Title: When Love Blooms
Author: Judythe Morgan
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Inspirational Romance, Small Town Romance
The Fitzpatrick Family Series: Eight preacher kids, each with a sweet romance story of his or her own.
Andy and Darcy After a hit-and-run accident leaves her mother confined to a special care facility, Darcy Clark abandons her dream of an art career to focus on the family’s struggling landscape business. At-risk students from her old high school become the labor force on a city park project, and their teacher, Andy Fitzpatrick shows up to supervise his students. The chemistry between Darcy and Andy is instant. But will a secret link about Andy and her mother’s accident kill the attraction before love can bloom?
Darcy Clark tightened her grip on the teetering wheelbarrow piled high with bags of black peat mulch for flowerbeds and focused on the four Goth-attired boys with spiked hair who watched her approach. The two girls standing beside them sported raccoon-eye mascara and brassy makeup. Mingling in the garden area of her high school alma mater, the group looked more like escapees from county juvie than students.
One of the boys, a rail-thin kid in a dirty heavy-metal band tee-shirt with the logo so badly faded as to be unrecognizable, stomped on a row of dianthus. The others snickered.
“Stop! What do you think you’re doing?”
Darcy raced down the sidewalk heaving from roots of the massive oaks planted with the building construction in the 1950s when the small town of Burton finally had the population to warrant its own school district. For weeks, she’d landscaped the grounds for her upcoming ten-year reunion. Those hooligans were not going to destroy all her hard work. She cringed at the shredded flower petals and plucked foliage.
“What’s it to you, lady?” A different teenager with a defiant smirk plucked a primrose and crushed the tiny crimson blooms between his thumb and fingers.
“Yeah. It’s our school. We can pick flowers if we want.” The girl with a fuchsia streak in her midnight black hair pinched a white bloom from the bush, sniffed, and placed the flower behind her ear Hawaiian-style.
The ribbing escalated, each taunt becoming a little cruder than the last.
“I’m calling security.” Darcy reached in her pocket only to discover she had left her cell phone in the truck.
“No need for that.” A bearded man came from behind her and joined them. He shifted a black book under his arm and extended his hand. “Andrew Fitzpatrick. I apologize for my students. Everyone out of the flowerbeds. Now.”
Darcy pulled off her dirty glove and reluctantly shook his hand. Matthew Fitzpatrick’s younger brother had been a pimply-faced tween the first time she met him. Wanting to believe she could have handled the situation, at the same time thankful for his presence, she shot a suspicious glance at the students.
“Darcy Clark. If they’re your students, why aren’t you paying attention to what they’re doing? On second thought, how do I know you’re a teacher? I’ve heard the stories about drugs on campus. Maybe that book is your accounts book and you’re checking on your pushers.”
A stocky kid with an acute case of acne jumped off the flowerbed edging and gave a toothy grin. “Mr. Fitz a pusher? Nah, he’s too soft.”
Andrew Fitzpatrick whipped the black leather book out and flashed the title, Selected Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “See? Poetry.”
One of the girls fluttered her fake eyelashes. Her wrist-to-elbow bracelets clanged together when she patted her hand over her heart. “Mr. Fitz here’s all into po-uh-tree. His eyes get dreamy and he completely forgets anyone’s around when he’s reading that Browning broad’s hot letters to her lover.”
The teacher swallowed, making his plaid bowtie wiggle, then gave the girl a stern look. “We don’t know that Robert and Elizabeth were lovers, before they married. If you listened to what I read, Suzette, you’d do much better on the quizzes.”
Turning to meet Darcy’s gaze, he said, “I should have been paying more attention. English poetry is not a teenager’s favorite subject. I do apologize.”
Darcy sighed. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to replace plantings because of vandalism. “It’s fine. I’ll reset the plants. If I’m lucky, they’ll survive until the reunion.”
But then, luck hadn’t been on her side lately.
Mr. Fitzpatrick turned his attention to the student who had crushed the rose. “Martin, I think you probably started this. Apologize to Ms. Clark.”
Martin swelled like a cock ready for battle. “How come you’re always thinking everything’s my fault, Mr. Fitz?”
“Because it usually is, isn’t it? You do have a tendency to make poor decisions.”
“Sorry, ma’am.” Martin’s crossed arms projected his lack of sincerity. A snake tattoo peeked from under his pushed-up sleeve.
Andrew gave his other students a scowl. “Now, the rest of you, apologize, too.”
Muttered apologies followed.
“To prove our sincerity, I insist you let us help repair the damages.” Andrew raised a hand forestalling any protest from his students.
Darcy debated only a second. A little hard labor might help the kids remember not to destroy plants and give their teacher a lesson in controlling his hooligans. “Thank you. Some of you can unload these mulch bags. The rest of you can go get the other bags from my truck. It’s parked in the service drive.”
Andrew smiled a million-watt smile that transformed his entire face and pointed to a boy, who looked like a tackle for the Burton Panthers football team. “Carlos, please.”
Carlos rolled his eyes but lifted a bag from her wheelbarrow. “Where do you want ‘em?”
“Around the petunia bed, first. Then by the dianthus.”
Andrew leaned in closer. “These plants all look the same to us. You’ll have to be more specific.”
His cologne tickled her nose. For several long seconds, she tried to distinguish the blended scents. Earth and mint, maybe citrus? The only scent she recognized for sure these days was her father’s Old Spice. And, that was sad.
Martin’s snake tattoo twitched as he shifted a three-cubic-foot bag of mulch onto his shoulder and stood beside Carlos. “Come on, lady, make up your mind. These bags ain’t light, you know.”
When she found her voice, Darcy pointed in the direction of a freeform bed between two benches. “There.”
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
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Judythe Morgan was an Army brat then Army wife which means she’s traveled a lot. She’s been a teacher, an antiques dealer, former mayor's wife, and sometimes-church pianist. Mommy to an Old English sheepdog named Finnegan MacCool and a Maltese named Buster, there’s always a wild adventure brewing.
Her diverse experiences make her life full, her characters vivid, and her stories authentic and award-winning. Besides fiction, she writes a weekly blog at www.judythewriter.com
Sign up for her free newsletter at www.judythemorgan.com to keep up with her latest news and subscriber-only sneak peeks.
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