The Wildflower Girls #2
by Mullen Dale
Secrets are like weeds. They have a way of sneaking in, taking root, and filling up spaces where they don’t belong. Slowly at first, they invade. Then they take over.
Harlyn and Allie know all about secrets. How they take root and steal souls. How they change the fabric of a thing. The thing about secrets is that no matter how good a person is at keeping them hidden, they always find a way to creep to the surface. Dig up from the deep and search for the light. The longer they stay hidden, the worse they appear when exposed.
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance | Romantic Suspense
White Satin Romance
Present Day, Alabama
There’s something to be said for second chances and the recognition of past sins merging with the freedom of redemption, but the weight of a second chance is heavy. A second chance means there was a failed first chance. A failed first chance means mistakes were made. What if those mistakes aren’t the sort of mistakes that can be fixed? What if those mistakes could lead a girl to a one-inch thick mattress in a 6 x 9 cell and toothbrush-turned-shiv tucked under her pillow? Mistakes like that can’t come to the surface. Mistakes like that have to be hidden at all costs, tucked away like a free bible, forgotten in a hotel bedside table.
May 1999, North Carolina
Weston Sinclair’s head spun violently from the backhanded slap delivered by his father.
“Really, son?” his father asked snidely. “A private plane? Just who do you think you are?” He snorted in disgust, returning to his desk and his business, as if the exchange with his son meant nothing. In all reality, it did mean nothing. Despite years of his father’s abuse and taunts, years of learning to navigate his father’s temper, Weston let his anger show like an untrained soldier. He’d made a rookie mistake, and he was no rookie. His words escaped before he had a chance to run them through his hard-learned filter.
“You’ll fly your women in a private plane, but not your son?”
His father barely spared him a glance before answering. “A woman has a use,” his father reminded him. “Let you remember that.”
Weston rolled his eyes slightly, disgusted, yet not surprised at how his father would admit so readily to having a string of women on call, women who weren’t his wife. He was his son, after all, but that provided him no measure of protection from his father’s proclivities. If anything, his father had tried to introduce him to the ways of their world, the privileged world, at a young age.
“What about Mom?” he asked, wiping a small drop of blood from his lip.
“What of her?” his father asked. Weston knew his father thought nothing of the implications of his actions. In his world, for men like him, there were no implications. A lifetime of watching his father suffer no repercussions for his choices had taught him that.
“What does Mom think of you flying other women all over the country?”
Weston knew well what his mom thought. She had learned to distract herself from the embarrassment of The Senator’s behavior over the years with a plethora of other men, and her son hadn’t condemned her for that. Her betrayal had not been borne of selfishness but of hurt. That sort of betrayal−that sort of indiscretion−Weston understood. There was fairness in the payback. She had abandoned the illusion of love and a happy marriage long ago but couldn’t bring herself to become just another middle-aged divorced woman with a philandering husband. Mrs. Sinclair had her own ego to contend with. Publicly acknowledging The Senator’s affairs by divorcing him, claiming infidelity as the motivating factor, was too predictable. The Sinclairs were above all of that. Marriages like theirs were matters of convenience. In their palace, their paths barely crossed. She’d stayed, but she hadn’t stood by her man, unless a camera was present. Then her face was all smiles. Those who knew her well knew the smile wasn’t genuine. Of course, The Senator had never been publicly exposed for his indiscretions. Men like him never seemed to have to pay for their sins, but everyone in their circle knew of his behavior. Everyone knew of hers, as well, and of course, no one blamed her. She wasn’t jealous. She was too disgusted by what he’d become to be jealous, though a man as pompous as The Senator likely found pleasure in thinking he was bit by bit destroying his wife.
He rose from his desk and moved closer to his son with his signature swagger. Weston imagined that once his father had been handsome, beyond good looking even, but now the alcohol he consumed each evening by rote had brought the blood vessels to the surface on his face and the pudge to his middle. His swagger, although still intimidating because of his size, was beginning to lose its impressiveness. Weston dared not tell The Senator.
“I hear your mother has a new tennis instructor who is doing a spectacular job of earning his fee.”
Weston straightened his shoulders and held his tongue. He didn’t want to hear of either of his parents’ affairs. No son should have to, but the Sinclair house was far from a model home. It was a show place, where everything and every person played a role. Currently, Weston’s role was pretending his father’s jab hadn’t hit home.
“Knowing you are flying your girlfriends all over the country and being okay with it are two different things, especially if you are using her grandfather’s money to finance it.”
Weston rested back on his heels, arms crossed over his chest. He knew he had scored.
The Senator was a wealthy man of his own means, but his wife’s wealth was of a sort that could not be obtained in one lifetime. It was also wealth that couldn’t be kept by him if the two were to divorce. He was a complicated man, kept in an extravagant lifestyle by his much wealthier wife but openly unfaithful. Weston knew not being the sole source of income was a source of contention for his father, an embarrassment of sorts. He was not a man who took lightly to being kept, although no one would have the courage to say such words to his face.
If Weston expected a reaction, he was wrong. The Senator would never sink so low as to allow his son to think he’d won a single point in an argument. To his father, Weston was a useless child. A brat. He’d served no purpose until he was old enough to perform a role in his father’s campaign, and then only if he could be plied to further The Senator’s mission. If not, he served no purpose at all, other than staying out of public trouble.
“Nonetheless, you and your little friend will have to settle for a long drive to the beach for your celebration, unless you’ve found your own unlimited supply of funds, perhaps?” His father took one threatening step closer. “Maybe the little Upton girl you were sniffing around last year?”
With that one reminder, Weston had been properly chastened. Though he was the big man on campus and in his circle of friends, at home, he was no one. His father ruled.
The little Upton girl had “disappeared” after a particularly interesting night with Weston, her parents whisking her away to an aunt’s to “finish her studies in New York.” The unspoken rule was clear. The Sinclairs were powerful people with influence. They wielded that power at the expense of the innocent. Senator Sinclair had taught his son the benefits of their wealth, but at his hand, he’d demonstrated the suffering blows that wealth could deliver as well. People like the Uptons and Sinclairs, didn’t speak of issues like consent. Didn’t speak of pregnancy. Didn’t speak of termination or adoption or other such tawdry issues. Those concerns were for people who didn’t have the means to make it all go away. People like the Uptons and Sinclairs pretended the dirtiness of the world didn’t touch them. They made it disappear as cleanly as possible. They washed it all away with no visible residue. The gardens around their mansions remained polished, but the weeds might as well have been sprouting through broken sidewalks. The damage was the same. Claire Upton was damaged. She’d never be the same after she’d been shipped away like trash being hauled to a landfill. The message had been clear to her, and Weston Sinclair had gotten away with his crimes against her on his father’s dime and her father’s say so.
On the outside, she was still a pretty, little rich girl attending a private school with other pretty, little rich girls, but inside her soul was crushed like broken glass. To the Sinclairs, to her own father, she’d been disposed of, swept away. The only residue from the encounter with Claire Upton that stained Weston’s conscience was the constant reminder from his father of the mess he’d had to clean up and the price he’d had to pay to make that happen.
Weston answered his father’s question. “No, sir. I don’t suspect she has much nice to say about me, so I doubt I will get any favors from her.”
“Lesson one is Sinclairs don’t need favors. They pay their own way. The private education I funded for her senior year ensures her father’s cooperation in my re-election. You don’t need favors from any girl.”
Weston could read between the lines just fine. He might not need favors from the Claire Upton’s of the world, but he did from his father. In order to get them, he needed to remember his place.
His father turned his back to him, still speaking, assuming−knowing−his son would be listening, knowing he had no choice. “Find your own way to the beach and learn to clean up your own messes.”
The Senator was bored with the conversation, but Weston could hear the warning in his voice. It was time he learned to pay attention to detail and stop being so reckless. His father was right. It wasn’t the mess that was the problem. The mark of a man wasn’t in his ability to leave or not leave a mess but in his ability to clean it up on his own. It was time for Weston Sinclair to leave behind his childish ways and learn to take care of his own problems. It was the Sinclair way.