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The Summer of Lost and Found

The Summer of Lost and Found

Автор Louisa George

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The Summer of Lost and Found

Автор Louisa George

336 страниц
4 часа
8 июн. 2021 г.


Sometimes, going back is the only way to move on...


With an engagement ring on her finger and a New York career to die for, life in the big apple is sweet for Emily Forrester...

Until she is called back to Little Duxbury, the picture-perfect English village where she grew up – though it was anything but idyllic for the tearaway teenager. Her estranged stepfather, a former high-court judge, is ill and her stepsisters are demanding help.

It's just a week, Emily tells herself as she swaps stilettos for wellies, power lunches for 4G blackspots, and polished fiancé Brett for sexy new neighbour Jacob. It's difficult enough facing the lies – and hard truths – that drove her to leave in the first place, but caring for The Judge proves the toughest challenge of all… and the most rewarding.

They say home is where the heart is – but by the end of the week, Emily isn't entirely sure which home that is. 

Previously published as The Secret Art of Forgiveness (2016)

Louisa George is the winner of the HOLT Medallion Award (2017) and the NZ KORU Award of excellence in romance writing (2014 and 2016)

What readers are saying about Louisa George:

"Many of the pages made me smile with joy…" 

"This story was wonderfully written. The author had my attention with every word.. I couldn't put it down. I laughed, I cried and I laughed some more..."

"Ms George brings the characters to life on the pages…" 

8 июн. 2021 г.

Об авторе

Award-winning author Louisa George has been an avid reader her whole life. In between chapters she managed to fit in a BA degree in Communication Studies, trained as a nurse, married her doctor hero and had two sons. Now, she spends her days writing chapters of her own in the medical romance, contemporary romance and women’s fiction genres. To date, she has 19 books available in ebook/print. Louisa’s books have variously been nominated for the coveted RITA® Award and the NZ Koru Award (which she won in 2014 and 2016 for the Short Sexy Category) and she won the prestigious HOLT Medallion Award in 2017. Her books have been translated into twelve languages. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand and, when not writing or reading, likes to travel, drink mojitos and do Zumba®- preferably all at the same time.

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The Summer of Lost and Found - Louisa George


Emily Forrester knew it was going to be a special day when she walked into the office to a round of applause.

‘She’s here! She’s here! Okay… Donuts! Check. Coffee… check. Champagne… who’s got the champagne?’ Frankie, Baddermans’ Director of Strategy, her friend and the most sorted woman Emily knew, bundled her back out through the glass doors and into reception calling back, ‘And glasses, too! Come on, heroine of the hour, of the whole damned week… let’s get going. You know the score.’

Not that this wasn’t a regular occurrence. Baddermans Advertising Agency always greeted a successful pitch with cheers, coffee and donuts on the house; a winner’s breakfast which they took into the elevator from the eleventh floor, down to the ground, across busy West 59 th Street and into Central Park. On a rainy day they would drag bright, primary-coloured beanbags across the office and sit in a semicircle, pretending to picnic and watching raindrops pepper the floor-to-ceiling glass while they celebrated in comfort.

But today there was something extra fizzing in the air. After a cloudy week the sun blazed down on the early spring Thursday morning, she’d snagged her second contract in as many days, found a seat on the subway during rush hour, and her saving-for-when-I’m-thin trousers had actually really, truly fastened this morning. Although there had still been a lot of breathing in involved…

Emily made sure she counted every blessing she had these days, because there’d been a time when she hadn’t had many at all.

‘Way to go, Em! You nabbed that contract right out of VPM’s hands. Word is, Haute Couture Hounds were this close to signing with them…’ Frankie pinched her thumb and forefinger almost together as the team spread plaid picnic blankets on the grass. Champagne corks popped to the accompaniment of whoops and cheers. ‘But you went in there and blew them away. Second time this week – you’re on a roll, girlfriend.’

‘Obviously the bribes worked well… joking! Maybe it’s just a fluke? Luck?’ Emily took a glass of bubbles. Pinch me.

Being here was still nothing short of a miracle for a girl who’d run away from sleepy Little Duxbury with barely ten quid to her name. Winning a lucrative contract with the nation’s foremost dog-clothing company was icing, but beating the city’s top advertising agency for the account was the absolute cherry on top.

Yesterday it was puppy bling, Wednesday’s hard-fought-for account had been for a tech start-up, and later today she had a meeting with a children’s charity. What she loved most about her job was that no two days were the same, every project an interesting challenge she embraced wholeheartedly.

She slipped off her shoes and let her feet sink into the slightly damp grass. Heaven. There was something magical about New York in the springtime, a feeling of possibility in the air, the fresh scent of early blossom.

Or maybe it was just the champagne…

Surrounding her in a tight circle, her colleagues were all grinning and waiting intently for her to speak. This was the kind of debrief she enjoyed. ‘Okay, gather round my lovelies… so, it’s all thanks to last month’s doggy speed-dating event, to be honest. Haute Couture Hounds were impressed we did that promotion pro bono. So a big thank you to Frankie for setting that whole crazy day up. It’s paid dividends. Even if I was lint-rolling hairs off my clothes for days afterwards.’

More cheers for Frankie. One of Emily’s initiatives when she started at the company had been to make sure they recognised the importance of giving out praise and credit where it was due. And to celebrate the small things. Because who knew what was around the corner? At least then, if unexpected roadblocks did turn up, there had already been champagne drunk!

A bit like not saving best clothes for best, Emily believed in making the most of now. Mainly, because it was something she wished she’d done while she’d still had her mum around.

‘Oh, my God, this is the best salted caramel donut in the whole world,’ she continued, pushing back the painful memories of her mum. This really wasn’t the time or the place. ‘Anyway… They loved the ideas we came up with. They chose to go with the basset hound on the posters, so we need to organise that photo shoot for two weeks’ time. Gez, can you get on to the pet model agency? I’ll email all the specs to you. And we need to book some studio time for the thirty-second TV ad – please order more lint rolls. Lots more. I get the feeling we’re going to need them.’ There was a collective smile at that. ‘They want a fall roll-out nationwide, leading up to Christmas, and they have some especially cute festive outfits – am I really saying this? Dog Santa outfits? Sometimes I cannot believe I have this job.’ She laughed along with the team. ‘No, seriously, they’re gorgeous. Red velvet coats and little matching accessories. It’s going to be a fun account and I’m looking forward to working with them. And the very tidy fee that comes with it is very welcome. It just goes to show that if you’re willing to help a small community event for nothing, you do reap heaps in other ways. Plus, I guess they like our ethics.’

‘And our VP. And who could blame them?’ Brett Fallon, her sidekick vice president, walked over from the back of the group where he’d been sitting, letting her take the limelight. But now he tipped his glass to hers. Her stomach did a warm flip as she looked at him; all blond hair and strident blue eyes. Sharing the VP job at Baddermans Ad Agency meant they spent a lot of time together – sex had been just a natural extension of that. Then, a full-blown, grown-up relationship.

They’d worked side by side for two years before they got together one late night at his place as they brainstormed a champagne company’s campaign. Two bottles down and they’d fallen into bed.

That their lives were more intertwined than just regular work colleagues was no secret, but they usually tried to downplay it at work. Today, though? Today was definitely special. ‘You’ve had an amazing week, Emily. Thanks for forging ahead and doing us all proud. Hey, everyone. A toast… everyone stand up…’

‘Awww. That’s very sweet. Thank you.’ Sometimes she really did wonder if this was all too good to be true, if any minute now she’d be hauled into the CEO’s office to be told that hiring her had been a huge mistake and she wasn’t anywhere near as good as they’d thought she was. Because even though she’d won the accounts, she knew there’d been parts of the pitch where she could have been a lot better.

Frankie would say that was the perfectionist in her talking. Emily knew it was just the lost little girl raising her head again, always striving, trying harder and harder and harder. And then she’d have to remind herself that she was a successful VP of a thriving company, with a vibrant social life and not that lonely kid who internalised every rebuff, every knock-back.

You did this. You deserve it.’ With an uncharacteristic public show of affection, Brett leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and she felt the blush rising from her chest. As he did so he whispered, ‘And it’s about time we celebrated us, too, don’t you think?’

What on earth does that mean? ‘Sorry? What?’ It wasn’t like him to do grand gestures. Heart drumming, she looked at him for clarification, but he’d turned away and was encouraging everyone to stand. ‘To Emily.’

Faces beamed at her as they raised their glasses. ‘Well done, Emily! Emily! Go, girlfriend!’

‘Hey, it’s a total team effort; I couldn’t do any of this without you guys. Thanks, everyone.’ Hating all the gleeful attention on her, she scrambled to her feet, chinked against the fifteen or so glasses and took another sip. The champagne – proper French stuff at that – tickled her throat as it went down. ‘Oh, that is so lovely. I could get used to bubbles first thing in the morning. Does that make me bad?’

Frankie smiled. ‘Not at all. It makes you normal.’

‘Whatever that is.’ Emily grinned. ‘But hey, if this is normal, then God bless America!’

She’d arrived here eight years ago, still a little lost and a little lonely – although that was something she’d been used to. Growing up had been… difficult, in lots of ways. But the Baddermans job had offered her the chance to reinvent herself and she’d grabbed it with both hands. Loneliness was becoming a thing of the past as her colleagues had become her friends and now almost felt like family. They’d taught her a lot about advertising and she was excellent at what she did. Years of hard work and dedication had gone a long way, and meeting Brett had been the final piece to the puzzle.

What on earth did he mean?

Five-thirty came and went and the Kids First charity boss was still asking questions. ‘So, given the sensitivity of the campaign, how would you suggest we proceed with the images?’

‘We’ve brainstormed some ideas, based on our preliminary discussions. Here.’ Emily clicked the computer mouse and brought up a picture of a scruffily dressed small girl with wide, vivid blue eyes and a tear-stained, grubby face. Every time she saw it Emily’s heart ached just a little bit – which just went to show how effective it was as a campaign tool. Either that, or she wasn’t anywhere near as practical and hard-nosed as she tried to be. She hoped it was the first, but suspected the latter. ‘We don’t want to be too graphic because, in our experience, that puts people off –’

Her phone buzzed.

‘Oops, so sorry, I thought it was on silent.’ Glancing down she saw a text from Brett.

Stop working NOW. Put everything down. Nothing is more important than this. Meet me at Viktor’s in thirty minutes

Viktor’s? There was a thrill in Emily’s stomach. That was the posh place they walked past between work and the subway station. The one whose menu they’d stopped and gazed at, and then seen the prices, and decided they’d treat themselves for a special occasion. One day.

But why today of all days?

Focus. She looked at the image of the little girl on the screen and reminded herself of all those kids who needed this outreach campaign to work. Kids with mental health issues, suffering from anxiety, or abandonment, grief and loss. Kids just like she’d once been. ‘Our research showed a fifty-two per cent increase in consumer willingness to donate when we used images of…’ The rest of the session had her full attention.

But later, once she’d said goodbye to the Kids First CEO, she allowed her excitement to bubble in her tummy like the fizz from this morning.



She wanted to reply: What have you got planned? Sneaky devil! But instead she wrote: Tying up loose ends. Will be there ASAP.

Why was he taking her there?

‘How did it go?’ It was Frankie, staying late as usual.

‘Not bad. I don’t think we’re too far off what they want; we just need to push our success rate to them. They’re numbers people, I reckon, so I have to get the stats from Pete for the last Homeless Shelter campaign. And specifically the pre- and post-awareness figures. That’ll probably answer a few of their questions in the next round.’

‘If there’s anything I can help you with, ask away.’

‘I will. Thanks, but it’s just number-crunching at this stage. See you tomorrow.’ Emily gathered her bag and folders and began to make her way to the exit.

But she couldn’t help herself. Her stomach was ninety per cent excited and ten per cent panicking to all hell. She tried to sound nonchalant, but it came out more of a squeak, ‘Hey, actually… I do have a question…’

Frankie looked over the top of her laptop. ‘Sure.’

‘Okay… so… if you were having a pretty good run of things and a particular someone invited you to a restaurant you were saving for a very special occasion, what would you think?’

‘The particular person being Brett Fallon?’

‘Maybe.’ Emily’s heart had started doing the drumming thing again… she didn’t dare imagine why he was taking her there.

Frankie let out the screech Emily had been holding in. ‘Oh, my God – d’you think… is he… is he going to put a ring on it?’

Emily found a screech of her own. ‘I don’t know! But now you’ve said it out loud, it sounds silly. It won’t be that. I haven’t ever thought about getting married, we haven’t talked about it…’ But, of course, it made a certain kind of sense now she did think about it. ‘We’re great as we are, though. We don’t need a piece of paper.’

One of Frankie’s eyebrows rose. ‘Well, hello. No one needs a piece of paper, but think of the dress… the shoes… Oh, sorry, too materialistic? Okay…’ She tapped her fingers on the desk with a mischievous glint in her smile. ‘Think of the beautiful babies you’ll have with a man who looks like that and, er, the sex… I mean, the sanctity of marriage. Obviously. But if it’s not that, what else could it be? Moving in together?’

‘Surely you wouldn’t do a dinner to talk about moving in? Would you? Oh, no… what if it’s…’ Emily realised her hands were shaking a little. The fizz to panic ratio was about fifty-fifty now. ‘Ugh, you don’t suppose it could be one of those… sorry, it’s not you, it’s me conversations?’

‘I don’t think you’d have a dinner to talk about that. You’re such a disaster merchant. Sometimes, my darling, the universe is just good to you. Nothing bad has to happen. Relax and enjoy it.’ Frankie’s other eyebrow rose, too, and she shook her head. ‘Honestly, Em, the man adores you. You saw that this morning; he couldn’t take his eyes off you.’

Emily wasn’t wholly convinced. ‘God, don’t you hate it when someone says I have something to say to you… but I have to wait until I see you face to face? The only thing you can imagine is that it’s going to be worse than bad. Like when the phone rings in the middle of the night and you’re gripped with dread –’

‘And it turns out to be nothing but a drunken pocket dial. Come on. He wouldn’t have been like he was this morning if it was something bad. Did he give you any kind of hint?’

‘He did say we need to… celebrate us, or something.’ Her heart hiccupped.

‘So, there you go. I hear wedding bells! What are you waiting for?’ Frankie scraped her chair back and walked over to Emily, put her hands on her shoulders and marched her out to the elevator. ‘Go. Go. And text me later. Please? I want to be the first to say congratulations, followed by a swift, I told you so. Oh… and I look dreadful in apricot, and no puffy sleeves or frou-frou. Bridesmaid, right here… just saying…’

Shut up. It’ll probably be something to do with work. I’m overreacting.’ Emily’s heart went into overdrive but she couldn’t help laughing. ‘Oh, my God, my limbs are like jelly, I don’t know if I can walk there.’

Frankie waved as the elevator doors started to swish closed. ‘Just levitate, sweetheart. Oh, wait… it looks as if you’re doing that already.’


Viktor’s was one of those restaurants decorated in tasteful, soft, beige tones with crisp, white tablecloths, chandeliers the size of caves, and exuding calm and sophistication. Neither of which Emily felt as she made her way to the maître d’. ‘I have a table booked under the name of – oh, there he is.’

He was standing by a table at the window, his hand raised in a wave. He was smiling.

He’s smiling.

‘Hey. Busy day, huh?’ He gave her cheek a kiss and pulled the chair out for her before the waiter had a chance. ‘Sit down. I have champagne on ice.’

She glanced at the French fizz. ‘Are we celebrating something?’

‘Among other things, your genius. Here, have a glass.’

As she turned to give her coat to the waiter Brett poured. There was a little clink and then the lovely sound of bubbles popping. A lot like how her stomach felt. ‘Twice in one day – I could get too used to this. Thanks.’

‘You’re going to have to get used to it if you’re the top performer.’ Brett winked. ‘So, how was the rest of your day?’

‘Good, I think. Terry from Kids First seemed open to our ideas. He liked that we’d done charity work before. You know, we really could push that angle to other not-for-profits – our pro bono work really resonates. Anyway, we’re going through to the next round.’

‘Excellent. And not a bad idea. We could discuss it in our next strategy meeting.’

‘I really like that we have the opportunity to help those kinds of organisations.’ She took a sip, realising she was babbling on a little. Nerves. Which was strange, because there was nothing about Brett that made her nervous.

Why are we here? She tried to telepathically question him because she didn’t want to second-guess the whole situation and look stupid if she’d got it so completely wrong, but he was just smiling at her and nodding as she carried on rambling, ‘And how was your day, Brett?’

‘Just great. We had an epic shoot out at the High Line; it had just the right urban-grungy feel we were lookin’ – hey, you know what? Let’s not talk work.’ His eyes were glittering a dark navy and he had an anxious smile – the way she’d seen him when his mother had phoned about his father’s heart scare. That was so unlike Brett, the normally uber-confident ad VP. He held her glass back out to her. ‘You want to drink up a little? Ahem…’

She glanced at her glass and noticed there was something in the bottom. ‘Oh. What’s this?’

Not wanting to put her fingers down into the champagne she drained the glass, then tipped out a… ring. Her heart squeezed tight. ‘Oh, my God, that is so beautiful.’

‘Tiffany. If you don’t like it, we can take it back.’

‘No, no. I love it. It’s beautiful.’ A single solitaire in what she guessed was a platinum band. It caught the soft light and twinkled. And a lump formed in her throat. She didn’t want to presume… and couldn’t work out what the flutter in her chest was… because the excitement was still there, but the panic was too. ‘But…? What’s it –?’

The next thing she knew he was at her side, lowering himself down onto one knee, and she was quite sure there was about to be an explosion in her chest as all the excitement and panic intensified until she could barely breathe.

‘Emily, you know how I feel about you. You’re the other half of me. I just can’t imagine a life without you in it. And I don’t want to spend another moment away from you. Will you… will you, please, do me the honour of being my wife?’

This is real.

A proposal. Not a break-up. Not a disaster.

Why did she always imagine herself on the brink of a disaster?

Because bad things happened and she just wanted to be prepared.

But she looked at the ring in her palm, and at his earnest eyes and nervous smile, and felt the sharp sting of tears. This was probably the furthest thing from disaster, ever. Brett Fallon was everything a woman could possibly want; a damn fine man with a heart of gold and exquisite taste in diamonds. He made a dull day brighter. He made waking up very appealing, and going to bed even more so. He came from a lovely home with darling parents – married for thirty-seven years in December – who treated her as one of their own. He was stable, supportive and kind. And despite the little thrum of panic that she put down to nerves, she smiled. What other answer could she possibly give?

‘Yes. Of course, Brett. Of course. Wow. Yes!’

Laughing, he stood up and whipped her into his arms, hugging her close. His mouth on her throat. ‘Thank you. Oh, God! I am so relieved you said yes.’

She inhaled his comforting scent and kissed him, although kissing and trying to force air past the lump in her throat were particularly difficult. She burst out laughing. ‘Well, wow. Yes. We’re getting married!’

‘Hell, yes.’

‘What do we do now?’

He was grinning insanely and it felt pretty damned good to know she’d put that smile on his face. ‘I don’t know; I’ve never been engaged before.’

‘That makes two of us. More champagne?’

‘Whatever you want, fiancée.’ He topped up her glass and for a few moments they just sat there grinning at each other. Literally speechless. Then he took out his phone. ‘We could call some people? My folks?’ There was a tentative pause. ‘Yours?’

‘Yours, definitely. Yes.’ A knot formed in the pit of her stomach and some of the excitement died away. It was at times like this that she missed her mum so badly, the grief sometimes swamping her, catching her breath, taking her by surprise. She would have been so proud that her daughter was marrying someone like Brett. But Emily doubted, sadly, that the rest of her family would be interested. ‘I’m not sure the timing is right to call England.’

‘It’s only, what…?’ He looked at his watch and did the maths. ‘Eleven p.m.? Midnight? Someone will be up? Surely they wouldn’t mind a call for such exciting news?’

‘I imagine that in sleepy Little Duxbury everyone’s been safely tucked up for hours. I think we should leave it. Really.’


‘Yes. Another time.’ She filled her glass again and took a drink, not wanting to get into this right now.

His smile slipped. ‘Hey, babe, what’s really going on here? Don’t you want them to know?’

‘Oh, yes, of course I do. Please don’t read anything into it. It’s just… well, you know how it is…’ She didn’t want him to think she wasn’t proud to be engaged to him. But she couldn’t expect a guy from a perfectly formed two-point-four to grasp the realities of communicating with a stepfamily who’d prefer you not to be around.

She imagined the uninterested response from her stepfather. The polite and stilted congratulations from Tamara and Tilda and the collective sigh of relief that, finally, she wasn’t their responsibility any more. Although, when she’d left in the middle of the night all those years ago, she’d wanted to show them that she didn’t need them anyway. ‘You know things are rocky between us. I’ve got to pick my moment to call them.’

His head tilted a little to the side as he looked at her. ‘Actually, now you mention it, in all the years we’ve been together I’ve never seen you speak to them.’

Not speaking to her family was the best way to keep things on a stable footing. ‘Emails work. It takes the emotion out.’

‘You’ve never mentioned any emails, either.’

‘No? Well there haven’t been many… just change of contact numbers, Christmas newsletters, that kind of thing. It’s just the way things are.’ Thousands of miles and many years had left a chasm that a quick phone call – or even a succession of calls – couldn’t fill. They just weren’t like his family; they didn’t do the happy, thick-as-thieves, shared jokes thing. At least, she wasn’t part of it if they did. And now her ugly past was spoiling her lovely present. She dug deep and infused her voice with the excitement of earlier. ‘Hey, but we could phone your folks now? Shall we?’

He, too, found another smile and, God love him, took the hint and moved on from the tricky subject of her difficult family ties. ‘I think Dad might be out of town tonight; he said something about a conference in Philadelphia. I’d like to call when they’re together. I know… we could drive up and see them this weekend?’

‘Okay. Yes. Why not? A weekend in Boston sounds lovely.’

‘In the meantime…’ His fingers tiptoed up her arm and tickled the back of her neck. ‘I have ideas about how we could celebrate. Lots and lots…’ His breath fanned over her cheek and she leaned into his broad frame. Then he jolted back. ‘Shoot. Wait… That’s my phone beeping… I’ll leave it.’

‘No, take it. It’s fine, really.’

He grabbed his cell, then frowned. ‘Steve Lyons. Better Beer.’

‘Take it. Don’t worry, seriously.’

‘No. We said no work.’ But his eyes lingered over the phone and she knew he wouldn’t settle until he’d talked to his client; he was already starting to look twitchy.

‘Since when would we ever really consider that? Work’s in our DNA.’

‘Which is why we’re perfect together.’

‘Absolutely.’ She nodded towards the phone. ‘So… take it before he hangs up.’

‘Thanks, babe. You’re the best. It’ll only take a minute.’ He turned away slightly and she took a few deep breaths to try and calm herself. She was getting married.


Living together. Sharing her space, her life. Forever.

‘Ah, sorry, man. I got held up… Can you hold a sec?’ Brett covered the handset. ‘I was supposed to meet him at six-thirty to go over the campaign. It completely skipped my mind. He’s at the office.’

‘Go. Go. It’s fine.’

‘No. I’ll postpone.’ He looked genuinely deflated.

Em laughed, because it was so unusual to see Brett flustered. ‘Aren’t you rolling out the campaign next week, in time for the international beer festival?’

‘I can meet him tomorrow, if I shuffle some appointments around.’

‘Won’t that look unprofessional? Go. It’s fine.’

‘Sure?’ He spoke to his client then put his phone back into his pocket. ‘Not exactly the way I’d been planning to celebrate our engagement. I’m sorry, babe. It’ll be a late one; you know what he’s like. Branding, bonding and, of course, lots of beer. I could come round after… no. No, second thoughts I probably shouldn’t. I don’t know what state I’ll be in.’

‘Look, it’s not a problem. But you’re right, it’s probably best if you stay at yours. I have an early start tomorrow.’ There was a brief flutter of relief in her chest coupled with a strange feeling in the pit of Emily’s stomach. The sand of her life was shifting. Space to think things through was probably a good call.

He had a sheepish grin as he squeezed her hand. ‘I’m sorry. I wanted tonight to be special.’

‘It is. This…’ she looked down at the glittering ring. ‘This is very special. Go! Go out and drink beer.’ She

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