Conviction of the Heart

Conviction of the Heart by Alana Lorens

Book: Conviction of the Heart by Alana Lorens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alana Lorens
Tags: General Fiction
thick, nubbly carpet. “Time to quit stalling. I’ve got to confess, I’m not anxious to play master gardener.”
    He pulled a pair of work gloves out of his jacket pocket. “Sooner we get started, the sooner we’re done. But I’m taking coffee out with me.”
    “Anything that helps,” she agreed.
    They retreated to the kitchen to fortify themselves. He found his gaze drawn to her, the curves of her body in the clothing she wore, the hint of strong muscle and yielding flesh underneath. Just as well physical labor lay ahead. Work would keep him distracted from other, earthier thoughts.
    They went out through the kitchen door. The back porch wrapped around the west side of the house, but was clearly often inhabited, if the glider and the gardener’s bench piled high with pots was any evidence. Not very many signs that children lived here, though. No bikes, swing equipment or other apparatus.
    “How old are your girls?” he asked.
    “Fifteen and thirteen. Delightful ages.” Suzanne stacked up half a dozen clay pots, dropping a trowel in the top one as she changed the subject. “Look, this is what I’d like to get done today. The leaves raked, trees trimmed, and a bunch of the more delicate plants dug up and replanted so I can take them inside. I’ve also got a basket of spring bulbs we need to put in the ground. Have a preference?”
    He surveyed the yard thoughtfully. “Why don’t I pile up a bunch of those dead branches and get the leaves raked up? Then we can see what remains.”
    The work went faster than he’d expected. The warm sun made him shed his police department sweatshirt before long, and he finished his part before she got her plants dug up, even taking into account his judicious pruning of the pine trees.
    “If you’d dig holes I’ll get the bulbs in,” she said, a real note of pleading in her voice. “They have to be down about eight inches to avoid the cold.”
    “I know.” Nick reached for the bag, examining the photograph of the bright blooms on the front. “My mother loved tulips, too. We planted them on her grave, my brother and I.”
    Suzanne bit her lip. “I’m sorry. As much as my mother makes me crazy sometimes, I wouldn’t want to be without her.”
    A silence passed between them, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. He picked up a post-digger. “Point me in the direction you want.”
    He started making the holes, and she followed after him, adding a little pinch of fertilizer and the bulb, then packing the dirt back into the hole. As they finished the plot she wanted planted, she surveyed their accomplishment, her smile satisfied.
    “We make a good team, wouldn’t you say?” he asked.
    She studied him speculatively. “Efficient, anyway.”
    She wouldn’t even begrudge him a compliment. Infuriating woman .
    Nick set his rake against the painted porch railing and stretched. His back muscles tightened from the unaccustomed repetitive movement. They’d been at it since ten. Now it was mid-afternoon. Twice a week at the gym wasn’t a match for hours of manual labor. He was getting old.
    “Is there more coffee?” Nick asked. “If we’re allowed to have a break, that is. I hate to ruin our efficiency record.”
    “Sure. I’m sorry.” She brushed dirt from her hands. “I get so…so single-minded.” Flustered, she gathered up the garden tools and shoved them in a tall cabinet next to the porch. “Come in.”
    The coffee pot was nearly empty. She dumped out the remains and ground beans for a fresh pot. The kitchen filled with the aroma as she poured in the water and flipped the switch. Nick picked up the bag of beans, the side facing him transparent. He’d never heard of the brand, Coffee Fresh, but the logo indicated they came from the Windy City. He had seriously underestimated her tastes. “You order coffee all the way from Chicago?”
    “It’s the best.” Her smile returned, a little shy. “A woman named Carrie owns the business. I think women in business need

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