Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 17

“Scooter’s been trying to turn his life around, just like Bruce Wayne, but he has a harder road ahead of him because his brother keeps trying to pull him back in.” He shifted his weight. “In any case, I’ll find Scooter and ask him if he’s heard anything. But don’t get your hopes up. If Bruce Wayne’s disappearance really does have something to do with Daniel Crocker, I’m not sure Scooter will help us.”

“Okay,” I said, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice. Jonah was trying to help, which was more than I should have been asking. “We’ll just hope that he knows something.”

“But if I don’t find anything, you need to tell Mason.”

I sucked in my lower lip.

“Rose.”

I stood and moved to the window, looking down at the church grounds. I had hired Bruce Wayne and David out of desperation when Jonah commissioned us to landscape the entire church grounds in less than five days. But it turned out that Bruce Wayne loved it. He’d been working for me for a little over a month and I couldn’t imagine the Gardner Sisters Nursery without him.

“Rose.”

“I’ve been leaving Bruce Wayne messages on his cell phone. Maybe he’ll call me back and tell me that this has all been a big misunderstanding.”

Jonah’s mouth pursed as his eyebrows rose.

“When do you think you can talk to Scooter?”

“I’ll track him down as soon as we’re done here.”

“Okay,” I groaned. “If Scooter can’t help us, and if I haven’t heard anything by the end of the press conference, I’ll tell Mason.”

“What press conference?”

I spun around and offered him an awkward smile. “The Gardner Sisters Nursery is being awarded a huge grant this afternoon from the Arkansas Small Business Administration.” I told him everything I’d told Mason earlier.

He frowned while he listened, then asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“How can I turn it down?”

“You do realize that his father is counting on that very reaction. He offered you something that you think you can’t live without. Just more of his manipulation.”

“You don’t think I know that?” I asked, my irritation increasing. “But how can I turn this down? Violet’s counting on it.”

“Forget Violet. What do you want?”

“If we don’t do this, Violet will—”

Jonah moved closer to me and bent his knees so we were eye to eye. “I don’t give a Fig Newton about Violet right now. I’m asking about you. What does Rose want to do? Do you want to see Joe?”

I walked back toward the desk and sank into the chair. “Would it make me a terrible person if I did?”

“It would make you perfectly normal.”

“I know he’s with Hilary now.”

“And we both know that’s staged.”

“But still.”

“What do you hope to get out of seeing him? Ask yourself that before you go.”

“I think I just want to know that he’s okay. That he’s making the best of it.”

“Do you want him to tell you it’s all a terrible mistake? That he wants to come back to you?”

“No. I don’t know.” I ran a hand over my hair, smoothing back several loose strands. “I used to think I wanted that, but Mason…” I took a deep breath. “I think what I really need is closure. I need to say goodbye while I’m not sobbing my eyes out. Does that make sense?”

“Perfect sense. And it’s a very good reason to go through with it. I just wanted to make sure you’re doing it for you.”

“I guess I am.”

“When is it scheduled? I’ll try to come. I was a big part of the first press conference at the grand opening of your business. I should make a habit of attending all of them.”

I grinned, trying to settle my nerves. Not too long ago, I’d been alone in the world, but now I had supportive friends who were there for me when I needed them. Facing Joe at the press conference would be hard, but I felt stronger knowing Mason, Jonah, and Neely Kate would be there to support me. “You’re the one who got our landscaping business rolling, but I think you’ve run out of land for us to work with.”

“There’s still my backyard.” He winked.

I laughed. “When we were working on the front yard, Bruce Wayne checked out the back and actually came up with a few ideas. He’s a natural.” My voice broke.

Jonah placed his hand on my shoulder. “He’ll turn up, Rose. We’ll find him.”

I sure hoped Jonah was right.

Chapter Six

A crowd was already gathering in the nursery parking lot when I pulled up a few minutes after noon. My phone dinged and I checked to see I had another message from Mason. He'd been checking in with me all morning to make sure I was safe. His latest text told me he was running late, but he’d be at the nursery by one.

Violet burst out of the door as I walked to the entrance, Muffy trotting along behind me. “Where have you been?” she said through gritted teeth. “You’re late.”

I glanced at my phone. “By three minutes.”

“I needed you here, Rose. People are already showing up.” Her gaze took me in from head to toe. “Have you spent all morning getting dressed? Because I know you weren’t building Mrs. Miller’s retaining wall. Which means you weren’t working.”

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