He’d given me another chance at life.
He’d wanted me to live.
When was I going to start?
LATER THAT DAY, the florist delivered an extravagant flower arrangement to my house.
My foolish heart soared thinking they were from Sebastian, but they weren’t.
They were from Geoff. First the phone call and now flowers—did this signal something new for us?
I stared at the pink tiger lilies and gardenias that took up most of the vase amid little spurts of greenery. Beautiful and exotic, the flowers permeated my entire house, smelling of New York and the memories of a lighter girl who’d had the world in her hands.
I set it out on the balcony and stared at it. I read and then re-read the cream-colored expensive card that arrived with it. Missing You was all it said on the front with a picture of two cuddly teddy bears holding hands. I grinned because it was so odd to see something as cheesy as this from him. Older than me by three years, Geoff was a law student at NYU. He was also the Mayor of New York’s son. Auburn-haired and a bit stuffy, we’d fallen in love the summer I was seventeen and he was twenty. I’d never gotten what he saw in a music geek like myself when he had plenty of college girls to choose from, but he claimed he’d been in love with me since we were kids and our parents had taken vacations together.
On the inside, he’d written,
All his love?
I laughed at that. I didn’t think so. I’d kept up with him in the papers and online. In the past two years, I’d seen the girls he’d dated, confident socialites with pretty dresses and even fancier college pedigrees. So what if that would have been me two years ago if my parents hadn’t died. But, I was different now. Changed. The Violet who’d emerged from the Atlantic Ocean was not the big-eyed girl he’d fallen in love with.
But I didn’t fault him for moving on. As he should have.
I flipped the card between my fingers, cement in my stomach at the thought of facing him again. The last time I’d seen him had been six months after the crash when I’d sat across from him at a fancy Manhattan restaurant and gone through the motions of being normal. That night, his hands had hovered constantly over me, almost as if by touch he could help me. Looking back now, I’d been too self-involved with my grief to see that he needed something I couldn’t give. He’d been too focused on saving me to see that I needed to be as far from my old life as I could get.
He’d picked up my hand, his fingers toying with my promise ring. A one-carat, princess cut diamond with emeralds on the side, it had cost more than most engagement rings. He’d smiled at me. “I know this is fast, but what do you think about a Christmas wedding? We could go to Hawaii for the honeymoon, or St. Tropez? I know how you love the sun.”
The room had spun. Walk down the aisle in front of the media and all our friends? Get on a plane? “What?”
“I’m ready for you to start living again, Violet.”
I stared at him. In horror. Didn’t he get it? My parents were at the bottom of the Atlantic. My music was gone. I considered killing myself each day.
“You need to move on, Violet.” Now, his voice was stern, and I saw him then. I saw how he was tired of my moping. Tired of my depression. He wanted his happy girl back.
I stood, my hands tapping. I was screwed up, and he had no clue because his life was still wrapped in fairy dust.
“I can’t,” came out of me. “I—I’m sorry.”
I twisted the ring off my finger. “This piece of jewelry is the only thing that survived the crash. I lost my parents, my violin, all my luggage, even the clothes they found me in were later thrown away … everything is gone except this one thing.” I placed it gently on the table and ended the final chapter. “And now it’s gone. Goodbye, Geoff.”
PHIL, MY NEW boss at Masquerade, was a real ass-hat.
I should have known it from the interview when his eyes never lifted above my neck, but the needy musician in me had ignored it. Of course, he had hired me without actually hearing me play or knowing my full name, so I guess my boobs had come in handy for that at least.
He smirked as he stood up from behind his desk and adjusted the waist of his slacks. Judging by his gut, he liked to eat, and even from here I could smell the garlic and cheesy bread on his breath. “You look pale,” he noted, “and lose the jacket and unbutton the top two buttons on your dress. This isn’t a nunnery; it’s a restaurant with a night club downstairs, so get with the program.”
Keeping my face placid, I did as he asked and undid some of the buttons. Silky and fitted with a lace overlay, I’d picked the dress up today after I’d left Dr. Cooke’s office. It was just the little confidence booster I needed to encourage me to get out there on that raised dais in the center of the restaurant and play. I sucked in a breath. I could do this.
“You busy later?” Phil asked as we left his office and walked out into the restaurant.
“Yes.” If you count watching Glee re-runs.
He gave me a smarmy smile and licked his lips, his eyes honed in on my cleavage. “You sure? I just got a new Lamborghini. We could take a drive up to Mulholland and I could show you the sights.”
“That’s okay. I have a Maserati. It knows the way.”
He gave me a sharp look. “Watch yourself, V. I don’t like smart-mouths.”
I blinked. Had I been a smart-ass? Maybe. I grinned and clung to the brave feeling that bubbled up. I tried it on for size. “Are you sexually harassing me? Because if you are, I’ve always wanted to own an Italian restaurant.” Not true.