Secret Ties, Book 2
Release Date:

Jul 18, 2023



More From Kelly →

Two Sides of a Secret


Kelly Cain

Her family history has more thorns than roses…

Lauren Steele has always been grateful for her adoptive family’s love and support. So much so that she takes over the family floral business when her parents retire, despite her dreams of working on political campaigns. Instead of crafting clever speeches, she spends her days writing out romantic messages on behalf of her clients—a bittersweet reminder that she’s never been on the receiving end of one of these orders. She’s accepted her simple life, until the sexiest man she’s ever met walks into her shop looking for a job.

Ben Specter fixes problems for a living, and he’s been hired to investigate Lauren. His client is a wealthy, powerfully connected man running for governor, and Ben’s research unearthed a massive skeleton in the man’s closet—a secret older sister that his mother never mentioned. Getting closer to Lauren is strictly business, but the more time Ben spends with her, the more the lines between work and pleasure blur.

But when his deception is revealed, will Lauren be able to trust Ben and believe that what they shared was real?

Enjoy an Excerpt →

Purple cover with white text reading "Two Sides of A Secret" by Kelly Cain

Other Tule AuthorsYou'll Also Love:

More Tule TitlesYou Might Enjoy:

Start reading this book:



Roses are red, violets are purple

Thank you for the chance to join you in a thruple

Lauren threw her pen down and squeezed her eyes closed. If one more person ordered a beautiful bouquet and tarnished it with some nonsense, she would scream. Literally. She’d stretch her lungs to an unhealthy degree and spook everyone milling about the shop, customers and employees alike.

Besides being tacky and generally corny, the sentiment wasn’t even accurate.

She opened her eyes and tucked the card into an envelope, attaching it to the clear plastic floral pick and pushing the whole vase to the end of her worktable. She saw far too many of these nonsensical notes attached to beautiful arrangements. Then again, there were plenty that hit it out of the park. Those made her feel some sort of way too though. Her love life hadn’t been the best in ages. It’s not that she wasn’t happy for the recipients, but she wouldn’t mind having a special bouquet aimed her way once in a while.

She strolled to the back door and yanked on the handle, finding Correen exactly where she figured. “You’re not supposed to vape at work, Correen.” Lauren sniffed at the air and frowned. “That better not have any THC.”

After swiftly rolling her eyes and tucking the vape pen in her shirt pocket, Correen met Lauren at the open door. “Firstly, I’m allowed a break and what I do on my own time is nunya.” She pushed against Lauren’s shoulder to move her out of the doorway. “And B, although weed is quite legal and even encouraged here in the birthplace of free love and drugs, when have you ever known me to partake on your precious business grounds? I’m not trying to hear your mouth.”

Of course Lauren knew her friend would never, but she was a stickler for the rules, and there was no vaping at the shop. Inside or out. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She shut and locked the door, checking it twice for good measure.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s up anyway?”

Lauren let out a deep sigh and pointed at the arrangement.

“It’s gorgeous, which is not surprising. What’s the problem?”

“No problem. Just a waste of those beautiful Gloriosas. You should see the card.” She shook her head and picked up the vase, inhaling the sweet smell. “Add these to the queue for Jimmy please. Then we need to get to work on the plan for the Crockett birthday.”

Correen took the vase and put it back on the table, placing her hands on her hips. “But that’s three months from now.”

Her whining did not move Lauren. “It’s never too early. Get a move on, please.” She picked the vase back up and placed it in Correen’s waiting hands.

The phone rang and by the third ring, the two women exchanged puzzled glances and crowded through the door leading to the front showroom. Deanne was nowhere to be seen, so Correen raced over to the phone and yanked it from the holder. “Steele Florist, how may I help you?”

While Correen handled the customer, Lauren walked through the shop looking for Deanne. This part of the shop had a potent mix of floral scents, and soft music played over the sound system. Windows lined three of the walls, letting in maximum sunshine. She didn’t see her friend though. She hadn’t hired friends, but both Correen and Deanne had become friends in the past five plus years they both worked there. It was almost impossible not to when Lauren was responsible for so much and they picked up a lot of her slack. Their help freed Lauren up to engage in pursuits she was actually interested in.

Today, her friends seemed to be uncharacteristically screwy though.

Deanne came rushing through the front door, attached bells tinkling with so much cheer. Quite in contrast to her friend’s expression. “Sorry.”

“What’s wrong? Where were you?”

“Parker Keys is what’s wrong. His usual. He bought up all our displayed roses and I had to haul them out to his SUV.” She wiped her brow and bent over to catch her breath.

“Where’s Jimmy?”

“Out making deliveries.”

Lauren scrubbed her hands across her face, frowning beneath. “He’s supposed to check with Correen before leaving.”

Deanne straightened and pinned Lauren with a disapproving glare. “You understand I know that, right?”

“Well, yes, but why didn’t he?”

“You’ll have to take that up with Jimmy? Or his boss.” She looked pointedly at Correen. “I’m not his keeper.”

After the deepest sigh known to man, Lauren made her way to the back and found her phone next to her open laptop. She fired off a quick text to Jimmy because Deanne was right—Jimmy wasn’t her responsibility. All staff were under Lauren directly, just as her parents wanted it, except the delivery drivers and part-time student employees. The latter usually only worked a few hours a week and since there were so many of them rotating through, Correen kept track of them. Aside from the full-time staff, Lauren also handled the accounting, ordering, designing, and everything else related to Steele Florist. Where are you? You forgot a delivery.

A response wasn’t immediate, so Lauren logged into her laptop and pulled up the app she used to schedule social media posts. She’d much rather be posting for a political campaign, but it didn’t look like that was in the cards despite having gone back to graduate school for a poly sci degree. That’s after she completed the requisite business degree her parents insisted on. And paid for.

She tried for witty and sassy where the shop was concerned. Banter with another floral-related account was a plus, although Lauren was easily able to dispatch them to the sidelines with a well-placed quip. The exchanges still ended up being a win-win for the two shops who weren’t in the same market. After massaging the analytics the past year, quirky seemed to make a real difference. Business had picked up considerably and they no longer relied on word-of-mouth or print advertising. There was pressure to maintain relatability, but Lauren thrived in this space.

After scheduling her posts for the week and engaging with a few tweets live, she switched over to local politics. The race for governor was just coming together and there were rumors a popular state senator might put in his bid. She scrolled though her Politics Twitter list. William Knight was his name but he only had one or two tweets in the past week. If elected, he would be the first Black governor of California. Not only that, he’d be the youngest. Lauren couldn’t recall his age exactly, but he was younger than her own thirty-four years and nobody had been close to that, although the age requirement was only eighteen. It was probably strategic—fewer skeletons to drop out of the closet the younger you were.

Whoever was in charge of social media on his communication team was really falling down on the job. There were some well-placed articles in the Bee and Times, which was great, but a candidate for state office without much of a social media presence was bound to fail. Maybe he was waiting to announce before ramping up. Lauren could only dream of having that job. She allowed herself a few minutes to brainstorm the kind of campaign she’d run, then closed her laptop and rejoined her reality back in the showroom.

Nichelle rushed into the small back room of the café, and Lauren did everything she could to not shake her head in disapproval. The woman was nice enough, but she was rarely on time for these adoption group meetings and usually caused everyone to be distracted the first several minutes. Lauren could only spare an hour lunch break away from the shop and wanted to get the most out of the time. She was grateful the café was a block from work.

The chair scraped next to Lauren, and Nichelle slid in. “Hi. Have we started yet?”

Lauren pasted on a small smile. They weren’t exactly friends, but Nichelle’s father was the department head when Lauren got her advanced degree so they were friendly. She was often in her father’s office since she herself was a professor but didn’t teach any of Lauren’s graduate classes.

The two women shared many spirited conversations about adoption since they were at odds about contacting birth families. Nichelle was all for it. Lauren was a firm no. Why spend a needless amount of energy to track down people who didn’t want you? That made no sense to Lauren, but to each their own she supposed. She did get a lot out of the adoption group. The support from others like her helped during those times of despair from being tossed away. Sometimes, just hearing their stories put everything into perspective for Lauren. She had wonderful parents who loved her. Everyone hadn’t been so lucky.

Carl cleared his throat and smiled at each participant around the table. Most people had some sort of sandwich or pastry, having arrived early and ordered from the counter. Nichelle bit her lip, clearly paying the price of being late. Lauren tamped down the urge to sigh and pointed at her turkey and avocado sandwich.

Nichelle squeezed Lauren’s shoulders and picked up a triangle half, whispering under her breath, “I haven’t had anything all day, and I have a class right after. Thank you so much. I owe you.”

Lauren mustered a smile. “No worries.” She didn’t approve of the other woman’s lack of organization and timeliness, but there was something about Nichelle that made you want to help if you could.

“Looks like we have a couple of newbies. Please introduce yourself with as much information as you feel like sharing.” Carl smiled at a youngish white guy, probably just out of high school.

The young man opened his mouth, but tears glossed his eyes and he closed it again. “Sorry.”

Carl passed a box of tissues over to the new guy. “Take your time. You’re amongst friends.”

He pulled in a deep lungful of air, then nodded and wiped a tissue under his nose. “Apparently when I was a baby, my parents made the decision to tell me when I turned eighteen that I’m adopted.” He took a sip of his water and removed another tissue from the box. “That was two days ago. I didn’t have a clue, and they just sat me down and dropped this huge bomb on my head.” He shook his head and closed his eyes a moment. “I’m Jared by the way. Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize. This is a safe space, Jared.” Carl smiled, then redirected his attention to an older white woman and nodded.

“Hello, I’m Sharon. I’m also an adoptee.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “I guess that was unnecessary to say.”

Most around the table sent a smile of encouragement Sharon’s way.

“I’ve always known I was put up for adoption and my birth mother contacted me several years ago, but I didn’t respond. I guess I just never had any desire to meet her. I grew up in the system, so my feeling is that she threw me away and didn’t look back. Not until she wanted to assuage her guilt or whatever reason.” She sat up in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t know why she reached out but now I’ll never know. She died last weekend. She lived right over in San Jose but…”

Everyone stared at her expectantly for a few moments. When she didn’t finish her sentence, Carl turned to the rest of the group in general. “Thank you so much, Jared and Sharon, for sharing your stories. We all have similar experiences, and anyone is happy to speak with you outside the group or you can speak up and engage within the group as much as you desire. We’re all here to help each other through.”

Mumbles of agreement rattled around the table.

Lauren hadn’t intended to speak today but Sharon’s story moved her. “I’m Lauren and have always known I’m adopted. I’m not taking anything away from my parents, but considering the racial difference, telling me was probably not something they had a choice in. Sometimes I wonder though. I struggle with loyalty and guilt because they own a business and are a lot older now. They can’t help in the day-to-day so rely completely on me. I’m the only one because I’m an only child. It’s nothing I want to do, but feel trapped because shouldn’t I be grateful? I mean, I could have come up through the system if it hadn’t been for them.” Lauren looked Sharon’s way and nodded. “I too have no desire to meet my birth family. Nor do I even care who they are. If they’re alive, I wish them well. If not…” She shrugged and picked up her half of the sandwich.

A few more regulars spoke up. Candice had a story similar to Jared’s and offered her contact info to him.

Then Nichelle cleared her throat and smiled at each person seated in their group. “Hi, everyone. It’s always so great to be here and share stories and thoughts around adoption. My name is Nichelle, and I only found out I was adopted a year ago or so. My parents opted to not tell me and while we’ve worked on repairing the distrust, I struggled with the betrayal for a bit. I was excited about the possibility of a new family though and have a wonderful relationship with my siblings. I’m eternally grateful I found them.” She blasted the room with her cheerful smile.

Lauren wanted to groan, but she’d finally learned that there were as many opinions and feelings on adoption as there were adoptees.

End of Excerpt

Two Sides of a Secret is available in the following formats:

Purple cover with white text reading "Two Sides of A Secret" by Kelly Cain

ISBN: 978-1-959988-54-0

July 18, 2023

→ As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. We also may use affiliate links elsewhere in our site.