#1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels—one of the most beloved authors of our time—is joined by two New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors in a spring-themed anthology of touching, uplifting stories about love, family, motherhood, and homecomings.
AMAZING GRACIE * Fern Michaels
After years spent traveling the world as a flight attendant, Gracie Walden is ready to stay a little closer to her roots, starting with two weeks at home in Amarillo, Texas. But there’s unexpected turbulence between her mother, Ella, and her older sister, Hope—and it will lead to a revelation that changes Gracie’s life in amazing ways . . .
THE MOTHER’S DAY CROWN * Carolyn Brown
Monica Allen still hasn’t forgiven Tyler Magee for breaking her heart when they were teenagers. Ten years on, they’re back in Luella, Texas, visiting their respective grandmothers. and there’s just a white picket fence and a whole lot of awkwardness between them. Will two weeks be long enough for Monica to learn to stop holding a grudge—and hold on to love?
MEANT TO BE * Lori Foster
When Cory Creed was just a little girl, she knew she’d grow up to marry Austin Winston—and she made the mistake of telling him so. Tired of watching him avoid her ever since, Cory has decided it’s time to leave Visitation, North Carolina, and Austin, behind. But Austin has finally realized what Cory was once so sure of, and now it’s his turn to prove they belong together . . . with a little help from their mothers.
Release date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Zebra Books
Print pages: 320
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Gracie checked the supplies for the next flight, making sure there was plenty of booze, pretzels, sodas, and coffee stocked. The new crew would arrive in time to set up the hot meals and everything else that went along with a nine-and-a-half-hour flight from Dallas to Dublin. She’d just finished four twelve-hour days of flights and was ready for a break. At thirty-two years of age, she had spent most of her adult years traveling the world. But now she was looking forward to working domestic flights again, relishing their simplicity. A couple of drinks, snacks, a crying baby once in a while, and even the occasional grope from passengers who had had too much to drink would be a breeze compared to what was involved in international flights.
She recalled her first international flight after spending two years working domestic. She’d known immediately that it was her jam. Plans for flight training to become an airline pilot had gone down the tubes when she found out that twenty-twenty vision, even with glasses or contacts, was required. She’d had laser surgery in high school to correct her vision. A year later, however, she had to have a second surgery. Fearing another vision issue, Gracie knew it would be wrong to endanger hundreds of passengers should she become an airline pilot. Being a flight attendant may have been her second choice, but she took pride in her work and enjoyed traveling the world and making new friends. Since she was responsible only for herself, it was the ideal life.
Though there was a long list of responsibilities involved in prepping for overseas flights, she was diligent in her duties, which included checking equipment, learning how to use a defibrillator, and performing CPR. She was trained to handle the situation if a woman went into labor. And she had even been trained in how to handle the death of a passenger or, heaven forbid, a member of the crew. Fortunately, no one had ever died on one of her flights, though she once had to assist in delivering a premature baby boy to a young woman traveling alone with a toddler. It was a frightening experience, but Gracie’s instinct and professional training had kicked in, and when they touched down in Dallas, both mother and baby, as well as the toddler, were fine. When she walked down the aisle to inform the passengers they had a new baby on board, she was filled with pride from helping bring a new life into the world, and they’d clapped vigorously for her and the doctor who, luckily, had been on the flight.
Now that she was head flight attendant, once all the passengers were seated, Gracie would explain and demonstrate the emergency procedures and inform the passengers about the length of the flight, something most of them already knew. She would also inform the passengers that if there was a headwind, the time in the air might be greater, also explaining what to do should the aircraft encounter turbulence. Once they were airborne, the captain would repeat her instructions. After he was finished, her work began. Working in first class was simple. She enjoyed making her guests comfortable so they would have the best flight possible.
Before commencing her duties in first class, Gracie would walk through the plane, looking for anyone who feared flying. Long experience allowed her to identify such passengers in an instant, and she took extra care to see to it that their every need was met in the hope of easing their fear. Her older sister, Hope, didn’t like to fly, so she had a bit of knowledge about fear of flying. Many of her fearful passengers found themselves able to relax after she distracted them. Being able to help them was extremely satisfying. She had always been a people person, never met a stranger, and could talk for hours if the situation called for it.
Her mother often told her that she should have studied law, since she had the ability to speak so eloquently and endlessly. Her sister Hope was a talker, too. When they were together, they could yak, as her mother referred to it, for hours on end. Hope worked as a nurse anesthetist and had the same passion caring for her patients as Gracie had for seeing to her passengers’ needs.
Gracie had taken two weeks of vacation time to head to Amarillo for the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend. She had done this every year except last year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, since moving to Dallas to begin her training as a flight attendant after spending two years earning an associate’s degree in marketing. Her passion for the sky was much greater than her desire to earn a bachelor’s degree, much less a master’s degree, as her sister had.
Hope still lived in Amarillo, and she, too, would take two weeks off just to spend time with Gracie and their mother. The three women would do all the girly things they always did. The only difference this time around was that Hope could truly relax. Having divorced Roy Gates, she now had the freedom to do as she pleased. Roy was an okay guy, but he was fifteen years older than Hope and way too controlling.
Their mom, Ella, was as sweet as the iced tea she served up, which Gracie craved all the time. Gracie could not recall ever having the sort of teenage issues with her mother that some of her friends had with theirs. There had been no reason to. Her mom doted on both her and Hope. If Gracie ever met anyone to share her life with, and if she was lucky enough to have children, she would raise them exactly as her mother had raised her and her sister.
Ella’s husband, Gracie’s father, had died two years after Gracie was born, and Gracie knew that her mom could have dated. Instead, she chose to devote her life to her daughters. There were times when she wished that her mom would find someone to love, someone with whom to share her life. The thought of her mom living alone for the rest of her life always made Gracie sad. But her mother assured her that she was happy, and that is what really mattered. And there was still time for each of them to meet the man of her dreams. Gracie couldn’t help but laugh at the thought.
“What’s so funny?” Jessica asked.
Gracie gathered her luggage and a freshly dry-cleaned uniform from her small storage space at the front of the airplane. “Wondering if Mom will ever date, maybe marry again.”
Gracie and Jessica shared an apartment in Dallas. They practically knew one another’s life stories after six years of flying and rooming together.
“You never know. She’s still young enough; plus, she’s gorgeous. She could be Hope’s twin rather than her mother.”
“Yep, they look like sisters; they get that a lot. Don’t know what the heck happened to me. An odd strand in the gene pool, I suppose.” She smiled. Gracie was tall, with a slim, athletic build, her eyes an unusual mixture of gray and green, her hair thick and long, the color of a shiny copper penny.
“You look like your father.”
“I know; don’t know why I let my thoughts stray. I’m tired, ready for a trip home. Wish you could go with me. Mom and Hope adore you.”
“It’s all good. I’m headed to London, and I have the entire weekend to myself. I didn’t want to take the extra time off because Tina is still out on maternity leave. Us older, more experienced gals are hard to find these days.”
Gracie rolled her green eyes. “Hey, just because we aren’t twenty with plenty doesn’t mean we’re out of the game yet.” Twenty with plenty was their private joke, referring to younger women with great bodies to match.
Jessica winked. “Nope. I’m not out of the game.” She offered up a snarky grin. Jessica was the opposite of Gracie. Average height, short blond hair, eyes so dark that one couldn’t distinguish the iris from the pupil.
“I assume you have a date for your weekend in London,” Gracie teased.
“I never kiss and tell,” Jessica replied. “Though if there’s any hot romance going on, I’ll send you an e-mail.”
“As long as you leave out the details,” Gracie joked. “Even if you say you never kiss and tell, we both know that’s a crock of bologna!”
“Bologna doesn’t come in crocks, Gracie.”
They both burst out laughing, as this, too, was a private joke. Jessica used a crock of shit, but Gracie rarely swore. She thought it unladylike and knew that if she slipped while on duty, a passenger might hear. In addition, she didn’t want to tarnish her professional image. She was no goody two-shoes, but there were certain behaviors she preferred to avoid. Cursing at work was one of them.
“So you keep reminding me,” Gracie said.
“You gonna take a hopper to Lubbock?”
Gracie glanced at her watch. “Yes, and I need to be at Gate C in fifteen minutes. Be safe in London. Send me a text when you arrive, and I’ll do the same.”
Jessica laughed. “I will, Mother.”
Gracie rolled her eyes, gave her friend a one-armed hug, then raced through Love Field to Gate C, dragging her luggage behind her. The flight was just over an hour if all went as scheduled, which she had no reason to believe would not happen. She’d arranged for a rental car in Lubbock for the drive to Amarillo.
She usually made it in two hours, not making any stops along the way. There wasn’t anything she cared to see on the trip from Lubbock to Amarillo, which she had made numerous times, and she always made sure she had an audiobook for the drive. Reading was one of her favorite ways to relax, and she had made sure to visit the local library. She had been a member of her hometown library ever since she was a toddler. Audiobooks were great, but there was nothing like holding a book. Feeling the different textures of paper and experiencing the scent she couldn’t quite put a name to were a big part of her life. On downtimes during a long flight, she always had a book with her.
As soon as she rounded the corner to Gate C, she spied another flight attendant she had worked with in the past. “Hi, Elsa,” Gracie said.
“Hey, yourself. Girl, I hope they have a couple jump seats on this flight, I can’t wait to go home,” Elsa said. “Those twin boys of mine are going to forget they have a mother.”
Gracie knew what she alluded to, and knew if she had to give up her seat, she would. As far as jump seats went, there was only one on this aircraft. “Let me check, be right back.”
She spoke to the ticket agent, a young guy, and explained her situation. “The flight isn’t full, so you and your friend are good to go.”
“Thanks.” She hurried back to where Elsa stood.
“It’s not a full flight. Let’s hurry before someone decides to book a last-minute trip to Lubbock.”
Elsa shook her head. “I doubt it. Even though I call it home, I cannot see taking a vacation there.”
“Same with Amarillo. It may not be Dallas, but it is where I was born and raised. Home is where your heart is, anyway.” She might have sounded corny, even to herself, but she didn’t care because it was exactly the way she felt.
“Absolutely! Flying the world, I see a lot, so it makes going home seem like paradise.” Elsa was a few years younger and had given birth to adorable twin boys four years ago. If Gracie had a family of her own, she didn’t know if she would be able to leave them at all, let alone three to four days at a time.
Elsa followed close behind her as they rolled their luggage down the jetway, stopping as they neared the door to the aircraft. Waiting for the passengers to find their seats, Gracie and Elsa were able to sit together in the last row, seats that were usually the last to be booked. That day, Gracie would not have cared if she had to sit in the tiny restroom because she would finally be getting to see her two favorite people in the world.
Gracie parked her rental behind the house as she normally did. Her sister’s cherry-red Thunderbird convertible was shaded by the copse of oak trees next to Mom’s practical white Honda Accord. She smiled at the familiarity of it all. Home. Even though she had a great apartment in Dallas, Amarillo was what she thought of as her true home. She opened the car door, and before she could put a foot to the ground, Hope and her mother came bustling out the back door.
“Look at you,” her mom said. “My lovely girl; I have missed you so much.” Gracie hugged her mother, smelling the familiar lilac perfume she always wore. “It’s been way too long, sweetie.”
Hope stood behind their mother, her smile as wide as the state of Texas. “Hey, Poo.”
Gracie embraced her sister. “It’s so good to be home, I’ve missed y’all so much.” She looked at Hope. “Poo? Really, sis? It’s been ages since you called me that. I’ll let it slide this time.” She laughed at the nickname given to her by her sister when she had been a toddler.
“It’s been tough for everyone, Gracie. I’ve missed you, sweet child, more than you’ll ever know. I’ve made a fresh pitcher of tea just for you girls. We have two weeks to make up for lost time.” Her mom was always sweet yet very succinct with words. After years of teaching second graders, speaking to them on a level they understood, she hadn’t changed at all.
The past two years had been hard on all of them. The entire country had practically shut down during one of the nation’s worst pandemics since 1918. Flights were canceled; hospitals all across the nation and beyond had become the epicenters for hope and, sadly, too many unnecessary deaths. Hope had contracted the deadly virus at the hospital, though she had never been sick enough to require a hospital stay. Thankful did little to describe what Gracie had felt during that time.
“I’ve missed your tea, Mom. You can’t imagine,” Gracie said, her eyes pooling with happy tears. “And you.”
“Oh, sweetie, I think I can.” Ella took a tissue from her pocket to dry her tears. “Last night’s weather forecasters predicted we’re going to have one of the hottest days on record today, so let’s get out of this heat.”
Amarillo was hot and dry a big part of the year. Gracie had spent many of her teen years lounging in the backyard, her nose in a book while she worked on her tan. Fair-skinned, she never achieved the bronzed glow her friends had. Her efforts had been for naught, as all she came away with were more freckles and two splotches of bright pink on her cheeks. Her mother had warned her that she would regret this in her later years. So far, so good, she thought as she followed her mom and Hope inside.
Memories of her childhood rushed at her like a tidal wave. The kitchen, the hub of their home, looked exactly as she remembered it.
White cupboards with wood-and-glass-framed doors wrapped around the large U-shaped kitchen. The family collection of Corningware filled the cabinets according to color, reminding her of a box of crayons. Her mother had replaced the old Formica countertops with white marble, and of course, all the appliances were modern and up to date. Pots of herbs in primary colors sat along the windowsill. Red-and-white-checkered curtains hung in the window above the kitchen sink, and as far as Gracie knew, these were the same ones she had seen on her last visit. The only new addition was an island in the center of the kitchen.
“Wow,” Gracie said. “Mom, it’s beautiful. You should start a Pinterest page, share your talent. Maybe let those tour groups have a peek inside.”
Her mom chuckled. “Since retiring, I’ve had to keep busy. Stuck inside all last year, I decided to make a few changes here and there. I had Rick build the island and added a few knickknacks here and there. No to the tourists; you know how I feel about them.”
“His work is pristine as usual.” Gracie had seen his work. He owned a woodworking shop on the outskirts of town. Word of his creativity had spread to a production company for a major network with a popular decorating show. He made an appearance about once a month. Gracie was thankful he had taken time off to work with her mother.
Hope took a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator and filled imitation Ball jar glasses with ice and tea. She plunked a lemon slice in each, then slid them across the new island.
Gracie sat on one of the new barstools. “I’ve dreamed of this,” she said, after she’d drained her glass. “I’ve tried making your tea a zillion times, but I can’t seem to get it just right. What’s the secret you’ve been hiding, Mom?”
Hope gave her mother a sharp look.
“Oh, it’s just years of practice, I suppose,” Ella said, but her words seemed strained.
Odd, Gracie thought. “Whatever it is, you’ve definitely mastered sweet tea.” She reached for the pitcher to refill her glass, but Hope had a death grip on its handle, so tight her knuckles were white.
“Jeez, sis, loosen up. Mom can make more tea.” Gracie forced a laugh, but she couldn’t help but think that Hope was ticked at their mother for some reason. She had to get the lowdown later tonight after their mother went to bed. This was usually the time when they had their best sisterly yak sessions.
Out of the blue, her mother said, “If you must know, it’s the pot.”
Hope’s dark eyes widened as she turned to look at their mother. Gracie raised her eyebrows. “Pot?”
“I’ve had it for years; it’s been handed down for at least three generations.” Her mother sipped her tea, her light brown eyes twinkling. At sixty-seven, her mother was fit and petite, like Hope. She wore her dark brown hair cut in a modern bob and could easily pass for a woman ten years younger. What little makeup she wore enhanced her high cheekbones, and her apricot lipstick was applied carefully as always. Gracie thought her mother was stunning.
“Mother, are you all right?” Hope asked, all traces of indignation gone, her professional instinct on full display.
“Hope!” Gracie raised her voice a notch so that Hope had to look at her.
“What?” Hope gave her a snarky look.
She tilted her head toward the stove. “That’s what she meant. I never gave it much thought until now.”
Hope followed her gaze. Gracie could see that her sister finally realized what her mom referred to. “The pot. It’s the one you always use to boil the tea bags in,” Gracie said, to clear the air.
“It is. As I said, it’s been handed down from generation to generation. I think that in its years of use, maybe the tea has somehow permeated the enamel into the cast iron.”
“You had me for a minute. I thought you were smoking pot,” Hope said.
“Actually, Mama smoked it when she was going through chemotherapy. Said it helped her more than her pain medication. She had such a terrible time taking all those pills. I’m not one to judge. It gave Mama a little relief.”
Her mother was truly the most nonjudgmental person she knew. She was kind and compassionate, and Gracie adored her mother. Probably more than most daughters, as they had always been extremely close. Hope, who was much older, had less patience with their mother, as she saw her almost on a daily basis. With Hope’s divorce and the hours she spent working at the hospital, Gracie figured her sister was long overdue for a bit of downtime.
“Mimi smoked pot. Wow, if I had known that I would’ve been the coolest kid in high school.”
“Gracie! Shame on you. I hope you’re not hinting that you and your friends smoked marijuana.” Her mom spoke in her you-are-in-big-trouble voice.
“Nope, never tried the stuff. I would get fired in a heartbeat if illegal substances were found in my pee.” Gracie watched Hope. She bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “We’re tested occasionally.”
“There’s definitely a lot of controversy on medical marijuana,” Hope interjected, trying her best to act serious. “Some patients with terminal diseases swear it helps them with anxiety, pain, and sleep. I’ve read a few published articles, and opinions vary. If I were terminally ill, and I’m not, before you ask”—Hope eyed her mother—“if pot helped, I guess I might give it a shot. Not much to lose with a diagnosis like that. I had no clue Mimi smoked the stuff, but she was pitiful at the end.”
“Yes, she was, but let’s not bring negative vibes into this house today,” their mother said. “We’ve had enough bad news this past year, so let’s spend our time together doing fun stuff. It’s been ages since we stayed up half the night playing Monopoly. When you two are rested, I’ll challenge you both to a game.”
They had spent many nights throughout the years playing their favorite board game. Gracie recalled a game that had lasted an entire weekend. As usual, Hope won, but they usually had a blast when they were into the game.
“I’m certainly ready,” Gracie said. “I need to beat Hope at least once in my life.”
“Game on, Poo,” Hope acknowledged.
“Let’s stop with the Poo stuff already! I’m thirty-two; time to call it quits.”
“Never,” Hope said.
Ella spoke up. “Girls, let’s not get into that stinky old story again.” She winked at Hope.
“Thank you, Mother.”
“Not so fast now. You’re not the one who cleaned the poo out of her hair,” Hope reminded their mother.
“What was I, two? I had no clue what I was doing. We didn’t have a dog. I didn’t realize what I was doing. Right, Mom?”
“You were just a tiny little thing, but I would have thought the smell might have warned you away.”
“I should have never volunteered to babysit you that day,” Hope added.
“I suppose I would’ve said no if the situation were reversed. You’re the oldest. Babysitting a little sister who is sixteen years younger than you is kind of a normal chore. Right, Mom?” Gracie smiled at them both. She couldn’t imagine the horror Hope must’ve felt when she found her in the front yard playing with a very large pile of the neighbor’s dog poo. According to Hope, she had called her “Poo” while being hosed down outside. From that moment on, Hope nickn. . .
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