We’re heading to Camelot today. Well, Camelot Flowers in the middle of winter-weary Illinois. Gwen has a crush on her handsome best friend and why not? The guy is remodeling a space to make a center for the bored teenagers of their small town. It’s all good until he gets accused of murder.
About the Book
From author Erica Wynters comes a fresh new series about a florist whose life is anything but rosy… Florist Gwen Stevens knows two things to be true. One—her parents are never going to retire and hand over the reins to the family flower shop, Camelot Flowers, if Gwen can’t handle the business while they’re on their yearly trip to escape the cold of central Illinois in the Florida Keys. And two—she needs to get over her unrequited crush on her best friend, Chris Crawford. But when Gwen stumbles on the dead body of a high school friend, everything else in her life suddenly takes a backseat. Especially when Chris becomes the main suspect in the murder, and it seems only Gwen believes in his innocence. With her friend’s freedom on the line, Gwen will use every lifelong connection she has in her small town of Star Junction to find the real killer, even if the sexy new police detective, Finn Butler, doesn’t want her help. Gwen trades gathering flowers for gathering evidence as she hunts down a murderer, and as the stakes grow higher—and Gwen grows closer to Detective Finn—Gwen’s heart may not be the only thing on the line. Can she navigate the seas of suspects who all wanted the victim dead? Can she trust her torn feelings between Chris and Finn well enough to follow the right clues? Or will she be too late to stop the killer from striking again…this time even closer to home?
“How deep is it? I can’t look,” Chris said as he squeezed his eyes shut, his palm bloody.
“I can’t tell,” I said tightly. “You have to hold still.” I fought a wave of dizziness as I dabbed at the wound on his hand. “It’s not deep. Just long.”
“That hurts,” Chris complained. He tried to pull his hand away, but I tightened my grip.
“Hold still,” I said. I dabbed the cut with a disinfecting wipe. “You’re lucky you’re not on your way to the hospital for a tetanus shot.”
The future youth center looked more like a construction zone. Jagged ends of two- by-fours had been discarded beneath the rusty scaffolding that barely propped up the sagging ceiling. Sawdust floated through the air, filtering the weak winter sunlight as it worked its way through grime-covered windows.
As I shifted my feet, my toe bumped against the wrench that had caused Chris’s injury. This place was going to be the death of me. Or the death of Chris. I might kill him for dragging me into this mess. “Maybe you do need a shot,” I muttered.
“Believe me, I don’t need a shot, Nurse Ratched,” Chris said sourly, although his lips twitched in a barely contained smile. That was Chris, finding the humor in every situation.
I opened a bandage and pressed it to the wound. At least he had a first aid kit. “Why am I always taking care of you?” I asked, trying to remain stern but recognizing the way Chris’s charm always worked its way under any annoyance I might feel.
The boyish grin that always made my stomach drop like I was riding a roller coaster spread across his face. “Because you love me,” he said confidently.
I wrapped gauze around his hand. “Who said anything about love?” I teased.
“Ouch!” Chris clutched his chest as if I’d dealt him a fatal blow. “You really know how to hit a guy where it hurt, Guinevere Stevens.”
“No way,” I protested. “No pulling out the Guinevere. That’s fighting dirty.”
Chris’s eyes twinkled mischievously. He knew I hated my full name, given to me courtesy of my wonderful father, who also happened to be obsessed with all things King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was no accident our family business was named Camelot Flowers. At least he hadn’t used my middle name too. Then the cut on his hand would be the least of his worries.
“Fine, Gwen,” he said, relenting. “We both know you love me.”
I scooped up the debris from my makeshift nurse’s station. “Oh, please,” I countered. “What about what’s-her-name? Bambi, Tiffany, Crystal? I’m sure she’s already in love with you.”
Chris chuckled as he scooted off the counter and said, “So, all the women I date have stripper names?”
“What would your mother say if she heard you talking like that?” My words were scolding, but I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I’d walked right into that one.
Chris draped his arm over my shoulder. “It’s a good thing she’s not here.” He scanned the open space, his smile tightening. “Thanks for all your work today. Not many people would spend their day off in this dump.”
I could already envision the groups of teens hanging out, having fun, knowing Chris was there to talk them through the most difficult parts of adolescence. I’d given him the same pep talk a dozen times over the past year, but it was clear he needed it again. “This place is exactly what the town needs,” I started. “We know what it was like growing up here. It’s easy to get into trouble with nothing to do.”
“Are you saying I got into a lot of trouble growing up?” Chris teased.
“We both know exactly what you were like in high school,” I said with a grin.
Chris picked up the wrench and tossed it into the overflowing toolbox on the counter. “So does everyone else in Star Junction,” he said, his tone bitter.
“Forget about everyone else. The people who matter recognize how much you’ve changed.”
Chris huffed out a breath, as if releasing the weight of everyone else’s expectations. His boyish good looks, blond hair, and perpetually sun-kissed skin, even in the middle of an Illinois winter, only amplified his wide grin and cornflower blue eyes.
“You’re right,” he said. He leaned against the counter, the doubt gone, replaced by the patented Chris Crawford charm. “As usual.”
“Don’t you forget it,” I joked as I brushed at a strand of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail. I caught my reflection in the small mirror Chris had hung above the sink and almost fell over from fright. “Why didn’t you tell me I looked like this?” I said in horror.
Chris glanced over from where he was collecting paintbrushes to rinse off. “Looked like what?” he said absently.
I bugged my eyes out at him in disbelief and gestured at my hair, my face, and then my whole body. A fine layer of dust covered my normally honey-brown hair until it looked like I’d prematurely aged in the five hours I’d been helping Chris. I’d walked in a woman six months away from turning thirty and was leaving looking eighty. There was a streak of what I was praying was dirt but could be some kind of toxic mold under my right eye. My light-blue sweatshirt and black yoga tights were streaked with dust. A mysterious wet patch on the middle of my sweatshirt was concerning since it wasn’t wet to the touch. Gross.
Chris shrugged and said, “You look like you worked hard today.”
“I have dinner with Penny in…” I glanced at my Apple Watch. “Twenty minutes. I’m probably going to have to wash my hair a dozen times to get all plaster dust out.”
Chris paused in his cleaning and really looked at me. “Where’re you guys going for dinner?” he asked.
“Bucky’s,” I said, not sure where he was going with this line of questioning.
Chris smirked, and I knew some kind of joke was coming. “I guess even that place has standards.”
I picked up a shop towel and threw it at him playfully. “That wasn’t nice,” I said.
“I’m kidding. I’m kidding.” He walked over and wrapped me in a hug. “You look like my best friend,” he said as he wiped at the smudge under my eye with this thumb. “Dirty hair and all.” While his smile was still charming, it was also genuine. “What would I do without you?” he asked.
I melted into his embrace, momentarily forgetting I looked more like a zombie out for brains than a florist helping her friend realize his dream. “Probably die of tetanus,” I said into his solid chest.
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About the Author
Erica Wynters may have lived most of her life in the frigid Midwest, but now she spends her time in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona. She loves hiking, hunting down waterfalls in the desert, reading (of course), and napping. Can napping be considered a hobby? When not weaving tales of mystery with plenty of quirky characters, laughs, and a dash of romance, Erica works as a Marriage and Family Therapist helping others find their Happily Ever Afters.
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