- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The day was too bright, the sun too cheerful, Cindy Thompson decided. It should be gray, overcast, perhaps drenched with rain or swept by relentless wind. But only a mild breeze stirred the sweet, spring air. It was the best time of year in Houston. Plagued by heat and humidity, the near-coastal city could rarely boast of mild, pleasant days. But it was something Cindy had been accustomed to, growing up there alongside her sister, Julia.
But Julia no longer had to worry about hot and cold, about sunshine and rain. Still the light shone mercilessly on her mahogany coffin, revealing the grain of the highly polished wood and the creamy hue of the pure white floral spray. Two lone ivory ribbons proclaimed "wife" and "mother."
Cindy swallowed another rush of tears, her gaze sliding yet again to her brother-in-law, Flynn Mallory, and his three tiny, identical daughters. Julia would be pleased, Cindy thought irrationally. The girls were dressed beautifully. Matching dresses of deep green velvet, no doubt from Houston's finest children's store, shiny black Mary Janes, spotless ivory tights.
The triplets were just barely twenty-two months old, matching bundles of endless energy. Cindy wondered how Flynn had managed to ready them with suchprecision. From what she'd known, Julia had been their sole caretaker since Flynn was always working, striving to improve his already-prosperous business.
Cindy had offered to help with the girls, but Flynn had firmly refused. Not much had changed. Flynn was still holding her at arm's length. Shaking away the painful memories, Cindy bent her head for the closing prayer, offering one of her own for her beloved sister.
Silence sliced over the crowd now as they waited for Flynn to rise. He did so slowly, trying to hold three tiny hands with his own larger ones. Taking that cue, Cindy reached for baby Alice's hand, since she was seated beside her. Flynn didn't protest, for once looking out of control and a bit lost.
"Mommy?" little Beth asked, looking as lost as her father.
Flynn's face worked, his lips seemingly trying to form words his heart refused to utter.
Seeing his pain, Cindy knelt down beside the girls, enveloping them in a hug. Then she gave each of them a single pink rosebud, Julia's favorite. Quietly she led them to the casket, allowing each to place a flower on the sun-warmed wood.
Flynn watched helplessly, barely acknowledging soft-spoken condolences of friends as they filed past. Clearly his world had been shattered. Julia had been a rock, the nucleus of their family. Cindy had always imagined her sister growing old, surrounded by Flynn and a passel of adoring grandchildren. But that wasn't to be.
Any more than her own happiness was to be. Cindy shook away the thought, immediately ashamed of her pettiness. Her only concern could be the children. Cindy intended to delay her return to Rosewood. She wouldn't abandon her sister's children. She owed it to Julia and even Flynn's resistance wouldn't stop her. She knew, however, it was only temporary. She couldn't hope to be included where she wasn't wanted. But in the meantime she would shower the girls with love ... and pray they wouldn't forget her.
* * *
Rosewood, Texas One year later
Driving slowly, Flynn Mallory surveyed the main street of the small Hill Country town he'd chosen to call home, a hamlet far different from Houston. And incredibly far from the only roots he'd ever known. He and Julia had never visited Rosewood. Cindy had made the infrequent trips to Houston, saying she could combine business with pleasure. It had suited Flynn. It wasn't easy to travel with the triplets and he'd felt no need to survey Rosewood until now.
But Rosewood offered what his daughters really wanted - their aunt Cindy. For the millionth time, Flynn regretted the loss of his family ... his entire family. There was no loving family member to turn to. No one who could offer help or advice. No Mallory grandparent, aunt or uncle who could help the girls know they were loved. Cindy wouldn't have been his choice if he'd had anyone else to turn to. But his relatives were all dead and Cindy was the only member left of Julia's family. Cindy was irresponsible and fun loving, but he could provide the stability his children needed. They could visit with Cindy once a week and get the emotional bonding they craved while he ensured a secure environment.
For a moment Flynn thought he'd taken a wrong turn. The eclectic, charming neighborhood was old and well-worn, the yards filled with ancient oaks and carefully pruned rose gardens.
Expecting a sleekly modern condo, Flynn looked for a place where he could turn his vehicle around. But then he spotted Cindy's address. There was no mistake. The numbers sat atop a nameplate of swirling letters that spelled out Thompson. But he still wasn't reassured. The softly faded old Victorian house didn't fit his image of Cindy.
Climbing out of his SUV, Flynn strolled up the red brick sidewalk. A magnificent aged magnolia tree perfumed the air, its dark glossy leaves looking as though they'd been polished by hand. Flynn knew the slow-growing tree had to be at least one hundred years old. But the house looked that and then some.
Unable to stop staring, he climbed the steps to the wraparound porch. Flynn reached for a doorbell and found an old brass knocker instead. He glanced upward at the gently curving eaves, pounding a bit more loudly than he intended. And within seconds the door whipped open. A disheveled, startled-looking Cindy stared at him.
Excerpted from Family Ties by Bonnie Winn Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted September 6, 2012
Posted August 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted May 15, 2011
No text was provided for this review.