Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.
But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.
While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?
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“Did you read it again?” Helen asked, holding up her copy of . “I didn’t. I figured twice was enough.”
“I read it.” Not reading it hadn’t been an option, Kelly thought. She always read the book and took notes. She was such a rule follower. How depressing. She needed to break out of her rut or something. Maybe it was time for her to renew the mascara vow.
They walked into the community room and greeted their friends. Paula, a pretty mother of three, had already opened the bottles of wine she brought. Someone else had set out plates of cookies and cupcakes. Kelly scanned the sign-up sheet and confirmed that she was in charge of wine next month, and that they would be reading a memoir on Eleanor Roosevelt.
She reached for a cupcake just as a few more members arrived. Sally, a fifty-something avid quilter who had the biggest booth at Petal Pushers, announced, “Ladies, we have a new member. And guess what? He’s a man!”
Kelly looked at the cupcake she held. She wanted to take a big bite—or possibly run out the back exit. Or poke Helen in the arm while saying “I told you so” in a loud, taunting voice. Because she knew without turning around who she would find standing there. Like the Terminator, Griffith was back, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Griffith Burnett was used to being the center of attention—whether it was at a symposium on how micro housing could transform the poorest regions of Africa as well as answer the needs of the homeless in the urban centers of Europe and the United States, or at a black-tie fund-raiser for a children’s charity where he was the featured speaker. He was comfortable in front of a crowd, or so he’d thought. He found himself slightly less at ease in a room filled with nearly a dozen women, all staring at him with varying degrees of interest.
No, he thought as he scanned the faces. Nearly a dozen, less one. Kelly wasn’t looking at him at all.
“Everyone, this is Griffith Burnett. You should know him. He owns that tiny house company you’ve all seen off the highway. He grew up here. His folks are Frank and Candy. They moved to New Mexico six months ago. Griffith here wants to join our book club.”
He waited for the inevitable, “Why?” but the women only smiled and nodded. Except for Kelly, who kept her attention firmly on the cupcake she held.
“Let me introduce you to everyone,” Sally said. They’d walked in together and somehow she’d assigned herself as his hostess for the evening.
She went around the room, spouting names faster than he could remember them, starting with a mother of three and ending with the reason he was here in the first place.
“This is Kelly Murphy.” Sally frowned. “Didn’t you two go to high school together? Or is she closer to your brother’s age? I can’t keep you kids straight. And what about Helen Sperry? You’re the same age, aren’t you?”
“I’m a year older,” Helen said, offering her hand. “Hi. I think we had a social studies class together.”
“I’m sure we did.” He waited until Kelly had no choice but to look at him. “Hello, Kelly.”
“Griffith.” The word was clipped, her tone less than friendly, matching the wary expression in her big, brown eyes.
She looked good. He supposed there were some men who would be put off by the absence of frills, but he liked that about her. The sharp edges, the lack of guile. What you saw and all that. She was smart, she was determined and she wasn’t going to make it easy. He’d always been the kind of guy who liked a challenge so he was looking forward to the latter.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
Beside him, Sally stiffened. “Kelly, honey, what’s wrong? Griffith wants to join our book club.”
“And read ? I find that hard to believe.”
“Is it my reading skills you doubt or my interest in the subject matter?”
The corner of her mouth twitched. He would guess annoyance rather than humor, not that he would mind seeing her smile.
“A woman’s journey to emotional and spiritual fulfillment hardly seems like something you’d enjoy,” she murmured.
“Do you think you know me well enough to decide that?”
Now everyone was watching and listening. He stepped closer to Kelly. Close enough that she had to tilt her head slightly to hold his gaze.
“I find everything about a woman’s journey interesting. I enjoy discovering how she’s different than I expected. I like the anticipation.”
Someone’s breath caught. Not Kelly’s. Her gaze narrowed. “Next month we’re reading an autobiography on Eleanor Roosevelt.”
“Lucky me. I’ve always been an admirer.”
She didn’t say the word out loud, but she sure as hell thought it. Griffith held in a grin as he watched her struggle with her temper. He suspected she was imagining smashing the cupcake she held into his face, turning on her heel and walking away. Only she wouldn’t. She would restrain herself. He couldn’t wait to test that restraint in every way possible.
But not tonight. Tonight was simply the next step in his plan. He wanted someone in his life—he’d decided that serial monogamy was his road to happiness and he hoped he and Kelly could come to a mutual understanding.
“Did you think the author spent too much time deconstructing her divorce in the book?” she asked. “Should we have gotten right to the journey?”
He’d thought there might be a test, but he’d hoped it would be harder. “She doesn’t deconstruct her divorce. In fact there isn’t much detail as to what went wrong. She does make it clear the divorce was painful.”
Something he understood personally. Screwing up was never pleasant but to mess up something that fundamental sucked in a big way.
“And the part in Thailand?” Kelly asked.
“You mean Indonesia?”
She handled defeat with grace. Instead of saying something sarcastic, she flashed him an unexpected smile—one that hit him in the gut with the subtlety of a 2x4 and offered him her cupcake.
“Welcome to our book club.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a glass of wine.”
About the author:
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle.
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