Date: 3rd February 2020, Posted by mollie
I woke up today to some very upsetting news. Workers at a monarch butterfly sanctuary are being murdered. While it may not seem like a tragedy on a massive human-scale (two workers have been murdered so far) these passionately, purposeful people are protecting our ecological balance. Every time man destroys a forest, burns habitat, pursues profit over protection humanity dies.
The western state of Michoacán has experienced escalating violence in recent years, and the region around the monarch butterfly reserve has been rife with illegal logging, despite a ban imposed to protect the monarchs, which winter in the pine- and fir-covered hills. If you are curious, read the article in The Guardian here>>https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/03/mexico-second-monarch-butterfly-sanctuary-worker-found-murdered
When I wrote Flight of Passion several years ago I never dreamed that the beautiful monarch butterflies who incircled the lovers in the proposal scene would be under the threat of extinction. The photo above originally inspired this story. I love writing stories that spotlight critical issues—to me, that’s the power of creativity.
Flight of Passion is a rapturous tale of beauty, obsession and the transformational power of unconditional love.
Billionaire property investor Oliver Hart is used to getting what he wants. Single, thirty-five and a committed bachelor, he plays by his own rules. On a personal quest to discover a rare, elusive and very valuable butterfly, he’s unwittingly distracted by a former flame, Ruby Diaz—a woman who callously abandoned him eight years earlier.
Deciding he wants to reclaim the beauty as his own, in his mind, it’s as good as done.
But Ruby is not his for the taking. Due to marry the son of a wealthy landowner, she refuses to succumb to his charms. On a quest to save her family’s land, Ruby knows she must put duty first, and silence the passionate stirrings of her heart.
But Oliver’s not taking no for an answer. Risking everything to help the woman he loves to gain her freedom, Oliver entangles himself in an emotional net that alters his life forever.
Sacrificing his own selfish pursuit to help Ruby, he realizes that you may be able to own something, but you can never own someone—especially the women you love.
This is a standalone clean & wholesome romance novel. It contains a guaranteed HEA, and a tale of romance that will capture your heart. As an added gift, it also includes the first chapters of Claimed by the Sheikh—this time, saving giraffes and endangered wildlife is the theme. I love a man who cares for the planet, and uses his wealth to make a difference to those most vulnerable, don’t you?
If you love reading contemporary women’s fiction, clean romance, and true love stories you’ll love Flight of Passion.
One of my readers summed up how fleeting life is:
“I fell in love with Ruby and Oliver, they are so good for each other, but both are so filled with garbage that their families filled them with, that they can’t see what’s in front of them. And when they finally realize that diamonds don’t have a hold to what they had, they are about to lose it. The butterflies remind me of how ethereal life is and it is up to us to not waste it, but live the fullest and best we can.”
Sometimes, humanity doesn’t realize what treasures nature holds until it has been destroyed. I hope and pray Mexico finds a solution before it is too late.
OTHER READER REVIEWS
“This book is a carefully crafted, truly original story. Mollie’s wonderfully descriptive narrative paints a picture in which it is easy to lose oneself—I really felt like I had been to Mexico by the time I had finished. Her butterfly theme echoes throughout the book, both literally and figuratively. The main characters, Oliver and Ruby, are each conflicted in their own ways. Despite facing challenges, both ultimately find the strength to work through their difficulties to emerge better people, and most importantly, triumph over adversity together. A touching and heart-warming book, well worth a read.”
~ Cathy Rioran
“Fast-paced, heart-wrenching completely unexpected twists, excellent storyline, and a hell of a good read. You just gotta love Mollie’s imagination and expertise in her writing.”
~ Rae Waterhouse
Enjoy a wee excerpt by reading the first few chapters or watching a video I made last Christmas—let’s keep our love for butterflies alive.
GROWING UP OLIVER WAS LEFT WITH THE impression he wasn’t worthy. First by his parents who at the age of four sent him to the bottom of the world. It was as if they didn’t know what to do with their infinitely curious and energetic child. It was as if sending him to the most prestigious boarding school in New Zealand absolved them of their responsibility, the responsibility which was every parents’—or should be, he thought bitterly—to love their child unconditionally.
After his run-in with a box of matches, they told him he would amount to nothing. He proved them wrong. At sixteen, he left New Zealand and headed for New York. It was true. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere. With the ruthless determination that he was both admired and feared for, like King Kong on steroids, he quickly climbed to the top of the property acquisition tree.
He was king of the beasts, the man everyone wanted at their dreary New York parties, full of checkbook philanthropists who would never stoop to get close to the people their showy donations benefitted. Parties, like the one where he’d first met Ruby Diaz
Ruby had fluttered into his life like a breath of fresh air. She had lit up the room with her illuminating presence and dazzlingly rare beauty—not just on the outside but the inside too. Her authenticity had the scent of violets—too guileless for pretense.
His darling Ruby. Oliver swallowed hard, refusing to succumb to the wave of angry hurt that swum from his heart to his throat.
For three blissful years, they were inseparable. But no matter how much success Oliver acquired, how extraordinarily wealthy he became, Oliver wasn’t good enough for the Diaz’s darling Ruby. He never knew why she flew from his life, disappearing as quickly as she’d arrived. She had said nothing, given him no explanation, not even the courtesy of a call.
The Diaz family and the way Ruby had callously abandoned him reminded Oliver he would never be worthy—he was unlovable. Perhaps he should thank them for sparing him further hurt. Thanks to them and his hopeless parents, he swore never to love again.
And that suited him just fine.
WOULD SELLING BUTTERFLY LOVERS REALLY free him of painful memories he’d rather forget?
Common sense told Oliver Hart that Butterfly Lovers was just a painting. An inanimate object, incapable of controlling him. But that was the trouble—it did control him, seducing him with its beauty, twisting his heart with bittersweet memories.
He’d intended to keep it . . . her . . . forever. His heartbeat seemed to almost stop as he thought of Ruby Diaz, the woman who had inspired the painting’s commission. He rubbed his powerful chest, trying to ease the painful tightness that constricted his lungs as he surveyed the crowd gathered for the charity art auction.
It was time to let them both go. But would Oliver ever be free?
His gaze swept over the minimalist, exquisitely designed interior, lingering over the priceless abstract by Rothko adorning a charcoal-black wall, at Hillcrest, his newly acquired mansion, and New Jersey’s most expensive country estate.
Tonight, though, it was Butterfly Lovers which held in its grip women dripping with diamonds, and men clad in Armani. Locked in shared awe, they clustered around the painting, studying every line, every pulsating color.
Oliver wondered if their eyes ached as his did with a heady mix of pleasure and pain just to stand in its spellbinding presence. Or were they trying to decode the painting’s hidden secrets?
Like a moth to a seductive flame, his eyes drifted to the bottom of the painting. Nobody, but one other person, would ever be able to decipher the graffiti-style line of poetry scrawled in throbbing orange along the bottom of the painting.
Painful memories bled into his consciousness. Why the hell couldn’t he shake her?
Butterfly Lovers. The painting was aptly named, he mused, forcing his mind from the woman who had inspired the purchase. The dancing kaleidoscope of color reminded Oliver of his collection of exotic butterflies—his hobbyhorse and quiet obsession.
Dazzling sapphire blues, glistening watermelon pinks, pulsating canary yellows with shimmering oranges—flew from the canvas, and ricocheted off the marble floor which had been polished to a mirror-like gleam.
He had commissioned the painting in a move of uncharacteristic impulsiveness eight years earlier when he was 22 and madly in lust with Ruby. A 20-year-old exotic beauty, she’d fluttered into his life, bringing with her eternal sunshine, and air so fresh it seeped through the iron fortress he’d built around his heart.
Butterfly Lovers encapsulated the vitality, optimism, and positivity she exuded. It was a rare piece which the serious art connoisseurs who gathered here this evening would die to possess. Oliver’s brow furrowed, aware many were drawn here not by the desire to possess the contemporary art world’s finest paintings, but insatiable voyeurs hungry to glimpse the inner world of one of America’s wealthiest and most elusive bachelors.
Immensely private, he’d never opened any of his palatial homes to the public before. Not homes, houses, he corrected. He congratulated himself as he glanced around the clinical, museum-like surroundings. The dark walls and sophisticated lighting, spotlighting priceless works of art, created a sophisticated, yet austere, facade. If a building was truly a reflection of its owner, as many designers believed, the interior aptly reinforced the stereotypes perpetuated in the media—moody, dark, mysterious and strictly hands-off.
There was some truth to that, but it was not the whole truth.
Oliver’s eyes drifted to the spiraling staircase and the heavy gold braided rope barricading the entrance to the upper level. He never let anyone get beyond the ground floor of his psyche. Some tried, but few persevered. No one, other than Ruby had ever penetrated his fortified armor. And that was a mistake.
He was complicated.
No doubt someone here tonight would go home and tweet that he was something of a social outcast, and arrogant to boot, Oliver thought as he hovered in the background. The fact was that he preferred his own company than engaging with his guests—predominantly wealthy financiers and bankers.
He knew his contempt was hypocritical, given he didn’t care who reached into their pockets. But there was something decidedly unpalatable about bankers and the merciless way they preyed on the vulnerable. Tonight, he would gladly encourage them to part with their millions.
As he glanced at his reflection in the floor-length window it struck him how far he had come from the days when just finding money to support himself and his little sister had been a struggle. Resplendent in an immaculately tailored Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo cut from the finest Italian wool, he looked like he belonged.
Oliver rubbed his hand over his pecs, powerfully aware of the Maori-inspired tattoo coiled over his shoulder that the crisp white linen of his shirt concealed. His hands pulsed with renewed conviction. It was his touchstone—a symbolic reminder that he was fierce and untouchable—a warrior businessman and an impenetrable lover.
On a good day, he even fooled himself.
But no matter how easy it was to make millions, no matter how many things he acquired, he’d never found a sense of contentment.
Oliver bit down on his teeth, grinding them together in a futile attempt to crush memories he was determined not to revisit.
He glanced at his Rolex. 7:03:02. Irritability coursed through his veins. What the hell was the auctioneer waiting for? He fixed him with a piercing look, firing his unspoken annoyance through the crowd.
Tardiness was something he abhorred, and doubly-so tonight, he thought as he locked on the important call he had to make. In one hour it would be 8am in New Zealand and his sister, as punctual as he was, would be anxiously waiting.
As though feeling the pointed tip of Oliver’s anger the auctioneer looked up. His relaxed smile quickly shattered as he was forced to confront the aggressive glint in Oliver’s eyes, the rigid set of his shoulders, the brutally hard line of his jaw.
The auctioneer banged his hardwood gavel on the sounding block with short urgent thuds, his florid face ballooning as the chatter continued.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention?” More insistent hammering. “Attention! Attention!”
The chatter fell to an orderly whisper, extinguished finally by the auctioneer’s solemn voice.
“As you know, tonight is a unique opportunity to savor the extraordinary passions of Oliver Hart. Renowned as an astute businessman, Oliver Hart is also an obsessive collector,” he said.
“He has one of the most significant collations of contemporary art in the world. Not only a man of significant wealth, Oliver Hart, founder of Hart Luxury Hotel Consortium, is a man of outstanding generosity. All the funds raised by tonight’s art auction will provide relief for those affected by last month’s devastating earthquake in New Zealand, where he spent much of his childhood.”
Oliver studied his feet as a thunder of applause quaked through the room, amplifying as it echoed off the walls.
The word was like a vicious punch to his stomach. Oppressive memories pounded his brain, and this time there was no silencing them.
Suddenly he was four years old again. Four years old and frightened. Lonely. Abandoned. Trapped in a jungle of strangers. Abandoned by bickering parents into a boarding school, neither one willing to let the other have custody. Selfishly caring more about winning against each other than the needs of their own child. And then there was his father.
His jaw locked as he bit down hard, swallowing a toxic cocktail of grief and anger. The brutal beatings hadn’t hurt nearly as much as the verbal abuse and discouragement he’d suffered when he told them he wanted to be like his grandfather and study butterflies. The abuse had only intensified when he turned his back on the legal career his father had wanted. ‘You’ll never achieve anything. I wish you’d never been born. How dare you defy me you worthless piece of shit,’ the pain of these beatings had long healed—but those words still hurt.
Freezing sweat clung to Oliver’s body in a vice-like grip, as he recalled the scorn his father rained upon him during his few personal visits. He paced across to the open window, inhaling deeply as he struggled to rip himself free from the shards of the past. Jesus, what sort of father tries to have his son institutionalized?
To some, it might seem ironic that he should be so generous to a country where he spent such an unhappy childhood, but Oliver didn’t like to think of others suffering.
He forced his mind back to the present.
“Tonight’s opening painting Butterfly Lovers is a significant artwork,” the auctioneer continued, glancing down at his notes.
Oliver didn’t have to read his words to know that what he would reveal was a shallow rendition of the truth. Only two people in the world truly knew just what Butterfly Lovers meant.
He glanced around the room thinking Ruby might have come, hoping with all his willpower she hadn’t.
HE FORCED HIMSELF NOT TO BETRAY THE turmoil of emotions jack-knifing through his body as the massive painting was carried to the makeshift podium.
The butterfly theme had held so much promise. He’d never really bought into Ruby’s tales about the transformative power of art to heal. But back then privately he’d hoped her optimism might rub off. With her by his side, and by owning the painting, perhaps he could shed a skin, free himself of his deformed past, re-emerge in a new skin. Undamaged. Someone nearing perfection. A better man. The sort of man Ruby deserved.
He’d been a fool.
Oliver’s spine stiffened. He’d intended to keep it . . .
her . . . forever. But even good intentions couldn’t make up for a lifetime’s inability to commit. He moved towards the terrace, widening the distance between him and the painting. He would no longer succumb to the painting’s potent power to remind him of his failings.
“Created specifically for Oliver over seven years ago by struggling contemporary artist CG Tombly—only Oliver could have foreseen its financial potential.”
Oliver’s brow furrowed. The suggestion he had acquired the painting for commercial gain, rankled him. If he wasn’t such a private man he might have told the crowd the truth. He’d made the mistake of talking candidly once before—a mistake he wouldn’t be making again.
In its place, he’d created a new habit—a habit of keeping his emotional life to himself, one he wasn’t about to break. Soon the painting, and the painful memories of the only woman capable of making him feel, would be shed and he could devote himself to less painful obsessions.
“As always, Oliver’s timing is impeccable. The painting’s value has rocketed in the same soaring capacity as the palatial hotel Oliver’s company has recently constructed in Dubai–so high it almost touches the gods.”
The auctioneer flung his hands into the air to accentuate his point. “Oliver Hart,” he said, nodding in his direction and pointing to his towering 6-foot, 2-inch frame, “never does anything small.”
Oliver thrust his hands in his pockets and glanced out the window refusing to look at the painting as the bidding began.
In a few fist-clenching minutes it would all be over and he could get on with his life.
His gaze drifted to the sculpture garden, lying beyond the pool, alighting on a solitary bronze sculpture by Brancusi. The modernist interpretation of Hercules holding the world on his shoulders, with its roughly hewn egg-shaped sphere symbolizing earth had always appealed to him.
Balanced precariously on a towering sculpted wood base, the odd shape and the large crater severing the middle of the sphere challenged conventional notions of perfection and reminded him of humanity’s rawness.
As his gaze lingered over the sculpture it occurred to him that repairing his scars, so deep that no relationship he started ever endured, required a Herculean effort.
No wonder the painting had failed.
But he still wanted to believe, as the ancient Greeks had, that art had a powerful ability to transform lives. He only hoped that selling the painting finally fulfilled this purpose. Perhaps then the painful memories that still haunted him could be turned to good.
He turned and fixed his gaze upon the audience. Who would be its new owner he wondered as the opening bid of one million was made. Would it go to Don Hermes, the impotent pharmaceutical giant, standing just ahead of him, or some other equally innocuous purchaser? Or would some anonymous bidder calling from China, Europe or the Middle East be the lucky buyer?
“$12 million? Do I have $12 million?” The bags under the auctioneer’s eyes shifted as he tilted his head forward, and peered under his glasses.
“A small price to pay,” he continued, his gaze briefly flickering to Oliver, “for a painting personally commissioned by a man who defies every category and transcends every cliché: a man with tremendous gusto and creative generosity.”
The auctioneer’s eyes flew to a scantily dressed blonde hovering hopefully next to Oliver. “A man who has yet to be pinned down.”
Oliver caste her a dismissive look and moved further toward the back of the room.
“$12 million we have,” cried the auctioneer’s assistant, nodding vigorously as he pressed his iPhone firmly to his ear.
Oliver’s heart lurched as the bidding began.
“$13 million,” the assistant taking telephone bids shouted, raising his hand.
“$13.2 million.” The auctioneer’s eyes darted between the phone bidder and two men determined to claim the painting as their own.
Explosive tension hovered as one of the two remaining bidders turned their attention away.
“$13.5 million! At $13.5 million the painting will be sold,” the auctioneer warned. He suspended the gavel in the air, pausing as he scanned the room.
“$17.4 million,” came a guttural, low growl from the front of the crowd.
A record price!
The room fell silent under the weight of the bid, then buzzed with irritatingly discordant voices, their murmurs of awe and envy a rising tide of white noise.
Oliver’s eyes darted to the front row. Over $14 million? The price was ridiculous. Someone must want it desperately. But who and why?
He was acquainted with the deep pockets of unbridled obsession. He understood intimately the seductive power of the painting.
But this was crazy bidding.
There had to be a compelling reason surpassing the usual appreciation of any art-lover. At that price it could hardly be an investment buy.
So that left . . . what?
Oliver paced the back of the room in agitation unable to see the face of the man who had placed this latest bid. He caught a glimpse of the woman next to the anonymous bidder as she shook a sexy spill of sun-kissed curls down her back. The familiar gesture sent shockwaves to his heart.
It couldn’t be.
Her head turned slightly.
Oliver stood still as if turned to stone.
Did you enjoy this excerpt?
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Flight of Passion is also available in audio—narrated by me:)