Wildflower Wedding

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“Just what in the world was I thinking when I put those up there?” Gabby glared at the neatly stacked spools of ribbon stored up out of her reach.  She glanced around her flower shop for her stepstool and then remembered that she’d taken it upstairs to her apartment.  “I need to start carrying the stepstool around like a backpack,” she grumbled.  At five foot three everything seemed beyond her reach.  With her hands fisted on her hips Gabby angled her head at the shelf.  Her stomach took the opportunity to growl in protest of missing lunch but she’d ordered a pepperoni pizza from the new pizza parlor a little while ago so it should be delivered shortly.  She hoped the pizza was good.  Cricket Creek was known for some pretty wonderful restaurants but had been sorely lacking in great pizza.  Although the dining area of the restaurant wasn’t officially open, River Row Pizza offered pick-up and delivery on a limited basis.  But at this point even so-so pizza would do.

“Maybe I can get it.”  Biting down on her bottom lip, Gabby stepped forward and reached for the elusive pink ribbon she needed to finish the Get Well Soon flower arrangement she’d been working on for the past half hour.  When her middle finger touched the spool she rose up to her tiptoes and stretched forward as far as she could go.  Wiggling her fingers, she inched the spool forward until it finally toppled over and bonked her on the head before hitting the floor.  “Yes!” Feeling victorious over being vertically challenged she bent down and picked up the elusive item.  “What?  Red?”

With a little growl Gabby slapped the red ribbon onto the table and then looked around for something to stand upon.  Spotting a wooden crate she pushed it over beneath the shelf.  After putting one foot on the lid, she pressed downward testing the strength.  “Should hold me,” Gabby mumbled even though she knew from personal experience those three little words might come back to haunt her but she decided if she worked fast she’d be okay. 

Inhaling a deep breath Gabby stepped onto the crate.  She felt the wooden slats give just a little so she quickly grabbed the prize but as she turned to step down the bell dinged over the door drawing her attention. 

Oh my…

Gabby’s gaze passed over a pizza box and zoomed in on a snug fitting red t-shirt hugging the contours of a very nice chest.  Bulging biceps stretched sleeves that exposed a teasing glimpse of armband tribal tattoos.  Her gaze traveled up to a strong jaw shaded by sexy stubble, full lips, straight nose and eyes the color of decadent dark chocolate.  Nearly black hair fell across pizza guy’s forehead and brushed the top of his shoulders in a messy but sexy just-out-of-bed way.  Hot damn.

“You ordered pizza?”

“Yes.”  Wait… recognition sliced through her ogling.  She knew him.

“Reese… Reese Marino?”

“You guessed right.”  He grinned slightly and nodded while he walked closer and placed the cardboard box and a white bag onto the counter.  “Hi Gabby.  My uncle said you own this place?”

Gabby nodded, clutching the spool harder.  Reese had been the hottest guy in high school oozing edgy, bad boy danger.  Gabby had steered clear but admired from afar, a difficult task since they’d grown up in the same trailer park.  “I ran into your mom up in town a few weeks ago and she said the guy who was opening the pizza parlor was her brother Tony Marino but she said you were staying in Brooklyn.”

“You asked about me?”

“Well… of course,” Gabby admitted but felt a bit flustered.  She tucked a lock of her short blond hair behind her ear. “So you’ve moved back?”

Reese nodded.  “I had some unfinished business in Brooklyn but yeah, I’m back.”  When Reese walked closer her heart did a little tap dance in her chest.  “You always did love flowers,” he commented with a look around. 

Gabby’s heart skipped another beat.  Really?  Reese Marino remembered that about her?  “Yes,” she answered softly and his gaze came back to land on her face.  “It all started with seedlings in milk cartons at school and I was hooked.”

“Hey, I’m really sorry about your mother.”  Reese’s dark eyebrows came edged closer together and with a tilt of his head he gave her a look of such sympathy that her breath caught.  “My mom told me.  Musta been rough.” His voice held a hint of Brooklyn, not surprising since he’d been living there for the past eight years.

“Yeah.”  Gabby swallowed hard.  “I sure do miss her.”

Reese stepped even closer until he was near enough that she could have reached out and touched him.  Because she remained on the box he had to tilt his head up but just a little bit.  Gabby remembered that he’d been tall but how he was filled out… and super sexy.  “You doin’ okay?”

Gabby nodded.  “She’s been gone over two years.  Time heals.  Now I can think of momma and smile instead of cry,” she replied but when she curved her lips to demonstrate she felt the corners of her mouth tremble.  “Most of the time, anyway.”

“I remember how much you and your mom loved to garden.”  Reese shook his head.  “I was always amazed how you took that little patch of earth and produced so many flowers and vegetables.”

“You remember all that?” Gabby asked and then felt a blush warm her cheeks. 

“I remember a lot about you.”  Reese gave her a look she couldn’t quite read but it made her pulse continue to race.

“Like what?”  Gabby hadn’t meant to voice the question but there it was hanging between them.  She had a habit of blurting things out that she should keep to herself. 

“Like how you stood up for me,” Reese answered. 

Her chin came up.  “You were innocent.”  Her simple statement carried some heat.  The Riverbend trailer park kids were often blamed for things without any evidence often called River Rats by some behind their backs.  “You might have been a troublemaker but not a vandal or thief.”

Reese chuckled.  “You were always a quiet little thing until something got you riled up.  Then you’d better run and duck for cover.”

Gabby shrugged.  “My momma taught me to stand up for what you believe in.  I believed in your innocence.”

Reese dipped his head slightly.  “Well, thank you.  Not many people did,” he said and then looked as if he wished he hadn’t gone down memory lane.  But then his cocky grin returned. 
“You can come down off of your soapbox now.”  He gestured toward the crate.

    “Oh.”  She wobbled a little bit and was about to step down but his gaze locked in on her mouth just long enough for Gabby to wonder if he also remembered…

The kiss.

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