Read A Christmas Arrangement Online

Authors: Annie Adams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Holidays, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

A Christmas Arrangement

Terminology Page

 

The culture in Utah is uniquely wonderful and funny at the same time. It’s made up of words, phrases and accents you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And the recipes are unparalleled for better or worse. Here’s a helpful guide to Utahisms found in this book.

 

MoTabs
- Nickname for the best choir in the land, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Ahwnry/Onry
- We don’t say it any other way—if you bug us too much you’re likely to make us ornery. But don’t correct the accent or we’ll get really ahwnry.
MLM
- There are lots of these in Utah but a different kind are in my book. In my books, MLM is an acronym for the Mormon Ladies Mafia.
DUP
-
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers
. I’m proud of my pioneer heritage and the International DUP honors that heritage.
Funeral Potatoes
- Heaven on Earth, Ambrosia, a delicacy beyond compare. Shredded, sliced or chopped potatoes mixed with butter, cheese and other special ingredients and baked to bubbly perfection. Recipes for this and special Jell-O salad on my
website
!
Snowbirds
- Around these parts (Northern Utah and Idaho) retired folks travel south for the winter landing in Southern Utah and Arizona, most commonly. During the hot summer months, they leave the lower desert and return home.

A Christmas Arrangement

 

The Flower Shop Mystery Series

 

Book Three

 

 

 

 

By

Annie Adams

A Christmas Arrangement © 2014 Annie Adams

Book Three in The Flower Shop Mystery Series

All rights reserved

The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, or stored in or introduced into an information storage and retrieval system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

Published by Annie Adams

Cover Art © 2014 Kelli Ann Morgan / Inspire Creative Services

Formatting by
Bob Houston eBook Formatting

CHAPTER ONE

 


Ex
-husband, Randall,” I managed to say, pushing the words past the lump in my throat.

The man who stood in Alex’s doorway turned his gaze toward me.  Randall Swanson looked as dark and brooding as ever.  The muscles in my abdomen tightened when he took a step over the threshold toward me.

“Whoa, hold on there, ace,” Alex said, planting his palm squarely in the middle of The Ex’s chest. 

Randall didn’t seem to notice as he fixed his piercing blue eyes on me.  I’d grown to fear the wrath behind those eyes while we were married.  Old habits die hard.  My tongue searched for moisture in order to form the words to tell him to leave, but there was none to be found. 

My name is Quincy McKay.  I had just spent the night with my boyfriend, Alex, for the very first time.  What better time for my ex-husband husband to show up, right?  The night before had been nothing but a perfect dream, but now, standing on Alex’s doorstep was the actual, flesh and blood embodiment of my worst nightmare.

“Quincy,” Alex’s calm voice brought me back into the room.  “What’s going on here?”

I shook my head, “I don’t kn—”

“What’s going on is I came to fetch my wife.  I finished all the classes and I’m better now,” The Ex said as he attempted to brush Alex’s hand away.  He lurched forward.  “I’ve come to take you home…”  His eyes performed an appraisal beginning at my feet and ending at the point where my hand clutched together the two sides of Alex’s unbuttoned shirt.  “Even though you look like a whore.”

He was nose down in the rug and Alex was shaking out his hand before I could think of a response.  Alex stepped over to me and gently clasped my shoulders.  “You okay?”

I realized my mouth hung open, so I closed it and nodded. 

Alex bent down to check on The Ex who moaned and held his head. 

“That was…so…”  I looked down at the Ex, “…awesome.”

“Looks like he’s down for a bit,” Alex said.  He scowled.  “I don’t know if that was the best way to handle the situation, but he deserved it.”

“Knowing him, he’ll probably try to sue you.  And yes, he totally deserved it.”

“I’ll wait for him to come around while you get dressed.  The three of us are going to have a little talk.”

I kissed his cheek and went to the bedroom where I found a pair of his sweatpants and a long sleeved zip-up hoodie.  I felt the need to cover every possible visible inch of my skin.  My fingers shook as I slid the zipper.  The bitter after-taste of adrenaline brought memories that had been pushed deep into the very back corner of my mind.  I knew I was safe with Alex, but it wasn’t enough to stop the rush of emotions from the past as I recalled the ways The Ex had hurt me before.

I walked down the hall and carefully peeked around the corner.  The Ex sat on the couch in the living room.  A white plastic bag hurtled through the air and landed on his lap.

“There.  Frozen peas.  Put them on your face,” Alex called out from the dining area.  He walked over and took my hand.  “I’m here if you need me.”  He gave my hand a squeeze then nodded at the couch opposite The Ex.

I stalled, thinking of what to do next.  I was in the same room with the cause of so much emotional and mental anguish, not to mention physical pain.  I’d had nightmares since I’d left The Ex, but after each one, I would wake up relieved when I remembered that I’d left and would never see him again.  Now he was here in the safest place I could be.

I opened my mouth to protest but I looked into Alex’s warm, brown eyes and knew he was there for me.  I took a deep breath, walked over and sat down on the couch.

"What are you doing here?" I said.  My voice started out shaky but I compensated with an acid tone.

"I'm better now, Quincy.”  I hated the sound of my name coming out of his mouth.  “I took the classes and did all the stuff I had to so we could stay married, and I'm here to take you home."  He looked at me now, with an unfamiliar sincerity.

I squinched up my eyes while I tried to understand what he meant.  "What classes?"

"Anger management.  They told me I had to take them so we could get back together."

"Who is they?  And we're never getting back together, Randall."  I glanced up at Alex who leaned against the doorframe to the hall with his arms crossed.  He gave me a reassuring nod. 

"The people at the...it doesn’t matter."  His voice quieted, almost to the point of not being audible.

"Did you go to a counselor?" I asked.

He looked at the floor, then shrugged.  "I got in a fight with these two dudes at the truck stop and the judge said I had to go.  But I learned about how to manage my—issues.  I learned how to talk to people better—how to talk in an appropriate manner."

He'd paid enough attention to learn some terminology in his classes—not the meaning of the lingo—but the fact that he
took
anger management classes was actually impressive for a guy like him.  "Randall, I think it's great you went to a counselor and learned how to manage your anger.  But I’m
not
your wife.  We're not married anymore.  I signed the papers and turned them in.  We're divorced."

"No, we're not.  I never signed the papers.  We both had to sign them, and I didn't.  You're still my wife.  I did all of this stuff so you would come back.  I didn't want to take all those classes.  I stayed even when the court mandated was up.  Three times a week I went to group meetings and listened to everyone else’s problems.  I did all that for you, Quincy.  We're still married and I intend to take you home.  Now come on.  You can stop at your grandma's house and pick up what you need, then we'll come back for the rest of your stuff later."

The room spun.  An icy pain anchored deep in my chest and radiated out.  I buried my head in my hands.  "What do you mean, you didn't sign the papers?  We've been married this whole time?"  

I looked up at Alex.  The look of surprise on his face made it all the worse.  "Your divorce wasn't finalized, and you didn't know?" he asked.

It sounded like it should have been ridiculously obvious to me when he said it that way.  The hurt in my heart radiated.  His tone had stung.  "I—just—had to get out.  I signed the papers and sent them in like I was told then got out of there and tried to move on,” I said, voice cracking.  Tears flooded my eyes.  Leaving Randall had been the hardest thing I’d ever done.  I was alone and scared, living miles away from my family without any friends or money.  I’d been naïve, barely out of my teens, when I got married.  The punishment of all the self-loathing and the memories of mistakes in judgment weren’t enough.  It seemed I could never leave The Ex.  And now my boyfriend was piling on too?

Alex cringed.  He came over and sat next to me.  “I’m so sorry.  Jerk move,” he said and put his arm around my shoulders. 


Hello
, over here,” Randall called out.  He still held the bag of peas to his face.  “You should take your hands off of my wife now.”  He nodded toward Alex, then looked at me.  “See, Quincy?  The old me would have decked this jerk, but not the new me.  I’m reformed.  I asked nicely,” he looked back at Alex.  The Ex ran his tongue over his teeth underneath his lips.  It was something he did every time his mood took a nasty turn.  “Like I said,” his voice taking on a darker tone, “I asked nicely, but I won’t ask again.  From what it looks like, you’ve been sleeping with another man’s wife.” 

His always mean eyes, which I had mistaken for the expression of a tortured, misunderstood soul when I was young, turned to me. 

“I’m willing to overlook that, Quincy, since you claim you didn’t know we aren’t divorced, but it’s time to go.”  He finished the last word with a snarl as he tossed the bag of peas on the table and stood.

“Here’s how this is going to go,” Alex said in a calm, steady, voice.  “You’re going to leave my house, go back to wherever you came from, and find those divorce papers.  The minute you sign them you’re going to turn them in.” 

The Ex gave a fake laugh.  “Says who?”

Alex stood up and put his hands on his hips.  “Says me,
Officer
Cooper.”

“No,” I said as I stood and put a hand on Alex’s arm.  “Says me.”  I felt just as surprised as The Ex looked.  “Get out,” I said with even more volume and more confidence.  “Take care of those divorce papers and don’t ever let me see you again.  You can call me when you’re done.  Not a second before.”  My throat was still dry, and my chest still ached, but it was a burning that felt good.  It felt like my chest would burst with pride for myself.

The Ex wasn’t used to me standing up to him.  His eyes had a glassy quality as he stared at me, as if he’d just been punched again.  He shook his head slightly and turned his gaze to Alex.  “So, you’re a cop?” he asked.  Just like him to ignore me, but I didn’t care, I’d finally stood up for myself.

“Yeah.  So like Quincy told you, get out of my house.”

The Ex pointed to his swollen face.  “This is police brutality.  I should sue you.”

“Listen, you barged into my home, uninvited, after being warned to stay out.  So good luck with that one.  Quincy has asked you to leave, so do it.  And don’t bother her again.”

“I’d like to see you enforce that.  She’s my wife, I have the right to contact her.”  Randall’s jaw slid into its usual stupidly stubborn setting.

“Randall,” I said, “you may not respect me or my wishes, but maybe you can think of what’s best for you right now.  We both know you’re good at that.” 

His eyes narrowed into slits. 

“You’re probably on probation,” I said, “and even if you’re not, you don’t want Officer Cooper looking into your background.  We both know he’d probably find some skeletons in your closets.”  I took a step toward him.  I was close enough to smell his nasty breath.  My heart pounded in my chest.  “I could probably direct him to a lot of those skeletons too.  Dontcha think?” 

The Ex set his jaw and his nostrils flared.  I stepped even closer, staring him down like he’d done to me so many times before.  Only this time, I felt in control of the situation.  I felt Alex’s hand on my shoulder but I kept talking.  “Officer Cooper is state police.  He’s got co-workers all over this state who would like nothing more than to send another wife beater where they belong.”  I jabbed my pointer finger into his chest, and he leaned back.  “I hope to heck you
have
changed, Randall.  Because they’re gonna help me keep tabs on you.  And if I find out you’ve as much as breathed on someone the wrong way, I will make it my personal mission to make sure you pay.  Now get the hell out of here.” 

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