Jonquils for Jax: The Rousseaus #1 (The Blueberry Lane Series Book 12)

Jonquils for Jax

The Rousseaus, Book #1

The Blueberry Lane Series

Katy Regnery

Jonquils for Jax

Copyright
© 2016 by Katharine Gilliam Regnery

Sale of the electronic edition of this book is wholly unauthorized. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part, by any means, is forbidden without written permission from the author/publisher.

Katharine Gilliam Regnery, publisher

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

“a song in the front yard” reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.

Please visit my website at www.katyregnery.com

First Edition: August 2016

Katy Regnery

Jonquils for Jax: a novel / by Katy Regnery – 1st ed.

ISBN: 978-0-9966547-6-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Amy and Mia.

Because when I wrote the scenes with Jax, Skye, and Daisy,

I was wishing it was us.

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.

I want a peek at the back

Where it’s rough and

untended and hungry

weed grows.

A girl gets sick of a rose.

 

 

Gwendolyn Brooks

1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jax Rousseau had been thinking a lot about destiny lately.

Hers in particular.

What did she want from life, and what if what she
wanted
was different from whatever the universe had already
fated
her to receive? Because it really and truly felt like the universe was
not
on her side.

“Jaxy-baby, wait up!”

“No,” she muttered, quickening her pace, her hands starting to sweat as he chased her across the lawn. Not to mention…
Jaxy?
She gagged a little.
As if.

After ducking through the hedgerow that separated her childhood home, Le Chateau, from her neighbor’s estate, Westerly, she peeked over her shoulder to see if Tripp was still weaving unsteadily behind her and sighed with relief when she didn’t see him. She slowed her pace as she walked farther into the dark shadows of Westerly’s gardens.

Tripp Stuyvesant Stanton IV wasn’t even her date; he’d just been seated beside her at the wedding reception of Jax’s older brother, Étienne. And she didn’t like Tripp all that much, though her mother had probably handpicked him as Jax’s dinner companion since he was, as Liliane Rousseau liked to remind her daughter, one of the “right” people.

Jax reached down for a bright-white peony and picked it, lifting it to her nose and breathing deeply.

The thing is, the “right” people had always felt wrong.

She knew dozens of guys like Tripp: wealthy, well-bred guys from good Philadelphia families who worked for their fathers’ law firms or grandfathers’ hedge fund. They’d gone to the right prep schools, followed by an Ivy League education. She’d foxtrotted with them in ballroom dance classes since the third grade and ridden against them in polo matches since high school. She ran into them at the Merion Cricket Club every July, at The Union League Club Christmas party every December, and at the Cos (a.k.a. The Cosmopolitan Club, which was her generation’s co-ed answer to the stiff and matronly Acorn), where Jax had been a luncheon regular before she moved to LA.

In fact, Tripp had escorted Mad, Jax’s twin sister, to junior cotillion, and—she glanced up at the mostly dark windows of the Winslows’ Westerly as she continued across the lawn—he had crewed for Brooks Winslow in a regatta more than once. And let us not forget, she thought acidly, that Tripp was set to inherit his family’s millions, and as the only child, he wouldn’t have to share.

He was also a boring conversationalist, a high-handed dinner partner, and a handsy drunk, and he didn’t know how to take no for an answer.

Being chased like this a year ago, before her unfortunate sojourn in Hollywood, probably wouldn’t have bothered her as much. She would have just rolled her eyes at him and told him to get lost. But a lot had happened since last year. Tripp’s persistent pursuit was bringing up the worst memories of Jax’s time in LA and setting her on edge.

“Jax? Jaxy! C’mon, gor…jus!” he called from behind her. “
Voooly voo coochie ’vec moi
? Jaaaaaa-xy!”

He chuckled like his pigeon French was hilarious, and though his voice wasn’t close, she could tell he’d made it through the hedgerow into Westerly because it wasn’t muffled by the wall of shrubbery. Jax hurried her steps, picking up the skirt of her bridesmaid dress and trying not to twist her ankle in four-inch, gold Manolo Blahnik “Chaos Cuff” sandals as she ran over the uneven grass. She darted through the gate that separated Westerly from Haverford Park, the English family’s estate, and latched it behind her. Still looking over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of Tripp—
oooof!
—she slammed into a wall of something.

“Whoa there!” said a man’s voice.

“Hey!” she cried.

Teetering for a moment on her heels, she lost the battle with gravity and landed with an inelegant plop on her satin, champagne-colored backside, the cold dampness of the dew-covered grass making her suck in a gasp of breath as she looked up in alarm.

In the moonlight, she could make out the silhouette of a giant whose head partially blocked the full moon.

“You okay, miss?” he asked, leaning down to offer her his hand.

She really didn’t want to take it—she not only blamed him wholeheartedly for her fall, but it was dark, and his sudden presence set off a carillon of warning bells in her head. Then again, getting up on four-inch heels required either a hand or flipping to all fours. And she was
not
getting on all fours in front of this…this…

“Who
are you?” she asked, having no other option but to reach for his hand.

“Who are
you
?”

He wore battered leather gloves, which chafed her palm as he pulled her to her feet and added to her apprehension. Gloves. Why gloves? He clearly wasn’t a wedding guest, so why was he lurking around her neighbor’s estate at ten o’clock at night? Her heart sped up with uneasiness as she regained her balance. She jerked her hand back and took a huge step away from him.

The stranger stood still before her. He was over six feet tall and broad-chested—she wouldn’t have a chance in hell of defending herself against him if he chose to make a move on her. Suddenly, drunk, handsy Tripp, who had a muffin-top spilling over the waistband of his Vineyard Vines khakis, didn’t seem so bad.

She flicked a glance over her shoulder and lifted her chin, forcing bravado, wondering how far her voice would carry if she had to scream. “You don’t look like a wedding guest.”

“That’s ’cause I’m not,” he said, his voice calm, his drawl slightly Southern.

She took another step back. “Then what are you doing here at the Englishes’ estate in the dark?”

She glanced at his hands, looking for the glow of a concealed a camera, but she didn’t see one. That didn’t mean anything, though. He could be recording their exchange. He could have a camera hidden. He could—

“I’m Gardener,” he said, offering her his hand.

“The gardener?”

This information took the edge off of her worry. He was the gardener? Well, gardeners were, more or less, “safe” on Blueberry Lane. They were “the help,” and the help didn’t attack wedding guests or gossip or take pictures to sell to magazines, because they were paid not only to do their jobs but also for their discretion. Jax had lived her life surrounded by friendly gardeners, chauffeurs, maids, housekeepers, and cooks, so there was a certain solid comfort to his claim. Except—

She scowled at him, crossing her arms in a refusal to shake his hand. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood forever, and you are
not
the gardener at Haverford Park.”

“Is that right?” he drawled, a slight thread of humor warming his voice. Was he laughing at her? It sort of sounded like it, though a cloud had stalled over the moon and it was too dark for her to see his face to confirm it.

“Felix Edwards is the gardener here,” she said with a sniff, “and right now he’s over at Le Chateau with everyone else.”

“Sounds ’bout right.”

God damn it, if some smarmy paparazzo somehow managed to take pictures of me dancing with Tripp or stumbling through Westerly in the dark, or…or…merde! Why can’t they leave me the hell alone?

“Why are you
really
here?” she asked, her tone of voice rising with a lot of anger, a good dose of frustration, and more than a little growing panic. “Who the hell
are
you?”

“Gardener,” he said again, his voice soft and even.

Jax clenched her jaw, just about ready to run back to Le Chateau, when the cloud passed and the moonlight illuminated his face and form. Despite her apprehension, she couldn’t resist checking him out for an extra moment, trying to figure out who he was and why he was here.

He was wearing jeans and a dark-colored T-shirt under an open plaid flannel shirt. Cream-colored leather work boots and yellow leather gloves rounded out his outfit. Pausing at his hand, she found he was holding something and stiffened. She craned her neck, but upon further inspection, she realized that it wasn’t a camera or tape recorder as she’d feared. It was a seedling—a young plant cradled in the palm of his glove.

Huh.
Was
he the gardener as he claimed?

She flicked her eyes back to his face and was surprised to find him staring at her, a very slight grin on his perfect lips, which, for no good reason, annoyed her.

“We’re not getting anywhere,” she said, scowling at him and ignoring the drunken call of “Jaxy” in the distance. “If Felix is the gardener at Haverford Park, then who are
you
and what are
you
doing here?”

His grin widened just a touch and he shook his head like she was funny.

“Shhhh,” he said. “You’ll scare the flowers.”

Scare the flowers?
She blinked at him.

Was he crazy? Some crazy cousin of the English brothers who gardened at night?
Merde.
She’d jumped from the frying pan into the flame. What was worse? A drunken admirer who was trying to sleep with her? Or a crazy stranger who thought plants had feelings? Hmm. It was a toss-up.

“Jaaaaaa-xy!”

She took another step back, half grateful that Tripp’s calls were closer now. “Scare…the flowers.”

He nodded. “You’re yellin’, Duchess.”

Duchess? Huh. Duchess. She cocked her head to the side, surprised to find she didn’t dislike this nickname half as much as she probably should. Something about the way he said it in his low Southern drawl was almost…sexy. Disarming. And incredibly distracting.

She cleared her throat and shook her head, saying in a loud whisper, “I’m
not
yelling.”

“Sorta you are,” he said, turning his back to her and walking a few paces away.

As she trailed him with her eyes, she realized, for the first time, that she was standing at the edge of a formal garden and that the flowers before her were…glowing. White and silver in the moonlight, petals of all shapes and sizes reached for the starry sky, drinking in the moonlight and transforming themselves into nature’s version of twinkle lights.

She sucked in an admiring breath, taking her first step forward but still keeping a white stone bench between her and the “gardener,” who had dropped to his knees to plant the seedling. He bent over the blueish-white border of flowers, concentrating on his work, ignoring her.

“What—what is this place?” she asked with quiet wonder so she wouldn’t scare the flowers.

He turned to look at her over his shoulder, his small smile still in place. “It’s a moonlight garden.”

***

Lord but Northern girls are brassy
, thought Gardener, and this one, God help him, was jumpy and bossy too. Though, if he was being honest…the way she looked in the moonlight? With her dark hair piled up on her head, held back with a diamond tiara, and that long, gold dress that hugged the curves of her body like a glove? Well, she had him thinking about more than gardening.

He’d started working around six o’clock and had been listening to the wedding revelry float on the warm June breeze from Le Chateau to Haverford Park all evening long. Sounded like a good party. The kind he used to enjoy.

Using his gloved hand, he scooped a bit more earth from the hole he’d dug, then gently placed the lavender plant into the void before pushing the soil back over the seedling roots. The purple of the tight petals wouldn’t add much to the night glow of brighter flowers like white jonquils, Purity cosmos, Miss Jekyll White nigella, white larkspur, and the annual white foxglove Excelsior he’d planted a few nights ago, but the smell of the herb, when mixed with the night-scented stock that he planned to start planting tomorrow evening, would add a great deal of olfactory beauty to the garden on a hot summer night. His father would have approved, he thought wistfully.

The duchess cleared her throat behind him and he looked over his shoulder at her again, but he didn’t let his gaze linger. He couldn’t see her all that well anyhow, but her body language told him that she was uncomfortable finding herself alone with him. More than uncomfortable. Rattled.

And yet, he thought, for all her agitation, she’d still stood there in the dark giving him “what-for” and the third degree. She had spirit in her too. Because he hoped it might ease her anxiety, he knelt down and went about his business, though part of him, the
stupid
part, hoped she wouldn’t leave right away. It had been a lonely night before her arrival.

“A moonlight garden,” she said, her voice a little gentler and less uptight than it had been before. “It’s very—”

“Jaaaaaa-xy!”

Gardener heard the man’s voice in the distance again. Sounded like a neighbor searching for his dog, Jackie. Gardener looked up, scanning the darkness behind the woman but seeing nothing, even with the full moonlight shining down. He wouldn’t be any good helping someone find a dog. Couldn’t see but a foot in front of him on a good day with full sunlight, let alone nighttime, when he was as good as blind.

“Does somebody in this neighborhood
where you’ve lived forever
have a dog named Jackie?” he asked. “Sounds like it mighta went missin’.”

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