Saturday Excerpt: The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards
Nothing makes the weekend quite like an unforgettable read. Dive into The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards with this excerpt!
About The Swallow’s Nest:
Three women fight for the chance to raise the child they’ve all come to love
When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.
Toby is Graham’s darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.
A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.
All of you know how I’ve longed for this day. One year ago, my husband, Graham, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. You’ve been with me as he progressed through treatment, as our spirits soared and plummeted, even with me during my absences here. I can’t count the encouraging emails I’ve received, the suggestions, the promises of prayers. Now, today, we will celebrate the best possible news. Graham’s cancer is in remission, and he is really, at last, on the road to recovery.
Before this I never considered how I would adjust to news as horrifying as a cancer diagnosis, but now, one year later, I know. Life moves on and so do we. Graham and I came through this year stronger and closer, and my gratitude for your support knows no bounds. Mahalo, the Hawaiian word for thank you, doesn’t begin to cover what I’m feeling today. I wish you could be right here to share every moment of today’s celebration party with us, but watch for photos and recipes. In the mean- time, here are the instructions for welcoming a loved one with a flip-flop sign—or “slippahs” as we call them in my home state.
Lilia Swallow was on speaking terms with reality, but only just. For the past year she had questioned everything she believed in, while trying to make sense of the disasters raining down from above, the way Haimi, the yellow Lab of her childhood, had pawed and rattled coconuts when they fell from palm trees in her family’s yard on Kauai. In the end, unlike Haimi, she had concluded that while life often hides something delicious, too often the best parts remain out of sight and unattainable.
“And Haimi never once cracked a coconut.”
Regan Donnelly was looking on as Lilia painstakingly shot photos of a moisture-beaded glass pitcher nearly overflowing with pineapple chunks, citrus slices and a haze of red wine f loat- ing on top of white. At Lilia’s words her friend cocked her head. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Lilia hadn’t realized she’d spoken—or more accurately, mum- bled. She had begun talking to herself during the long stretches when her husband was in the hospital. She had been so lonely, she had needed the sound of her own voice.
“Nothing. I was just thinking about happy endings and fail- ures.”
Regan sing-songed in a high-pitched voice. “Lily-ah, Lily- ah, you are being Silly-ah!” She grinned. “Today is your happy ending.”
“I wish I’d never told you my brothers used to say that.”
“But you did.”
Lilia straightened and stretched before she moved the pitcher to the back of the counter where sun from a large window over the sink wouldn’t strike it quite so directly. She turned the han- dle to one side and took another shot.
“Well, if nothing else, my pineapple sangria is a happy end- ing. I worked on and off for a week on this recipe. I think you’ll like it. My readers will, too.”
Regan would not be deterred. “Graham’s in remission. His last two CT scans were clear. You’re afraid to be happy, aren’t you? You’re afraid the gods will descend and whack you all over again.”
Lilia sent her just the faintest smile, because as different as they were, Regan knew her inside and out. Although they were the same five foot five and both twenty-eight, Regan was fair- skinned with a collar-length bob the color of butterscotch. Her pale green eyes had been Lilia’s inspiration the last time she had painted this kitchen. In contrast Lilia’s hair was nearly black and waved down her back, and her skin turned a distinctive brown in the sun. She had what novelists liked to describe as “almond eyes,” in her case the color of almonds, although the crease of her eyelids also hinted at whatever Asian ancestor had bequeathed them to her.
She decided the pitcher had finished its moment in the spot- light and stepped away. “I come from superstitious people. This morning I blogged about how happy I am. I don’t want to jinx Graham’s recovery.”
“We Irish can match you Hawaiians, superstition for super- stition. But I think you’re allowed to be happy. His doctor told you relapses occur quickly, right? It’s been a year since the ini- tial cancer diagnosis, but he’s here today, having a great time.”
It had been a year marked by nearly insurmountable hills and valleys. Lilia was still too exhausted not to question fate.
“My tutu trotted out an old Hawaiian proverb whenever things went wrong. ‘He ihona, he pi’ina, he kaolo.’ It means we go down, we go up, we walk on a level road. A level road is all I’m asking for. Graham, too.”
“He’s looking so much better. Hair’s appealing on a man, don’t you think?”
Lilia allowed herself to laugh. “We weren’t sure what color it would be after chemo, but I think it looks the way it did before he lost it, only shorter.”
Graham, dark blond hair a couple of inches now, was standing outside their sun room door with newly arrived party goers, receiving good wishes. Employees and clients from Encompass Construction, the design-build firm he had created from the ground up, were shoulder to shoulder with neighbors, college friends and some of Lilia’s clients, too. But in the middle of a conversation with another young man, he stopped and turned, looking straight at her, as if he knew she was talking about him. Then he smiled.
For a moment she fell back in time to the first day Graham Randolph had smiled at her. She’d been ten; he’d been eleven. She’d been barefoot, and he’d worn stiff leather loafers with heavy dark socks. Until that moment she’d written him off as sullen and self-absorbed. Then she fell in his swimming pool trying to make an impossible Frisbee catch.
Remembering that now she winked at him, and his smile widened before he turned away.
Graham, even after months of chemotherapy, after losing all his hair and almost twenty pounds, was still easy on the eye. He was handsome in a prep school way, even though he was still puffy from steroids and sported nearly invisible chemo ports in his chest and scalp. Once again his blue-gray eyes were rimmed with dark lashes shaded by darker brows. Despite his illness he was still broad-shouldered and narrow-hipped, and today, as usual, he was clad in scruffy jeans and a T-shirt—the more or less official dress of the Silicon Valley.
Best of all he was alive and hers.
“Do you ever get tired of this?” Regan swept a manicured hand at the pitcher and at a platter of hot and sour wings that Lilia had photographed first. The wings weren’t quite finished, but sometimes food photographed best when it was still slick with sauce that later would darken in the oven.
Lilia set down her camera so she could slide the wings back to a foil-lined baking sheet. “As much as I’d like to forget my website this once, I don’t have the luxury. These days my on- line presence is the largest portion of our income.”
“Didn’t readership grow during Graham’s illness?”
The larger audience had surprised Lilia, but so many people had hung on every word she’d carefully crafted about Graham’s illness. Prayers had been said all over the world. Uplifting emails had flooded her inbox.