His Bride To Be
The job perks: a two-week luxury cruise in the company of one of the most eligible bachelors on the West Coast. But posing as Hale Donovan's fiancée to finesse a takeover deal will challenge all of Valerie Pryce's resolve to keep business and pleasure separate…
A group yoga tour to Peru is the last place Meredith expects to see her workaholic ex-boyfriend, Sam. Seven years have changed everything--except Meredith's regret at abruptly running away. Yet amid the magnificent views and ancient ruins, a new chance may be waiting…
Return To Hampton Beach
Jacob was the shy, kind twin. Chris was wild and dangerous. As a teenager, Celia Jensen was a little in love with them both. Now Celia is coming back to Hampton Beach for a summer, where she'll untangle the lie that broke her heart.
There's nowhere Ellen would rather nurse her wounds after her ex's betrayal than Ogunquit, Maine--a little beach town where she spent idyllic childhood summers. Then Ellen meets a charming local artist who challenges her to create new memories…
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
ELIZABETH BASS lives with her husband in Montreal, where she writes and astounds the locals with her makeshift French. An elderly cat or dog (or two. . .or four) can typically be found in her apartment, and during the busiest day, Elizabeth usually finds time to sneak in an old movie. She loves to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@ElizabethBass), or at elizabeth-bass.com.
MARY CARTER is a freelance writer and novelist. Her other works include London From My Windows, Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do for You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister's Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She'll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged. Readers are welcome to visit her at marycarterbooks.com
HOLLY CHAMBERLIN was born and raised in New York City. While other kids were playing in the park, she was in the library reading or scribbling stories. In 2003 she and her husband moved to Maine where she is currently working on a new novel. Readers can visit her website at www.hollychamberlin.com.
Read an Excerpt
By LISA JACKSON, Elizabeth Bass, Holly Chamberlin, MARY CARTER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Bass
All rights reserved.
A glint of light made Meredith turn her head. Was that Sam?
No. Absolutely not. An airport, international flights, was the last place Sam Desmond would turn up. Sam was the guy who, when she'd once dreamed aloud of a getaway to Paris, had replied, "What's in Paris?"
Not a world traveler, Sam. At least he hadn't been when she had known him.
Still, in the moment before she got caught at the back of the security line, she'd glimpsed a man who looked like Sam on the other side of the Plexiglas barrier, his tall, trim figure disappearing around the corner. The man had been wearing glasses — no doubt the source of the glint — and he'd had short brown hair. She'd always loved the way Sam's floppy cowlick had defied his efforts to maintain an über-orderly appearance.
She took a mental step back. Let's see ... tall, glasses, brown hair. That only described about hundreds of thousands of guys in New York City, never mind the rest of the tristate area, as well as males from places the world over who might be connecting through JFK Airport today. "Stats and probabilities don't favor that scenario," Sam himself would have reminded her, eyeing her in that worried, pinched -brow way, as if trying to decide whether he'd made a huge error hooking up with someone who, in addition to never having gotten to the second level of The Legend of Zelda, had never taken calculus and wasn't interested in string theory.
Which was part of the reason she'd broken up with Sam in the first place. Anyway, this probably wasn't him. She took a deep breath, stepped out of her shoes, and tossed them into a plastic tub.
Still, that glimpse had set off all kinds of ringing in her head, and try as she might to ignore the sound, the bells kept swinging. The clanging lasted through the X-ray and the wait for everyone's parade of almost -too-large carry-ons, laptops, and other paraphernalia to be scanned on the conveyer belt. As they were stepping back into their shoes, she turned to her sister. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea. My coming along, I mean."
Janie's big eyes widened. "What? Why?"
"Oh ..." Mentioning a phantom sighting of Sam to Janie would be conversational suicide. Her sister would think she was losing her mind. It had been seven years, and from long experience Meredith knew the equation. Janie + me voicing Sam regret = mental health lecture. So Meredith reached for other equally valid reasons for not stepping on a flight to Peru with a bunch of people she barely knew, who all shared an interest in an activity she only halfheartedly participated in. "I don't really belong."
"Sure you do. You've been coming to the class ... off and on."
Off and on, because she got an occasional guest pass at the yoga studio Janie belonged to. She appealed to Janie's frugal nature. "And the money ..."
"The money has been spent," her sister said. "The time to back out of a trip is not after you've already cleared security."
So true. And she didn't want to back out — that is, she didn't want to bail on her sister, who was here for her sake. Janie was a reluctant traveler who usually needed to be blasted out of New York, but she'd known Machu Picchu was a place Meredith had always dreamed of going.
Meredith nodded and tried not to appear troubled as they moved down the open corridor toward their gate.
Obviously, she didn't succeed in hiding her angst, because Janie said, "If you're feeling mixed up, maybe the universe is trying to tell you something. It's trying to tell you that you need to take a break and stop worrying so much."
According to her sister, the universe was always trying to get through to people — and by some coincidence, its message always sounded as if it had been dictated by Janie.
And why not? The voice of Meredith's universe had always been Janie's. Meredith had been a late-life baby, seven years younger than her sister, and their mother had died before Meredith's second birthday. As far back as she could remember, Janie had been her lighthouse, telling her how to navigate life's rocky shores. Even after their dad married Christa — Clueless Christa, they'd called her — Janie's had continued to be the mom voice in Meredith's head: "Sit up straight." "Don't put your mouth on that." "Do you really want to wear that to school?" But Janie was still the big sister, so she was also saying things like "If you don't stop singing that stupid song about waltzing bears I'll haul you to the zoo myself and feed you to the grizzlies."
Janie was sending her that feed-you-to-the-grizzlies look right now.
"You're right," Meredith said, soldiering on toward the gate.
The gate, where Sam was honest-to-God standing, staring right at her. She smiled and even let out a laugh, as much at his comical shock as from the joy of making eye contact with him again after so long. Sam did not smile back.
Her gaze shifted to the woman next to him. Gina?
Meredith's smile froze. It was Gina. Janie's best frenemy. Gina of the perfect bendy-stretchy yoga body, which, no matter what pose they did, was always flexible enough to enable her to turn and aim a superior smirk at Meredith's amateur efforts. She of the ice-blue eyes and blond hair with blonder highlights. Gina, who seemed to be one of those people put on the planet to intervene on the off chance that Meredith started to feel a little too self-confident.
Sam, evidently, was Gina's traveling companion. Her alternate yoga mat was slung over his shoulder.
Janie caught sight of Gina as they approached the gate. "Oh, look," she muttered to Meredith. "Gina brought Mr. Fabulous with her."
"Mr. Who?" Meredith squeaked, certain she had heard wrong. Fabulous was not a word her sister would ever have used to describe Sam. Ever.
"The boyfriend she's always blathering about," Janie said.
Meredith swallowed. "Do you see —?"
"Of course I see," Janie hissed under her breath. "Alviero Martini luggage for a trip into the Andes! She'll probably get us all kidnapped by Shining Path guerrillas, or whatever they have down there now. If some of us come back without ears, guess who will be to blame."
Gina and Janie eyed each other with the intensity of two friendly cobras facing off. Then, standing toe-to-toe, they both smiled, dropped their carry-on bags, and threw their arms around each other with gleeful squeals.
"Can you believe it?"
"We're finally on our way!"
Others from the yoga group lined up to take their turns greeting the new arrivals. They were a huggy bunch. Meredith said hello to Claudia, their instructor and group leader, and a few of the women Janie always dismissed as yoga mommies. Meredith had only been to the class three times, so she didn't really feel comfortable hugging anybody yet. Unfortunately, not hugging just made her feel more first-day-of -schoolish and alien.
She stood to the side and studiously avoided catching Sam's eye until she could be sure to do so without making an idiot out of herself. Heat rose in her cheeks even as she listened to her sister and Gina spewing compliments at each other.
"Look at you," Gina said. "Gorgeous even at seven a.m.!"
"You smell like mangoes. Is that your shampoo?"
Meredith cast a surreptitious glance at Sam. He was staring intently at his shoes.
What was he doing here? How had this happened?
Janie had never liked Sam, and as a result Sam had always resented the sway Janie held over Meredith. Even when she and Sam had been a couple, Meredith had tried to avoid get-togethers with the three of them. Now they were all unwittingly going on vacation together. The three of them ... and Gina.
Gina finally pulled back from the lovefest and yanked Sam to her side. "Janie, this is — "
"Sam?" When at last Janie recognized the man with Gina, she stepped back, almost stumbling like an ingénue in a horror film scrambling to escape the zombie.
"Hello, Janie," he said without joy.
Gina's smile froze, and her gaze flicked anxiously between them. "You know each other?"
"We used to. That is, Meredith knew him."
At that point, there was nothing to do but look straight at Sam, who finally smiled back at her. "Hi, Meredith."
"Hi, Sam. I'm surprised to see you here."
Gina stepped forward, hooking a proprietary arm through his. "Why surprised? Sam was the one who insisted we come when he saw the brochure I brought home from the studio. He said it would be adventurous, and romantic."
Sam pulled Gina even closer and kissed the top of her head. Meredith's stomach did a drop and roll, and she could feel her eyebrows leaping into her forehead in unison with Janie's.
She shot a desperate glance at her sister. Was it still too late to back out after you'd cleared security but before you'd stepped onto a South America-bound plane with the onetime love of your life and his horrid new girlfriend?
"I warned you the company would be dreary," Gina said.
Sam tensed. Not that Meredith and Janie would be able to hear them. They were three rows back, and the roar of the plane's engines during takeoff absorbed sound. But the others ...
Who was he kidding — he didn't care about the others. Just Meredith. How had this happened?
While planning the trip, he hadn't given much thought to the other people on the tour, or anticipated feeling like an interloper. But among the group of nine women he was definitely the odd man out, even though a guy name Seth had appeared just before boarding. Seth was both bearded and bald, enthusiastically hugged everybody a few seconds longer than was comfortable, and lugged an acoustic guitar as his only carry-on item. He obviously considered himself part of the group, even though the others didn't seem ecstatic about his presence.
But Sam wasn't here for the other people. This trip was about him and Gina. He'd been bugging her to go somewhere together for months, but she hadn't wanted to leave New York and be "thrown off her stride." Whatever that meant. He'd guessed she didn't want to leave her routine — she was a busy person and he was too, so he could understand that reluctance. But he was determined not to make the mistakes with Gina that he'd made with past girlfriends. When he'd spotted the brochure about the trip to Machu Picchu, he'd leapt on it as the perfect solution. They could have a travel adventure, and Gina could take part of her routine with her — the yoga part.
But now it appeared he was inadvertently taking his romantic past with him too.
Gina plucked the in-flight magazine from the seat pocket in front of her. "You never mentioned you knew Janie. I know I've talked about her. We used to have coffee together all the time after class."
"I guess I heard you mention the name, but I never knew it was the same Janie."
"How many Janies are there in New York?"
He could never tell if she was just messing with his head when she asked questions like that. Because he was pretty sure she knew that in a city of eight million, there were a lot of Janies. "To be honest, I probably haven't thought about Janie in years. It was her sister I knew. Meredith and I attended the same college and ended up sharing an apartment in New York the summer after we graduated. It was a friend-of-a-friend arrangement, for a summer, just because we were both new in the city. And it was a lifetime ago." God, he needed to stop babbling. It made him sound guilty. Gina said nothing, so he added, "I barely recognized her just now," for good measure.
"Really?" Her brows soared in curiosity. "But she's in that commercial. Even I recognized her when Janie dragged her to class, and I don't even pay attention to diet food."
"Slim Delites brownies. You mean you know her and you never noticed?" Gina smiled, pleased. "She plays the fatty who decides to eat a Slim Delites brownie instead of a whole bag of Oreos. Though obviously in real life, Meredith does the opposite."
"She looks healthy to me." Just the same as she ever did.
"That's one way of putting it. She weighs 142." Gina enunciated the number as if dropping a bombshell with each syllable.
How did she know Meredith's weight?
"There's a digital scale at the studio," she replied, as if she had spyware in his brain. "And she actually gets on it. When other people are around." She licked the tip of her finger and flicked a page of her magazine. "Not. Very. Bright."
He remained silent, and then felt unchivalrous for not standing up for Meredith. A voice from a lifetime ago floated up from the recesses of his mind. "Obviously, I expect a little more from you than you're willing to give."
He bristled. Why should he stand up for someone who'd walked out on him?
And it had to be said, the gaping holes in Meredith's education had always stunned him. Not very bright? How could he argue with that? Once, when Meredith had been quizzing him for a graduate school entrance exam, it had become clear that she completely misunderstood the concept behind the word binary. God only knows what theater majors studied in college, but it was tragically apparent that budding thespians weren't getting past base-ten mathematics.
"We would have been better off having a stay-cay in the city," Gina said. "We should be hunting for an apartment, not traipsing around Peru with these characters."
They had decided to move in together, but both their apartments were too tiny to make a practical home for two, even in the short term. Her house-hunting vacation would have been more sensible, but he wasn't feeling sensible. If there was anything he'd learned from past romantic failures, it was that sensible sank relationships.
He had all sorts of romantic things planned for this trip. Activities lined up pleasantly in his mind, mirroring the to-do list app on his phone. First, the candlelit dinner in Cuzco at the special restaurant he'd found. Followed by a romantic journey into the Andes, topped off with a proposal at the top of the world, against the backdrop of the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu.
That last cost him a moment's worry. Sure, they looked glorious online, but were they? Also, the place would probably be crawling with tourists. It might be like popping the question in the middle of Times Square, and if that was the case, what was the point of traveling all that way and spending so much money —?
No. That kind of thinking was very Old Sam. He was New Sam now. New Sam didn't do cost-benefit analysis when it came to marriage proposals.
A signal dinged throughout the cabin, and the flight attendant announced that the captain had okayed the use of electronic devices. Janie tossed her magazine into his lap and whipped out her iPad.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking messages." She tapped and scrolled, reabsorbed into the world they were flying away from.
Suppressing a sigh, he started reading a travel article on Wisconsin. The writer was attempting to move away from the cheese-and-beer angle and create some razzle-dazzle about his subject, but in the end he just focused on the expensive cheese, the high-end beer. Sam struggled to keep his mind from wandering.
He'd have to pick up a paperback at the Miami airport.
He wondered what Meredith read on long flights. In the old days, she'd always gone to the library and come back lugging armloads of stuff, more than anyone could read in the time the library permitted. Then she would forget the due dates, or a book would end up lost behind a couch cushion, and the delinquent fees would mount. Within three months of arriving in New York, she owed the library eighty-nine dollars — which seemed mathematically impossible. Short of hurling books into the East River, how did anyone end up owing that much? He'd set up an Excel file for her on her computer to keep track of what she borrowed. She forgot to use it.
The puzzling part was, Meredith had seemed to resent his giving her that spreadsheet. It was as if she thought that by trying to fix a problem for her, he was judging her, or criticizing her. When really it just pained him to see her tossing money away.
Money had been so tight that summer. Boxed-macaroni-and-cheese tight, sometimes. An aspiring actress, Meredith had limited herself to temp jobs to accommodate auditions she never got called for. And though he made okay money working in a bank, rent ate up over half their income, and the rest just seemed to dissolve after a couple of weeks of meeting friends at bars after work and for movies on weekends. Eventually it dawned on them that they weren't in college anymore. By the sultry end of August, he was saving for graduate school, and they passed most of their time in their tiny apartment, trying to economize. Video games and cards for entertainment, cheap wine from Trader Joe's, lazy sleeping-in weekends ... The apartment had been cramped, the future completely precarious.
He'd never been so happy. He'd never been in love before. Really in love. All the goofy symptoms his friends had displayed back in high school — the vacant grins, the humming of mindless pop songs out loud without realizing it — he had exhibited for the first time at age twenty-three.
"Oh. My. God."
Gina's cheeks had turned a chalky white.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Another fish tank catastrophe in New Hampshire. The third one this week." She frantically tapped out a missive on the screen's keyboard. "An orthodontist's office this time. The Perfect Pride people are in a panic."
He frowned. This must have to do with an account she did PR for. "I thought Perfect Pride made dog food, cat food ... stuff like that."
Her lips tightened. "Fish food would fall under the category 'stuff like that.'"
"Oh." He tilted his head. "I had some goldfish die when I was a kid. I forgot to put drops in the water or something."
"This isn't about drops. It's about Perfect Pride Fish Flakes. And these weren't crappy little feeder fish you win at a street fair; these were exquisite tropical fish that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I can't believe this is happening — and now, of all times." She smiled tightly and took a sharp breath. "I need to draft a release, okay? Read your magazine and chill. I'll come up for air in a minute."
He was going to remind her that they were on vacation, but that might have pushed her over the edge. Instead, seeing his chance to stretch his legs before the drink cart came up, he stood and headed to the back of the plane. At Meredith's row, he noted the empty window seat. In the middle, Janie sat reading the article on Wisconsin. Looking up from a picture of a Holstein, she darted a quick, suspicious, accusatory glance at him.
Excerpted from Summer Days by LISA JACKSON, Elizabeth Bass, Holly Chamberlin, MARY CARTER. Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Bass. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAlso By ...,
RETURN TO HAMPTON BEACH,
HIS BRIDE TO BE,