Book Title: The Violet Trilogy
Author: Vivian Winslow
Genre: Erotic Romance
Appearing in The Lily and Dahlia Trilogies of Vivian Winslow’s incredibly steamy Gilded Flower Series, Violet Rai, or Vi, is Lily and Dahlia Baron’s sharp-witted BFF, who is always up for a party and a hot guy. But, in The Dahlia Trilogy, there are hints that Vi’s world is quickly coming apart.
Hidden Violet (Book 2) With her hidden past about to be exposed, Vi turns to her longtime friend and confidant, Thomas Squires, for help. Yet, they may just risk exposing their feelings for each other in the process. When Lily’s engagement to Alejandro is threatened by ex-lover Gustavo, Vi is forced to come clean with her best friend and possibly destroy the lives of those she loves. Now that her secrets are no longer hidden, Vi faces the most difficult challenge yet—how to build a new life for herself outside of the shadows.
True Violet (Book 3) Things are heating up for Vi in Dubai, and it's not just the desert climate. Vi is starting to come into her own—having the hottest sex of her life and poised to take over her father's multinational conglomerate. Yet, her suspicions are confirmed when she uncovers a plot to destroy not just her but her best friends' lives. With an unlikely ally, Vi seeks to ruin those behind the plot. Will Vi be able to have it all and find her lasting happiness in the arms of the man she loves?
* Each trilogy of The Gilded Flower Series may be read independently, though the background from the earlier trilogies may be helpful to the reader. The Lily Trilogy is the first in the series, followed by The Dahlia Trilogy and then The Violet Trilogy. The entire Gilded Flower Series is now available.
Sweat drips down Vi’s chest as they finish the barre work. Despite every window being open, there’s no respite from the heat for the dancers who pack in the two adjoining studios. Even in the summer, the class is full of people trying to keep up their skills for possible auditions, with the exception of Vi who does it because it’s one of the only times she’s able to feel happy and free. She takes in the mix of people as she gulps down her water—men and women, mostly in their twenties, although some teenagers who look like they could be ten years-old, the majority of them beautiful, and all of them with absolutely gorgeous dancer bodies. She tosses her water back into her bag and takes her place in front of the mirror.
“Today, half of you go there,” the instructor says in a thick French accent, making a slicing motion with his arm to divide the class and pointing to the other space. The dancers move obediently. Monsieur Renard appears to be about sixty-five and has perfectly coiffed silver hair that goes well with his perfect posture. Despite being dressed in pants and a collared shirt, he doesn’t have a drop of sweat on him. “The rest of you will be paired off. Pas de deux.”
Vi searches the room for a partner. This isn’t what she signed up for today. She likes M. Renard’s class because he demands perfection and complete control from his dancers. Every position, hip movement and alignment always has to be just right. It forces her to focus, to allow her thoughts and self-doubt to melt away and for those ninety minutes to just be. But it’s too late to leave. She doesn’t back down from a challenge.
“Mademoiselle Rai,” M. Renard points to her. “Why are you not with someone? Or is your partner invisible?” He chuckles and turns to talk to the pianist.
She smiles back and with her hands on her hips says, “Seems no one finds me worthy to be his partner. Perhaps you would like to be my partner, Monsieur Renard.”
He smiles and laughs, revealing yellow teeth stained from cigarettes and coffee. “Mademoiselle Rai, if I were younger, I would have you for a partner and you would not forget that experience.” He approaches her and says, eyeing her up and down, “Malheureusement, my youth is gone and the women along with it.” Not taking his eyes off Vi, he reaches out toward the right with his arm and snaps his fingers. “Monsieur Costas. Dance with Mademoiselle Rai. You are both beautiful. You will fit well together.”
Pointing to the girl who was originally paired with him, M. Renard instructs her, “You go dance with the others.”
Vi glances over at her new partner gliding toward her, ignoring the dirty look from the female dancer.
As soon as he reaches her, he places his hands on her waist and says, “You’re the lucky one who gets to dance with me today.”
She chuckles as she moves her feet and arms into fifth position. “The same can be said of you, Monsieur Costas.”
Vi takes a few deep breaths. She never prepared herself for the moment when she’d have to confess everything to her friends. Keeping secrets seemed natural for her, a form of self-protection, at least that’s how she saw it. As her life began to unravel, she couldn’t help but wonder if she had lived more openly, more honestly, whether she would’ve been able to avoid the trap that comes with leading a double life. What she didn’t foresee is that the price you pay for living such a life is that you cheat yourself and those who love you out of knowing you fully. Yet Vi can’t regret any of this. It’s done. All she can do now is seek forgiveness.
“I don’t know where to begin,” she says, leaning her arms on her legs, looking sincerely at Lily.
“Begin with how you got started in the business,” Lily says firmly.
“I knew a guy who did it.”
“That’s too vague. What’s his name?”
“Wait, I know that name,” Dahlia interjects.
Vi nods, “I’m sure you do.”
Lily pauses. “You were at NYU?”
Vi nods. “He was in a dance class I was taking the summer before senior year.”
“And he just said, ‘hey you wanna be my pimp?’” Lily replies sarcastically.
Vi gives her a warning look. “Not like that. I never pimped him out. We started hanging out for a while. You might even say we dated.”
“You had a secret boyfriend?” Dahlia asks.
“Boyfriend is a stretch. We couldn’t be exclusive, but we kind of were. I wasn’t seeing anybody while we were together.”
“How long was that?” Lily grills.
“About six months.” Vi looks up at the ceiling, realizing how bad it all sounds when she’s saying it out loud. “But it wasn’t like we were dating like you and Jack were. We just hung out at my place, or went out occasionally to some local bar. It was easy and nice to have a friend.”
“And have you had any boyfriends since?”
“That’s irrelevant.” Vi grows defensive. “It has no bearing on what’s going on now.”
“I beg to differ,” Lily argues. “You’re supposed to reveal what you’ve been keeping from me.”
“No boyfriends,” Vi says flatly.
“Except Thomas,” Dahlia butts in.
Her friend gives her a warning look.
“What about Thomas?” Lily asks curiously.
“Nothing!” Vi replies, becoming frustrated by the turn in the conversation. “Aren’t we supposed to be discussing other things?”
“Thomas is someone else we only learned about this year.”
“And you’ve known each other a long time,” Dahlia adds. “He’s so in love with you, he doesn’t even bother hiding it when I bring it up.”
“You talk about me to him?” Vi is incredulous.
Dahlia shrugs her shoulder and feigns innocence. “Just briefly. I can tell the way you get all flushed and excited when he comes up that you feel something too.”
Vi shakes her head. “It’s not the same. We’ve known one another since we were young. That’s all. It would never work between us.”
Vi runs her fingers along the armrest of her chair. “We’ve seen each other at our worst.”
Lily and Dahlia both begin to speak, but Vi holds up her finger. “Wait. I know some say that’s a good thing, but for us, it’s why we’d fail. I’m too jaded, and war broke him. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking our love could save us.”
“Oh my god, you just said it!” Dahlia squeals.
Vi looks away. “It was merely an expression.”
Lily scoffs. “Lying to yourself isn’t going to make the feelings go away.”
“That’s enough about Thomas. Let’s move on,” Vi tells them.
Relief spreads over Vi during breakfast as she politely engages in conversations with other division heads. It’s the last day, and her father’s closing remarks, scheduled after the breakfast, will mark the end. Despite the beautiful beach setting, the week has been long and tiring. She arrived in Muscat believing she could predict her future—well, at least the next month. But now, thanks to her father, it’s all turned upside down. She faces a monumental decision that will impact her life, and it’s not something she anticipated when she agreed to move to Dubai. She begins to bite her thumbnail nervously as Azahr invites their father to the podium to speak.
The theme of the conference was about divergent economic growth across global economies, which really meant how to ensure the continued success of Rai Industries. The senior Rai goes on about this, expertly discussing and even countering some of the claims made by the economists who spoke during the conference. He does it admirably, showing how sharp he remains at seventy.
Toward the end of his speech, he takes a turn Vi doesn’t see coming. She had asked him to give her a week to think over his offer, but clearly his grunt meant a ‘no’, not ‘yes’.
“Now, before I close, I want to thank my son, Azahr, for all his hard work in coordinating this conference, and also for his years of loyalty to Rai Industries. I want him to know that his allegiance has brought pride to me and our family.”
The audience erupts in restrained applause.
Her father holds up his hands to indicate he isn’t finished. “I expect you all have also had the pleasure of meeting my charming daughter, Violet, this week. It was important to me that you have a chance to get to know her.”
Suddenly all eyes in the room focus on Vi. She straightens and forces a reserved smile. This isn’t what she agreed to, but obviously this is her father’s way of saying there’s only one answer. Why did she ever expect him to actually listen to her?
“Over the next few months, Violet will be transitioning to take over as CEO of Rai Industries.”
Vi can feel her stomach tense. Her palms begin to sweat, and she quickly looks over at the Exit sign, gauging how long it will take for her to get out. This isn’t what she asked for, nor is it what she wanted. No, she wanted a position in Rai Industries, not any one in particular, just something that would give her closer access to her brother, to put her suspicions to rest.
Now, the game has changed. Not only will Azahr be out for blood, but her father has exposed her to the scrutiny of her colleagues and anyone else who may want to find out more about the mysterious, illegitimate Rai daughter. She mentioned this to him over lunch when he first proposed this idea. His response echoed Samir’s. She was ultimately untouchable. Personal judgments be damned. Vi would be secure. But at what price?
She gulps for air, trying to quell the chaos of emotions that are raging through her, uncertain of how to proceed. Her mind is in a fog. Her usual philosophy of following where the universe is pointing her seems to be failing her when it appears to be her father acting as her master.
Vi squeezes her hands together, digging her nails into her palms to calm herself. When she hears her name again, she looks over at her father who is motioning for her to join him. Beside him, Azahr looks like he’s about to have a stroke.
Her father moves the microphone closer to her. To Vi’s surprise, her words come out more composed and articulate than she would’ve expected.
“Thank you, Father,” she says, nodding toward him. Then looking out onto the faces of the people who soon will consider her their boss, she says, “Thank you to all of you. I understand that it may take time to place your trust in me to fill the rather large shoes of my father.” Vi looks at Samir quickly. “I do not intend to replace him, because it would be impossible. Rather, I hope to continue his tireless work and devotion to Rai Industries and see it achieve his vision of success and growth in the coming years. My father and I have discussed what that means, and we agree that diversifying Rai’s portfolio as well as investing in the people of India will be the best course for our future.” She reaches out and takes her father’s hand. Together, they raise their hands in a sign of victory, a camera flash momentarily blinding them.
Azahr walks out, wading through the throng of people coming up to congratulate Vi and her father.
As soon as Samir approaches, she smiles at him and shakes his hand.
“So last night was an interview of sorts,” he says.
She shrugs. “Nothing was certain. I asked for time to decide, but he obviously had made up his mind.”
“And you? Have you made up your mind?” His tone suggests hope.
Vi cocks her head and smiles. “Perhaps. When I do, you’ll be the first to know.”
Vivian Winslow was born and raised in Southern California. Before becoming a writer, she made a career out of moving around the world every couple of years thanks to her husband’s job and her incurable wanderlust. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two elementary school age children, and is grateful to finally have a place to call home for more than two years.
New York is the perfect city to indulge her love of fashion, the arts and especially food. If she’s not at home writing or running around the city with her kids, you’ll most likely find her eating at the newest restaurant in her beloved Lower East Side or having a cocktail at her favorite bar in Alphabet City. That said, she’s still a California girl at heart and would gladly trade in her heels for a pair of flip-flops to catch a sunset on the beach.