Love is in Bloom in This Opposites-Attract Sapphic Romance

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

Opal Devlin’s life only got more complicated when she won the lottery. Unable to say no to the flood of people who showed up to ask her for money, she decides to remove herself from the situation. Opal finds her fresh start in the form of a failing flower farm in Asheville, North Carolina, which she buys with the intention of letting nature run its course while she starts a painting business.

But there’s a problem: a total knockout named Pepper Boden says she is the farm’s rightful owner, and she doesn’t intend to go anywhere. (Think: there’s only one bed, but make it a cozy cabin on a farm.) The two agree to try living together, and sparks fly in multiple sense of the word.

Mazey Eddings’s Late Bloomer is coming April 16 wherever books are sold.

“I . . . I demand you tell me what’s happening.” Opal says, putting her hands on her softly curved hips and squaring her shoulders, standing her full height of what couldn’t be more than five foot two. I loom over her by a solid nine inches.

It’s a bit difficult to take Opal’s demand seriously, with her big scared eyes and messy hair and full, rosy cheeks. The woman is, unfortunately, rather cute. Which makes the massive upheaval she’s caused in my life all the more disarming. And annoying.

So very fucking annoying.

“Fine,” I say, slipping around her and trudging toward the porch. “You want to know what’s happening? I’ll tell you. Trish—the nice lady who sold you this place for a song?—she’s my mother. And a massive con artist. Tragically for me, this is apparently the one time she’s done something with the law on her side, which puts me in the super-fun position of being homeless. And I guess jobless since you want to turn this flower farm into some sort of shoe factory like a pink-haired Keebler elf. Does that paint a clear enough picture for you?” I turn on Opal, towering over her. I know I’m not supposed to shoot the messenger, but I’m certainly not above yelling at one.

Opal is silent for a moment, then swallows. “Don’t Keebler elves make cookies?” she whispers.

The anger that floods through me is hot enough to send this entire farm up in flames.

“Sorry. Sorry,” Opal rushes out. “I imagine now isn’t the right time for elf semantics.”

“How much did you pay for it?” I know—from endless studying of interactions between neurotypicals—that talking about money is rude. But I’m beyond forcing myself into social niceties when my entire world is falling apart.

Opal blinks those wide blue eyes. “I . . . uh . . . th-three. Three hundred. Thousand. Three hundred thousand dollars.”

That amount of money is so inconceivably large that I, not for the first time that evening, feel like I might collapse. My knees give out, and I plop down onto the top step of the porch.

“Let me get this straight,” I say through a rough throat. “You paid three hundred thousand dollars, in cash, for a flower farm on the verge of bankruptcy that you’ve never even set foot on before?”

“I . . . I paid with a check,” Opal whispers, like it makes any fucking difference to how absolutely bonkers the whole thing is.

What am I going to do?” I mumble to myself, voice cracking as overwhelming thoughts clog up my brain. “Like, seriously. If I lose this place, I have . . .” Nothing. If I lose the Thistle and Bloom, I have nothing. No purpose. No safe space. No shelter filled with the happiest moments of my life. I’d once again be a lost buoy in the endless ocean of life. Directionless. Untethered. Alone.

“Stay with me.” Opal’s words are loud. A bit startling. I’m coming to realize that everything about her is startling, though.

“What?” I say, turning to look at her.

Opal clears her throat, eyes fixed on my face. “Stay here with me. Or, uh, I stay with you. Or, um, I guess we stay together? In the cabin?” Opal’s hand flaps wildly toward the front door.

My mind goes blank. There is no way I can live with this strange woman with wild hair and an alarming amount of shoes who bought property off Facebook Marketplace without some sort of homicide situation.

“Inconceivable,” I eventually press out.

Opal giggles. Giggles. At a time like this? The woman is nothing but a compact, pink-haired monster.

“I’ve never heard someone say that word without doing the Princess Bride voice.” Opal giggles even harder. The homicide might come sooner than I anticipated. “But seriously,” Opal continues, trying and failing to gulp down her remaining laughs. “I think it’s the best solution to our problem.”

“Does it really solve anything?” I snap, looking at Opal, tracing the sincerity of her eyes, the kind softness to her dimpled smile.

She chews on the question, full lips puckering and a small furrow forming between her eyebrows. “I think . . .” she says slowly, carefully, “it solves enough for tonight. And tomorrow we can figure out the rest.”

I continue to stare at her, heart wary and exhausted, everything in me screaming that Opal can’t be trusted. No one can be trusted. Especially someone associated with Trish. But my oversaturated brain isn’t able to come up with any alternatives, and all I really want is to put on my softest pajamas, curl up under my quilts, and wake up tomorrow morning to find this was all an awful dream.

“Okay,” I say at last, standing up. “We’ll leave the rest for the morning.” I walk to the door, Opal’s boots clunking up the porch steps behind me. I hold open the screen door for her, but she hesitates.

“And, uh, just to like, confirm and stuff . . . you aren’t a serial killer or anything, right?”

My head jerks back. “Excuse me?”

“I’m not saying you give off that vibe,” Opal says, waving her hands frantically in front of her. “I just thought I should double-check. Since we’ll be like . . . in the same house and stuff. And like . . . I mean I guess I just don’t want to get . . . well. Murdered. Or anything.”

I scan this bizarre woman from the top of her head to the bottom of her cuffed jeans. Was she sent from my personal seventh circle of hell just to torture me here on earth?

“I’m not murdering anyone tonight,” I say with a sigh. “But now you have me super freaked out so I’ll be sleeping with my door locked and pepper spray close if it turns out you’re the actual murderer.”

“Let’s just agree on a mutual no-murder situation,” Opal says, stepping through the door and into the cabin’s warm kitchen. “See, another problem solved. We’re on a roll.”

“Right. I’m sure everything else we have to figure out will be as easily handled as agreeing not to kill each other.” I maneuver around Opal in the small kitchen, blowing out the candles on the table as I go.

“We’ll find a happy ending to all of this. Just you wait.”

Today has been filled with so many curveballs and upheavals, there’s one thing I know, beyond reasonable doubt, to be true: there is no happy ending that could ever, ever, come from this nightmare.

From LATE BLOOMER by Mazey Eddings. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted with permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group