Authors: Kirsten Osbourne
Book Seven in Suitors of Seattle
By Kirsten Osbourne
Copyright 2014 Kirsten Osbourne
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At the age of twenty, Violet Sullivan is on her way to having everything she's ever wanted. Her first art show was a success, and despite a slight altercation with the gallery owner, she knows that she is going to go places. A husband and children aren't on her horizon. She can't have a career
a family, can she?
The only thing Jonas Smith can concentrate on is justice. His sister and brother-in-law have been murdered, and he won't be able to rest until he sees their killer brought to justice. He only wishes he could stop thinking about Violet Sullivan. Will the two of them be able to see past their differences to find the passion lurking inside? Will they find love before it's too late?
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This book is dedicated to three lovable and crazy friends of mine without whom this book never would have happened. Thank you, Gisela Daniel, Samara Crider, and Lachele Simpson. Edna never could have happened without the three of you.
Violet sat staring off into space as her maid fixed her hair into a trendy style. She cared little for how she looked usually, but tonight was a first for her. She was about to attend the premiere showing of her art. She'd sold many pieces over the years, but she hadn't done any real art shows. Seattle's first gallery had just opened, and her work was going to be featured in the initial showing. She was excited, nervous, and happy all wrapped into one.
"Ouch. Please don't twist my hair so hard, Margaret."
"I'm sorry, miss, but this is the style your mother said would be just right for your showing." Margaret had been Violet's personal maid for years. Well, she'd been the personal maid she'd shared with her sisters for years, but now that she was the only Sullivan girl left at home, she was just her maid.
"Well, we'd better listen to Mama then. You know how she gets." Violet rolled her eyes as she thought about her mother. She was a sweet woman, but her life goal was to see all eight of her daughters happily married. Mama would harp on them to keep their hair fixed perfectly so they could catch the perfect man. She couldn't understand when one of her daughters wanted something from life other than marriage.
She'd accomplished her goal with the first six. Hyacinth had been married for over three years and already had a baby with another on the way. She and Iris were the only two left, and both of them had chosen to have careers instead of families.
Since Violet was a little girl, she'd loved to paint. She'd started by doing portraits of her family and friends, but currently landscapes were her passion. In fact, the show she was about to attend would feature mostly landscapes and one other painting. The other painting was a surprise even for the manager of the gallery, but Violet knew without a doubt in her mind that it was her best work. She couldn't wait to unveil it for everyone at the show.
She glanced at the corner of her bedroom where the painting was draped and leaning against the wall. Even her parents hadn't seen it yet, and usually she wasn't shy about showing them what she'd done. This one was special though. She really couldn't put her finger on why it was so important to her, but she knew it was the single-most important thing she'd ever painted. It would change her life. She just didn't know how yet.
"I'm so glad all my sisters will be here for the show," Violet said enthusiastically. It had been years since all the Sullivan sisters were together. The last time had been when Daisy had traveled home to visit and Jasmine had been sent back to Montana with her. Daisy and Jasmine hadn't since coordinated a trip home at the same time, so even though they'd each traveled home with their families, they hadn't done so together.
"Your mama is beside herself. She has a photographer lined up to take a family portrait tomorrow. Even your brother-in-laws made it this trip. And all the grandchildren. There are so many grandchildren, even I'm surprised to see them all. How many does Rose have now?"
Violet smiled thinking of her nieces and nephews. "Just four. And Lily has five. Amaryllis has three. Daisy has two. Jasmine has three including the two she got through marriage. And Hyacinth has one with another on the way. Eighteen grandchildren currently. You'd think that would be enough even for mama!" But it wasn't. There would never be enough!
Margaret stuck the last pin in Violet's hair and patted her shoulder. "She loves you and wants you to be happy."
"Oh, I know that, but sometimes my idea of happy is different than my mama's idea of happy. I wish I knew how we could both be happy." If only her mother could understand that every woman didn't have a life goal of marrying and having babies. Why couldn't her career as an artist be enough to make her feel fulfilled and happy? Why did she need a man?
"Oh, the only way for that to happen is for you to find a husband who will give you lots of babies while you keep your career. Two of your older sisters are married with careers. It could happen."
Violet sighed. "It
, but I think Alex and Lawrence are rare gentlemen to not mind their wives working." It was definitely not a common thing for women to work and have families at the same time. She wanted it, but her career was too important to her to compromise. If she could only choose one, painting would win out every time.
"Well, then you just have to please yourself and stop worrying about your mama." Margaret pointed at the mirror. "Do you like it?"
Violet studied her hair and shrugged. "It's fine. Thank you, Margaret." She bounded out of her seat and stood still while Margaret helped her dress. Her corset was pulled tighter than usual to fit the tiny-waisted green dress that she and her mother had ordered for the showing.
When she was completely ready, Violet stared at herself in the mirror for a moment. She wasn't a vain woman, but she knew that night she looked her best. Her long honey blond hair was swept atop her head in a tight knot. Her eyes matched the forest green dress exactly and looked huge in her face. She may pale beside her sisters, but tonight she would be the one shining.
Jonas Smith shrugged into his suit coat and straightened his tie. He knew he was needed at the gallery for the first real showing, but he was still grieving. How would he ever learn to cope with his nephew when all either of them really wanted was for things to go back to the way they were? He wasn't ready to be a father to a child who wasn't even his, and his nephew certainly wasn't ready to lose his parents and have to go live with his uncle.
Nathan would be staying with his nanny that evening while Jonas worked, and he'd begged his uncle not to go. If Jonas could have found any way around it, he would stay with the boy, but he'd committed to it. As the gallery owner, he needed to make sure he attended the events and didn't leave everything for his overworked manager.
He would stay as short a time as he could possibly stay without being rude to the artist or the guests and get back home to Nathan. Every time they were apart the boy was afraid. His parents had been murdered by someone who had stolen his mother's jewelry late one night in New York City just three months before, so Jonas understood the fear. He hated it, but he did understand.
Once he was ready, he went into the nursery to find the small boy eating his supper. When he saw his uncle his eyes filled with tears. "Hurry home, Uncle Jonas."
Jonas wanted to cry himself as he knelt down and hugged the boy. "I will. I wish I didn't have to go. I'll come and see you as soon as I get home. All right?" Would he ever be able to stop feeling guilty that he was still alive while the boy's parents were gone? He hoped so.
Nathan nodded. "I'll wait for you." His eyes were too old for a three year old.
Jonas wished he could wipe all the bad memories from the boy's mind, and they could start fresh. He kissed the top of his head and got to his feet. "I'll be back soon."
Violet arrived at the gallery fifteen minutes before the show began as she'd been told. Under one arm she carried the portrait she'd just finished. The painting that she knew was the best thing she'd ever done. It was carefully covered with a white sheet. "I need the best place to put this, Mr. Allen."
"What exactly is that, Miss Sullivan? I wasn't aware there were any paintings we were waiting on for this show." The confusion on his face was obvious, but she knew he wouldn't argue too much. Her work was too good for him to refuse to show something she'd done.
Violet smiled. "This is the best painting I've ever done, and I intend it to have a place of honor in this show. Once everyone is here, I'll unveil it and let everyone see it." She walked to the middle of the largest room and nodded. "I would like an easel to be set up right here, so I can display it properly." It had to be the center of attention.
Mr. Allen eyed her for a moment before shrugging. He'd obviously worked with enough artists to know better than to fight her on it. Once the painting was set just like she wanted it, she nodded. "That will be perfect. Thank you."
She turned as she heard the door open behind her and smiled as her mother and father hurried into the room. "You rushed off without us," Mary complained. "Why didn't you wait for us to be ready?"
Violet made a face. "I told you I needed to be here fifteen minutes early, and you weren't ready. You taught me to be punctual. Besides, at twenty, I don't exactly need you to go everywhere with me, Mama." She leaned down to kiss her mother's cheek to lessen the blow of her words. She knew her mother would keep her under lock and key if she were able to.
Arthur smiled and kissed Violet's cheek. "You look beautiful. I don't know why I'm not beating the men off with a stick over you."
Violet smiled. "I chase them off well enough on my own." She winked at her father, knowing he would understand that she was teasing him just to annoy her mother.
Mary sighed. "You could at least let us meet some of your gentlemen friends. There may be one who is well suited to marrying you."
"I'm not ready to marry and give up my career just yet, Mama." Violet knew she'd never be ready to give up her career, but she didn't say that to her mother. Her first showing at a real art gallery was not the time and place for that argument. They'd already fought it repeatedly anyway. She doubted if either of them had come up with a new argument since they'd last discussed it the day before.
Violet's eyes were drawn to the door as it was thrown open and a young woman with curly blond hair that was down around her shoulders hurried into the room. "Iris!" Violet hurried forward and hugged her younger sister. Iris was the only Sullivan daughter younger than her, and she'd always had a soft spot for Iris.
"Oh, I wasn't sure I'd make it on time," Iris complained. "I had an exam this afternoon, and it was just awful. I don't know why I'm expected to read Shakespeare when I'm going to be a doctor. I can just see myself quoting
as I mix up some medicine for a patient. 'Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.'" She wrinkled her nose. "If I never have to read another word penned by Shakespeare, it will be much too soon."
"Oh, Iris, Shakespeare's not that bad! I read him for fun." Amaryllis had walked in to hear the end of Iris's tirade on the bard, and she'd leapt to his defense as usual.
"Fine, Rilly. From now on, you take my English exams, and I'll concentrate on the
subjects." Iris had never been able to understand why studying literature would help her to be a better doctor. She was fed up with having to study subjects that made no sense to her career.
"I can't believe you complain about going to college. None of the rest of us were given a formal education." Amaryllis glared at her mother. "For the rest of us, college was too unladylike."
Mary sighed. "Are we going to go over this again, Amaryllis? You could have gone to college if you'd had a real purpose in mind. You didn't. You just wanted to read a lot of books. You were perfectly well suited to be a librarian."
One by one the Sullivan sisters arrived, and then slowly, the gallery filled with strangers. Violet was thrilled to see everyone enjoying her paintings. Once she felt like there were enough people there, she walked to her newest painting and put her hand on the sheet covering it. "This painting wasn't meant to be part of this show, but when it was finished, I knew it was my best work to date. I couldn't possibly keep it at home. I give you, 'Lost souls.'" She pulled the sheet off the painting dramatically and was thrilled to hear the gasps from the people closest to her.
Even Mary stood for a moment in silence staring at the painting that was filled with such raw emotion. "Who are they?" she asked.
Violet shook her head. "I was in the park one day recently, sketching different things I saw. You know I go to the park with my sketchbook at least twice a week. Anyway, on that particular day, I saw these two just standing looking at one another. They both looked so sad I had to sketch them."
The painting featured a man who was probably close to thirty along with a young boy, not much over four. They were looking at one another, and the emotion on their faces was enough to make anyone cry. As Violet looked around her, she could see several of the ladies in the room carefully dabbing at the corners of their eyes with handkerchiefs.
Iris sighed. "I want to hug them both and do everything I can to make them feel better."
Violet nodded. "That's how I felt when I saw them. I wish I knew who they were." The pair had haunted her since she'd first seen them in the park.
"I can help you with that, Miss Sullivan," Mr. Allen said from directly behind her. "I'd like you to meet the owner of the gallery, Mr. Jonas Smith." His voice sounded apprehensive.
Violet turned and saw the man from her painting glaring at her with something akin to hatred in his eyes. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Smith." Why was he angry with her? She'd taken his sadness and made something beautiful of it.
"I'd like a word alone, Miss Sullivan." He didn't wait for a response as he strode quickly toward the office that Mr. Allen used during the day.