Book 1 Mischief Bay Series
“Did Tyler make that for you?”
Nicole Lord turned to look at the picture she’d posted on the wall of Mischief in Motion, her Pilates studio. Three large red hearts covered a piece of pink construction paper. A handprint had been outlined over the hearts. The hearts were wobbly and highly stylized, but still recognizable. Not bad, considering the artist in question was not yet five. The handprint had been traced by one of his teachers.
“He did,” Nicole said with a smile. “I promised him I would bring it to work and show everyone.”
Her client, a thirtysomething fighting her way back from a forty-five-pound pregnancy weight gain, wiped sweat from her face and smiled. “He sounds adorable. I look forward to when my daughter can do more than eat, poop and keep me up all night.”
“It gets better,” Nicole promised.
“I hope so. I’d always assumed once I started having kids, I’d want six.” The woman grimaced. “Now one is looking like more than enough.” She waved and walked toward the exit. “See you next week.”
“Have a good weekend.”
Nicole spoke without looking, her attention already back on her computer. She had her noon class, then a three-hour break before her late afternoon classes. Which sounded nice until she thought about all she had to get done. Grocery shopping for sure—they were out of everything. Her car needed gas, there was dry cleaning to pick up and somewhere in the middle of all that, she should eat lunch.
She glanced at the clock, wondering if she should text Eric to remind him to pick up Tyler from day care at four. She reached for her phone, then shook her head and sagged back in her chair. No, she shouldn’t, she told herself. He’d only forgotten once and he’d felt awful about it. She had to trust him not to forget again.
Which she would, she told herself. Only these days he was forgetting a lot of things. And helping less around the house.
Marriage, she thought ruefully. It all sounded so romantic until you realized that hey, you not only had to live with someone else, but there would also be days when they actually thought you were wrong about things.
She was still trying to figure out in which order she was going to run her errands when the door to her studio opened and Pam Eiland strolled in.
“Hey, you,” Pam called cheerfully, an oversized tote hanging off one shoulder.
Anyone who didn’t know Pam would assume she had a clutter problem if she needed to haul around that much stuff in her bag. Those who did know Pam were privy to the fact that her actual handbag was fairly small and that most of the space in the tote was taken up by a soft blanket and a very weird-looking dog.
Right on cue, Lulu poked her head out of the tote and whined softly.
Nicole stood and approached them both. After giving Pam a hug, she reached for Lulu. The dog leaped into her arms and snuggled close.
“I see you’re in pink today,” she said, stroking Lulu’s cheek, then rubbing the top of her head.
“We both felt it was a pink kind of day,” Pam told her.
Lulu, a purebred Chinese crested, had white hair on the top of her head, by her ears and on her tail and lower legs. The rest of her spotted body was pretty much naked and an unexpected shade of grayish pink with brown spots. Her health issues were legendary and what with having no fur, she was chronically cold. Which meant Lulu had a collection of sweaters, jackets and T-shirts. Today’s selection was a lightweight, sleeveless pink sweater trimmed with shiny gray ribbon. With money tight and her own clothes threadbare, Nicole found herself in the embarrassing situation of envying a dog’s wardrobe.
Lulu gave her a quick puppy-kiss on the chin. Nicole held onto the warm dog for a few seconds more. Her relationship with Lulu was the least emotionally charged moment in her day thus far, and she was determined to enjoy it.
Pam, a pretty brunette with an easy smile, wore a loose short-sleeved dress over her leggings and workout tank. Unlike the other clients who came in for the noon class, Pam didn’t walk over from an office. Nicole knew the other woman had held a job at her husband’s company years ago. She understood how a small business worked and often gave Nicole sound advice. Aside from that, Pam seemed to have her days to herself. Right now that sounded like a dream come true.
“Who’s coming today?” Pam asked as she pulled the blanket out of the tote and folded it before setting it in a corner of the room. Lulu obligingly curled up, with her long legs tucked gracefully under her body. Nicole knew the dog wouldn’t budge until class was over. She supposed the sweet temperament and excellent manners made up for Lulu’s odd and faintly sci-fi appearance.
“Just you and Shannon,” Nicole said, clicking on her computer’s scheduling program to confirm. She was actually relieved to have a smaller class. Lately she was so damned tired all the time. Pam and Shannon could have run the workout themselves, so there wouldn’t be pressure to stay on top of every move.
Even better, all three dropouts had come in early that morning. The studio had a strict twenty-four-hour cancellation policy, which meant she was going to be paid for five students regardless. She accepted her momentary pleasure even though the thought made her a bad person, and vowed she would work on her character just as soon as she figured out how to fix what was going on with her marriage and got more than four hours of sleep on any given night.
Pam had slipped off her sandals in preparation for class. But instead of putting on her Pilates socks, she turned to Nicole and grinned.
“Want to go to lunch?”
Pam’s smile was infectious. Her hazel-green eyes crinkled at the corners and her mouth curved up.
“Come on,” Pam teased. “You know you want to.”
“Want to what?” Shannon Rigg asked as she walked into the studio. “I’ve had a horrible morning dealing with a misogynistic idiot from the bank who insisted on continually asking to speak to my supervisor. When I explained I was the CFO of the company, I think he had a seizure.” She paused, her blue eyes dancing with amusement. “I offered to send him a scanned copy of my business card, but he declined. Then I told him that if he didn’t get his act together, I would be moving the company’s four-hundred-million-dollar account to another bank.” She paused for dramatic effect. “I think I made him cry.”
Pam held out her arm, hand raised, for a high five. “You both constantly impress me. Nicole juggles her husband, her five-year-old son and her growing business. You’re busy frightening men who really should know better. I, on the other hand, will pick out my dog’s wardrobe for tomorrow and make biscuits from scratch. It’s sad.”
“I don’t even know what you put in the bowl to make a biscuit,” Shannon admitted as she gave her friend a high five, then turned to Nicole. “Do you?”
“Flour, water, something else.”
Shannon laughed. “Yeah, that’s where I would get lost, too. It’s the something else that always gets you.”
Nicole thought about how Pam had described her. Juggling sounded so perky and positive. Unfortunately most days she found herself cleaning up what had fallen and shattered rather than keeping her plates spinning in the air.
Okay, that was a confused and slightly depressing analogy. She really needed to think more positively. And maybe learn how to make biscuits.
Shannon had on a tailored sleeveless dress and three-inch pumps. Her legs were bare and tanned, her hair a glorious tumbling mass of auburn waves that fell past her shoulders. She wore expensive watches and elegant jewelry. She drove a BMW convertible. If Nicole could pick, she would want Pam for her mother and to be Shannon when she grew up. Only at thirty, Nicole had a feeling she was about as grown-up as she was going to get.
“Wait,” Pam said as Shannon headed for the small dressing room next to the restroom. “I thought we’d go to lunch instead of working out.”
Shannon already had her exercise clothes out of her gym bag. She turned back to Pam. “Not exercise?”
“Sure. We’re the only two today. It’s Friday, my friend. Live a little. Have a glass of wine, mock your uninformed banking friend and unwind.”
Shannon looked at Nicole and raised her eyebrows. “I’m in,” she said. “What about you?”
Nicole thought about her to-do list and the fact that she was behind on the laundry and had a stack of bills to pay and a husband who had walked away from a successful career in computer software to write a screenplay. She thought of the spinning and falling plates and how she spent her life exhausted.
She pulled the tie from her blond ponytail, shook her hair loose, grabbed her keys and her handbag and stood. “Let’s go.”
A Mischief Bay Novel, Book No. 1
March 2015/Paperback reissue November 2016
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is world renowned for her “insightful, funny, and poignant” stories (Booklist). With her brand-new Mischief Bay series, she brings vivid color to the story of three friends on the brink of a new life.
Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there’s a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband. He quit his job to write a screenplay she’s never seen, leaving Nicole to run the house, work full-time, and care for their young son. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?
Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became V.P. at her firm, but she wonders whether she made the right choice. An exciting new love convinces her it’s not too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all.
Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her man brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she’ll have to redefine herself. Again.
Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.
COPYRIGHT © 2018 BY SUSAN MALLERY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. WEBSITE DESIGN & MAINTENANCE BY WEB CRAFTERS.
SUSAN MALLERY IS A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CONTEMPORARY WOMEN'S FICTION AND ROMANCE NOVELS.