“Oh dear God.” Bobbi watched helplessly as an endless stream of deliverymen carried in basket after basket of fresh flowers. She had tried to send them back, but the guy in charge had shrugged and told her that since the flowers were paid for there was nothing he could do except deliver them. If she wanted to return them or send them elsewhere she would have to take it up with his boss. Craig and Sean flanked her and Pieter stood slightly behind her as they watched every surface of their workshop get covered with pretty purple hyacinth and pink rose bouquets. The only reason the flower-illiterate Bobbi even knew the purple flower was a hyacinth was because of the card one of the deliverymen thrust into her hands. She had glanced down instinctively and had been caught off guard by the distinctive script on the paper:

Did you know that purple hyacinths are the perfect flower for begging forgiveness? And pink roses signify my admiration for you (I’m not making this stuff up. Google and Wikipedia are truly my allies here) —G

His handwriting had gotten increasingly cramped as he ran out of space on the small square of paper and this time only an arrow was there to indicate that she should turn over. She stubbornly refused to do so. And shoved the card into the breast pocket of her overalls instead.

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“This is pretty embarrassing, boss,” Sean groused. “We’re an auto shop, not some flower shop.”

“I know that!” Bobbi snapped. “Do you think I don’t know that?” Sean backed off.

“I’m just saying.” He shrugged.

“Well you don’t have to say everything that pops into your head, Sean! Especially not something so perfectly obvious.” She glared at him and he shrugged again, wisely choosing not to respond.

“So what are we supposed to do with this stuff?” Pieter asked in that surly way of his, sending death stares at the pretty flowers cluttering up their workspace.

“Hey, boss, do you suppose I could have one of these bouquets for Ellie?” Craig asked hopefully. “She’s a bit angry with me at the moment.”

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“What did you do this time?” Sean asked, and Craig shook his head, lifting his baseball cap to scratch at his slightly receding hairline.

“Take my advice, son, there is no right answer to the question, ‘how big is my bum in this skirt?’ especially not if she asks you to rate the size from one to ten.”

“Not even if you say one?” Sean asked curiously.

“It’s best to lie through your teeth. Whatever you think the answer is, subtract at least a hundred from it. I thought three and a half was being generous. I mean the woman had three children, for chrissakes! You’d think she’d have been happy with a three and half.”

Bobbi was too distracted by the stupid flowers and Gabe’s message to pay any attention to the back-and-forth banter between the two men. She told them to help themselves to bouquets for their girlfriends, mothers, or wives and then retreated to her office. It wasn’t quite the escape she’d hoped for, not while she could still see the flowers brightening up the place. Gabe’s card was burning a hole in her pocket, and she resisted it for a few more minutes before tugging it out. She reread the message on the front before reluctantly flipping it over to have a look at the back:

Violets are purple

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You know that it’s true

Without you in my life

I truly am blue

“Damn it,” she whispered. The words blurred as she fought back angry tears. She itched to call him, even if just to beg him to stop this, but that was what he wanted. He wanted her to call him, to acknowledge him, and she needed more time to get over him. It was going to take a while before she had hardened her heart enough to be in his proximity again.

She knuckled away the stupid tears and decided to have the flowers delivered to old-age homes and hospitals. Maybe if she just continued to ignore him he would stop whatever it was that he thought he was doing.

Two nights later she came home to find the house inundated with the garish combination of iris and orange rose bouquets. Her father glared at her when she trudged in wearily after a tough day.

“I don’t know what’s going on between you and Gabriel—you’re both being so stubbornly close-mouthed about it—but I am getting sick of the both of you languishing around me in despair and this . . . endless procession of flowers has got to stop. It’s wreaking havoc with my allergies.”

“You don’t have allergies, Daddy,” Bobbi pointed out.

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“I damned well will by the time the two of you come to your senses. I don’t know what this fight was about, but Gabriel is running a multimillion-dollar corporation, and he’s worse than a damned teenager these days. I want my efficient and cold-as-ice CEO back right now. And I tell you what: I’m getting damned sick of your moping around too. So you and he had better fix this ridiculousness as soon as possible. Watching the two of you carefully avoiding each other is depressing as hell.”

She didn’t say anything and her father threw up his hands in frustration before thrusting the inevitable card into her hand.

“Here’s your card,” he growled before stalking off toward his man cave.

I know this combination is a bit loud but did you know that irises represent eternal friendship? And the orange roses embody my desire for you.

I know I’m a terrible poet but I hope you’ll read my latest attempt on the other side of this card —G

Friendship and desire? That left them in pretty much the same boat as before. The separation between the two roles was too large and Bobbi was so done with being torn between the role of good friend and lover. She sighed, bowed down to the inevitable, and flipped the card over.

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