I love roses. Most flowers, actually. Looking back, I probably could’ve made being a florist a career. My favorite of all flowers is the hybrid tea rose. I like to cut them and bring them into the house, let their fragrance fill each room. I guess it stems (no pun intended) from when my dad grew roses for my mom. I remember him saying their names, like Chrysler Imperial, Mister Lincoln, Gold Medal, and First Prize. Old roses that still provide lots of enjoyment for growers today. My favorites are Mister Lincoln and Chrysler Imperial.
When I started writing my military thriller Zone of Action, I knew I wanted to include some sort of floriculture as a counterpoint to the power and action of a military novel. And when I decided my heroine would be a former Army soldier, I knew exactly how I would tie my love of flowers into this romantic thriller.
Audrey Jenkins has seen action in Afghanistan and has been a witness to atrocities she wants nothing more than to forget. When she gets out of the Army, she chooses to be a florist, the farthest occupation from what she’d been before, a terror-cell expert.
She surrounds herself with flowers and makes a second career out of being a florist in her small town. She’s happy with her life, until CID Special Agent Cameron Harris bursts on to the scene, needing her help and embroiling her in danger.
Here’s an excerpt from Zone of Action where Audrey and Cam meet.
The bouquet was almost perfect. Audrey stepped back to study the Rhapsody in Blue sympathy arrangement she was preparing. While funeral and condolence floral arrays weren’t her favorite to compose, they were a necessary part of her business. They provided a sort of comfort to those left behind.
She cocked her head. It needed a few more white button mums to contrast with the blue irises and hydrangea blooms. The blues were overpowering the overall look. She adjusted her earbuds before going to the refrigerated mum case. Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” began to blast through them. She welcomed the sound.
She’d become addicted to the head banger music after the bombing in Kandahar. It was one of the few ways she could block the images and sounds that continued to haunt her from that day. Many soldiers sought solace from PTSD in music, while others found it a trigger. She didn’t consider herself a sufferer. She bet the Army shrink would differ with her even now.
The music echoed through her body, the thump of the drum rhythmic and primal. It freed her to feel, and let her thoughts roam free. Her head began to nod to the beat. The music, the flowers. They all represented the lack of restrictions she embraced. The words were immaterial.
The tap on her shoulder sent her spinning around, brandishing the mum stalks in an outside block that almost caught Elena in the face. Her friend must’ve expected that reaction, for she’d already retreated.
Audrey pulled the earbuds from her ears. “Damn it, Elena, don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“I wasn’t sneaking. I yelled for you, but that shit you listen to drowned me out. Like always. You have a visitor.”
“Who is it?” She nudged her friend before setting the flowers on the butcher block island and starting out to the front of the store without waiting for Elena’s answer. When she saw who it was, she understood why the other woman had hesitated.
In the relaxed uniform of white, short-sleeved shirt and blue trousers of the CID, stood the handsome soldier she’d last seen and admired at Brett’s court martial. His back was to her, but she recognized his attire, and she’d never forget the man himself, or her reaction to his appearance that day in the courtroom. She’d found him attractive then, and by the way she was studying his wide shoulders, narrow waist, and tight ass right now, that attraction hadn’t diminished.
Irritated at her response, she snapped, “What are you doing here?”
The man turned around. She swallowed the gasp that rose in her throat. The left side of his handsome face was bruised—black, purple, with an underlying yellow tinge. The gaze he pinned on her was direct, but she could see weariness in the depths of his brown eyes.
A sense of dread lapped at the edges of her consciousness. She knew she wasn’t going to like whatever he had to say. It didn’t take long to find out.
“Brett Gates escaped.”
For a chance to win an ARC of Zone of Action, please tell me your favorite flower. If you can upload a photo, even better!