AVAILABLE JULY 10TH 2018/ HQN Books
Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old.
Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.
But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can’t figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love.
But love isn’t Malcolm’s strong suit… until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.
In this emotional, funny and heartfelt story, Susan Mallery masterfully explores the definition of a modern family–blended by surprise, not by choice–and how those complicated relationships can add unexpected richness to life.
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Santiago’s mother answered before he could knock.
“All your cars are loud,” she said with a laugh. “You were never one for subtle, were you?”
He gave her a hug and kiss before following her into the bright kitchen decorated in various shades of yellow. As usual, it was scary clean, with nothing out of place. His condo was clean, too, but only because he was rarely there and he had a cleaning service. He handed his mom one of the lattes before opening the pastry box. He got in a single bite before it began.
“Are you eating right? Do you get enough water? You’ve never liked to drink water, but it’s good for your kidneys and keeps you regular.”
“Mom,” he began, not knowing why he bothered. What was it about women over fifty? They just said what they wanted. He tried to summon a little indignation, but he couldn’t. Not about his mom. She’d earned whatever attitude she had now through years of pain, sacrifice and hard work.
She sipped her coffee and leaned against the counter. “Are you losing weight?”
“I weigh exactly the same as I did last time you saw me and last year and the year before.”
“Are you getting sleep? You stay out too late with those women. And why don’t I get to meet any of them? You never bring a girl home.”
“You told me not to unless I was serious.”
“That’s because you go through them like you’re in a revolving door. Look at Paulo. He’s your younger brother and he’s been married twelve years.”
Santiago took another bite of his cinnamon roll, thereby avoiding answering the question. He loved his brother, and his sister-in-law was one of his favorite people on the planet, but there was no way he wanted his brother to be his role model. Paulo had gotten his girlfriend pregnant when they’d both been seniors in high school. They’d married quickly, had their kid and another one two years later.
Paulo had gotten a job on the assembly line at Alberto’s Alfresco and never left. Santiago had tried to talk to him about going to college, or learning a skill but Paulo said he preferred to work the line. He’d moved up to supervisor and that was enough for him.
Hanna, Paulo’s wife, had stayed home with the kids until their youngest was five and then had gone to community college. Now she was in her final year of her nursing program and would graduate in a few months.
“We each have our own path, Mom.”
“You don’t have a path,” his mother grumbled.
He winced. “Please don’t say I have to get married. Valia already lectured me when I stopped by the bakery.”
“Good for her. I worry about you.”
He stood and crossed to her, then kissed the top of her head. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m fine.”
The sound of running feet on the walkway offered salvation. Santiago released his mother just as the front door flew open and his niece and nephew raced toward him.
“The zoo opens at nine thirty,” twelve-year-old Emma said. “I have a list of all the baby animals we have to visit. I’m monitoring their development.”
“Of course you are.”
Noah, her ten-year-old brother, scoffed, “She thinks she’s so smart.”
“I am smart,” Emma told him. “I’m going to be a veterinarian. What are you going to be?”
“I’m going to play football!”
Santiago eyed his skinny frame. From what he could tell, Noah took after his mother in build, but maybe the kid would blossom. Or learn to be a kicker. He grabbed them both and squeezed tight enough to make them squeal.
“We’ll look at the baby animals and the bears and the lions,” he said. “Maybe one of you will misbehave and the lion can have you for dinner.”
“Oh, Santiago.” Emma shook her head. “You always threaten to throw us in but you’d never do that. You love us.”
He walked back to the table and sank into his seat. “How can you know that? You’re growing up so fast. It’s depressing.”
“I’ll be thirteen in ten months.”
He looked at his mom. “I don’t like this. Make it stop.”
“Children grow up, Santiago. Sometimes they grow up and get married and have children of their own.”
He faked a smile and thought about banging his head against the table. What was going on today with the women in his life? With his luck, Emma would want to fix him up with one of her teachers. He was happily single. He dated plenty. Some would say too much. He liked his life. One day he would meet the right one and then everything would change but until then, why mess with perfection?
Noah grabbed a jelly donut then slid onto Santiago’s lap. “Can we go to the Lego store after the zoo?”
Emma perked up. “And the bookstore?”
“You spoil them,” his mother murmured.
He looked at her. “And?”
She smiled. “You’re a very good uncle.”
He winked. “Thanks, Mom.”
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