by then anyway. Or could get a ride home with Carl.
Reese hesitated a minute and then said, “Sure. How about Mystic Pizza?”
This time she hesitated. If she was lying and saying she was meeting one of her friends, someone would see her on Main Street. They all knew her since the flower shop was there too. “Mystic Seaport?” she said. She could blend in more there.
“That works,” he said. “I’ll see you at seven tonight.”
She nodded her head and then turned when she saw Lily moving back toward the van. “I’ve got to get back to work. See you tonight.”
She went about her job now faster than normal. She had to make up the time she’d spent talking with Reese.
An hour later they were in the van returning to the shop. “Can I have the car tonight?” she asked Lily. “I’m going out with friends.”
“Sure,” Lily said. “Remember your curfew.”
“I’ll be back by nine, I promise.” Maybe she should have had Reese pick her up because then she could stay out until eleven. But if she had the car, at seventeen that meant nine. Damn it, why didn’t she think of that? Because she didn’t think things through.
Hours later, she was pulling into the Seaport and wondering how she was going to find Reese. She’d changed into a pair of jean shorts that she knew showed off her long legs. She’d put a plain black T-shirt on, but the minute she was out of sight of their home, she pulled over and swapped it for a bright red halter top, grabbed her makeup bag and touched up what she could, then tousled her hair.
She drove around looking for a place to park in the family sedan and then noticed Reese standing next to a new BMW. What the heck?
She parked and walked closer to him. “Hi,” she said. “Nice car.”
“Is it your father’s?”
He frowned at her. “No. It’s mine.”
Hmmm, maybe she figured his age wrong. “How old are you?”
“Eighteen, almost nineteen,” he said. “You?”
He let out a sigh. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“Is your name not Reese?” she asked. She was wondering how fast she could run back to her car. She was always impulsive, but this might be an idiot move.
“Reese McGill,” he said.
“Oh,” she said. Guess another idiotic thing. Thinking he was hired help. “So that was your family’s house I was working at?”
“My grandparents,” he said. “I figured you thought I was working with the hammer in my hand.”
“You could have corrected me,” she said. She had no business being here with him. She’d been looking forward to this all day and now she felt out of place. Just like she did most of her life.
“You were busy. What’s the big deal?”
She snorted. “I think you know the big deal.”
“I don’t live my life like my family wants me to,” he said firmly. “But if you’d rather not be seen with me, that’s fine too.”
Now she felt bad that she might have hurt his feelings. “It’s not that. It’s more I’m sure your family wouldn’t want you seen with someone like me.”
“Someone nice,” he said. “Cute. Funny. Is that what you mean?”
She grinned. “Yeah, that.”
“Then let’s go where no one can see us. We can take my father’s sailboat out. What do you say?”
She thought for all of five seconds and realized that it might be one of the crazier things she’d done in her life, but what was one more?
“Sure. If you don’t laugh that I need to get home by nine. Curfew and all driving.”
“We’ll get back in time for that and then maybe I can pick you up next time if that means I don’t have to have you back by nine?”
“Let’s get through tonight first,” she said.
“Let’s,” he said. “Follow me to Fort Rachel Marina where the boat is.”
She went back to her car and pulled out to follow Reese. Her giddiness was returning like never before. Maybe it was time she went back to having fun and not worrying about everything so much.
Except at the end of the week, Reese was gone from her life, along with her virginity. So yep, stupid on her part when she should have known better.