Saturday Excerpt: The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan

Happy Saturday everyone! Are you ready to sit back and relax with a great book? The Summer List combines the best of coming of age fiction and family life stories, with a cast of characters that you’ll adore. Keep reading to find out more about the book and read an excerpt!

About The Summer List:

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart…

Mesmerizing and unforgettable, Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List is about losing and recapturing the person who understands you best—and the unbreakable bonds of girlhood.

Harlequin | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | iBooks | Goodreads

***

June 2016

The invitation came on a Saturday.

I was taking Jett for a walk, and she was frantic with anticipation, nails skittering on the lobby’s tile floor, black fur spiking up so she looked more like a little dragon than a Lab.

“If you calm down I can do this faster, lady,” I said as I high-stepped to free myself from the leash she’d wrapped around my ankles. “Off.”

She retreated, settling under the bank of mailboxes. But right when I got my letters out, she sprang up and butted my wrist with her head. Perfect aim, perfect timing.

“Leave it, Joan Jett. Devious girl.” I tried to maintain the stern voice we learned in Practical Skills Training but couldn’t help laughing as I collected my mail from the floor. A typical assortment. White, business-sized bills. A Sushi Express menu. A slender donation form for Goodwill.

Then—not typical—a hot-pink envelope.

It had fallen facedown, revealing a sticker centered over the triangular flap: a mermaid. In pearls and sunglasses. Holding a sign saying You’re Invited!

I assumed it was for the tween girl who lived in #1. I was #7, so there were sometimes mix-ups. I was halfway down the hall to her family’s unit when I flipped the envelope over, preparing to slide it under their door.

It was for me.

Ms. Laura Christie, 7 Pacific View, San Francisco, CA 94115. No return address.

But I knew who it was from.

I knew because of the mermaid sticker, which now made sense, and from the surge of something close to happiness in my chest.

I ripped the envelope open and pulled out a photo of two grinning 1950s girls in pajamas. Over their rollered heads, in black ballpoint, she had printed Coeur-de-Lune. My hometown.

Then dates—Thurs. June 23–Sun. June 26. Less than three weeks away.

Below that it said:

 

Scavenger hunt! Crank calls!

Manicures!

Trio of cookie dough!

But seriously, please come. We’re supposed to be older and wiser. (35—how did it happen?) I promise it will be ok. No RSVP necessary.

Casey

 

Casey Katherine Shepherd. I hadn’t seen her since we were eighteen.

When I ran into people from Coeur-de-Lune they inevitably asked me about Casey, and I always said, “We drifted.” They would nod, as if this was the most natural thing in the world. People drifted.

In my case it’d be more accurate to say I’d swum away. As fast as I could, trying my hardest not to look back.

I slid the card into its torn pink envelope and turned it over again, my thumb smoothing the top edge of the sticker, where it had curled up slightly.

I promise it will be ok, she’d written.

(35—how did it happen?)

I held the invitation over the recycling basket, pausing a second before letting it flutter into the mess of junk mail. I waited for the soft rustle it made on landing before I let Jett tug me to the door.

It was cool and sunny, a rare reprieve from San Francisco’s usual June Gloom.

Jett headed right on the sidewalk out of habit. Saturdays we always strolled to Lafayette Park, hitting up her favorite leisurely sniff stops on the way. But today I pulled gently on the leash, and she turned, surprised, as I led her to a crosswalk in the opposite direction, charging uphill toward Lyon Street. I needed the steep climb, something to clear my head.

Why now, Casey? After seventeen years?

My childhood home in Coeur-de-Lune was now a vacation rental, managed by efficient strangers. I’d never gone back. But my mother kept a buzzing gossip line into her church women from town, and gave me sporadic updates on Casey’s life.

She always brought Casey up when I was lulled into complacency. When we’d had a surprisingly peaceful afternoon together. When we were outside on her balcony, or sharing a piece of her peach pie like other mothers and daughters did.

Only then would she jab, a master fencer going for the unprotected sliver of my heart.

The first update, when I was twenty—Casey Shepherd dropped out of college. Back living with that mother in town.

That must be nice for them, I’d said, not meeting her eyes.

A few years later—Casey Shepherd bought the bookstore. Moronic.

Might as well have thrown her money in the lake.

I was in her kitchen that morning, unloading groceries into her retirement-sized pantry. Macaroni, crackers, mushroom soup. Hands moving smoothly from bag to shelf, making sure the labels faced out.

That’ll be interesting, I’d said. My eyes were trained on my mother’s well-organized shelves, but they saw Casey’s bookcase, crammed with her beloved trashy paperbacks. Fat, dog-eared copies of Lace and Queenie and Princess Daisy.

After the bookstore news I didn’t hear anything about Casey for a long time. I had men in my life, a few friends I met for glasses of wine. I was fine. Settled. Lucky. And able to keep my face blank when my mother said, three years ago:

Casey Shepherd has a child. A girl. Adopted, foster child, something. Hmph. Surprised anyone would let a child into that house. That moth- er’s still there, you know.

I was thirty-two then, and after nearly a decade of blessed si- lence on the topic of the Shepherds, I could meet my mother’s eyes and say evenly, Casey always liked kids.

It was the first time I’d said her name out loud since high school.

I began to run, an easy jog.

Was it because of our ages? Was thirty-five the number at which a goofy card could fix everything?

(35—How did it happen?), she’d written, in that familiar, nearly illegible penmanship. Her cursive had always been sloppy, with big capitals.

Casey’s mother, Alex, had gotten into handwriting analysis one summer. According to Alex’s book, Casey was energetic and loyal, I was creative and romantic, and Alex was an aesthete with a passionate nature. If there had been something in how we looped our Ls or curved our Cs that hinted at what was to come, at less flattering traits, we’d overlooked it.

Alex would be there, if I went. Spinning around as if everything was the same, raving about her latest obsession. Celtic runes or cooking with grandfather grains. Whatever she happened to be into that week.

I sped up, though the grade was now more than forty-five degrees. One of those legendary San Francisco hills, perilous to skateboarders and parallel-parkers. Jett’s leash was slack, not its usual taut water-skiing line dragging me forward. But she pushed on loyally at my side, the plastic bags tied to her leash flapping and whistling.

Why, Casey?

Wind-sprint pace now, sloppier with each stride.

Maybe she was bored and wanted to see what I’d do if she dared me to visit.

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