Floral DepravityI never dreamed I’d be an absentee dad. I mean, my own father was a bit emotionally distant. So when I had kids, I knew I would be different. I’d be the father you could talk to. The one who would be there, through thick and thin. Yeah, I was going to give Ward Cleaver a run for his money.

So why, then, did I up and leave my family without notice? It’s a long and sordid story, one that I’m not ready to tell yet. It might be dangerous for Audrey if I did.

Audrey Bloom. . .She was only nine when I left. Daddy’s little girl. How I must have hurt her. I saw it in her eyes when she looked at me.

I’ve had no contact with her until now, and that was an accident. But I’ve followed her through whatever means I could. I think I was the only one who subscribed to the small town paper while she was growing up. I still have the yellowed newsprint picture of Audrey holding up a trophy she won at the town-wide spelling bee. She was a gangly thing, all arms and legs, long hair and braces. But she was the best thing I’d seen in years.

I have a bulging folder of clippings. Honor rolls. Dean’s lists. Then those stopped. I found out she was no longer enrolled in nursing school. I must have spent hours on Google, worried something had happened to her. Then I discovered she’d moved to Ramble, Virginia, the small town where my mother-in-law had lived. (Mae was quite a character. But she loved Audrey fiercely. Finding her obit saddened me even more. For Audrey’s sake.)

When I learned Audrey had opened up a flower show with her cousin Liv, I was happy to know that she found her passion. Her own passion, not her mother’s, who, I must admit honestly, can be a tad controlling. Her mother and I had not been on the best of terms when I disappeared, although I never intended to make so clean a break from her life. But she’s remarried, now, I see, to some mover-and-shaker with political aspirations. I hope she’s happy.

Audrey appears to be. I framed the article from the Ramble On about her technique of making up bridal bouquets based on the language of flowers. I can’t claim I understand it, but by the number of other papers who picked up the story, it seems my little girl is quite the trendsetter. And I watched and re-watched all the You Tube video I could find from the canceled episode of Fix My Wedding that she was supposed to be in. Imagine, her involved in catching a killer! I’m glad that’s over.

But, now. I recognized Audrey the moment I saw her. Still tall, but filled out more. A lovely young woman, but perhaps I might be a little bit partial. I was costumed as a medieval friar (which makes more sense if you know that I was officiating at a medieval themed wedding for which Audrey apparently arranged the flowers). At first I hoped she didn’t recognize me, but those eyes, boring into me. Questioning. Blaming. Then hurt. I could almost feel the hurt.

And then the danger should she reveal my identity. Scary things are happening here, and I don’t want her involved in them. I should have never come so close to Ramble. Should never have risked coming back to Virginia. All I could think to do, as soon as the ceremony was over, was to run away.

Always running away.

You can read more about Richard in Floral Depravity, the third book in the “Bridal Bouquet Shop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first two books in the series are Bloom and Doom and For Whom the Bluebell Tolls.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by noon eastern on Wednesday, October 21 for your chance to win a print copy of Floral Depravity. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Beverly Allen lives near Buffalo, NY, and hibernates the long winters reading, writing, watching classic movies, and playing board games—all while herding four naughty but adorable cats. During the summer, she cranks the A/C and does the same. Despite severe allergies, she studied flower arranging while researching the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries: Bloom and Doom, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls, and Floral Depravity (Berkley Prime Crime), and singlehandedly cornered the Benadryl market.

Visit Beverly at www.beverlyallenmysteries.com

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