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    Chapter One

    Rose

    What do you do when you discover something about your family that you never wanted to know?

    You pretend it doesn’t exist. That your perfect little family is precisely that—untouched. Pristine. No amount of tragedy has ever put its fingers upon us. At least, that’s what we want you to believe. There are books out there, unauthorized biographies about my grandmother and her legacy, Fleur Cosmetics. About how my father and my sisters and I have continued on with that legacy as best we can, referencing us as if we’re somehow insufficient. Daddy is the one who made the company flourish, though he gives all credit to Grandma and she takes it, the greedy old lady that she is.

    I love that greedy old lady to bits. I really do.

    My oldest sister, Lily, has done a piss-poor job of carrying on the legacy, and she’d be the first to admit it. Her brutal honesty is one of the things I love best about her, though most of the time I resent her actions and the attention they receive. She is all about the spotlight and when it doesn’t shine on her, she will do whatever it takes to snatch back that light so she can revel in it.

    Then there’s Violet, the middle sister. The quiet one. The secretly strong one. Oh my God, is she strong. She’s been through so much. Tragedy has placed its hands all over her, yet somehow she’s always risen above it. Now she’s so happy with her man, Ryder, and I can’t begrudge her that. He’s so intense sometimes it’s almost scary, but then he sees Violet and his eyes get this dreamy sort of haze to them … he’s a total goner for her.

    It’s sweet. Too sweet. My jealous side can hardly take it.

    Me? I’m the Fowler sister everyone believes is normal, with a bit of a fighter streak in me. Grandma says I’m closest to her personality-wise and I want to believe her, but I don’t know. Do I really want to be like her? Like any of them? My disillusion with the Fowler image is firmly secure on the worst night possible.

    I don’t know what to believe anymore, after what I just found out about our mother. The tragedy that no one ever, ever talks about—even those unauthorized, horribly scandalous family biographies gloss over the death of Victoria Fowler. I don’t remember much about her, and what I do recall is fuzzy at best. Those memories are fueled by my sisters, though, since they actually do remember Mom, especially Lily. The loss was especially hard on her. Hence Lily’s outrageous behavior from the age of about fourteen until now.

    At least, that’s what we all blame it on, including Lily. I’d like for once to see her take full responsibility for her actions, but I doubt that will ever happen.

    There is more to our mother’s death than I ever knew. I wonder if Lily or Violet knows. It’s such a touchy subject, one I don’t broach with them … ever. As for Daddy, I never talk about Mom with him. He swept our mother’s death under the rug, something he’s so good at doing. Threw himself into his work instead of focusing on his daughters, though he wasn’t a bad father per se. A tad neglectful sometimes?

    Yes. Most definitely.

    We strive for perfection, yet every last one of us is far from perfect. When I was little, I was protected in this silvery, pillow-soft cocoon where nothing ever touched me, or the people I loved. Not even my mother’s tragic death brought by her own doing could bother me. How could it, when no one ever talked about it?

    But I want to talk about her now, after reading her last diary. The one I discovered when I was given a box of her old things by Daddy. He finally cleaned out our mother’s rooms and closet. He’d kept them preserved for so long, but now that his new … girlfriend is in the picture, he’s banished all reminders of our mother from his home.

    Forever.

    I couldn’t even look at the contents of that box without nerves eating me up and feeling nauseated. I kept what was in there a secret from myself for months. Until a few nights ago, when I finally opened the box and found her diary filled with passages she wrote up until she took her own life.

    Fascinating reading. And sad.

    So incredibly sad.

    What’s happening tonight … things could be revealed. Moments from our family history are going on blatant display. All of it controlled by my grandmother, which means …

    It will all be glossed over—become glossy perfection. Isn’t that the term Violet used for her collection when they discussed packaging? That could be the Fowler family theme.

    I watch as Grandma approaches me, a fond smile on her face, her eyes misty with memories.

    “I want you to wear this tonight.” Grandma Dahlia presents the large, square box to me, her frail hands shaking the slightest bit, causing light to glint off the diamond rings on her fingers. “It hasn’t been worn by anyone in ages.”

    We’re in my hotel room, my grandmother having knocked on the door only minutes before as I was getting ready. We were all supposed to meet later but here she is, resplendent in her gorgeous black lace dress, a sweet smile on her face as she studies me.

    I have no idea why she’s doing this and I don’t like the uneasiness that settles over me as I take the box from her, my fingers smoothing over the black velvet. It’s old, the color slightly faded, and it’s heavy. Slowly I open the box, anticipation and fear curling through me, and I gasp at what I see lying inside.

    A necklace. But not just any necklace—the stones alternate between a brilliant white and a soft, blush pink, and each one is perfectly cut, perfectly matched. “It’s beautiful,” I murmur, surprised at the size of the stones. I’ve never seen this necklace before in my life, and I thought my sisters and I had all played with or worn every piece of fine jewelry there is in the family. “What are the pink stones?” I ask as I drift my fingers across the necklace almost reverently.

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