Home > Dinner on Primrose Hill (Honey Creek #3)

Dinner on Primrose Hill (Honey Creek #3)
Author: Jodi Thomas

 

Prologue

Friday

 

 

Professor Virginia Clark stared out the third-floor window of her office on a campus so small it seemed more like a set for a Hallmark movie than a college.

Tomorrow would be the start of spring break, and at forty-three years old she no longer cared. In her college days she’d loved the break. A time to travel, have fun, and maybe go wild, but now it was only a time to clean her office and catch up on paperwork.

If she could turn back time, she’d live one more wild spring break.

But she had a survey to conduct and a paper to write and an office to organize. No fun in that.

Mischief crawled up her spine. Maybe, even at forty-three, she might enjoy the break of another kind.

After all, you’re not dead until you’re dead.

 

 

Friday

 

 

Chapter 1

Benjamin

Dr. Benjamin Monroe folded his notes and placed them in the worn leather briefcase he’d carried since graduate school. His lecture room at Clifton College was empty now. Peaceful. He always liked the stillness after class. He’d done his job, and he took pride in that.

As he often did, he turned to the long, narrow windows behind his podium and looked out over his hometown. From the third floor he could see east all the way to the river and north to where the land rose in rolling hills. There was a balance here that calmed his soul. A wide valley that nestled three small towns, but his town, Clifton Bend, was the best because the college rested in its center.

Benjamin hadn’t missed a class in twelve years. At forty-two he always came on time and well prepared. Routine ruled his life. He liked working with his dad on their farm every weekend and loved biking through the valley on sunny afternoons. The exercise kept him lean and tanned, just as his work kept him sharp.

What he didn’t like was spring break. It interrupted his routine. A worthless holiday, but he’d help his father on their little farm and manage to keep busy.

“Dr. Monroe?” A nervous, high-pitched voice bombarded his thoughts. “May I speak to you about something? It’s important.”

A creature with auburn hair, glasses too big for her face, and huge blue eyes leaned around the door. Professor Virginia Clark.

He plowed his long fingers through his straight, mud-colored hair. If teachers were allowed a nemesis, Miss Clark, the biology instructor, would be his. As far as he was concerned, all they had in common was age.

Benjamin was tempted to say, “No, you can’t speak to me,” but that would be unprofessional.

To her credit, Miss Virginia Clark was bubbly on a down day. Her voice was too high, her manner of dress was in no way appropriate, and her legs were too short. On a good day she was exuberant and misguidedly thought they were not only colleagues but friends.

He’d always hated bubbly people; they made him nervous. But she taught two doors down in the biology lab and officed next to him. Some days he swore he could hear her laughing or running around her tiny workplace like a squirrel in a box.

Right now, she was charging toward his podium like Grant taking Richmond. Too late to say no or run, so all he could do was watch her approach.

Another observation—professors should never bounce.

Miss Clark bounced. She was a bit on the chubby side, a head shorter than he was, and the white lab coat did not conceal her curves. Her corkscrew hair seemed to be dancing to a hard rock beat, and her breasts . . . well, never mind them. Unprofessional, he thought as he watched her coming down the steps row by row, breasts moving to their own beat.

“I need your help, Dr. Monroe.” She stopped one foot too close to him.

He fought the urge to step back.

“Of course, Miss Clark, I’m at your service,” he offered. Maybe she needed a ride or she was locked out of her office, again. He could make time to be kind. After all, they were colleagues. “I’d be happy to help any way I can.”

“Good. I was afraid you’d say no. It’s a great opportunity and we can split the work and the money.”

Benjamin raised an eyebrow. “What work?”

“My research paper entry for the Westwin Research Journal has been approved as one of five finalists. The winner’s findings will be published in the journal as well as winning the ten-thousand-dollar prize.” She smiled. “Just think, we’ll be famous. Last year’s subject was how aging relates to location. The winner was interviewed on the Today show.”

She was bouncing again. This time with excitement. “I might finally get to go to New York City. I’ve always dreamed of seeing plays and walking through Central Park. They say you can hear the heartbeat of the whole world in the streets of New York.”

Benjamin fell into her pipe dream for a second. “If I had money to blow, I’d go to Paris and see Marie Curie’s office and lab. I’ve read every book about her dedication, her work, her life. Imagine walking the streets she walked.”

He didn’t mention that he’d also find his mother, if she was still alive. She’d left him when he was four years old, saying she must paint in Paris for a few months, but she never came back. He had only one question for her. Was the life she’d given him up for worth it?

Miss Clark frowned at him as if measuring his sanity. “Paris, really Benjamin, sometimes you surprise me.”

When he frowned at the use of his first name, she sighed, obviously reading his thoughts.

“Dr. Monroe,” she corrected. “We could split the research and the writing. I’ve already obtained the president’s approval for a small survey. All we have is a month to get this done, but we’ve got spring break to kick off our project with a bang.”

He nodded slowly, not willing to jump in, but willing to listen. “What is our topic of research?”

Blushing, she added, “Redefining sexual attractions in today’s world.”

Benjamin straightened slightly.

Miss Clark giggled. “We could call it, ‘The Chemistry of Mating.’”

He swallowed hard as she turned and bounced out of the room.

For a few moments, Benjamin forgot to breathe. Calamity had blown in on a tornado with red hair.

The only good news. Spring break wasn’t going to be boring.

 

 

Chapter 2

Ketch

When his Friday night class ended, Ketch Kincaid marched down the sleeping streets of Clifton in fast military steps. Peaceful shadows rested between houses and the melody of a spring night did nothing to calm him as he stormed toward what the locals called Low Street.

As he neared neon blinking lights, his surroundings darkened with caution and the melody of the night changed to a raging heartbeat. Trash rattled in the roughly paved street, echoing the rush of water from the river a few hundred yards away. This was a street, he thought, where dreams go to die, and his just had taken their last breath.

The barn-of-a-bar that backed against old train tracks wasn’t much to look at in daylight. Now, lit only by a sliver of moon, the COME ON IN, PARTNER sign seemed more an order than an invitation.

A hungry wind suddenly howled through the valley. The old bar seemed morose, as if the building was rotting from the inside out.

Just the kind of place Ketch was looking for.

His worn steel-toed boots throbbed against the plank sidewalk like a ragging heartbeat as he rushed toward his own personal implosion.

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