The Blossom Sisters - By Fern Michaels

Chapter 1

GUS HOLLISTER COULDN’T REMEMBER WHEN HE’D BEEN SO tired as he closed and locked the doors of his CPA firm. Well, yes, actually he could remember. It was last year at exactly the same time, April 16, the last day of that year’s tax season. Not that it was totally over; he still had tons of stuff to do, extensions to file, but he’d made his deadline, all clients had their records, and he was going home. If only it were to a home-cooked meal and several glasses of good wine. Like that was really going to happen. But he was simply too tired to care whether he ate or not.

Instead of taking the elevator, Gus trudged down the three flights of stairs and out to the small parking lot. Exercise these days was wherever he could find it. He winced at the lemon yellow Volkswagen Beetle that was his transportation for the day. His wife had taken his Porsche, and he was stuck with this tin can. If only he were a contortionist, which he wasn’t. Gus clicked the remote and opened the door. After tossing his heavy briefcase on the passenger-side seat, he struggled to get his six-foot-four-inch frame into the small car. He hated this car. Really hated it. He inserted the key in the ignition, then lowered the windows and stared out at the dark night, an anxiousness, which had nothing to do with taxes and the long days and nights he’d been putting in, settling between his shoulders.

For some reason, he didn’t think it would be so dark, but then he remembered that they had turned the clocks ahead a few weeks back. Regardless, it wasn’t supposed to be dark at eight-thirty at night, was it? But he couldn’t bring himself to care about that, either.

He was almost too tired to turn the key in the ignition, so he just sat for a moment, looking out across the small parking lot to the building his grandmother had helped him buy. A really good investment, she’d said, and she was right. He rented out the two top floors to other businessmen, and the rent money he received covered the mortgage and gave him a few hundred dollars toward his cash flow every month. He owed everything he had in life to his feisty grandmother Rose. Everything. And they were estranged at this point in time because of his wife, Elaine. He wanted to cry at the turn his life had taken in the last year. He banged the steering wheel just to vent before he started the Beetle, put it in gear, and roared out of the parking lot at forty miles an hour.

Thirty-five minutes later, Gus untangled himself from the Beetle, a feat requiring extraordinary concentration and agility. Then he danced around, trying to work the kinks out of his body. The Beetle belonged to his wife. She looked good in it. He looked stupid and out of place sitting behind the wheel.

Today, Elaine had been out job hunting, and she wanted to make an impression, so she’d asked him if she could borrow his Porsche. Every bone and nerve in his body had screamed out no, no, no, but in the end, he had handed her the keys. It was just too hard to say no to Elaine, because he loved her so much. Especially when she kissed him so hard he was sure she’d suck the tonsils right out of his throat. When that happened, he could deny her nothing, not even his beloved Porsche.

Elaine had passed the bar exam six months earlier and was looking for gainful employment. Or so she said. For six months now, she’d been looking for a job. Citing the economy, she’d told him that all the law firms wanted were slaves, not a qualified lawyer who had graduated at the top of her class. That was the reason she hadn’t been hired. Or so she said. She hadn’t even been called back for a second interview by any of the firms. Or so she said.

Sometimes he doubted her and instantly hated himself for his uncharitable thoughts, thoughts that had been coming more and more frequently of late. His gut was telling him that something was wrong; he just couldn’t put his finger on what that something was.

Gus reached across the seat for his briefcase, then closed and locked the Beetle. God, I’m tired. No one in the whole world could or would be happier than he when