An epic story of star-crossed lovers in pre-war Europe collides with a woman on the run in the swinging '60s, in another riveting novel of the Schuyler sisters from the New York Times bestselling author of Tiny Little Thing.
In the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler's problems are in a class of their own. To find a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries—the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician—she fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction.
But the car's new owner, the glamorous Annabelle Dommerich, has her own secrets: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle's life before the Second World War stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.
AN INDIE NEXT AND LIBRARY READS PICK
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
THE BEST OF SKIMMREADS 2016
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Beatriz Williams lives with her husband and children in Connecticut. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Along the Infinite Sea, Tiny Little Thing, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Hundred Summers, and Overseas. She also writes under the pseudonym Juliana Gray.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Also by Beatriz Williams
“To see all without looking; to hear all without listening.”
King of Hoteliers, Hotelier of Kings
PARIS · 1937
All you really need to know about the Paris Ritz is this: by the middle of 1937, Coco Chanel was living in a handsome suite on the third floor, and the bartender—an intuitive mixologist named Frank Meier—had invented the Bloody Mary sixteen summers earlier to cure a Hemingway hangover.
Mind you, when I arrived at Nick Greenwald’s farewell party on that hot July night, I wasn’t altogether aware of this history. I didn’t run with the Ritz crowd. Mosquitoes, my husband called them. And maybe I should have listened to my husband. Maybe no good could come from visiting the bar at the Paris Ritz; maybe you were doomed to commit some frivolous and irresponsible act, maybe you were doomed to hover around dangerously until you had drawn the blood from another human being or else had your own blood drawn instead.
But Johann—my husband—wasn’t around that night. I tiptoed in through the unfashionable Place Vendôme entrance on my brother’s arm instead, since Johann had been recalled to Berlin for an assignment of a few months that had stretched into several. In those days, you couldn’t just flit back and forth between Paris and Berlin, any more than you could flit between heaven and hell; and furthermore, why would you want to? Paris had everything I needed, everything I loved, and Berlin in 1937 was no place for a liberal-minded woman nurturing a young child and an impossible rift in her marriage. I stayed defiantly in France, where you could still attend a party for a man named Greenwald, where anyone could dine where he pleased and shop and bank where he pleased, where you could sleep with anyone who suited you, and it wasn’t a crime.
For the sake of everyone’s good time, I suppose it was just as well that my husband remained in Berlin, since Nick Greenwald and Johann von Kleist weren’t what you’d call bosom friends, for all the obvious reasons. But Nick and I were a different story. Nick and I understood each other: first, because we were both Americans living in Paris, and second, because we shared a little secret together, the kind of secret you could never, ever share with anyone else. Of all my brother’s friends, Nick was the only one who didn’t resent me for marrying a general in the German army. Good old Nick. He knew I’d had my reasons.
The salon was hot, and Nick was in his shirtsleeves, though he still retained his waistcoat and a neat white bow tie, the kind you needed a valet to arrange properly. He turned at the sound of my voice. “Annabelle! Here at last.”
“Not so very late, am I?” I said.
We kissed, and he and Charles shook hands. Not that Charles paid the transaction much attention; he was transfixed by the black-haired beauty who lounged at Nick’s side in a shimmering silver-blue dress that matched her eyes. A long cigarette dangled from her fingers. Nick turned to her and placed his hand at the small of her back. “Annabelle, Charlie. I don’t think you’ve met Budgie Byrne. An old college friend.”
We said enchantée. Miss Byrne took little notice. Her handshake was slender and lacked conviction. She slipped her arm through Nick’s and whispered in his ear, and they shimmered off together to the bar inside a haze of expensive perfume. The back of Miss Byrne’s dress swooped down almost to the point of no return, and her naked skin was like a spill of milk, kept from running over the edge by Nick’s large palm.
Charles covered his cheek with his right hand—the same hand that Miss Byrne had just touched with her limp and slender fingers—and said that bastard always got the best-looking women.
I watched Nick’s back disappear into the crowd, and I was about to tell Charles that he didn’t need to worry, that Nick didn’t really look all that happy with his companion and Charles might want to give the delectably disinterested Miss Byrne another try in an hour, but at that exact instant a voice came over my shoulder, the last voice I expected to hear at the Paris Ritz on this night in the smoldering middle of July.
“My God,” it said, a little slurry. “If it isn’t the baroness herself.”
I thought perhaps I was hallucinating, or mistaken. It wouldn’t be the first time. For the past two years, I’d heard this voice everywhere: department stores and elevators and street corners. I’d seen its owner in every possible nook, in every conceivable disguise, only to discover that the supposed encounter was only a false alarm, a collision of deluded molecules inside my own head, and the proximate cause of the leap in my blood proved to be an ordinary citizen after all. Just an everyday fellow who happened to have dark hair or a deep voice or a certain shape to the back of his neck. In the instant of revelation, I never knew whether to be relieved or disappointed. Whether to lament or hallelujah. Either way, the experience wasn’t a pleasant one, at least not in the way we ordinarily experience pleasure, as a benevolent thing that massages the nerves into a sensation of well-being.
Either way, I had committed a kind of adultery of the heart, hadn’t I, and since I couldn’t bear the thought of adultery in any form, I learned to ignore the false alarm when it rang and rang and rang. Like the good wife I was, I learned to maintain my poise during these moments of intense delusion.
So there. Instead of bolting at the slurry word baroness, I took my deluded molecules in hand and said: Surely not.
Instead of spinning like a top, I turned like a figurine on a music box, in such a way that you could almost hear the tinkling Tchaikovsky in my gears.
A man came into view, quite lifelike, quite familiar, tall and just so in his formal blacks and white points, dark hair curling into his forehead the way your lover’s hair does in your wilder dreams. He was holding a lowball glass and a brown Turkish cigarette in his right hand, and he took in everything at a glance: my jewels, my extravagant dress, the exact state of my circulation.
In short, he seemed an awful lot like the genuine article.
“There you are, you old bastard,” said Charles happily, and sacré bleu, I realized then what I already knew, that the man before me was no delusion. That the Paris Ritz was the kind of place that could conjure up anyone it wanted.
“Stefan,” I said. “What a lovely surprise.”
(And the big trouble was, I think I meant it.)
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
PALM BEACH · 1966
The Mercedes-Benz poses on the grass like a swirl of vintage black ink, like no other car in the world.
You’d never guess it to look at her, but Miss Pepper Schuyler—that woman right over there, the socialite with the golden antelope legs who’s soaking up the Florida sunshine at the other end of the courtyard—knows every glamorous inch of this 1936 Special Roadster shadowing the grass. You might regard Pepper’s pregnant belly protruding from her green Lilly shift (well, it’s hard to ignore a belly like that, isn’t it?) and the pastel Jack Rogers sandal dangling from her uppermost toe, and you think you have her pegged. Admit it! Lush young woman exudes Palm Beach class: What the hell does she know about cars?
Well, beautiful Pepper doesn’t give a damn what you think about her. She never did. She’s thinking about the car. She slides her gaze along the seductive S-curve of the right side fender, swooping from the top of the tire to the running board below the door, like a woman’s voluptuously naked leg, and her hearts beats a quarter-inch faster.
She remembers what a pain in the pert old derrière it was to repaint that glossy fender. It had been the first week of October, and the warm weather wouldn’t quit. The old shed on Cape Cod stank of paint and grease, a peculiarly acrid reek that had crept right through the protective mask and into her sinuses and taken up residence, until she couldn’t smell anything else, and she thought, What the hell am I doing here? What the hell am I thinking?
Thank God that was all over. Thank God this rare inky-black 1936 Mercedes Special Roadster is now someone else’s problem, someone willing to pay Pepper three hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of keeping its body and chrome intact against the ravages of time.
The deposit has already been paid, into a special account Pepper set up in her own name. (Her own name, her own money: now, that was a glorious feeling, like setting off for Europe on an ocean liner with nothing but open blue seas ahead.) The rest will be delivered today, to the Breakers hotel where Pepper is staying, in a special-delivery envelope. Another delightful little big check made out in Pepper’s name. Taken together, those checks will solve all her problems. She’ll have money for the baby, money to start everything over, money to ignore whoever needs ignoring, money to disappear if she needs to, forever and ever. She’ll depend on no one. She can do whatever the hell she pleases, whatever suits Pepper Schuyler and—by corollary—Pepper Junior. She will toe nobody’s line. She will fear nobody.
So the only question left in Pepper’s mind, the only question that needs resolving, is the niggling Who?
Who the hell is this anonymous buyer—a woman, Pepper’s auction agent said—who has the dough and the desire to lay claim to Pepper’s very special Special Roadster, before it even reaches the public sales ring?
Not that Pepper cares who she is. Pepper just cares who she isn’t. As long as this woman is a disinterested party, a person who has her own reasons for wanting this car, nothing to do with Pepper, nothing to do with the second half of the magic equation inside Pepper’s belly, well, everything’s just peachy keen, isn’t it? Pepper will march off with her three hundred thousand dollars and never give the buyer another thought.
Pepper lifts a tanned arm and checks her watch. It’s a gold Cartier, given to her by her father for her eighteenth birthday, perhaps as a subtle reminder to start arriving the hell on time, now that she was a grown-up. It didn’t work. The party always starts when Pepper gets there, not before, so why should she care if she arrives late or early? Still, the watch has its uses. The watch tells her it’s twenty-seven minutes past twelve o’clock. They should be here any moment: Pepper’s auction agent and the buyer, to inspect the car and complete the formalities. If they’re on time, and why wouldn’t they be? By all accounts, the lady’s as eager to buy as Pepper is to sell.
Pepper tilts her head back and closes her eyes to the white sun. She can’t get enough of it. This baby inside her must have sprung from another religion, one that worshipped the gods in the sky or gained nourishment from sunbeams. Pepper can almost feel the cells dividing in ecstasy as she points herself due upward. She can almost feel the seams strain along her green Lilly shift, the dancing monkeys stretch their arms to fit around the ambitious creature within.
Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Like father, like child.
Pepper bolts upright. A small and slender woman stands before her, dark-haired, dressed in navy Capri pants and a white shirt, her delicate face hidden by a pair of large dark sunglasses. It’s Audrey Hepburn, or else her well-groomed Florida cousin.
“Good afternoon,” Pepper says.
The woman holds out her hand. “You must be Miss Schuyler. My name is Annabelle Dommerich. I’m the buyer. Please, don’t get up.”
Pepper rises anyway and takes the woman’s hand. Mrs. Dommerich stands only a few inches above five feet, and Pepper is a tall girl, but for some reason they seem to meet as equals.
“I’m surprised to see you,” says Pepper. “I had the impression you wanted to remain anonymous.”
Mrs. Dommerich shrugs. “Oh, that’s just for the newspapers. Actually, I’ve been hugely curious to meet you, Miss Schuyler. You’re even more beautiful than your pictures. And look at you, blooming like a rose! When are you due?”
“I’ve always envied women like you. When I was pregnant, I looked like a beach ball with feet.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“It was a long time ago.” Mrs. Dommerich takes off her sunglasses to reveal a pair of large and chocolaty eyes. “The car looks beautiful.”
“Thank you. I had an expert helping me restore it.”
“You restored it yourself?” Both eyebrows rise, so elegant. “I’m impressed.”
“There was nothing else to do.”
Mrs. Dommerich turns to gaze at the car, shielding her brows with one hand. “And you found it in the shed on Cape Cod? Just like that, covered with dust? Untouched?”
“Yes. My sister-in-law’s house. It seemed to have been abandoned there.”
“Yes,” says Mrs. Dommerich. “It was.”
The grass prickles Pepper’s feet through the gaps in her sandals. Next to her, Mrs. Dommerich stands perfectly still, like she’s posing for a portrait, Woman Transfixed in a Crisp White Shirt. She talks like an American, in easy sentences, but there’s just the slightest mysterious tilt to her accent that suggests something imported, like the Chanel perfume that colors the air next to her skin. Though that skin is remarkably fresh, lit by a kind of iridescent pearl-like substance that most women spent fruitless dollars to achieve, Pepper guesses she must be in her forties, even her late forties. It’s something about her expression and her carriage, something that makes Pepper feel like an ungainly young colt, dressed like a little girl. Even considering that matronly bump that interrupts the youthful line of her figure.
At the opposite end of the courtyard, a pair of sweating men appear, dressed in businesslike wool suits above a pair of perfectly matched potbellies, neat as basketballs. One of them spots the two women and raises his hand in what Pepper’s always called a golf wave.
“There they are,” says Mrs. Dommerich. She turns back to Pepper and smiles. “I do appreciate your taking such trouble to restore her so well. How does she run?”
“Like a racehorse.”
“Good. I can almost hear that roar in my ears now. There’s no other sound like it, is there?...
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Book Description Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 23209631-n
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Decadent and evocative storytelling at its very best., by NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, Beatriz Williams 1966, Florida Pepper Schuyler is the kind of woman society loves and loves to talk about - a dazzling being who men watch across crowded, smoky rooms, and women keep their husbands away from. Yet the legend of Pepper is far from the truth. 1935, Cote d Azur Nineteen-year-old ingenue Annabelle de Creouville leaves her father s crumbling chateau to help a handsome German Jew fleeing from the Nazi regime - and from the other man with whom Annabelle s future is inextricably entangled. Falling headlong in love as is only possible for the first time, Annabelle follows her heart from Antibes, to Paris, to pre-war Berlin, torn between two very different men, and two very different endings. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780008134952
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Decadent and evocative storytelling at its very best., by NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, Beatriz Williams 1966, Florida Pepper Schuyler is the kind of woman society loves and loves to talk about - a dazzling being who men watch across crowded, smoky rooms, and women keep their husbands away from. Yet the legend of Pepper is far from the truth.1935, Cote d Azur Nineteen-year-old ingenue Annabelle de Creouville leaves her father s crumbling chateau to help a handsome German Jew fleeing from the Nazi regime - and from the other man with whom Annabelle s future is inextricably entangled. Falling headlong in love as is only possible for the first time, Annabelle follows her heart from Antibes, to Paris, to pre-war Berlin, torn between two very different men, and two very different endings. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780008134952
Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97800081349520000000
Book Description Harper, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. BRAND NEW ** SUPER FAST SHIPPING FROM UK WAREHOUSE ** 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Bookseller Inventory # mon0001695544
Book Description The Berghouse Floyd Tuckey Publishing Group. Book Condition: New. Decadent and evocative storytelling at its very best., by NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, Beatriz Williams Num Pages: 528 pages. BIC Classification: FA; FV. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 131 x 199 x 39. Weight in Grams: 374. . 1986. First Edition. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780008134952
Book Description The Berghouse Floyd Tuckey Publishing Group, 1986. Book Condition: New. Decadent and evocative storytelling at its very best., by NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, Beatriz Williams Num Pages: 528 pages. BIC Classification: FA; FV. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 131 x 199 x 39. Weight in Grams: 374. . 1986. First Edition. Paperback. . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780008134952
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers 2015-11-05, London, 2015. paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 9780008134952
Book Description Harper, 2015. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # GH9780008134952
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Along the Infinite Sea, Beatriz Williams, Decadent and evocative storytelling at its very best., by NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, Beatriz Williams 1966, Florida Pepper Schuyler is the kind of woman society loves and loves to talk about - a dazzling being who men watch across crowded, smoky rooms, and women keep their husbands away from. Yet the legend of Pepper is far from the truth.1935, Cote d'Azur Nineteen-year-old ingenue Annabelle de Creouville leaves her father's crumbling chateau to help a handsome German Jew fleeing from the Nazi regime - and from the other man with whom Annabelle's future is inextricably entangled. Falling headlong in love as is only possible for the first time, Annabelle follows her heart from Antibes, to Paris, to pre-war Berlin, torn between two very different men, and two very different endings. Bookseller Inventory # B9780008134952