Secrets of the Tulip Sisters
July 11th 2017
The relationship of sisters Kelly and Olivia Van Gilder has been, well… complicated ever since their mother left them as teens, though it's the secrets they have been keeping from each other as adults that have unwittingly widened the chasm. But one thing they do share is the not-so-secret torch they carry for the Martin brothers.
In the small enclave of New Holland, Washington, Griffith and Ryan Martin were demigods. While Griffith was the object of Kelly's high school crush and witness to her mortal teenage humiliation, Ryan was for Olivia the boy who got away-something she's never forgiven Kelly for-and the only person since her mother who appreciated her wild streak.
Now, ten years later, both brothers are newly returned to town. Believing they're destined to be together, Olivia's determined to get Ryan back, until she discovers that she's not the only one keeping secrets…and that perhaps he's not the handsome prince she remembered. And even though Griffith has grown up to be more irresistible than ever, Kelly's impulse is to avoid him and the painful memory he represents, despite his resolve to right the wrong he caused her long ago-and her desire to let him.
“He was nice,” Helen said as Kelly drove the handful of miles between Petal Pushers and their respective houses.
No need to ask who “he” was, Kelly thought. She’d just endured the longest three hours of her life in the same room as Griffith. She’d listened to him analyze the book, make jokes and generally charm every woman within earshot. Except her, of course. But then she was the only one to have survived being rejected by Griffith, so she was special.
“Incredibly nice,” Kelly murmured.
“Now you’re being sarcastic.”
“I can’t help it. Doesn’t it strike you as the least bit odd that he wanted to join our book club? There’s that mystery one in La Conner. Why doesn’t he join that one?”
“He’s local, like us.”
Griffith was many things but “like us” was not one of them. “Can you at least admit it’s slightly odd that he showed up?”
Helen considered the question. “It’s unexpected, yes. But it’s not a bad thing.”
“Not for you.”
Helen angled toward Kelly. “Come on. Griffith is gorgeous. You have to admit looking at him isn’t a hardship.”
No, it wasn’t, not that she wanted to admit anything of the kind. He’d always been one of those guys who captured the attention of every female in a three-block radius. Of course he was tall, with sandy brown hair and brown eyes. But it wasn’t the individual features so much as how they came together into one incredibly appealing man.
“I still wish he’d gone to the mystery book club. There are guys there. He’d feel more comfortable.”
“Maybe you should tell him.”
Kelly heard the amusement in her friend’s voice and groaned. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“A little.” Helen shook her head. “Come on. Is it really so bad to have a guy like Griffith interested in you? It’s been six months since you and Sven broke up. It’s time to move on. Griffith is a great moving-on kind of guy.”
“So speaks the woman who hasn’t dated since her divorce six years ago.”
“I’m very comfortable in my ‘do as I say, not as I do’ role in our relationship. Come on. You can’t tell me you’re not the tiniest bit flattered. You have to be.”
“Why? Because he’s staring at me? I don’t know what he wants, but I doubt it’s what’s you’re thinking.”
“Why would you say that?”
Kelly turned at the corner and headed toward her friend’s house. “I’m very clear on my place in the universe.”
Kelly waved her hand in front of her midsection. “I’m average at best. Not beautiful, not pretty, not ugly. Just regular.”
If Griffith was looking for a fancier version of a Murphy, he should check out Olivia. Kelly hadn’t seen her sister in forever, but she would literally bet the farm on the fact that Olivia was still gorgeous and glamorous and wearing a designer something. Not cargo pants bought on sale from an online farm equipment supply outlet.
“It’s a family thing,” she continued. “I take after my dad. We’re sensible people. Hardworking. Ordinary. My mom and sister are the…”
“Exotic tulips in the garden that is your life?” Helen asked drily.
“Not the analogy I was going to use, but sure. It works.”
“You’re selling yourself short,” Helen told her. “Worse, you’re saying bad stuff about my friend and I don’t appreciate that. You’re not ordinary. You’re lovely and funny and hardworking.”
“It’s amazing you don’t want to have sex with me right now.”
“Stop. It.” Helen glared. “I mean it. Kelly, you’re great. Griffith finally got his head out of his ass long enough to notice you.”
“I thought you liked him.”
“I do. I used the phrase for effect. What did you think?”
“Thank you.” She shifted to face Kelly. “I’m serious. You’re obviously over Sven. Take a chance on a great guy.”
“We don’t know he’s great.”
“I’ve heard rumors.”
Kelly had, too. The problem wasn’t Griffith. Not totally. Nor was it her still recovering from the end of a long-term relationship. She was embarrassed to admit that while Sven had surprised her when he’d said it was over, she really hadn’t missed him. Or felt all that upset. Which was sad because after five years, shouldn’t she have been at least a little crushed? What did it mean that she’d gone on without much more than a blink? Hadn’t she been emotionally engaged at all? And if she hadn’t been, what was the reason? Had he not been the one or was she somehow stunted?
Not a question she really wanted answered. Although Sven had pointed out that she’d never been in love with him. Which was true, if disconcerting to find out from a man.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Helen asked.
“If I slept with Griffith?” The list was really long—where was she supposed to start?
“Whoa, I was going to say if you talked to Griffith. I find it fascinating you jumped right into bed with him, so to speak.”
“Too late now. You’ve subconsciously told me everything.”
“I haven’t and it wasn’t subconscious anything. I spoke out loud.” Kelly pulled into Helen’s driveway.
“You’re trying to distract me with facts,” her friend said with a grin. “But I see you for what you are.”
“I’m afraid to ask what that is.”
“As you should be.” Helen lowered her voice. “You’re a sex-starved single woman who desperately wants to get involved with Griffith but you’re afraid.”
Words spoken in jest that were just a little too close to the truth. Not the sex-starved part. Sex was fine, if not the amazing, earth-shattering experience the media claimed, but still. She did find Griffith intriguing and attractive and…
“He can be annoying.”
“I want him to leave me alone.”
Helen sighed. “At the risk of repeating myself, liar, liar.”
Kelly growled in the back of her throat. “You’re annoying.”
“That is absolutely true. Just say it. You’re interested. Intrigued, even. He’s hot and you have no idea why he’s suddenly interested, but you don’t hate it.”
“What I hate is being that transparent.”
Helen hugged her, then opened the passenger door of the truck and slid to the ground. “Only to me, my sweet. Only to me. My advice is simple. Say yes.”
“He hasn’t asked me anything. In fact all he’s done is stare at me and be everywhere I am.”
“Then go find out why. Oh, and start keeping condoms in your purse. Just in case.”
With that, Helen waved and walked into her house. Kelly waited until the living room lights came on before backing out of the driveway and heading home.
Kelly had no plans to take the condom advice, but confronting Griffith might not be such a bad idea. Maybe she could find out what he was up to. Because as nice as it would be to think he was interested in her, she knew for a fact her luck wasn’t that good. Besides, he was Griffith Burnett. Even if she got him, she would have no idea what to do with him.
Sad, but true.
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