A Week At The Lake (Thorndike Press Large Print Romance Series)

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9781410483423: A Week At The Lake (Thorndike Press Large Print Romance Series)

From the "USA Today" bestselling author of "The House on Mermaid Point "comes a powerful novel about secrets, loyalty, and the bonds of true friendship . . .
Twenty years ago, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton bonded over their New York City dreams. Then, each summer, they solidified their friendship by spending one week at the lake together, solving their problems over bottles of wine and gallons of ice cream. They kept the tradition for years, until jealousy, lies, and life s disappointments made them drift apart.
It s been five years since Emma has seen her friends, an absence designed to keep them from discovering a long-ago betrayal. Now she s in desperate need of their support. The time has come to reveal her secrets and hopefully rekindle their connection.
But when a terrible accident keeps Emma from saying her piece, Serena and Mackenzie begin to learn about the past on their own. Now, to heal their friendship and their broken lives, the three women will have to return to the lake that once united them, and discover which relationships are worth holding on to . . .
Included in this edition only Wendy Wax s novella, "Christmas at the Beach""

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the "USA Today" bestselling author of ten novels, including "While We Were Watching Downton Abbey," "The House on Mermaid Point," and"Ocean Beach." The mother of two college-age sons, she lives in the Atlanta suburbs with her husband, and is doing her best to adjust to the quiet of her recently emptied nest."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One


During her formative years in the booming metropolis of Noblesville, Indiana, Mackenzie Hayes never once heard the term “love at first sight.” As a member of an extended family that prided itself on practicality, she had no doubt that if such a fanciful form of affection ever presented itself, she would be expected to stamp it out.

Not that this was an issue when you were freakishly tall and skinny and shaped way more like a pillar than an hourglass. When boys called you beanpole and skyscraper, and you were expected to go out for girls’ basketball or track in order to utilize the ridiculously long legs and dangling arms that you would have happily traded in or had shortened if such things were possible. When you were plain and shy, it never occurred even to those who loved you that you might love pretty things, especially pretty clothes. Or that you might desperately wish you could wear them.

Under the guise of practicality Mackenzie learned to sew. Then she learned to adapt patterns to fit and suit her. Though not strictly necessary, she began to sketch her own ideas and designs—beautiful things that flattered the figure or, in her case, created an impression of one. And while she never developed the kind of body or beauty that attracted male attention, becoming comfortable in her clothes helped her learn not to slouch quite so much and to at least pretend that her physical deficits didn’t bother her.

Her parents applauded this practicality. Right up until the moment she announced that she was moving to New York City to pursue a degree and career in fashion design.

No one scoffed at the idea of love at first sight in Mackenzie’s first heady year in New York. Which might explain why she succumbed to it so quickly. Why she was struck by a lightning bolt the moment she saw Adam Russell; zapped like a too-tall tree in a low-slung field, her bark singed, her trunk split in two. How one minute she was standing in a neighbor’s postage-stamp kitchen, the next she was toppling over, her entire root system ripped from the ground.

It had been glorious to surrender so completely. To give up rational thought. To be so blatantly impractical. At the time it hadn’t occurred to her that love at first sight might not be mutual. That there could be a striker and a strikee. That the lightning bolt might not feel the same as the tree. That just because someone was your grand passion, it didn’t automatically make you his. And that you might have to work a bit too hard for far longer than you’d ever imagined to convince him you were meant for each other.

“Are you ready?” Adam strode into the bedroom. Even now twenty-two years after that first strike, her husband’s physical beauty sliced through her. Five years her senior, his fifty-year-old body remained firm and well toned. The blond hair that skimmed his shoulders was still thick and luxurious—a person’s hands could definitely get lost in it—and only lightly threaded with gray. A spider web of smile lines radiated from the corners of the clear brown eyes that had first rendered her speechless. Adam Russell had that indefinable something that could light up a room, command complete attention, inspire adoration. To this day he looked as if he belonged on a stage or in front of a camera, not directing others or penning the words that would come out of others’ mouths. Certainly not running a very small community theater in Noblesville, Indiana.

“Almost.” Butterflies flickered in Mackenzie’s stomach as she considered her slightly battered and rarely used suitcase. She was not a happy flyer, could not come to terms with the science that allowed something as massive as a 747 to reach thirty thousand feet and stay there. For a “practical” woman she had been saddled with a far too active imagination.

Determined to squelch the butterflies, she refocused on the suitcase, which sat open on the bed, then surveyed the piles of clothing she’d stacked around it. There was underwear that looked nothing like the lacy things she’d worn the first time Adam undressed her. Capris. Shorts and T-shirts. Two bathing suits and a pair of flip-flops. Several sundresses she’d whipped up the year before. A dressier pair of black pants and a lacy camisole in case they ended up at one of the fancier restaurants near Lake George that hadn’t even existed when she, Emma, and Serena had first started going to Emma’s grandmother’s summer cottage there. A couple of long-sleeved tops. A sweatshirt.

She’d already tucked in playbills from her favorite shows that she and Adam had staged since she’d last seen the women who had once been her best friends. Along with photos of the costumes she’d designed for the two children’s productions they did each year. It was, after all, Emma and Serena who had shifted her focus from haute couture to costumes. Or had it been Adam?

“Stop it.” He gave her a mock-stern look.

“Stop what?”

“Worrying. Air travel is the safest form of transportation on the planet. You’ll be way safer once you’re on the plane than you will be on the drive to the airport.” Now he sounded like the instructor of the fearful flying class she’d failed so spectacularly.

“Gee, thanks. I feel so much better now.”

He flashed her the dimple. “Do you remember those relaxation techniques?”

Back when they’d been with a national touring company whose travel budget had included puddle jumpers that looked as if they were held together with bailing wire and rubber bands, she’d tried everything from alcohol to hypnosis to take the terror out of what her husband insisted was no more than an airborne Greyhound bus ride.

“Oh, I remember them all right,” she replied. “It’s just hard to conjure the soothing sound of waves washing onto a white-sand beach over the whine of jet engines.” Nor could she completely banish the certainty that any mechanical sound was a harbinger of doom, that the slightest relaxing of her guard or her grip on her armrests would allow any plane she was on to slip into a death spiral.

“You’ll be fine.”

“Absolutely.” As she placed the clothing in the suitcase, she let go of the wish that they were flying together instead of in completely opposite directions. Better to focus on what would happen after she landed at LaGuardia than freaking out about whether she’d ever get there. Carefully, she visualized the cab ride to Grand Central to meet up with Serena Stockton and then on to Emma’s hotel for what she hoped would not be too awkward a reunion. And finally, the drive out to Lake George to the cottage Emma’s grandmother Grace had left her.

She’d printed out her favorite posts from her blog Married Without Children to share, but would hold on to the news until she could tell them in person that she’d been approached about putting together a book comprising her best posts. She, Serena, and Emma had achieved varying degrees of success and now lived in different parts of the country, but Mackenzie could still see them as they’d once been—more different than alike, more scared than confident, determined to realize the dreams that had brought them to what all three of them were convinced was the epicenter of the universe.

Twisting her hair into a knot at her neck, she blew a stray bang out of her eye then tucked her quart ziplock bag into her carry-on. She wore little makeup and should need even less for a week at the lake, especially since Emma and Serena, whose looks were such an integral part of what they did, would have every beauty product known to man plus a few that weren’t. Even Emma’s fifteen-year-old daughter would undoubtedly be far more skilled at face painting than Mackenzie, as she’d discovered the last time they’d held one of their retreats—and Zoe had only been ten then.

Adam zipped the leather Dopp kit he’d retrieved from the bathroom and placed it in the elegant leather duffel that already held what she thought of as his Hollywood wardrobe. For his flight to LA, on which he would undoubtedly be not only completely relaxed, but also pampered by every available flight attendant, male and female, he wore designer jeans, a crisp white T-shirt, and a perfectly tailored navy blazer. She wore one of her own designs—a wrap dress in a supple washed denim that created the illusion of curves and showed off the long legs that had once been her best feature. For the briefest moment she wished she looked as good in clothes as her husband did. Or out of them for that matter.

She watched as he considered himself contentedly in the dresser mirror. The call from his film agent had come unexpectedly the night before and he was flying out on standby today. “So what did Matthew say?”

“He said they were crazy about the treatment. That they thought it would be a perfect vehicle for an ensemble cast.” The excitement in her husband’s voice was unmistakable, despite his efforts to tamp it down. “But you know how it is out there. Great enthusiasm ultimately followed by the inability to remember your name.”

“Maybe this will be it,” she said. “Even if it just makes it to the next level that would be . . .”

“A miracle.” He gave her the self-deprecating smile that along with the smiling eyes and flashable dimple had initially knocked her bark off. Her heart squeezed in her chest. That was the real miracle after all these years. That she’d not only managed to win him but that they’d survived so many disappointments and compromises. That their inability to have children did not define them. This was what she blogged about: How sweet a life could be even without children in it. How much more time and energy a couple could give each other when their family was composed of only two.

Adam lifted their bags from the bed and carried them out to the car while she did a last check for forgotten items. As she locked up the house she reminded herself that if they had had the children she’d once wanted so badly, they couldn’t have both picked up and just left like this; that Adam couldn’t have traveled back to New York as often as he did for an infusion of what they were careful not to call “real” theater. Or to LA, dressed as if he already belonged there, to pitch his latest screenplay and nurture the contacts that might help him break into the exclusive circle of successful screenwriters.

“Are you looking forward to the retreat?” he asked backing Old Faithful, their ancient but mostly reliable Ford Explorer, down the drive.

“Of course. It’s just . . . you know, having to get on a plane to get there.” She reached into her carry-on to make sure the bottle of Xanax was handy. She needed the slight blur they provided to propel herself down the Jetway, onto the plane, and into her seat. “And we haven’t been to the lake or anywhere else together for so long.” Her stomach squeezed this time. She turned to look out the window. They’d always been able to pick up where they’d left off. But they’d never gone so long without seeing each other before. And their separation hadn’t exactly been a mutual decision.

“It’ll be great,” Adam said as he took the ramp onto the highway and headed toward Indianapolis, but she could tell his mind was already elsewhere. “It probably won’t even take a whole glass of wine before you’re talking nonstop and finishing each other’s sentences.” He glanced into the rearview mirror and smoothly changed lanes.

“No doubt.” She said this heartily, doing her best to sound as if she meant it. “And you’ll be back with an offer.”

But as they neared the Indianapolis airport, her eyes turned to the planes taking off and landing, leaving plumes of white across the bright blue sky. As Adam made his way to long-term parking, Mackenzie washed a Xanax down with a long sip from her bottled water. For the first time she could remember, she wished her nervousness were only about the flying. And not how things might go after she arrived.

Serena Stockton closed her eyes and attempted to think like an animated character. Or more specifically the cartoon version of herself that she’d been voicing for more than a decade on As the World Churns, a remarkably smart and astonishingly popular soap opera parody that featured animated versions of the cast coupled with their voices.

Part Miss Piggy, part Jessica Rabbit, part Family Guy’s Lois Griffin, Georgia Goodbody wore a southern belle’s dress cut low over a too-ample bosom and carried a fan that she sometimes snapped open to fan her face and bosom or snapped shut to use as a weapon on some unfortunate, albeit irritating, member of the opposite sex. Georgia spoke with New York’s take on a southern accent. Which meant you would have had to be out in the back of beyond off some dusty southern road to ever actually hear anything remotely like it. Developing Georgia’s character had required Serena, who had spent years eradicating her own southern accent as a student at NYU’s drama department, to create an accent far more appalling than the one she’d been born with. An irony she tried not to dwell on.

“Why, I can’t imagine what would make you think that,” she drawled, stretching out each syllable, opening up every vowel, as she watched the screen version of herself bat spidery black lashes and pucker bright red lips that were certainly far larger and plumper than her own.

“You know I think the world of you.” The eyelashes batted again. Her cartoon hand landed on her Scarlett O’Hara–sized waist. Georgia had an exaggerated version of Serena’s face as well as her dark wavy hair and bright blue eyes.

Following her script and the character on-screen, Serena sighed dramatically then mimed looking up into her character’s current husband’s eyes. Georgia had been married and divorced more times than Serena could count, while Serena had never actually made it all the way down an aisle. But then Georgia had also been charged with, though not convicted of, second-degree murder and vehicular homicide, come perilously close to death three times, and had amnesia every other year for close to a decade.

As the World Churns was a well-written, equal-opportunity offender that did not require a laugh track. Big-name stars fought and cajoled to be written into an episode. Even Emma had once played an overperky version of herself.

Now in its eleventh season the series still pulled a hefty twenty share and could conceivably go on forever; a mixed blessing for someone who made a generous living off the role, but who could no longer speak in public without eliciting laughter.

Even without the overdone accent Serena’s voice was instantly recognizable. The moment she opened her mouth to speak, others fell open in delighted surprise. Then came the laughter as they peered more closely to confirm that she was, in fact, Georgia Goodbody. Or at least Georgia Goodbody’s prototype.

What had seemed like a well-paid lark a decade ago had turned into her seminal role, the part she’d be remembered for. The last part she might ever get. Irony sucked. But at least it paid the bills.

From the recording studio, she took a cab home and raced around her town house straightening and packing. She still lived in the West Village, where she, Emma, Adam, and Mackenzie had met fresh off the turnip trucks that had deposited each of them in New York City, though her current digs were ...

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