"Mmm, they're beautiful," said Heather McNabb, as she took the bouquet of tulips and sniffed at them. "Where did these come from?"
Lisa Miller shrugged, "Del Floria said they were delivered to the shop this morning."
Heather pulled her face away from the flowers. "They've been checked over?"
"Of course," snapped Lisa, a little irritably. "Del did a full scan and then passed them over to Section 8 for analysis. They're just a bunch of flowers. No hidden bombs or poisons or spiders. Just an ordinary bunch of tulips."
"There's nothing ordinary about this bunch," said Heather, admiring the delicate colors and the perfect blooms. "That late frost killed off the first blooms in half the nurseries in the state. These must have been shipped in from out of state..." She looked at the paper wrapped around the stems. "These are direct from Holland! They must have cost a fortune!" She saw the expression on Lisa's face. "Why so gloomy? If somebody sent me a bunch of flowers that they'd got flown in specially I'd have a big smile on my face...and so would he!"
"They weren't sent for me," said Lisa through gritted teeth. She threw an envelope on Heather's desk.
Lisa shook her head, "Guess again, and you might want to switch genders or you'll never get it right."
Heather picked up the card and her eyes widened. "Somebody sent flowers to Illya? But who?"
The card in the envelope gave no clue to its dispatcher. It was a simple card, the kind that could have come from any flower shop in Holland or the USA for that matter. Its illustration was simply a cartoon of a pair of lips but there was no greeting inside. Printed on the envelope in neat letters was the name 'Illya Kuryakin'.
"But who would send flowers to Illya?" asked Heather, surprised, and just a little jealous. By the looks of Lisa's face, she was more than a 'little' jealous. If looks could have killed, the flowers would have been seriously wilted.
"I don't know. Obviously someone with more money than sense," grumbled Lisa. She couldn't remember the last time anybody had sent her flowers, and certainly she had never received any as beautiful or as obviously costly as these ones. "They're wasted on him anyway. He'll probably dissect them or give a lecture on how wasteful it is to spend all this money on something that'll be dead in a few days."
"Well if we don't get them into water they'll be dead by the time he shows up," said Heather, as she sniffed the flowers again. "Lucky Illya," she sighed.
From the scowl on his face when Illya walked in, he obviously didn't share Heather's feelings. To his credit, he did rearrange his features into a neutral expression as he waited for her to pin the badge on his jacket. He had started to walk away when she called him back.
"Oh Illya, don't you want your flowers?"
Illya turned and looked at the bouquet in surprise, having assumed that they belonged to Heather. "My flowers?"
"Yes, they arrived a few hours ago," said Heather, handing him the card. "They're fresh from Holland," she added as he tore open the envelope. "Beautiful, aren't they?"
There was no response from Illya, and Heather's eyes widened as she saw a dull blush spread over his face. "Illya?"
Illya grabbed the bouquet, mumbled a thank you and hurried away down the corridor, leaving Heather sitting mystified behind her desk.
Her perplexity might have been lessened if she had been witness to the scene in Napoleon's apartment the night before, when he and Illya had polished off one too many glasses of scotch (Napoleon) and vodka (Illya) and one of them—neither of them could remember who—had brought the subject round to flowers and Napoleon had pronounced his favorite flower to be tulips.
"Mmm, tulips...tulips in the garden, tulips in the park...but the tulips that I like best, are Illya's 'two lips' in the dark'."
But then if Heather had been there at that point, then Illya might not have been the only one blushing at the sight of the flowers.