Four White Roses
When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels.
Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s.
Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries surrounding them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?
Torrie recalled the rumor circulating around the local area. Marlene Hess had recently found a letter addressed to him and dated just days before Gertrude died. It had been sealed, stamped, but never sent. Although Torrie detested the rumor mill about town, she suspected Marlene was the main reason Rich was here in Hickory Valley. She had been on the payroll of the Redman family since she was a teenager, helping the family in various capacities over the last thirty-some years. She now ran her own lucrative real estate agency inherited from her father, but she managed to forge a long-time, genuine friendship with Gertrude Redman. Marlene had indicated to Torrie it was time for Rich to make some decisions about the homestead. She was tired of trying to keep the gigantic structure occupied.
“I don’t know exactly how long we’re staying,” Rich admitted. “I planned for a month to be safe. I need to check things out and see what my options might be. Now with school finished, we have the whole summer to decide. Luckily, I can work from my grandmother’s house with a phone and computer.”
Torrie smiled, eyes trained on the road. “Well, you picked a good month. June is perfect with its warm, sunny weather.” Torrie loved June of all the months in the year. June was the month of roses, her favorite flower. And summer in Pennsylvania was spectacular, with its luscious shades of green and skies with varying blue hues that could outshine the colors of the sea.
Minutes later, she pulled into the large circular drive and stopped in front of the house, an arresting white structure with dormered second-floor windows looking over the front yard like two giant eyes. A wide porch with a gingerbread railing encircled both the front and two sides of the house.
Hopping out, Torrie walked to the back of the truck and dropped the tailgate. Together with Rich, she paused to watch Estella race up the front walk and onto the wraparound porch where she headed to a wooden swing in the right corner. Turning to Rich, Torrie suggested, “Why don’t you unlock the house and show Estella around while I bring the luggage in and set it inside the door in the foyer?”
“Oh, no. I can’t let you do it by yourself.”
Torrie waved him away. “I can handle this. It’s late and you need to feed Estella before you both settle in for the night.”
“How much do I owe you?” Rich handed her the key to the SUV and withdrew his wallet.
She waved him away again. On her right hand, a delicate gold ring covered with clusters of expensive stones twinkled in the fading light. There was no wedding ring on her left hand.
“Just consider it a favor.” She smiled. “Gertie and I were friends and belonged to the local garden club and the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania. There are some flowerbeds in the backyard where we raised wildflowers, some gladiolas, and roses. I would like to talk to you about maintaining the flowerbeds and rose gardens when you have a few minutes. Once you’re settled, I’ll stop by. A cup of coffee should make us even.”
Nodding, Rich put a hand gently on her shoulder. “Thanks, Torrie. Really. Thanks so much for your help. I can’t wait to see your brothers, especially Lars.”
He looked toward the porch in the dying light and sighed. “I don’t know what to do with this monstrosity. No one seems interested in buying it. No one wants to live in it. It’s like a giant worthless gift. Maintenance costs exceed its usefulness. The heating bill is enormous. I have to pay to get the grass mowed in the summer and the snow shoveled in the winter.” He shrugged his shoulders in resignation and stared down the street where the street lights had come on. Their globes looked like Japanese lanterns floating in the air. His gaze found hers again. His expression was miserable and grim.
Torrie tipped her ball cap up and gave a cursory glance at the house. She pursed her lips and fell silent. Should she tell him the truth? Or should she wait until he and Estella were settled in? The knowledge twisted and turned inside her. As much as she hated rumors, she hated lies even more. There were enough of both of them flying around town…and some were about her. What to do? Finally, she flung her hands up in despair.
“Of course no one wants to buy it, Richard Lee,” she uttered with unmistakable candor. “I have it through reliable sources your grandmother’s house is haunted.”