The Comeback Summer480
The Comeback Summer480
Hannah and Libby need a miracle. The PR agency they inherited from their grandmother is losing clients left and right, and the sisters are devastated at the thought of closing. The situation seems hopeless—until in walks Lou, an eccentric self-help guru who is looking for a new PR agency. Her business could solve all their problems—but there’s a catch. Whoever works with Lou must complete a twelve-week challenge as part of her “Crush Your Comfort Zone” program.
Hannah, whose worst nightmare is making small talk with strangers, is challenged to go on twelve first dates. Libby, who once claimed to have period cramps for four weeks straight to get out of gym class, is challenged to compete in an obstacle course race. The challenges begin with Hannah helping Libby train and Libby managing the dating app on her sister’s behalf. They’re both making good progress—until Hannah’s first love rolls into town, and Libby accidentally falls for a guy she’s supposed to be setting up with her sister.
Things get even more complicated when secrets come to light, making the sisters question the one relationship they’ve always counted on: each other. With their company’s future on the line, they can’t afford to fail. But in trying to make a comeback to honor their grandmother, are they pushing themselves down the wrong path?
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I was two years old when my sister, Hannah, was born, so in theory I shouldn't remember that day, but I do. Or maybe I've just been told the story so many times that it's cemented itself in my memory. Whatever the reason, I can still see it clearly in my mind:
Walking down the long hall at the hospital, my black patent-leather Mary Janes clicking on the linoleum and my sweaty hand holding tightly to my grandmother's. GiGi led me into the room, where my mom sat on the bed holding a little bundle in her arms. My dad stood next to her, a proud smile on his face as he gazed at his new daughter.
And it hit me: this small person had just replaced me.
But then GiGi helped me hold the baby, and something swelled inside me, warm and bright, as I stared down at her little red face and big brown eyes. My dad said, What do you think of your new sister?
And I smiled and said, I'm gonna take such good care of her.
Not that I've been doing such a good job of it lately. In fact, I've been struggling to manage all my responsibilities. Take this morning: not only did I sleep through both of my alarms and wake up to find a present on the floor from Mr. Darcy, my cat, but thanks to the lead foot of the 146 bus driver, there's a coffee stain the size of Lake Michigan on my shirt.
Not a good look for the dreaded "we need to talk" video call that I'm supposed to be leading in less than fifteen minutes with Mr. Rooney, CEO of a multimillion-dollar underwear company and one of our last remaining clients.
I wonder what GiGi would do-not that she'd ever be so clumsy as to spill. Although, knowing our grandmother, she probably kept an entire spare wardrobe at the office, "just in case."
The woman was prepared for everything, and I'd give anything to be able to call and ask her for advice. Not about my unfortunate coffee mishap, but about how to save the business she built from the ground up more than fifty years ago.
The Freedman Group was our grandmother's pride and joy. As the first woman to own a PR firm in Chicago, Ruth Freedman didn't just break the glass ceiling-she shattered it, becoming "one of the most in-demand public relations experts in the country," according to the Chicago Tribune. But in the last three years since she died suddenly of an aneurism and left the business to my little sister, Hannah, and me, things have gone downhill. Fast.
Which is why we can't lose the UnderRooney business. I glance down at my watch-a vintage Rolex GiGi left me-and I can practically hear her saying, More is lost from indecision than making the wrong decision, bubeleh.
Oh, screw it.
I take a quick detour into Bloomingdale's and grab the first scarf I see. The bright floral design is totally not me, but maybe Not Me will have better luck than I'm having today.
My palms and pits are sweaty with stress by the time I rush back outside. The sun is shining, there isn't a single cloud in the clear blue sky, and only a handful of tourists are milling about on Michigan Avenue. It's one of those late-spring days that hold the promise of summer just a few weeks away, which would make me happy if there wasn't doom and gloom waiting for me upstairs.
I push through the revolving doors to our building and hurry over to the elevator bank as my phone dings with an alert: our ten thirty meeting is starting.
I'm officially late-at least Hannah will be upstairs already. My little sister wakes up every day at six o'clock on the dot (with only one alarm) so she can run for an hour before coming into the office. She says it helps her handle her nervous energy-which, I've heard, is a benefit of exercise. If only I was the kind of person who enjoyed breaking a sweat. Sweets are more my thing.
Just before the elevator doors close, a hand slips through the crack, forcing them back open. I glance down at my watch and curse-it's 10:31.
When I look back up, I gasp.
"It's you," I accidentally say as Hot Office Guy steps inside. I've admired him from a distance since the first time we crossed paths in the lobby two months ago. And now he's here, like a gift from the universe, looking like a snack in dark jeans and a fitted blazer. His brown hair is mussed; I wonder if he overslept this morning, too.
"It's you," he says back to me. His voice sounds even sexier than I imagined it in all the conversations we've had in my head. He steps closer, and I can smell wintergreen on his breath.
Hot Office Guy's blue-gray eyes drop down and I try to suck in my stomach. His lips quirk in a half smile as he picks up the tail of my new scarf. I hold my breath as he gives it a yank, pulling me toward him. I brace myself, hands on his broad chest, then slowly tilt my head up.
My heartbeat quickens as his lips find mine. They're full and firm, and he tastes like coffee and vanilla-the real kind, not the sugar-free stuff I drink.
His hands are on the small of my back, pulling me closer as he deepens the kiss. I relish the sensation of his skin, rough with the stubble of a few days' growth, and my mind wanders to how it would feel against other parts of my body . . .
The elevator dings.
"Is this your floor?" he asks, and I look up.
Hot Office Guy is leaning against the other side of the elevator, looking up from his phone with mild annoyance.
"Yeah, sorry," I say, hoping my cheeks don't look as red as they feel.
As I rush out, I scold my overactive imagination. This is what I get for staying up late last night to finish the latest CLo book. Alas, my life is not a romance novel, and I must accept that I'm not meet-cute material. I was born to play the role of the chubby, clever sidekick in someone else's love story-and I'm damn good at it.
“Look who’s late,” Scott, our office manager, calls out in a singsong voice. “Your baby'sister had to start the call without you.”
I shoot him a dirty look as I hurry down the hall to the office Hannah and I share. Scott was the last hire GiGi made before she passed away, and we haven't had the heart to fire him-even though he spends most of the workday shopping online and scrolling social media. That's what you get for hiring a person whose claim to fame is going viral in a YouTube video of himself as a six-year-old.
I'm responsible for at least a dozen of the video's seventeen million views-I can't get enough of tiny Scott standing in a department store dressing room, arms crossed, declaring his mother's outfits either "great!" or "not great!" The video earned him the nickname Great Scott, which we ironically use to tease him, and which he unironically seems to enjoy.
"Bee-tee-dubs-bold move with the scarf. We like," he calls after me, reminding me of one reason we keep him around and, I imagine, the reason GiGi hired him. The man knows how to turn on the charm, and the few clients we have left love him.
Hannah's sitting at her desk, her back stiff with tension. She glances at me briefly; her face is pale and her eyes wide with barely concealed panic.
"Is there anything we can do to change your mind?" she asks Mr. Rooney, focusing on her computer screen.
I catch the tiniest wobble in her voice and feel a rush of guilt for being late. Hannah prefers to stay behind the scenes, while I handle most conversations with our clients. She's going to be an emotional wreck after this, and it's my fault. I shouldn't have left her to face this alone.
"Unfortunately, there's not," Mr. Rooney says. "But I wish you and your sister the best of luck."
My stomach drops twenty-one floors to the Chicago streets, where I'm afraid we might end up, out on our asses.
"Thank you," Hannah says to Mr. Rooney, her voice deceptively strong. She ends the call and slumps forward, head in her hands. "It's over, Libs," she says. "I'm so sorry, I tried-"
"It's not your fault," I say, rushing over to her.
"I just froze," Hannah says, and I curse myself for every detail and decision that kept me from getting here in time to help.
"What else did he say?" I ask, wondering if she reminded him that it was us-Hannah and me, not GiGi-who helped guide UnderRooneys through a nasty public scandal about their factory conditions a few years back.
"You heard most of it. He apologized, said it wasn't personal."
I scoff-it's never personal for them. Most of our former clients are old men, half of whom don't trust their business to two "little girls"-their words, not ours. The other half have retired and been replaced by slightly younger old men who have no sense of loyalty to the firm that helped make their brands household names.
The one thing all our ex-clients seem to have in common is that they're looking for a change. Which is ironic, given how much we've been trying to keep things the same. But we just don't have GiGi's magic, and I hate knowing that everything she worked for might end with us.
So much for l'dor v'dor-one of our grandmother's favorite Hebrew sayings. From generation to generation. More like from gold to dust.
"Is it as bad as I think it is?" I ask my sister.
While I bring my creativity and imagination to the table, Hannah is the analytical, business-minded one-she'll know the financial impact of this loss. Knowing her, she probably ran the numbers last night. Hannah always prepares for the worst-case scenarios.
"It's not good," she says, rubbing her temples with her fingertips; one of her headaches must be coming on, and I make a mental note to pick up some Advil for her. "I don't know how to keep us in the black without UnderRooneys."
A flash of panic hits me, and for once, I can't find the words to make things better. Hannah looks up at me with her big brown eyes and asks, "What are we going to do?"
The question takes me back two decades, when she was seven and I was nine. We were sitting on our bedroom floor, both shaken by the news that our parents were getting a divorce. Hannah looked so small in her nightgown, her knees curled into her chest, her eyes red from crying. Even though I was shocked and scared, too, I summoned a smile and said what she needed to hear: that everything would be okay.
It was true then, and it's true now.
"We're Ruth Freedman's granddaughters," I remind her, back in big-sister mode. "Nothing can stop us."
Hannah exhales in relief, and I wish there was someone to reassure me. But there isn't. There hasn't been since I was nine years old. So, I sit at my desk and turn away from my sister, hoping to hide the panic that's racing through my veins.
My digital clock reads 6:03 a.m. as I dress in the soft morning light of my bedroom. After the night I had, with one stress dream after another-my teeth fell out; I couldn't find my keys; I ended up in my high school English class buck naked-I need to run. Desperately.
My brain is often a mess of anxious thoughts, like a hundred hyperactive monkeys chattering away, and even more so after our bad news yesterday. Hopefully my morning ritual will quiet them down.
I open my sock drawer, then freeze. It looks like a raccoon has rifled through it, and my compression socks are missing-the ones I special ordered because they improve circulation and help prevent calf cramping.
My jaw clenched in frustration, I head across the hall to my sister's bedroom and open the door an inch, peering into the darkness. A Libby-shaped lump is buried under a mountain of blankets on the bed, various tchotchkes crowding the nightstand and dresser. On the floor near the foot of her bed are my socks.
Unfortunately, my sister's demon cat is perched right on top of them, his yellow eyes glinting. Libby named him Mr. Darcy because he's "aloof and proud with a heart of gold." More like vicious and cunning with a heart of malice, if you ask me. And whenever Libby takes my things, her cat guards them fiercely, for no reason other than spite.
I tiptoe into the room, careful not to wake my sister-she needs her sleep to cope with the inevitable stress we'll face today-and creep toward the dark gray cat, reaching carefully toward my socks. We lock eyes, staring at each other like two cowboys in a showdown duel. I don't even dare breathe.
Lightning fast, he swipes out a paw, and I yelp, pulling back in pain.
"Damn you to hell," I whisper.
In her bed, my sister stirs. "What're you doing?"
"Getting my socks, thief," I say. "And your devil cat just scratched me to the bone."
"C'mere, Mr. Darcy," she says, patting her bed. The cat jumps up and curls next to her, gazing at me with a smug expression.
Wincing at the pain in my hand, I straighten up. "Stop stealing my running socks. It's not my fault you haven't done your laundry in three weeks."
Her muffled voice comes from under her covers: "My feet were cold last night."
"Because you put the AC down to sixty-two!" It's true; I woke up shivering in bed.
"I sleep better in cool temperatures."
"Says the woman with six blankets piled on her," I mutter under my breath. "Don't you care about reducing our carbon footprint?"
Libby responds by giving an exaggerated fake snore, a not-so-subtle hint that she wants me to leave.
I roll my eyes and head out, then pause at the door, remembering Libby's devastated expression yesterday when she realized that UnderRooneys had dropped us. Like it was her failure, even though it was out of our control. She was a ball of worry after that, but she kept a smile on her face. So I wouldn't be worried.