by Vivian Winslow
The Vi Trilogy, #2
The Gilded Flower Series, #8
Genre: Erotic Romance
With her hidden past about to be exposed, Vi turns to her longtime friend and confidant, Thomas Squires, for help. Yet, they may just risk exposing their feelings for each other in the process. When Lily’s engagement to Alejandro is threatened by ex-lover Gustavo, Vi is forced to come clean with her best friend and possibly destroy the lives of those she loves. Now that her secrets are no longer hidden, Vi faces the most difficult challenge yet—how to build a new life for herself outside of the shadows.
Vi takes a few deep breaths. She never prepared herself for the moment when she’d have to confess everything to her friends. Keeping secrets seemed natural for her, a form of self-protection, at least that’s how she saw it. As her life began to unravel, she couldn’t help but wonder if she had lived more openly, more honestly, whether she would’ve been able to avoid the trap that comes with leading a double life. What she didn’t foresee is that the price you pay for living such a life is that you cheat yourself and those who love you out of knowing you fully. Yet Vi can’t regret any of this. It’s done. All she can do now is seek forgiveness.
“I don’t know where to begin,” she says, leaning her arms on her legs, looking sincerely at Lily.
“Begin with how you got started in the business,” Lily says firmly.
“I knew a guy who did it.”
“That’s too vague. What’s his name?”
“Wait, I know that name,” Dahlia interjects.
Vi nods, “I’m sure you do.”
Lily pauses. “You were at NYU?”
Vi nods. “He was in a dance class I was taking the summer before senior year.”
“And he just said, ‘hey you wanna be my pimp?’” Lily replies sarcastically.
Vi gives her a warning look. “Not like that. I never pimped him out. We started hanging out for a while. You might even say we dated.”
“You had a secret boyfriend?” Dahlia asks.
“Boyfriend is a stretch. We couldn’t be exclusive, but we kind of were. I wasn’t seeing anybody while we were together.”
“How long was that?” Lily grills.
“About six months.” Vi looks up at the ceiling, realizing how bad it all sounds when she’s saying it out loud. “But it wasn’t like we were dating like you and Jack were. We just hung out at my place, or went out occasionally to some local bar. It was easy and nice to have a friend.”
“And have you had any boyfriends since?”
“That’s irrelevant.” Vi grows defensive. “It has no bearing on what’s going on now.”
“I beg to differ,” Lily argues. “You’re supposed to reveal what you’ve been keeping from me.”
“No boyfriends,” Vi says flatly.
“Except Thomas,” Dahlia butts in.
Her friend gives her a warning look.
“What about Thomas?” Lily asks curiously.
“Nothing!” Vi replies, becoming frustrated by the turn in the conversation. “Aren’t we supposed to be discussing other things?”
“Thomas is someone else we only learned about this year.”
“And you’ve known each other a long time,” Dahlia adds. “He’s so in love with you, he doesn’t ven bother hiding it when I bring it up.”
“You talk about me to him?” Vi is incredulous.
Dahlia shrugs her shoulder and feigns innocence. “Just briefly. I can tell the way you get all flushed and excited when he comes up that you feel something too.”
Vi shakes her head. “It’s not the same. We’ve known one another since we were young. That’s all. It would never work between us.”
Vi runs her fingers along the armrest of her chair. “We’ve seen each other at our worst.”
Lily and Dahlia both begin to speak, but Vi holds up her finger. “Wait. I know some say that’s a good thing, but for us, it’s why we’d fail. I’m too jaded, and war broke him. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking our love could save us.”
“Oh my god, you just said it!” Dahlia squeals.
Vi looks away. “It was merely an expression.”
Lily scoffs. “Lying to yourself isn’t going to make the feelings go away.”
“That’s enough about Thomas. Let’s move on,” Vi tells them.
ABOUT VIVIAN WINSLOW
Vivian Winslow was born and raised in Southern California. Before becoming a writer, she made a career out of moving around the world every couple of years thanks to her husband’s job. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two elementary school age children, and is grateful to finally have a place to call home for more than two years. New York is the perfect city to indulge her love of shopping, the arts and especially food. If she’s not at home writing or running around the city with her kids, you’ll most likely find her indulging in pizza on the Lower East Side or having a cocktail at her favorite bar in Alphabet City. That said, she’s still a California girl at heart and would gladly trade in her heels for a pair of flip-flops to catch a sunset on the beach.
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