Where the Lotus Flowers Grow

BOOK: Where the Lotus Flowers Grow
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Cover Copy

 

Even in darkness, love can bloom…

 

Heir to a multinational hotel empire, Liam Montgomery thinks business is everything—until he goes undercover to check out their locations throughout Asia. As cosmopolitan as Liam is, from the bright lights of Mumbai to the tranquil beaches of Goa to the bustling streets of New York, he's never met anyone like lovely Mary Costa. He can't understand why this delicate, educated woman works as a maid. Or how she is reigniting his long-buried desire to be an artist. They are apart in so many ways—especially in the things Mary won't tell him. But more and more, Liam can't imagine his life without her...

 

Mary knows this unexpected desire for Liam must end. It’s true that his gentleness and sense of fun inspires her and makes her hopeful for the first time in her life. But she has a grim promise she feels compelled to keep—and painful experiences she fears he could never understand. And with secrets soon reaching out to separate them for good, can they dare risk a future together if it means confronting the scars of the past?

 

Visit us at
www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

 

Books by MK Schiller

 

Unwanted Girl

Where the Lotus Flowers Grow

 

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

 

 

 

Where the Lotus Flowers Grow

 

 

MK Schiller

 

LYRICAL PRESS

Kensington Publishing Corp.

www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

Copyright

 

Lyrical Press books are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018

 

Copyright © 2016 by MK Schiller

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund- raising, and educational or institutional use.

 

To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.

 

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager:

Kensington Publishing Corp.

119 West 40th Street

New York, NY 10018

Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

 

Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

LYRICAL PRESS Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

Lyrical Press and the L logo are trademarks of Kensington Publishing Corp.

 

First Electronic Edition: June 2016

eISBN-13: 978-1-60183-502-4

eISBN-10: -1-60183-502-7

 

First Print Edition: June 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1-60183-503-1

ISBN-10:
1-60183-503-5

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

 

 

Dedication

 

To Papa with love. You will always be in my heart.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thank you to Corinne DeMaagd, my fearless editor, and all the great folks at Kensington for believing in this story. Thank you to the readers who make this crazy business of writing worth it!

 

Chapter 1

Liam

 

I was too exhausted to sleep. Despite the twenty-two-hour plane ride, the ten-hour time difference, and the three bloody bourbons consumed on the flight, sleep refused to come. That’s how I found myself wide awake at the ungodly hour of three a.m., studying the pale glow of a Rajasthani moon. At precisely 5:36 in the morning, I finally decided to make my insomnia useful and call my secretary, Monica Penny.

“Hello Miss Moneypenny,” I said, imitating the Sean Connery brogue. It made her giggle every time.

“And who would this be?”

I could imagine the blush that crept around her face whenever we played this game. At sixty years young, she’d always been formal and efficient, but when I burst into Bond, she acted like a giddy schoolgirl.

“Montgomery. Liam Montgomery.”

“It’s gotta be five in the morning there.”

“Five thirty-six, actually.” Can we go over the schedule and your notes from the meeting yesterday?”

“I love the way you say ‘schedule.’ But seriously, Liam, you have to be exhausted.”

“I am, but I can’t sleep. May as well be useful.”

“Fine. Well, I booked the rest of your flights. You’ll leave for Mumbai on Saturday and Goa the following Saturday. Then back to New York on Sunday.” She went about the specific details, meetings, and agendas that would take place over the coming weeks. I had most of it memorized, but I needed her to remind me of all the upper management at each hotel.

By the time we’d finished, the sun had crept slowly over the horizon. I opened the window to let in some air.

“Make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen, drink lots of bottled water, and buy a Pashmina scarf.”

“What kind of protection will a Pashmina scarf offer me?”

“Nothing, but it’s a really nice gift for your secretary.”

“Noted.”

“Liam, what’s that sound?”

I blinked, taking in the huge hulking creatures that flew across the sky, their shrieking calls growing exponentially with the rise of the golden sun. Their cackles drowned out all other noise.

“Birds.”

“You’re kidding?”

“Afraid not, Moneypenny. The wingspan on these birds would give Hitchcock a heart attack.” I ducked outside the window to get a closer look. Another flew by, nearly grazing me. Holy shit…was that a falcon? I banged my head against the sill as I backed away.

“Fuck.”

“What happened?”

“Just banged my brain a bit.”

“Are you all right?”

“I’ll live.”

“I’m sure you will, seeing as you have a very hard head. Which reminds me, Natalie called.” Moneypenny’s typically soft voice hardened over Natalie’s name. “She asked about your schedule, too. She’s trying for an Indian visa since she’s filming a shoot in Hong Kong.” Her heavy sigh gave the birds a run for their money. “I thought you broke up.”

As if my bloody head wasn’t already aching.

“We didn’t break up. We were never going out. She rings when she’s in or around the same general vicinity as me. We get together. That’s all.”

“Liam Montgomery, I maybe older than you, but I know what a booty call is.”

“Booty call?” I almost dropped the phone. “I believe the kids are calling it a hook-up these days. Yes, that’s the correct terminology.”

“I don’t like her. She’s very rude.”

“Well, it’s good you’re not sleeping with her then. But in any case, please send two dozen roses to her hotel in Hong Kong with a note relaying my sincere apologies. I’ll be far too busy these next three weeks to entertain her.”

“I’ll send it right away,” she said, sounding incredibly happy at being assigned the task.

“And Moneypenny?”

“Yes.”

“Make the note sincere, yeah?”

She huffed over the phone. “What do you want me to do? Quote Shakespeare?”

“That’s a nice touch.”

“Fine. I’m sure I can find a line from
The Taming of the Shrew
.”

“You’re a funny girl. I have to go.”

“Be careful, Liam. I’ll tell Stephen you arrived safely.”

I wanted to tell her not to bother. My half-brother could care less. In fact, he’d probably be happy if I hadn’t arrived safely, but I simply thanked her instead. Keeping up appearances had become second nature. If anyone looked below the surface, they could easily identify the large fissures in my family, but we’d done an outstanding job at plugging the leaks.

What looked like a hawk came to the window next. He perched on the ledge, fanning his large wings. It appeared more curious than anything, staring me down as if to say I was on his territory, not the other way around. I could almost hear
his taunting thoughts:
You wish you had my freedom.

I did.

He flapped his wings before swooping down toward the grounds. I followed his descent across the infinity pool, the manicured gardens, and finally the water fountain. Prabhat, the manager here, had given me a brief tour yesterday. I told him to get rid of the eyesore. It wasn’t in a spot guests would go to, but the crumpling stones blemished the otherwise spotless façade. Not to mention it was a haven for mosquitoes and the water looked dirty. He went on about how he agreed with me, insisting it would be no problem. So why it hadn’t been done in all the years he’d been general manager?

I focused on the shining figure standing next to the fountain. It looked like every ray in the sun was pointing at her and reflecting off her at the same time. That was until I realized that her long white skirt and scarf had tiny mirrors patched into the embroidery. She moved with grace despite the large pot balanced on her hip. She placed the pot on the ground. From within, she took many small silver bowls. Ten, to be exact. I counted as she placed them around the fountain, occasionally swiping the tiny broken stones gathered on its ridge. The strike of a match against the box cut through the air as if even the birds had decided to be silent out of respect for her. She lit each bowl. Who lit candles in the daylight? Was it some type of religious ceremony?

When she was done, she fell to her knees in front of the fountain and removed her scarf. Her hair cascaded in dark waves. A soft echoing music filled the air, the melody haunting. She looked toward the sky.

Whatever she prayed for, I wanted her to have it.

My fingers twitched. I wished for a piece of charcoal, a paint brush, or even a fucking pencil. The once-familiar longing had been absent from my life for many years.

Her gaze drew back to the fountain.

“What’s so interesting?” I asked, as if she could answer me. I didn’t know what was so interesting for me either. I blamed it on a combination of sleep deprivation, curiosity, and bad bourbon. Whatever it was, I couldn’t look away.

A single flower in the middle of the pool opened up. The bud stood out in ethereal white above the still, dark waters. What the hell kind of flower grew in water? A lily? No…no, this wasn’t a lily. I knew this. I racked my brain until the memory finally came.

Mum sitting at the rickety kitchen table, her elbows bent in concentration as she tried to fashion some kind of pin. She based her design on the tropical flower book she’d checked from the library. She swore under her breath as she tried to shake off the arthritis before it settled into her fingers.

I tapped the book with my pencil. “What is it?”

“A lotus flower. I want the pin to look like this. Isn’t it lovely?” She prattled on about some stone she’d found at the thrift store.

“No, Mum, it’s very ugly” was my flippant reply. I hated her doing this kind of work. It only made her hands hurt. It was the reason all my weekends were spent at street fairs instead of hanging with my mates. Hell, it wouldn’t have been so bad if we made money from it. In the end, I felt so guilty for my outburst, I finished the pin for her, bending the stiff silver wires with small pliers, following the lines in the book, until they resembled petals. I pasted the cheap stone in the center.

Mum said the lotus flower was special. I didn’t see anything special about it then, and I certainly didn’t now.

I couldn’t see Lotus Girl’s face…not from this angle, ten stories up, but I imagined it anyway. She was as enamored with the flower as I was with her.

I wasn’t the only one watching. He came from the shadows and stood in front of her. My hand clutched the sill. She straightened, but there was no fear in her posture. I recognized his uniform and shape as the driver who’d fetched me from the airport.

BOOK: Where the Lotus Flowers Grow
7.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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