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Chapter 1

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"Not a Flower" made it to the Top 50 finalists for the 2015 Harlequin Romance Writing Contest #SYTYCW15. Thank you all!

* * *

The letter crumpled noisily in her hand.

Grace Madison stared down at the ruined creamy white sheet of paper and noted in mild shock that her palm was bleeding. She had managed to give herself a rather nasty paper cut.

"Damn." Wincing at the pain Grace tossed aside the letter and went to her medicine cabinet. Once her finger was cleaned and bandaged, she headed back to the kitchen and glared at the balled up paper sitting innocuously on the ground by her wastebasket.

She'd read it enough times to recite it by heart.

Grace,

I don't know how to tell you this-but I'm getting married. The wedding will be held at Castle La Mer in mid-July. Please say that you will come. Elizabeth always told me how much you loved it there...and it would mean the world to me to have my best friend with me again.

I miss you.

Duval Roussiard

It was already June. This meant his wedding was just a little over a month away. The information was overwhelming in more ways than one.

To distract herself more than because she was actually thirsty, Grace grabbed a forgotten cup of tea on the counter and took a deep gulp of her lukewarm liquid. The bitter flavor made her cough and grimace simultaneously. Blinking her watery eyes she set the mug down.

"Best friend?" Her fingers clenched again and caused the digit with the paper cut to throb painfully. Unable to look at the letter any longer Grace sat down at the kitchen table and stared out the window overlooking her backyard. Her anger cooled along with her tea.

It would be five years now since she had seen Duval. Despite everything that had happened, thinking about him now she realized that she missed him terribly. Included with the letter had been roundtrip tickets to London with open dates. How tempting it was to think that she could see his face, hear his voice again, if only she had the guts to book her flight and hop on a cab to the airport.

But things weren't that simple.

Grace decided abruptly but firmly that she wouldn't go. The plane tickets were going back to Duval with a polite refusal letter and that would be the end of that. Maybe it was simple after all.

"It would mean the world to him, hah." She snorted. Putting the ticket and letter away, she dumped her tea into the sink and headed to the bedroom to get dressed for work. She was working a double shift at the hospital today and her patients needed her full attention. She didn't want to waste any energy obsessing over the fact that the only man she had ever loved was getting married to someone else.

Again.

* * *

A month later.

The light on her answering machine was flickering when she got home. There were two messages on there. Grace had an odd premonition as she stared at the small black machine and wished that she had never kept the old clunky thing. She had a cell phone and nobody ever called her on her home phone. Nobody had that old number.

Slowly putting her duffel bag on the ground and locking her door behind her, she walked over to the answering machine and pressed the 'play' button.

The first call was a hang-up. Licking dry lips, she pressed play again. At first, there was silence-Grace began to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking it was another wrong number--then a deep familiar voice spoke.

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