When Quinn Langston’s best friend unexpectedly passes away, Quinn embraces Brooke’s three-year-old daughter Lily and elderly grandmother Margaret as the family she’s always wanted. She’ll do whatever it takes to help them heal, but she didn’t anticipate Lily’s biological father would be part of the plan. Margaret is old-fashioned, though, and she has no compunction about finding a way to reach Lily’s dad, a sperm donor. After all, he's a blood relative, and she believes family should raise family.
Zack Bradley doesn't know what to expect when he finds out he has a child. Sperm donors don't usually get to meet their...well, he's not sure what to call Lily yet, but he’s certain he wants to get to know her. There’s just one of problem: he’s about to move to Seattle with his wife, Jessica, who’s undergone multiple infertility treatments, desperately wants a family of her own and can’t stand the idea of Zack playing daddy to another woman’s child.
Together, they’ll all learn that the human heart is infinitely expandable and there are many different roads to family.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Tuesday, March 26
I do three things really well, but saying no isn't one of them. I'm too susceptible to beggingespecially from young children, small dogs, and good-looking men.
"Read me another story, Auntie Quinn."
My goddaughter, Lily, is a case in point. It's forty minutes past her bedtime, and I've already read her five books. A request from the adorable three-year-oldit's hard to believe she'll be four in just four months!is nearly impossible for me to turn down.
I close the cover of The Velveteen Rabbit, ruffle Lily's honey-colored hair, and make a weak attempt. "It's late, sweetie." We're both reclining against pillows on her low four-poster bed. She and her favorite stuffed animal, Sugar Bear, are tucked under her white duvet, and I'm lying on top of it, my sandals kicked off, my arm looped around her. My black-and-white Maltipoo, Ruffles, is curled on the covers beside us.
"Just one more. Pleeeease?" Lily's eyes are fringed with ridiculously long eyelashes, and when she turns them on me with that pleading look, my insides go as soft and gooey as a campfire marshmallow.
I'm staying overnight with Lily as I do every other month or so when Brooke has to leave New Orleans for a business trip. Brooke is an absolutely amazing single mother. She's also a high-powered logistics executive at a major corporation and the most organized person I've ever met, and she runs as tight a ship at home as she does at work.
Whenever I babysit, I try to keep Lily on her schedule, but my willpower is no match for the child's swimming pool-blue eyes.
"Just one more teensy-tiny book. Please, please, please?"
Resistance is futile. "Okay, one more, but only if you promise to go right to sleep afterward, with no fuss."
"All right, then." I search my mind for the name of a book that's short. "How about Goodnight Moon?"
"Yay!" Lily scrambles out of bed and scurries to her bookcase, her blond curls bouncing. Ruffles jumps down, scampers to her side, and positions herself to get petted.
I wonder if the way I consistently cave to Lily's wishes means I won't be a good mother. I hope not. More than anything, I want to have a child and be a loving, supportive mom like Brooke. It's the deepest desire of my heart.
My mind darts to the future, and a little thrill starts to quiver through my chest. If things go the way I hope, then maybe soon I'll . . .
Keep your thoughts in the here and now, I caution myself. Manage your expectations and you'll manage your disappointments. This is a directive from one of the many self-improvement books I've read lately, because I'm working very hard right now on becoming the best person I can be. Managing disappointment is a concept I should have learned as a girlheaven only knows I had ample opportunitybut I never quite got the knack of it, at least not when it comes to my personal life.
Especially when it comes to men. On two separate occasions, I've deluded myself into thinking I found Mr. Right, only to discover that the object of my affections was Mr. Wasting My Fertile Years. One relationship lasted six years and the other ate up four, adding up to a solid decade of squandered time-time when I should have been out there, meeting a man who really and truly wants the same things I do. A man whoand this is the important part, the part I keep missingis really as wonderful as I think he is.
Brooke says I put too much stock in fairy tales. She thinks I have a bad habit of looking at men through rose-colored glasses, imagining positive traits that don't exist and ignoring negatives that are all too real. I hate to admit it, but she's right. Both times, I fooled myself into thinking that I'd found Prince Charming because that's what I so desperately wanted.
Well, I'm on a new track now. I'm all about facing reality, dealing with the stone-cold truth, and pulling up my big-girl pants. I'm determined to live life on my own terms and according to my own timeline. Instead of imagining that a man is going to come along and complete me, I'm working on completing myself.
One of the books I'm reading, Reparenting Your Inner Child with Compassion and Mindfulness, instructs readers to find three things they're really good at, and to appreciate and nurture those strengths every day. I love this exercise because the Rule of Three is one of my favorite design principles. The three strengths I've identified are being a good friend, finding the silver lining, and designing homes that people love to live in.
While Lily crouches in front of her bookcase, I look around the room and try to appreciate my design handiwork. I decorated the nursery when Brooke was expectingI was actually living in Atlanta at the timeand I updated it after I moved to New Orleans, when Lily outgrew her convertible crib/toddler bed. I specialize in creating children's rooms that easily change as their occupants grow.
I feel a sense of satisfaction, because Lily's room is one of my all-time favorite little-girl spaces ever. It features pale grayish-green walls, pink silk draperies, and a matching faux canopy spilling from a crown-shaped cornice near the ceiling. The furniture is a whimsical mix of modern, antique, and art deco styles, tied together with touches of distressed white paint.
"Here it is!" Lily grabs the small board book from the shelf. Her bare feet pad whippet-fast across the thick white rug that covers the wide oak planks, her tiny toenails the same shade of aqua as her Elsa nightgown (I'd painted them for her earlier in the evening). She jumps on the mattress, dives under the covers, and curls up beside me as I open the well-worn book. Ruffles bounds up and settles on top of both of us. Lily giggles and snuggles close, her little body warm against mine.
When I finish reading aloud and close the book, Lily and I kneel by her bed, and she says her prayers. "Thank you, God, for all that's good, an' help me do the things I should. Bless Mommy an' Grams an' Auntie Quinn an' Ruffles. An' give me a little sister. Amen."
I smile as she scrambles back under the covers while I put all six books back on the bookshelf. I tuck in Lily and Sugar Bear yet again, smoothing the pink-and-white-striped sheet over the top of the white duvet, and drop a kiss on her forehead. "Nighty night, sweet princess."
"G'night, Auntie Quinn. I love you!"
Lily's arms curl around my neck. She smells like bubblegum-flavored toothpaste and baby'shampoo, and the scent makes my eyes unexpectedly fill with tears. "Love you, too, darling girl."
I turn out her bedside lamp. Ruffles pads into the hallway. I pull Lily's door closed behind me and head down the hall, my heart as warm and soft as a just-baked cinnamon roll.
Brooke's decision to become a single mother had shocked me at first, but she says it's the best thing she ever did, and knowing Lily, I have to agree. But then, Brooke has always known her own mind and been fearless about pursuing what she wants. She's my role model that way. She's just a couple of years older than me, but she's always seemed a lot further ahead in life.
We met eighteen years ago at Louisiana State University when we sat beside each other in a beginning interior design course. Brooke was a computer science junior taking the class as an elective; I was an interior design freshman having trouble loading the design software on my computer. She offered to do it for me, and I, in turn, offered to help her decorate her student apartment on a shoestring budget.
We hit it off right away. We shared the same sense of humor, we liked the same novels and movies, and we were both passionate about our fields of study. We both have dark blond hair and we're both medium height and build, so we're often asked if we're sisters.
"Yes," we always reply, usually in chorus.
"We're compensation sisters," Brooke once said.
"What?" I asked.
"We're each other's compensation for losing our families."
It's another thing we have in common. Brooke lost both parents and her little brother in a deadly car accident when she was twelve. I lost my family when my parents divorced and I became the extra baggage in their new relationships and lifestyles.
I think Brooke's loss is greater because it was so final, but she thinks mine is worse because it wasn't. Sometimes I think she's right; she, at least, always felt wanted.
Thinking about this makes my chest grow tight as I walk down the hall toward the stairs. I recall another piece of self-help instruction: Don't allow negative thoughts to control your feelings. When you become aware of them, breathe deeply, pick a focal point, and concentrate on the present moment.
I draw in a long breath and focus my attention on the photos grouped on the wall above the staircase wainscoting. A picture of Brooke and me dressed up as bumblebees for a Halloween party at my first apartment in Atlanta makes me smile. After college, I went to work at a high-end design firm there, and Brooke went to work for an international conglomerate in New York. We stayed in close touch despite the distance, visiting each other a couple of times a year and spending the holidays together in Louisiana at her grandmother's house in Alexandria.
I move another step down the stairs and look at a photo of Brooke's silver-haired grandmother sitting in her front porch swing. Miss Margaret is a remarkably spry and fit septuagenarian who raised Brooke after her family's tragic accident. She's a true Southern lady, genteel and gracious and unfailingly politealthough from time to time, she can come out with an old-fashioned saying that will, as she puts it, "starch your shorts." In the next photo, she's holding two-year-old Lily on a carousel horse at New Orleans City Park, glowing with great-grandmotherly pride.
I descend two more steps and gaze at a photo of Brooke cuddling newborn Lily, her face shining with such love it looks like she's sprinkled with fairy dust. I reach out and softly touch the gilt frame, wishing some of that joy would rub off. Like me, Brooke dreamed of having not only a career, but a husband and a family. Like me, she'd had a couple of serious relationships, then hit her thirties without meeting the man of her dreams. Unlike me, however, she'd had the added complication of severe endometriosis.
When Brooke was thirty-three, she learned that endometrial tissue was scarring her ovaries and uterus. "If you want to have a baby, you'd better do it soon," her doctor had told her.
Just like that, she decided to become a single mother. And then, with her typical hyperefficiency, she created a plan and put it into action.
This is where Brooke and I are not alike-not at all. It takes me a long time to make major decisions. When I have to decide something, I'll waffle back and forth, weighing advantages and disadvantages, reevaluating and second-guessing and stalling. Brooke minored in psychology and says I don't really trust myself because I couldn't trust my parents.
I suppose this is true, because I tend to look for signs. I want confirmation that something beyond my own hopefulness is informing my choices. I believe that coincidences are miracles where God chooses to remain anonymous, so I look for a coincidence-a song playing on the radio, two people mentioning the same topic, winning two consecutive games of solitaire . . . or getting goose bumps. I put a lot of weight on goose bumps. If I get goosy and I'm not cold, I take it as a sign.
I don't tell many people about this, because I know it sounds idiotic. Brooke is the only person who seems to understand, and even she will tease me about it. "What's the goose bump factor?" she asked last week when I couldn't decide between shrimp or chicken on my salad.
I'm getting better at trusting myself, though. A couple of years ago, I moved to New Orleans and started my own business. That was an uncharacteristically bold move-especially opening a retail home-furnishings shop, Verve!, to drive my design business. It's turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life; I love New Orleans, I love being close to Brooke and Lily, and my business is booming. In fact, I'm giving more and more design responsibilities to my assistant, I'm trying to hire an additional part-time manager for the store, and I often have to work nights to get everything done.
Tonight is one of those evenings. I head to the kitchen, open my laptop, and settle at the kitchen table to plot out the furniture placement of a master bedroom for a client I'm meeting with tomorrow morning.
I'm engrossed in the project when a sharp rap sounds on the front door. Ruffles barks. I glance at the time on my computer screen. It's nine thirty-seventoo late for social calls or most deliveries. My instinct is to ignore it and hope that whoever is there will go away. To my consternation, the knock sounds again, louder this time. Ruffles barks again. I rise from the chair and scoop up the little dog, hushing her.
The lights outside are on and the living room lights are off, so I step to the window and peek through the blinds. I don't know whether to feel alarmed or reassured that a police car is parked by the curb.
The door knocker clunks, thunderous brass against brass, and Ruffles once more sounds off. I'm afraid the racket will wake Lily, so I go to the door and peer out the sidelight.
Two police officers in full uniform stand on the porch. I flip on the light to the foyer and crack the door, keeping the chain on.
"Good evening, ma'am. Is this the residence of Brooke Adams?" asks the taller officer.