Family Jewels: Rose Garder Investigations #1(4)

By: Denise Grover Swank

“Oh, I told him I had no idea when that would be. So he gave me his number . . .” She spun in a circle, scanning the room. “Now where did I put it . . . ?”

“Never mind,” Neely Kate said. “I know where to find Raddy. Now tell me why all those files are spread everywhere.”

“Oh!” Marci said, clapping her hands. “I was reorganizing your filing system.”

“By spreading them out on every horizontal surface?” Neely Kate demanded.

“I just set out the files,” she said defensively, then waved to Muffy. “That overgrown daisy was the one to mess ’em all up.”

Muffy let out a low growl. I stroked her head to quiet her.

Neely Kate shook her head. “You were fired, Marci. Fired. I fired you yesterday. Now get your purse and get out of here. Now!”

Marci looked offended. “Does that mean I’m not getting my thirty-five hundred dollars?”

“You’ll be damn lucky to get the seventy dollars we owe you for yesterday.” When Marci started to protest, Neely Kate held up her hand. “And if you think we’re paying you for creatin’ this mess today, you’re plum crazy. Now get out of here!”

Marci grabbed her purse and marched the walk of shame to the front door, nearly slipping a couple of times. When she passed us, she held up her head and kept her eyes on the door like she was Anne Boleyn marching to her beheading.

When the door closed, Neely Kate said, “Rose . . . I had no idea.”

Looking at the mess made me exhausted, and we hadn’t even started to clean it up yet. “We don’t have time to pick this up, but we can’t leave it like this either.” I set Muffy down, then grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called the nursery I co-owned with my sister. Violet was in Texas, recovering from her bone marrow transplant, but we’d found the perfect person to fill in until she came back. Maeve Deveraux answered on the third ring.

“Gardner Sisters Nursery, Maeve speaking. How can I help you?”

Hearing her cheery voice helped ease some of the tension in my back. “Maeve, I was wondering if I could borrow Anna for a bit. Are you too busy to turn her loose?”

“Of course I can spare her, Rose. But she’s really not dressed to be digging.”

“I actually need her in the office.” Then I filled her in on the details.

“Oh, dear. I’ll send her over right away.” Then she paused and lowered her voice. “I haven’t talked to you in over a week. How are you doing?”

“I’m great. Good.” And I was. Mostly. My ex-boyfriend Mason—Maeve’s son—and I had broken up four months ago, and he’d moved back to Little Rock. My heart had been broken, but I’d moved on. Mostly. Even if I still refused to consider dating anyone, much to Neely Kate’s dismay. “How about you?”

It was no secret Maeve had moved from Little Rock to tiny Henryetta to be closer to her only living child. She’d been lonely and eager to feel wanted and needed again. But she’d found a place for herself here, and despite Mason’s decision to leave, she’d stayed. Still, I knew she missed her son something fierce. I’d kept my distance, mostly out of guilt. I couldn’t help wondering if she secretly blamed me for him leaving.

“Good. I’m excited about Violet coming back.” But I heard the wistful tone in her voice.

While we’d only intended for her position to be temporary, she’d been working full-time for the past four months and seemed to love every minute of it. “You know, Violet won’t be back to one hundred percent,” I said. “It occurs to me that we’ll still need help. Would you be willing to stay on part-time?”

“Of course. I’d love to.”

It warmed my heart to make her happy. Maeve had been like the mother I’d always wanted. I missed her. “Well, then that’s settled. You’re an official permanent employee at Gardner Sisters Nursery.”

“I’ll send Anna right over. And Rose . . . thank you.”

“No, thank you. I have no idea what we would have done without you these last four months.” I hung up and stuffed my phone back into my pocket. “Anna’s on her way.”

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