Someone Like Tristan

She has a dream.

Artist Willow Norris has it all. Almost.
Although it’s taken three years to get over being jilted at the altar, she now has a thriving art business, a close-knit group of friends, and she’s on the verge of achieving her dream of converting an abandoned warehouse into an art gallery in her hometown of Caddo Cove, Texas.
With so much work to do, Willow doesn’t have the time for relationships, and besides, she’s locked up her heart and thrown away the key.

He has the key to her dreams.

There’s one problem with Willow’s plan for the gallery. The dashing, hometown boy made good, Tristan Harding, owns the warehouse that she and her partners are set on buying. And he's determined to hold on to his beloved late father's building. But, the moment he lays eyes on the gorgeous, free-spirited Willow, he finds himself rethinking the warehouse and his entire future.
When a solution to their problem means their paths become entangled, can they find a way to forget the pain of the past and build a new life together?
Someone Like Tristan is a sweet, contemporary romance about second chances and the healing power of love.

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Chapter One

Willow’s heart raced as she approached her mailbox. It wasn’t that she had anything against mailboxes--it just seemed that the closer she got to 30, there was more bad news than good waiting for her in that rusting metal box. Today, she was hoping for the good kind.

Any day now, Willow expected to hear from her grandmother, the ‘Grand Dame’ of the family and the keeper of the family fortune. As such, she was the one person who held the power to decide Willow’s future.

Like something out of a Texas fairytale, her grandparents had struck oil on their small, almost-bankrupt ranch back in the ‘50s, and since her kind-hearted grandfather’s death ten years ago, it was her grandmother who managed the family fortune. Willow had swallowed her pride and asked her grandmother for a loan so she could buy her share of the old Harding warehouse. Her grandmother said that she would think about it and would write soon. Her grandmother had never been one to use the phone.

But, soon wasn’t soon enough. Caddo Cove was growing so fast, she was afraid that someone else would snatch up the warehouse and turn it into another Italian restaurant or a hair salon. Willow, and her two friends, had big plans for the place: They were going to restore the old building and convert it into an art gallery and studio. It had long been her dream to have a private studio and showroom, and if she came up with her portion of the asking price, the three of them would have a place to work and display their art for their growing community. They also hoped to have space to rent out to other artists, too. And maybe even have a coffee shop.

Just as she was shakily reaching for the mailbox door, her cell phone rang.

“Willow, what’d she say?” came the loud voice of her childhood friend Carrie. Carrie was as Texas as they came, from her big, beautiful blonde hair to her skin-tight jeans. A talented sculptor, she had a face like an angel and a voice like a Southern fishwife.

“I was just about to check my mail. Hold on,” Willow replied, cradling the phone between her ear and shoulder, immediately feeling better that there was someone to share the moment. She discovered a slim stack of envelopes, which she rifled through as quickly as she could. Bill, bill, and, gasp! There it was. She instantly recognized her grandmother’s scrawling handwriting.

Willow hastily stuffed the bills back into the old, metal mailbox that was teetering on its wooden post.

“It’s here,” she told Carrie, her voice cracking.

“Open it!” Carrie squealed.

Willow took a deep breath and ripped the envelope open. She scanned it quickly, impatient to get to the important part.

“Honey, are you there?” came Carrie’s concerned voice.

“Sorry, yeah. I’m here,” Willow said slowly.

“Don’t keep me waitin’!”

“She said yes,” Willow said, feeling dizzy with relief. “Yes!”

“Alright!” Carrie whooped. “We’re in business.”

 

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“Dad wouldn’t want us to sell the warehouse. He was very nostalgic about it, you know,” Tristan said, keeping a level voice. It was important that he didn’t lose his temper with his mother. Not only would it be impolite, he would lose any chance of getting her to change her mind. Besides, it was his first time home in six months, and he didn’t want to create discord the moment he walked through the door. He took off his suit jacket, hung it on the coat rack by the kitchen door, and rolled up his sleeves. He had just arrived from New York where it was a balmy seventy-five degrees. It was ninety degrees here, and it was still spring.

“Darling, you just got home. We can talk business later,” she said, giving him a peck on the cheek. “You must be exhausted. Get comfortable, and I’ll make you a drink.” His mother, Lila Harding, widely known to be a steely, tough-as-nails real-estate agent, was, more importantly to her, a consummate hostess and doting mother.

Tristan got comfortable on the family room sofa, stretching out his long legs and placing his feet on the coffee table, noting that the same coffee-table books from his childhood still held their honored places. He took a deep breath and immediately felt more relaxed. Already life felt slower.

His mother handed him a glass of sweet tea, which was liberally filled with ice. He drank it down in one gulp.

“Thanks. I needed that.” He glanced over at his mother who was pointedly staring at his feet.

“Oops, sorry,” he said, sliding his feet off the table. “Old habits are hard to break.” He was careful to set his sweating glass on a coaster. He suddenly felt 13 instead of 32.

“Next you’ll be putting your elbows on the dinner table,” she said fondly. “How is Sabina?” She was perched in her usual chair, a light-blue, Rococo arm chair that nicely offset her ash blonde hair. She wore it in a carefully constructed chignon that was also a mainstay of his childhood. Whoever said you can’t go home again wasn’t completely right. His parents’ house was so unchanged that it was practically a museum. He was letting his mind wander, dreading to answer her question.

“Not sure. I haven’t talked to her in a few months,” Tristan answered neutrally.

“Months?” she said, her eyebrows raised. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m sure she’s fine. Last I heard, she and Eduardo were very happy.”

His mother groaned and hid her face in her hands.

“When am I ever going to see you settled?” she said between her fingers.

“I am settled! I have my own apartment, a house plant I’ve managed to keep alive for four years, and I am a shoe-in as a junior law partner. It just didn’t work out with Sabina.”

“Like it didn’t work with Amanda. Or Brittany.”

“Aren’t you glad? You thought Amanda was a workaholic and that Brittany was superficial.”

His mother sighed.

“I just want you to be happy,” she said. “Like your dad and I were.”

“No one is like you and Dad,” he said resignedly.

He thought of his late dad and how he had made their wedding anniversary a family occasion. And how he brought his mom flowers every month. His mother had often bragged that they never went to bed angry. Tristan tried to be romantic with the women in his life, but it just never felt right. Like he was just going through the motions. At this point, it felt like things were never going to change. He knew his mother wanted grandchildren, but all he’d managed was a plant. Did that make it her grand-plant?

He guessed he’d have to give it a name.

Lila rose from her chair and sat next to her son. She put an arm around his shoulder.

“You’re doing just fine, Tristan. No rush,” she reassured him. “But anytime you get tired of New York City, you’re welcome to come home. Maybe a change of scenery would be good for you.”

“I like New York, Mama,” Tristan said. “I always get bored here. There’s nothing to do. Caddo Cove doesn’t even have a movie theater.”

“Not yet. And, if we sell the warehouse to the young people interested in buying it, our town will have its first art gallery. That’s something, isn’t it?” Lila patted him on the cheek. Noting that his glass was empty, she took it to the kitchen for a refill. The family room was only separated from the kitchen by a bar, so he could see her as she poured another glassful of the amber liquid from a glass pitcher he also remembered from his childhood.

“What about Dad, though, Mama? He wanted us to keep it in the family,” Tristan felt a headache beginning to build behind his eyes. The early morning flight and the high temperature was getting to him.

Lila put the refilled drink in front of him.

“Don’t reject the idea right away,” she said with a small smile. “Come with me tomorrow when I show it. Maybe letting the old place have a fresh start would be something your dad would appreciate. Let someone else get their first chance there.” She patted Tristan on the shoulder. Almost like it was responding to her, the mantle clock played its somber Westminster chime.

“Look at the time! I better get to work. Call me later, and we can work out dinner,” she said as she reached for her purse and keys.

Tristan closed his eyes and heard her car pull out of the garage. The house was now perfectly quiet except for the soft ticking of the clock. He looked up at the mantle where a large portrait of his parents smiled down at him.

Perhaps she was right. Sometimes we all need a fresh start, Tristan thought. Memories of his Dad, gone these five years, washed over him. He felt the pain of his loss all over again, and somehow, it seemed that by selling off the old warehouse, disused as it was, it was like selling his father’s memory.

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