Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But with one careless mistake, she’s on the verge, suddenly, of losing everything. When a forbidden tryst with a high-powered partner at her firm is exposed, Marin finds herself unemployed and alone, all in a single day, and terrified to admit such messiness to her parents, whose thirty-year marriage is, in her eyes, the model romance.
Before Marin can summon the courage to face her family, a young woman from LA, Rachel Moskowitz, shows up, claiming to be Marin’s half-sister and urging Marin to accompany her on a soul-searching journey to Cape Cod. Needing to escape and looking for her own answers, Marin soon finds herself on a surreal road trip to Provincetown, where she and Rachel seek refuge with Amelia, Rachel’s paternal grandmother and the longtime owner of a beloved beachside inn on the verge of shuttering. Just when it seems like things can’t get any more complicated, Marin’s mother appears at the inn, bringing with her shocking truths that will shake Marin’s beliefs—in love, in her own identity, and in where she came from—even further.
Full of delicious descriptions of coastal New England and richly imagined characters, The Forever Summer is an emotional, hot-topic page-turner and a powerful exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.
Release date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 368
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The Forever Summer
The annual opening of the Beach Rose Inn marked the unofficial start of summer. It was part of the rhythm of life in Provincetown, like the ferry service from Boston, the whale-watching tour schedule, and the route of the Fourth of July parade. Amelia understood this, and it was something she had weighed carefully in making her decision to close it.
The old house had been in her family for five generations, and every spring required pre–beach season maintenance that she had long managed like clockwork. There was reshingling, repainting, flower-bed upkeep, cable and Internet upgrades, and of course a multitude of unpredictable repairs depending on how harsh the New England winter they’d just endured had been. And then, once the summer got into full swing, the work really began. For fifteen straight weeks, from May until early September, her home was filled with guests. Some were new, some were old (more like friends than guests, really), but all of them kept Amelia and her partner, Kelly, on their toes all season long.
And she loved it. At age seventy-five, she had been running the inn for so long, she couldn’t imagine a summer without it. But things changed, and it was time to slow down.
But then, the phone call. Out of nowhere.
Amelia was in the kitchen, standing at the sink, when the call came in. She had been looking out the window at the long wooden table that stretched the length of the backyard to the tip of the sand that framed Cape Cod Bay. Her guests always took their breakfast at the table, dining communally, making new friends, relationships that she had heard often lasted well beyond their vacation week.
“May I speak to Amelia Cabral?” The young woman’s voice shook.
“Speaking,” said Amelia, prepared to tell her the inn would be closed that summer—perhaps closed indefinitely. After months of such conversations, they had not gotten any easier.
“Hi, um—I’m sorry to bother you.” A long pause.
“Yes, dear. How can I help you?” Amelia prompted gently.
“Mrs. Cabral, my name is Rachel. I live in LA. And I’m pretty sure you’re my…grandmother.”
The word hung in the ether between them, heavy and weightless at the same time.
Amelia had thought that at her age, the days of surprises—good and bad—were long behind her. She had been standing in that very spot when a call had come in nearly three decades earlier, news so devastating all she could do was grip the countertop as if it were the only thing tethering her to the earth. And as the young woman told her story, that’s exactly what Amelia did once again.
When she finally hung up the phone, she had to hug herself to stop the shaking.
Funny, Amelia thought, how we greet both extremely bad news and extremely good news in the same way: disbelief.
In a daze, Amelia walked out the back door of the house into the early-spring sunshine. Her first thought was that she had to tell Kelly, stalwart Kelly, who had helped her keep the inn afloat all these years and had only reluctantly supported her decision to close it for the season. What would Kelly make of this?
What did she make of it? All Amelia knew was that she’d spent the last thirty years filling the house with strangers. But in a few weeks, she would have family under her roof.
After all this time, her family.
The restaurant was opulent, trendy, and loud. Her fiancé had chosen it for her birthday dinner. Her fiancé, who was not at the table.
Marin stood and waved when she spotted her parents walking into the room. They had driven up from Philadelphia for the night to celebrate with her. Her mother pulled her into a hug as soon as she reached the table.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart! Thirty. I can’t believe it,” she said. She was dressed in a classically cut pale blue suit. Very Main Line. Very Mom. Marin felt a pang of sadness. Her mother didn’t know it, but she was about to become very upset.
“Marin, you’re looking well,” her father said. “All the long hours at the firm must agree with you.”
Marin beamed. She lived for her father’s pride in her career. At least one of her parents would be happy with her tonight.
Her mother looked around. “Where’s Greg? Is he running late?”
“No,” Marin said slowly. “He’s not running late.”
The three of them sat down and the waiter handed them menus. The restaurant was prix fixe, offering very few options. Marin had no appetite.
“What’s going on?” her mother asked. “Is he sick?”
“He’s fine, Mom. But we broke up.”
“What?” Her mother looked like Marin had slapped her across the face. “Why on earth? Did you have an argument?”
Her father summoned the waiter and ordered a martini. Marin asked for a glass of chardonnay.
“No. Not an argument. I just wasn’t happy,” Marin said. It was the partial truth.
“You’re spending too much time at work. Relationships need to be nurtured, Marin. You can’t just go on autopilot because you have a ring on your finger,” said her mother, her voice going up an octave.
“Blythe, please. She’s entitled to a career. Don’t blame it on that,” said Kip. “And Greg’s Wall Street hours are no doubt longer than hers.”
“Mom, it’s all right. It’s for the best. I’m sorry to disappoint you but—”
Blythe shook her head. “You’re not disappointing me. I just want you to be happy. Why didn’t you talk to me? When did all of this happen?”
Marin did feel guilty for not confiding in her—the first time that she had frozen her mother out of her personal life. But it was temporary, and necessary, and one day her mother would understand. At least, she hoped she would. It was hard to explain something messy like this to a woman who had been happily married for thirty-two years.
“Last night. I just realized it wasn’t the right thing for me. I’m not ready to get married. Or maybe I don’t want to marry him. I don’t know. Either way, I had to be honest—with him and with myself…”
The waiter brought their drinks, and her father raised his glass. “It’s not easy to admit what you want when it means making an unpopular decision. I’m proud of you.”
Her mother glared at him.
“Did you give back the ring?” Kip asked.
“That’s what you have to say about this?” said Blythe.
“In New York State it’s considered a conditional gift. There’s a contractual obligation to return the ring.”
“Who cares about the damn ring!” said Blythe.
“Yes, Dad—I returned the ring. And Mom, breakups happen. It’s going to be fine.”
Her mother nodded glumly, unconvinced.
“Of course it’s fine,” her father said, drumming his fingers on the table.
“Come on—isn’t there something else we can talk about? This is supposed to be a happy occasion,” Marin said, smiling, hoping to lighten the mood.
Her parents exchanged an odd glance. If she wasn’t mistaken, her mother shook her head at Marin’s father, ever so slightly.
“What’s going on?” Marin said.
“Absolutely nothing,” said her mom. Too quickly.
A silence settled over the table, mercifully broken when the waiter came to take their dinner orders. The atmosphere at the table finally turned positive when her father asked her about her law firm’s newest client, a high-profile personal-genetics company.
Marin beamed. “I can’t really say that much about the merger in the works but it’s a big step for me to be put on the case. I mean, I’m pretty low on the totem pole, but still…”
Kip nodded, gently shaking his glass so the ice clinked together. “You have to walk before you can run. Just keep your head down, work hard, play the game, and you’ll get there.”
They both knew what he meant by there. Partner at the most prestigious law firm in New York City. Or maybe the head of her own firm, like the one her father had founded in 1982 in Philadelphia, where Kipton Bishop was arguably the most powerful attorney in the city. And at the age of sixty, he showed no signs of slowing down. It was actually surprising that he’d made it to her birthday dinner. After a lifetime of seeing him work eighteen-hour days and travel the globe, she was used to it being just her mother and herself more often than not. Honestly, she didn’t know how her mother had done it all of those years, staying at home, tending to the house and her vegetable garden. Waiting for her father’s rare appearances. Marin shuddered. For as long as she could remember, she’d always been very aware of the fact that she never wanted to be the one left behind.
Throughout dinner, under the table, Marin checked her phone. She appreciated her parents driving up to Manhattan to celebrate with her, she really did. But the evening was dragging.
Finally, the text she’d been waiting for arrived.
Sure, come on over.
The waiter approached with a large cake covered with extravagant shavings of white chocolate. It was lit with a single candle.
Please don’t sing. But no, it wasn’t that type of place. The waiter placed the cake in front of her, and her mother reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “Happy birthday, sweetheart.” She sounded so forlorn, it was as if her own engagement had been broken off.
Marin closed her eyes, blew out the candle, and thought of the person waiting for her on the other side of the city.
“To many more,” chimed in her father, finishing his drink.
The waiter sliced the cake and served them each a piece. “So what does Greg think of all this? He’s just accepted it?” her mother blurted out. Marin had to give her credit—she’d held out until dessert.
“Blythe, don’t push,” her father said, ignoring the plate in front of him while Marin ate half her slice in two big bites. With her mouth full, she couldn’t be expected to talk.
“It’s a natural question, Kip. I mean, two years, planning a life together…that doesn’t just evaporate.” Her mother patted her ash-blond hair as if the mere thought of such chaos had set it askew. “Are you sure about this? I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret.”
Marin nodded. Yes, she was sure. You didn’t break up with a man like Greg Harper on a whim.
“Thanks so much for dinner. Really. I miss you guys,” Marin said, reflexively checking her phone again.
“You’re not running off, are you?” her mother said.
“Let her be, Blythe. Knowing Marin, she’s probably going home to burn the midnight oil.” He gave her a conspiratorial wink.
“Well, she needs to learn how to relax. Honestly, Marin. Your priorities—”
“Are exactly where they should be,” said her father.
“It’s just been a long week,” Marin said. “And I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast.”
Again, her parents exchanged that strange look.
Marin kissed them both good night.
Outside, she took in the warm spring air before hailing a cab. It felt like the first time she’d breathed all night.
Blythe Bishop shuddered in the freezing lobby of the Plaza Hotel.
Breakups happen. That’s all her daughter had to say on the topic? Oh, what was she thinking? Blythe wrapped her arms around herself, trying to take comfort in her elegant surroundings.
Yes, breakups did happen. But yesterday, Marin had had a three-carat diamond on her left ring finger, a deposit on a wedding venue, and plans to go dress shopping with her mother next week. Now what? All that was just…gone?
Marin was too career-obsessed. That was the problem.
Thirty and single. Oh, Blythe knew it was old-fashioned to see that as a bad thing. But most of Marin’s friends on the Main Line were already married, living in big, beautiful homes in Penn Valley, having their first babies, with the days of office hours and career stress long behind them. Was it so wrong to want that for her own daughter?
“You need to give Marin more credit,” said Kip. “She’s the captain of her own ship.”
“I just wish she’d open up more about what happened with Greg. Even though she’s the one who ended it, it still can’t be easy. They ordered the invitations.”
“It’s not really our business,” Kip said, walking briskly to the elevator. She followed him inside, and each pressed a button.
“Well, as we’re her parents, it actually is our business.” After thirty-two years, she still didn’t understand half the things that came out of that man’s mouth.
“Marin had the balls to end it because she knew it wasn’t right for her. She’s a tough cookie,” Like me, she knew he was thinking. Also, And unlike you.
“I’m afraid she’s going to end up alone,” said Blythe.
“Well, maybe that’s what she wants. It’s her life.”
The door slid open on eight, Kip’s floor.
“This is so strange,” she said, following him uninvited out of the elevator. “Kip, this doesn’t feel right.”
Standing in the quiet hallway, she blinked back tears.
Kip scratched his jaw with his room key card. He looked uncharacteristically tired.
“No more stalling, Blythe. We have to tell her.”
“This just isn’t the best time to—”
Kip held up his hand as if halting traffic. “Stop. I don’t want to hear it. This breakup with Greg doesn’t change anything. Tomorrow at breakfast, we’re telling her.”
With that, Kip summoned the elevator for her. Case closed.
Marin walked quickly in the shadows of the tree-lined side street at Sixty-Eighth and Lexington. It was May, and after a long winter, the trees were full of leaves and in bloom. It was a perfect spring night, and she had made it past the first hurdle.
The thought of seeing him had been the only thing that got her through dinner. She knew her parents meant well, but God—what was she supposed to say? I broke off my engagement because I experienced the most intense physical attraction I’ve ever felt in my life to a different man? She didn’t know what was worse: being the object of their worry or dealing with their disappointment if she told them the truth.
Marin reached the brownstone on Sixty-Eighth and Lexington and rang the doorbell. Her gaze lingered on her empty ring finger. It was still a shock not to see the Tiffany diamond ring Greg Harper had placed on her hand three days before Thanksgiving at the charmingly impossible-to-get-into restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea (made famous when Obama took his wife there on their New York City date night). Marin had worn the ring for nearly six months; when she said yes to him, she really had intended to wear it for the rest of her life.
What would Julian say when she told him she’d broken off her engagement?
He answered the door still dressed in the suit he’d worn to the office but without the tie. His reading glasses were a tip-off that she’d interrupted him working. Marin felt a pang of guilt. She should be working too. Burning the midnight oil, as her dad said. Instead, she was distracting Julian. And being distracted by him.
At age thirty-two, Julian Rowe was the youngest partner at the law firm she’d dreamed of working at since undergrad: the fabled Cole, Harding, and Worth. He’d built his career in M and A—as a young associate, he’d ridden shotgun on some of the most groundbreaking cases the courts had heard in recent years. And then, a few months ago and two years into her own tenure at the firm, she’d been assigned to his team to work on a merger between a pharmaceutical giant and a small but extremely profitable company providing DNA home testing.
There was almost enough work and a steep enough learning curve to keep her mind off the fact that Julian Rowe was beautiful.
When she first saw him—tall, with near-black hair and deep, dark eyes—the first word that came to mind was striking. He had the perfectly chiseled nose of a young Clint Eastwood, and he spoke at a slight remove, as if his brilliant mind barely had time to stop and convey the information—it was already on to the next item of business. He had the remnants of a British accent from his first twelve years growing up in North London. Everything about him was achingly serious.
Marin wanted him—instantly. She’d never felt such a pure physical attraction in her life. She walked around the office charged up, adrenalized, all of her senses heightened. She felt like one big raw nerve. When he spoke to her, it took all of her effort to absorb what he said and not just stare at his lips. Over the conference table, she found herself leaning too close. She could barely sleep at night, she was so eager to get back into the office.
And all the while, she was planning her wedding.
“How’s the birthday girl?” he asked with a kiss after letting her in. He took her light cashmere wrap and hung it in the coat closet.
“Better now,” she breathed, his arms around her.
“I was surprised to hear from you. How did you get away? Didn’t you have dinner with your parents and—”
“Long story,” she said.
“Come on in,” he said. Julian occupied the entire four-story brownstone, which he had been renting for years from a widowed socialite who had moved to Palm Beach. The first night Marin saw it, she told him she’d always dreamed of having a place just like it.
“When the time is right I’m going to make an offer on it,” he’d said.
“What makes you think she’ll sell?”
“I’m a lawyer. I know how to feel these things out.”
“Well, I’m a lawyer, and I don’t.”
He’d regarded her with his usual heart-stopping intensity and said, “I find that hard to believe. You seem like a woman who goes after what she wants.”
That night, she had believed she would never see the town house again. Yes, they’d slept together. But it was just a onetime thing—just to get it out of their systems.
Of course, that first night had been the point of no return. How naive to think it would turn out any other way.
She thought of her mother’s expression when she’d told her the wedding was off, and winced.
“Cover your eyes,” Julian said, leading her into the house by the hand.
“Why? What are you doing?” This playfulness was a side of him she had seen only recently, maybe in the past few weeks of their two-month relationship. Every time he revealed a new facet of himself, some detail of his growing up, some endearing quirk of his personality, it was like a precious gift. All she wanted was to know him completely, and the sense that he was beginning to trust her more, to open up, thrilled her.
He told her to keep her eyes covered, and she allowed him to steer her from one room to the other.
“Okay—you can look now.”
They were in his living room. A flickering light caught her eye—a candle atop a chocolate cupcake on one of the antique side tables.
“Oh, Julian,” she said, kissing him.
“You didn’t give me much notice that I’d get to celebrate with you tonight. I planned on sometime later this week.”
“You didn’t have to do anything. Really. I just wanted to see you.”
The candle needed attention, and she knew Julian would not prompt her with something as clichéd as Make a wish, so she bent over the table and gently blew it out. He poured her a glass of wine and she curled up on his plush leather couch. Across the room, a glass table was covered with files and two laptops.
“You working on Genie?”
He nodded. “What else. But I’m about ready to wrap up.”
The DNA-testing company Genie was taking up all of his time and most of hers. It had also spurred on their relationship, sending it out of the sexual-tension zone into the sex zone.
It happened during one of a seemingly endless string of very late nights at the office working on the Genie merger. Her fiancé, usually tolerant of her long hours, was starting to complain. Marin knew his impatience with her work schedule was understandable, but it still irked her. And it made her second-guess her decision to accept his proposal. This was why she had never been keen on the idea of marriage—and why she was certainly not open to the idea of children. Greg did not want children either, so that was one less thing to worry about. No one could do it all, have it all. And she had known from a young age that she wanted to be successful. Like her father.
As much as Greg said he supported her work ethic, she knew she was testing his patience. And so, on a Wednesday night at nine thirty, she decided to tear herself away from the computer and call it quits. But before she left, she stopped by Julian’s office to drop off a box of files—a box she could very well have left for the interoffice delivery in the morning. He was like the pull of gravity.
I’ll see him for a minute, and then I’ll leave. Home to my fiancé, she told herself. Looking at her ring.
Maybe she wouldn’t even talk to him. She’d just drop the box off with a wave and be on her way. But when she reached his office on the ninth floor, with its view of the Empire State Building lit in purple, she saw him in the midst of something that compelled her to ask:
“Sampling the wares?” She smiled in a way she would be the first to admit was too flirtatious.
Open in front of him on his desk was one of the Genie testing kits. The red-and-green DNA-strand logo on the packaging was unmistakable. And there were dozens of them stacked around the office. It was typical for clients to gift the firm samples of their products. But for her, the DNA-testing kit was one of the less appealing offerings.
Apparently, though, not for Julian. He held the plastic test tube with a detachable lid in one hand and the instructions in the other. When he looked up to find Marin in the doorway, he raised the test tube like he was making a toast.
“Yes. They keep asking me if I’ve done a test. I guess you could say I feel a professional obligation. And a little curiosity, I’ll admit.”
Marin drew closer to his desk. She reached over and picked up the empty cardboard Genie box, grateful for the prop. She knew she was crossing some sort of line, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was like she was watching someone else’s actions from afar.
With a smile, he handed her the small instruction sheet printed on shiny paper. She didn’t need to read it; she knew how it worked from their first meeting with Genie: All you had to do was mail in a saliva sample, and a few weeks later Genie e-mailed you the results. It was so user-friendly, it was no wonder the company was blowing up and attracting a multibillion-dollar buyer.
She took the paper from him, and his fingertips grazed hers. Swallowing hard, she pretended to read the instructions but the words swam in front of her eyes. Just go home.
“You should try it too,” he said.
“You’re on the team,” he said, smiling, his midnight eyes meeting hers in a challenge that was, dare she think it, flirtatious in its own right.
And in the state she was in, thrilled by the barely professional interaction, Marin happily agreed.
Things felt different after that. Nothing happened that night, but somehow it felt like they had a secret. And she realized that they did: they were attracted to each other. And it would have to stay a secret; even if she hadn’t been engaged to another man, it was strictly taboo for a partner to date an associate. The firm had a strict no-dating, no-fraternizing, don’t-even-look-twice-at-your-subordinate policy.
It was a fairly standard attitude for law firms, but everyone at Cole, Harding was especially sensitive since the Incident: Two years ago, at a summer-associate drinks event, a senior partner had told one of the young women that he wanted to fuck her seven different ways. The woman talked. For the first time in the firm’s proud five-decade history, it found itself written about in the New York Post’s Page Six instead of the Wall Street Journal.
That partner had gone from making seven figures to teaching at CUNY, and the rest of them had suffered through a week of sensitivity training and a sexual-harassment seminar. The zero-tolerance policy had been enacted.
And yet she and Julian couldn’t stay away from each other. As much as they tried, it was less than a week after the Genie incident before he invited her to his town house. They both admitted their sexual attraction and agreed they needed to “defuse” the situation.
At his town house that first night, they didn’t speak. They didn’t make it past the entrance hall. Handsome, reserved, professional Julian Rowe fucked with reckless abandon. Afterward, her entire body throbbed. They lay tangled together on his floor, making small talk about the fabulous house he rented and wanted to buy. And then she forced herself to get dressed and go back to the apartment she shared with her fiancé.
It was terribly wrong, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop. When she weighed everything in her mind, leaving Greg was easier to imagine than staying away from Julian was. And once she admitted that to herself, she knew what she had to do.
“Marin,” Julian said now.
She looked up, startled. “Sorry. I was just thinking…”
“Where does Greg think you are? I don’t want you to get yourself into trouble.”
She toyed with the wrapper of her cupcake and licked chocolate frosting off her thumb. Her heart pounded.
“I ended it with Greg.” She was afraid to look at him, unsure how he would take the news. When he didn’t say anything, she was forced to face him to gauge his reaction.
It didn’t seem positive.
“Are you upset?”
“I’m not upset.” He stood and began pacing. “But Marin, this wasn’t supposed to ruin your relationship. This was supposed to be a temporary thing, two adults letting off steam, dealing with their attraction to each other. I mean, we work together. We can’t be a couple.”
Her stomach plunged with disappointment. “That’s fine,” she snapped. “But I still can’t marry a man I’m not in love with. So it has nothing to do with you, if that makes you feel any better.”
“Don’t be angry with me. I think you’re taking this wrong.” He sat next to her and reached for her hand. “Look, I’m crazy about you. I am—you have to know that.” He kissed her. “This just took me by surprise. And we have to be careful.”
“I know that! I’m not trying to escalate anything. I just can’t live a lie.”
“I respect you for that, Marin. I really do.” He hugged her. “I know it couldn’t have been easy.”
It hadn’t been. Greg took it badly. He was angry and called her all the names she deserved to be called, even though he didn’t know the worst of it: that she was having an affair. Greg Harper had never lost anything—had never had something fail to go his way—in his entire life. He hadn’t even bothered to ask her why or see if there was something they could do to salvage things. She was taking something away from him. She was doing something to him that was out of his control. He was clearly more upset about losing face than about losing her. Whoever said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned had clearly never burned an alpha male.
It had been ugly, but the way it all went down just validated her decision.
Now it was done. Julian could choose to let it put a damper on their relationshi. . .
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