If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, check it out
Good For Business
Twenty-Five Years Later
“Can I help you?”
Trace Mancini looked at the woman waiting on him in the flower shop and he asked himself for the tenth time what he was doing here and how he got talked into this.
“I’m looking for some plants,” he said. Sure, he liked plants and all, but he’d only be in Mystic for less than a month at this point. The half a week he’d been here so far, he’d spent unpacking, getting food and figuring out the area.
“What kind of plants?” the woman asked. She had dark hair and eyes. Her skin was the same shade as his, as if she tanned easily and, though it was December, the tan hadn’t left her completely.
“Good question,” he said. He had to think of something fast. He’d always been good on his feet. “Something easy. I’m here for about a month on vacation. I like having some nature around me. Maybe something I can leave in the house for the people I’m renting from.”
“A month, you say,” she said. “Wow. I don’t know what I’d do for a month-long vacation, but good for you.”
No reason to tell her it was a working vacation. He planned on exploring the area and basing his next book here. He’d been lucky enough to find a house a block from the water but with a nice view from a second-story window that he was using as his office.
Being two blocks from Main Street helped too and he found he liked walking around this small quaint town. Sitting too long wasn’t good for his back and being able to move outside in the fresh air was always more preferable for him.
“What about these succulents over here?” he asked. They were beautifully potted gardens. Different shapes and colors. He knew they’d be easy to care for. He’d probably only have to water it once or twice while he was in town.
“That’s a good choice,” she said. “We grow most things locally.”
“Really?” he asked. “Here in the building? You do it?”
“No,” she said, smiling. “I manage the flower shop and put bouquets and orders together. The growing is all done at the greenhouses off site by Jasmine. All the succulents you see here have been propagated from plants Blossoms has owned for years and years.”
“That’s interesting,” he said. “Gives it some history.” He looked around at the different plants on the shelves. There was a ton to choose from. He wouldn’t mind more than one but told himself he could come back again. It’d give him the excuse to get back here.
“You could say that,” she said.
“Jasmine, you say?” he said. “Ironic that the person has a flower name.”
She laughed. “Since you’re a vacationer you wouldn’t know that most of us do here.”
He was aware of the names of the owners. Lily, Poppy and Rose. He knew they were all married now and that they’d been orphaned. He also knew Lily married the previous owner of the shop, Carl Blossoms, when she was eighteen. No way he was letting on he knew those things though.
“What’s your name?” he asked. “No, let me guess. Rose?”
“No,” she said. “We do have a Rose here. One of the owners. Along with Lily and Poppy. The Bloom sisters own Blossoms. The store next door too. If you’ve got a special lady at home you might consider going over there to get some lotion or accessories.”
“You’re a good salesperson,” he said. “But no one at home. Sorry.”
“They carry a men’s line too.”
Which of course he knew. “I might have to check that out another day,” he said, picking up the succulent garden he liked the best. He’d walked here so he didn’t want to go too big since he had to carry it back to his place.
“Follow me to the desk and I’ll check you out,” she said.
“You didn’t tell me your name?” he asked.
“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” she said.
There was mischief in her eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw that from a woman and wanted to engage more.
It seemed to him most of the women he spent time with were on the serious end. All but Kate, but that was different.
“Trace,” he said.
“Violet,” she said back.
“Goes with the shirt you’re wearing,” he said of the purple T-shirt she had on. It had the name Blossoms in the corner. “Do you all have shirts that match the color of your flower name?”
“That would be funny. I might have to bring that up to the owners,” Violet said. “But no. We just have a handful of shirts in different colors. You know, like the flower shop.”
“Got to keep things bright and cheerful,” he said. “Good for business.”
Though the flower shop didn’t seem to be that busy, the phone had been ringing a lot and there was another woman bringing items out through a door in the back he could see. Maybe deliveries.
The tourist season was done, being a few days into December, but the weather was holding for the moment.
He should have come earlier, but he’d been under deadlines with his other book and this one was going to be the start of a new series. He’d had to pitch it to his agent; then he got the contract faster than he expected.
A month here would be more than enough to get what he needed for the setting. And it was close enough to his home on Staten Island not that far from where he grew up that he could come back again in the future.
He handed over his credit card when Violet was done ringing up his plant.
“You can put it right in the machine,” she said, moving it from behind a plant where he hadn’t seen it. She glanced down at his card. “Trace Mancini. Nice Italian name.”
“Violet is hardly Italian,” he said, not surprised she figured out his nationality. “Now you know my last name. Don’t you think it’s fair to share?”
“Sure,” she said, grinning at him. “It’s Soren. Violet Soren.”
Definitely not Italian even though her coloring indicated otherwise. His old fashioned grandmother might not approve of the name but would have liked her on sight.
All he heard repeatedly when he saw his nonna was that he needed to get himself some nice Italian girl to settle down with.
He finished with the transaction, took his receipt and left a few minutes later to walk the few blocks to his rented house.
When he got in the front door, he brought the plant to his office and set it by the window to give it a lot of light.
He was barely at his computer when his phone buzzed and he looked down to see Kate texting him.
It was like she knew he might have made contact. Not that he felt there was much made.
He read the message asking if he had anything to report, and rather than text her back or ignore her for now, he called so that he could get it over with and get to work.
“You’re calling me fast,” Kate said. “That means something. Normally I wait hours to hear from you.”
His best friend since childhood was always busting on his ass. “Some of us work,” he said.
“You play,” Kate said. “You type and research and kill people on paper.”
“No paper around here,” he said.
“You know what I mean,” Kate said. “Well? You’ve been there a few days. Anything?”
“It’s a good thing I love you because no one else would put up with your nagging.”
Kate laughed. “That’s right. Remember that.”
“I just left the flower shop. Bought myself a nice succulent garden. Do I get to bill you for these for expenses?”
“Stop,” Kate said. “You know you love having plants around. But if it makes you feel better, then sure.”
He’d never do that. He didn’t need the money and Kate knew that.
He didn’t always have as much as he did now, but he was never poor. He was a hard worker like his parents and was proud to say he earned every penny of what he had.
“I’ll send you a picture of it when we are done talking.”
“Enough about the plant,” Kate said, letting out a sigh. “What did you find out at Blossoms?”
“Nothing much,” he said. “I got sick of walking up and down Main Street and trying to figure out a way to go in and see if I could talk to someone.”
“So you used the plant excuse. Did you talk to one of the owners?”
“No,” he said. “An employee. It was better. She was about my age, maybe a little younger. Flirty and funny. We exchanged names.”
“There you go,” Kate said. “Get an inside source.”
“If you say so,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking of it that way.”
“Do you find her pretty?” Kate asked.
“Never mind,” he said.
“Come on,” Kate said. “Maybe you can have a vacation fling while you’re there. I appreciate you doing this for me. It was a big ask, but I didn’t know who else to go to.”
“You could have hired a PI,” he said.
“Why? You did recon or something in the Army. You know how to get facts and research. You needed the break anyway and you know it. Besides, you used to be a PI. It’s kind of what I did.”
Kate wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t true. “Then I guess it worked out for both of us,” he said.
“You made contact. Got a name. Anything else?”
“No,” he said. “I told you everything I found on the sisters and their life. Everything I could find online. Remember, they are very wealthy right now. All married. The youngest got married two months ago to an attorney. The oldest is married with a kid and Lily’s husband is an ex-Ranger. I know men like him. I’ve worked with them. I have to tread carefully. Then there is Poppy’s husband. He’s part of the McGill family.”
Everyone knew the McGills in New York and Connecticut. It was too big of a name to not in the Northeast.
“I know,” Kate said. “I just want to know what happened. I wish I never found out what I did.”
“You did find out and you can’t let it go until you get answers. I understand. But it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s been close to sixteen years.”
“It doesn’t change anything,” Kate said. “We were Lily’s age back then. All of us teens.”
He didn’t need the reminder.
“And she’s a stranger to us,” he said.
He knew his best friend wanted answers and he hoped to help her, but he wasn’t sure if it was the best thing either.
“Thank you again, Trace. I know this is a big favor.”
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could help,” he said. “But I can’t make any promises. You might have to hire someone anyway to get the answers you want.”
“But then my family might find out. I can’t hurt them this way if it’s true. More like I can’t deal with any more fights with my mother. There has to be a limit on my communication with her now.”
He knew that too. It was easy for him to do this and no one would think of it.
“If you find out anything from your next visit with your grandmother, then let me know,” he said.
“It won’t be for a week or so. I’m leaving tomorrow for Paris. That is why I was reaching out today. I’ll be gone about six days.”
“Globetrotting again,” he said.
“Some of us have more exciting lives than others,” Kate said.
They talked a few more minutes and hung up.
Kate was right. His life was boring. He mumbled to himself all the time when he was home because he was always alone and sometimes just liked to hear his own voice.
That ten minutes with Violet might have been the highlight of his past few months and he realized he wanted to see her again and it had nothing to do with this wild goose chase his best friend put him up to.