Saturday Excerpt: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery
The latest release from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is here! A touching story of friendship and sisterhood, The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is a can’t-miss summer read.
About The Summer of Sunshine and Margot:
As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?
Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.
Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!
Social interactions fell into two categories—easy or awkward. Easy was knowing what to say and do, and how to act. Easy was witty small talk or an elegant compliment. Awk- ward social interactions, on the other hand, were things like sneezing in your host’s face or stepping on the cat or spilling red wine on a white carpet. Or any carpet, for that matter. Margot Baxter prided herself on knowing how to make any situation fall into the easy category. Professionally, of course. In her professional life, she totally kicked butt. Personally—not so much. If she was being completely honest, she would have to admit that on most days her personal life fell firmly in the awkward category, which was why she never mixed business and pleasure and rarely bothered with pleasure at all. If it wasn’t going to go well, why waste the time?
But work was different. Work was where the magic happened and she was the one behind the curtain, moving all the levers. Not in a bad way, she added silently. It was just that she was about empowering her clients—helping them realize it was all about confidence, and sometimes finding confidence required a little help.
She turned onto the street where her nav system directed her, then blinked twice as she stared at the huge double gates stretching across a freeway-wide driveway. She’d been told the private residence had originally been a monastery built in the 1800s, but she hadn’t expected it to be so huge. She’d been thinking more “extra-big house with a guest cottage and maybe a small orchard.” What she faced instead was a three-story, Spanish- style former church/monastery with two turrets, acres of gardens and an actual parking lot for at least a dozen cars.
“Who are these people?” she asked out loud, even though she already knew the answer. Before interviewing a potential client, she always did her research. Overdid it, some would say, a criticism she could live with. Margot liked being thorough. And on time. And tidy. And, according to some, annoying.
Margot pressed the call button on the electronic pad mounted perpendicular to the gate and waited until a surprisingly clear voice said, “May I help you?”
“I’m Margot Baxter. I have an appointment with Mr. Alec Mcnicol.”
“Yes, Ms. Baxter. He’s expecting you.”
The gates opened smoothly and Margot drove through onto the compound. She parked in one of the marked spots, then took a moment to breathe and collect her thoughts.
She could do this, she told herself. She was good at her job. She liked helping people. Everything was going to be fine. She was a professional, she was trained and she was calm. Calm–ish, she added silently, then reached for the glasses she’d put on the seat next to her briefcase.
Margot stepped out of her car and smoothed the front of her slightly too-big jacket. The outfit—gray suit, sensible pumps, minimal makeup—was designed to make her appear professional and competent. The glasses, while unnecessary, did a lot to add gravitas to her appearance. She was thirty-one, but in shorts and a concert T-shirt, she could pass for nineteen. Even more de- pressing, in said shorts and T-shirt, she looked ditzy and incompetent and just a little bit dumb, and that didn’t reassure anyone.
She walked up the stone path to the enormous front door. Al- though she knew nothing about Spanish architecture, she wanted to trace the heavy carved wood doors where angels watched over Christ as he carried the cross toward a hill. Yup, the big-as-a-stadium building really had once been a monastery and apparently the monks had been sincere in their worship.
Before she could get her fill of the amazing craftsmanship, the doors opened and a tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired man nodded at her.
“Ms. Baxter? I’m Alec Mcnicol. It’s nice to meet you.” “Thank you.”
She stepped inside and they shook hands. She had a brief impression of two-story ceilings and intricate stained glass windows before Alec was leading her down a hallway into a large office lined with bookshelves and framed maps of lands long forgotten. She did her best not to gawk at her surroundings. While she was used to working with the rich and famous, this was different. The books made her want to inhale deeply to capture their musty smell and the maps had her itching to trace a path
along the Silk Road.
She’d taken a step to do just that when her host cleared his throat.
She glanced at him and smiled. “Sorry. Your office is incredible. The maps are hand drawn?”
He looked slightly startled, his eyebrows coming together in an attractive frown. “They are.”
She looked at them one last time. If she got the job, she would have to ask permission to study the framed drawings. She reluctantly pulled her attention away from the distractions around her and took a seat across from him at the wide desk.
When he was settled, he said, “As I explained on the phone, you’re here to help my mother.”
“Please call me Alec.”
She nodded. “I’m Margot, and yes, I understand she will be my client.”
“Excellent. She and I decided it would be easier if I conducted the preliminary interview to see if you and she are suited.”
Margot relaxed. Hiring someone like her was often stressful. Her services were only required when something had gone very wrong in a person’s life. Or if the potential client was anticipating something going wrong. Or was overwhelmed. Very few people looked around at their happiest moment and thought, Hey, I should find someone to teach me social etiquette and how not to be odd/uncomfortable/weird or just plain nervous. There was always a trigger that made a client realize he or she needed Margot’s services and it rarely grew out of an uplifting event.
Alec glanced at the papers on his desk. They were arranged in neat piles, which Margot appreciated. How could anyone find anything on a messy desk? Her boss, a man whose desk was al- ways covered with folders and notes and half-eaten sandwiches, was forever sending her articles on how messy desks were a sign of creativity and intelligence, but Margot would not be swayed in her opinion. Disorder was just plain wrong.
“You know who my mother is?” Alec asked, his voice more resigned than curious.
Margot filed away the tone to review later. The dynamic be- tween mother and son could be significant to her work.
“I do. Bianca Wray was born in 1960. Her father died when she was an infant and she was raised by her mother until she was twelve.” Margot frowned. “Why she was put in foster care isn’t clear, but that’s where she ended up.”
She f lashed Alec a smile. “She was literally discovered while drinking a milk shake with her girlfriends, propagating the myth that in Los Angeles anyone, at any moment, is just one lucky break away from being famous.”
“You’ve discovered my deepest wish in life,” Alec said drily.
“Mine, too,” Margot said, allowing her mouth to curve slightly at the corners. “After a career in modeling, your mother turned to acting. She preferred quirky roles to the obvious in- genue parts that would have helped her have a more successful career. She had one son—you—when she was twenty-four. She and your father, a Swiss banker, never married, but you were close to both your parents.”
As she spoke, she sensed tension in Alec’s shoulders as if he were uncomfortable with her reciting the facts of his personal life. He might not be her client, but he was her client’s son and therefore of note, she thought, but didn’t bother explaining her- self. Her methods were excellent and if he couldn’t see that, then this was not the job for her.