He parked, then got out and looked around. The sky was a deep blue, with not a single cloud. There were unfamiliar trees and bushes, probably native, with several palm trees looking as out of place as he felt. When he inhaled, he smelled the ocean. The house was only a few blocks from the Pacific, and he would guess several of the balconies he’d seen had a perfect view.
A surprisingly normal back door opened, and a tall, thin woman stepped out. She had short white hair and a cautious but steady gait.
She approached him, her face bright with anticipation, her smile friendly.
“Mason, at last. You’ve been very elusive.”
Mason was wary around people he didn’t know, and he’d been chided all his life for being slow to warm up to strangers. But Lillian Holton radiated an open welcome that promised acceptance and understanding.
He took her outstretched hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Lillian.”
She studied him. “I can see a little of your Uncle Leo in you.”
Given how distantly connected they had been, he doubted that.
She linked arms with him. “Come inside. Salvia prepared a snack. She works here five days a week to clean and look after me, as well as oversee the maids and gardeners. She’s very excited to meet you. We’ve talked of nothing else for days.”
As they walked toward the house, he was aware of her fragility. Her bones felt as hollow as a bird’s. He shouldn’t be surprised. She was over ninety.
They went through a big mudroom and into a massive kitchen with white plaster walls and dark wood beams. The white cabinets had to be fifty years old, and the countertops were some fancy tile. The appliances were new—stainless steel and nicer than anything he’d ever used. Not that he cooked much.
She showed him into a large room off the kitchen. Big windows opened onto a lush walled garden. A large wooden table stood in the center, surrounded by eight chairs. A pitcher of lemonade and two glasses stood next to a plate of cookies. Two chairs were occupied by sleeping cats.
“Please,” she said, motioning to a tall-backed chair with a woven seat. She sat opposite him and poured them both a drink.
“How delightful to have you here at last,” she said, passing him his lemonade. “I thought you were never going to take me up on my invitation.”
“You were persistent.”
“I can be.”
Her eyes were pale blue, but he would guess they’d been much darker when she’d been younger. Her face was lined, but in a way that made him think she’d smiled and laughed a lot in her life.
Her first letter had arrived while he’d been stationed in Iraq. He’d ignored it. The second had followed two weeks later, then a third. He’d finally answered, mostly in self-defense. Otherwise, she was going to drown him in paper.
She’d explained that they were distantly related through her late husband and that he would be inheriting their house after she died. This house.
“If I’d done drugs, I would swear I was having a flashback,” he admitted, trying to take it all in.
“She does take some getting used to. But you’re here, and you have all the time you need.” She gave him an impish smile. “I don’t plan on dying for a long time.”
“I’m glad. It’s going to take a long time to get used to this.”
She reached over and placed her hands on his. “You’re going to love it here. The weather is perfect, and you’ll be able to explore at your leisure. She has many secrets, as any female of a certain age should.”
Okay, this was getting weirder by the minute. He glanced longingly toward the door. Maybe letting go of his rental house in Texas had been a mistake. Only Lillian had guilted him into an indefinite stay while he “got to know his inheritance” and went through her late husband’s research materials.
About The Summer Getaway
Publisher: HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022)
Hardcover: 416 pages
One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.
With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.
But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.
About Susan Mallery
#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.