Pulling this off would take a Christmas miracle.
Dahlia Green surveyed the row of flower arrangements, wreaths, and poinsettias waiting to be loaded into her van for delivery, then glanced at the clock that hung above the cooler filled with cut flowers at the back of her shop. Good thing she was already closed for the day. She had exactly two hours and twenty-three minutes to drop off all her orders and dress for her date.
Her blind date. What the heck had she been thinking when she agreed to go out with a man she’d never met? Obviously, she’d lost her mind.
The guy would probably turn out to be a serial killer.
When the bells over the door jangled, she groaned. Couldn’t the new customer read simple English? She was positive she’d flipped over the sign hanging in the window after she brought the van around front to load.
“I’m sorry, but we’re closed,” she called out.
A man stepped around the pine tree she’d decorated with flower garlands and roses. Not just any man. A prime specimen of manhood…if one liked the rugged, outdoorsy type. Dahlia definitely did. He wore faded jeans, a puffy down jacket to ward off the freezing temperatures and thickening snow flurries, and a wool cap with earflaps over shaggy dark hair. Brown eyes that reminded her of rich, melted chocolate regarded her from a handsome face covered in two-day-old scruff.
“I saw your closed sign, but took a chance and tried the door since there was a light on inside.” He gave her a pleading look. “I have a date.”
His firm lips turned upward in a quick grin. “Thanks. We’re going to a Christmas Eve party, and I just found out it’s sort of fancy. Not tuxedo fancy, thank God, but dig out the suit I bought for my cousin’s wedding three years ago fancy. If I don’t want to look like a total shmuck, I should probably bring her a corsage.”
Of course, he has a date. The guy is gorgeous. Her chances of meeting a handsome, unattached man in this town were lower than the tree branches brushing her tile floor.
“I agree about the shmuck part, but you should have ordered flowers in advance.” Dahlia made a point to glance behind her at the clock. Time was ticking.
“Couldn’t you whip something up for me.” The man gave her a hangdog look he probably practiced in the mirror and knew was irresistible to women.
Her solid resolve wavered slightly.
“Please. I’m desperate here.” He pointed at her floral-clad Christmas tree. “Maybe I could take one of those roses.”
“They wouldn’t work for a corsage.” She let out a sigh. “Fine, I’ll help you out. Do you know the color or style of your date’s dress?”
“Not a clue.”
Dahlia rolled her eyes. “Then you should give her a wrist corsage to be safe. White goes with pretty much anything.”
“Thank you.” A charming smile replaced the hang dog look. “Has anyone ever told you you’re flat out awesome?”
She refused to be charmed. “On occasion.”
He leaned against the counter while she scrambled to put together white orchids and baby’s breath with a satin ribbon. “I really appreciate this.”
“No problem.” Her fingers fumbled with the flowers under his intense scrutiny. The man was unbelievably hot…
Forget it, Dahlia, he has a woman waiting for him. You’re too smart to make the same mistake twice.
She quit fidgeting with the corsage to glance up at him. “Actually, it’s kind of a problem since I’m going out tonight, too, and I have deliveries to make first. That’s why I closed up a little early.”
He pointed toward the poinsettias and wreaths laid out on the table next to the counter. “Are you delivering all those?”
Pushing her long, red hair over her shoulder, she nodded. “I’m in a bit of a time crunch. In hindsight, offering free delivery in the spirit of the season probably wasn’t the smartest idea.”
When he smiled, her heart flip-flopped in her chest.
“Do you want me to load those into the pink van parked outside while I wait? I noticed the Flower Power logo on the side.”
“If you don’t mind, that would be extremely helpful. The van is unlocked. I’ll be finished with this corsage in about ten minutes.”
Her attention focused on his denim clad backside as he carried two potted poinsettias toward the front door. Tearing her gaze away, she cut florist tape to wrap the flower stems. When her cell rang on the counter next to her, she glanced at the display.
Joanie. Her soon to be ex-best-friend if tonight’s date turned out to be a nightmare. On the other hand, maybe she was calling to tell her the guy had bailed. Dahlia snatched up the phone. “What’s up? Did Rob’s cousin cancel?”
“Why would he do that? Rob told him you’re gorgeous. He’s excited about this date.”
“No one is excited about a blind date unless they’re a total loser. What’s wrong with the man? Is he going to bore me into a stupor or try to grope me under the table? If he turns out to be a pervert—”
She broke off as her last-minute customer returned for a load of wreaths. His eyes widened, probably in response to her pervert comment, but he kept quiet as he left the shop again. With an effort, Dahlia focused on what her friend was saying.
“—not a pervert, for heaven’s sake. I wouldn’t do that to you. He’s simply a nice guy who’s new in town. His work has been keeping him busy, and he hasn’t had time to meet many people yet.”
“You said your husband got him a job as a county employee…” She pictured a guy in an orange jumpsuit stabbing trash alongside the road.
“Zane is our new game warden. He’s been out busting poachers, which doesn’t leave him a lot of time to socialize.”
“Isn’t hunting season over in Colorado?”
“Yeah, but there are still idiots in the woods shooting at anything that moves. Zane has nailed a couple of the bastards already. Why these jerks think they’re above the law is beyond me.”
Not a convict on work release. A hothead with a gun…
“I guess that means he likes animals, and not because they taste good. That’s a plus.”
“You two will get along great. I have a good feeling about this.”
Dahlia fastened the flowers to the wristband while holding the cell to her ear with her shoulder. “That makes one of us. You know I’m not a big fan of surprises, but I said I’d go tonight, so I intend to make the best of it.”
When Mr. Hottie with the Date came back inside and brushed snowflakes off his jacket before picking up two cut-glass vases filled with red tulips and winter berries, she smiled at him. He smiled back, and her knees weakened as he left the shop with the final load.
“Hey, I have to go. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Okay. I guarantee you’ll have fun.”
“Let’s hope so. Bye, Joanie.” Dahlia set down her phone and finished constructing the corsage. Holding up the orchid, she admired the simple elegance.
Her customer returned a few moments later. “Wow, that’s really pretty.”
“I think your date will love it.”
“I hope so.” He pulled out his wallet. “How much do I owe you?”
“Thirty plus tax.” She rang up the sale when he handed her two twenties, and gave him his change.
“Thanks for being so accommodating.”
“And thank you for loading my van for me. I hope you have fun tonight, despite having to dig out your only suit.”
He grinned. “A definite drawback, but I’ll probably survive wearing a tie. Have fun on your date, too. Whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy.” After flashing another heart-stopping smile, her last-minute customer walked out of the shop.
Dahlia let out a long, slow breath. “Just my luck. I meet Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy, and he’s already taken. Story of my life.”
* * * *