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.
Delaney drove the handful of miles between her small condo and her father’s house. As she got closer to the house where she’d grown up, the streets became more and more familiar. She could point to restaurants, corner stores and the school and remember specific events. The park where she’d played softball. The movie theater where a boy had first held her hand. The deli where she and her dad had gone every Wednesday night to get takeout. Much of Seattle was changing but her old neighborhood had thus far been spared. She knew gentrification was coming but hoped it would hold off for a while. It was nice to know that some things didn’t change.
As she pulled onto her street, she slowed. Between the two stop signs there were about thirty homes. When she’d been a kid, she’d known the names of every family, had hung out at most of their houses. Her mother had died during childbirth so Delaney had never known her but that didn’t mean she’d grown up without maternal influence. Instead she’d had about thirty moms all looking out for her. Screwing up and getting away with it hadn’t been an option. There were too many watchful, caring sets of eyes.
She parked in front of her father’s house, her BMW out of place in the working-class neighborhood. For the thousandth time Delaney thought she should sell it and replace it with something more…ordinary. The four-wheel-drive sedan was a reminder of her old life. She’d been so proud when she’d bought it with her own money. Tim had wanted her to get something sensible—like a small SUV. That was a car for a growing family. They’d compromised, with her promising to sell the BMW when they got married and started having kids. Something that had never happened, she thought, stepping out of the car.
A minivan pulled up next to her. Delaney smiled when she recognized her friend.
“Hey, you,” she called, stepping close to the vehicle.
Chelsea, a pretty brunette with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, grinned at her. “You here to see your dad?”
“I am. How’s it going with you?”
“Busy!” She nodded at the infant and toddler, both in their car seats behind her. “We have a doctor’s appointment and I’m running late. I can’t remember the last time I showered and the in-laws are coming over tonight. It’s card night.” She sighed. “We have to get together and catch up. Say yes like you mean it.”
“I do mean it,” Delaney told her.
Chelsea rolled up her window and waved as she headed down the street.
Delaney watched her go. A few years ago, she had assumed she would be living a life just like Chelsea’s herself. Married with a couple of kids, in-laws dropping by on a regular basis. Tim had talked about it all the time—what they would name their kids, what kind of tent camper they would buy and where they would drive to on their vacations. His dreams had all been the kind most people could relate to—getting married, having a family, putting his kids through college and living in the same house until he was too old to manage the stairs.
She’d wanted those dreams, too. Had told herself she would be happy when it finally happened. Only she’d been the one to take a different path from everyone she knew. First getting her college degree in finance, then taking a job at Boeing. She’d moved up in the company, had moved away from the neighborhood—only a few miles, but still a world away. She’d been the one to buy a condo on her own, and the BMW. Her dreams had been bigger than Tim’s. Now, nearly eighteen months after his death, she wondered if he’d realized that and, if he had, what he’d thought about it.
She circled her car and opened the passenger door. The tiny kitten was asleep in the cardboard carrier the veterinary office had given her. The vet had guessed the kitten to be nine or ten weeks old. Weaned, but still a baby. Underweight, female and uninjured. His guess had been that she’d been abandoned. The staff had fed her after they’d checked her out and now she was sleeping off her feast.
“You’re going to need a name,” Delaney murmured. Picking one out would be fun for Keira, and a distraction from the pain of her recovery. She might not have any serious injuries, but she was going to be sore for a while.
Delaney carried the sleeping kitten up to the front door. The house had been built back in the 1940s, but modernized over the years. A ramp led from the driveway to the front door. Delaney took the stairs, then glanced at the specially modified van parked by the ramp. Her dad had come a long way, she thought, grateful for his recovery. She knocked once, then let herself in the unlocked front door.
“Hi,” she called. “It’s me.”
“Hi, pumpkin,” her dad called. “We’re back here.”
Back here meant the kitchen, Delaney thought with a smile. Because that was where everyone always was in this house.
The kitchen was large and open, more great room than just a space to prepare meals. There was a big table in the middle, a wood-burning fireplace in the corner and a couple of worn sofas by the back windows. On the opposite wall were the cabinets, the stove and a large island.
When her father saw her, he grinned and wheeled toward her. “How’s my best girl?”
Phil Holbrook was a broad-shouldered, well-muscled man in his midfifties. Despite his inability to walk, he kept himself in shape and never let on that he found his wheelchair a problem.
“I’m good, Dad.” She leaned over to hug him, then handed him the carrier. “This is the unexpected little friend I mentioned.”
Beryl, a petite blonde two years older than Phil, came out from around the island and took the carrier. “Oh, she’s precious. How old is she?”
“The vet thinks nine or ten weeks. She was probably abandoned.”
Beryl looked at Phil. “Oh, honey, a homeless kitten.”
“No,” Phil said mildly. “We’re not getting a kitten. This one already has a home.”
“But what about another homeless kitten?”
“We’re going to start traveling. We’ve got that European cruise booked for September. What would we do with a cat?”
Beryl looked pleadingly at Delaney. “Maybe you could keep her.”
“Oh, I’m so staying out of this,” she said with a laugh.
“Travel,” Phil said mildly. “Lots and lots of travel.”
Beryl mock pouted. “I hate it when you’re sensible.”
“No, you don’t.”
She lightly kissed him. “No, I don’t.”
About the Author
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.