Summer on Sunshine Bay
May 23, 2023
USA Today bestselling author Debbie Mason is making her trade paperback debut with a heartwarming story about a mother and daughter rebuilding their relationship, rediscovering themselves, and rekindling romance.
Welcome to Sunshine Bay, where the joys of summer last all year round.
Lila Rosetti Sinclair returns to Sunshine Bay a bundle of nerves. After being gone for years, sharing the news that she’s engaged—to a man her mother has never met—is going to be difficult to navigate. But when her fiancé David surprises her with an engagement party at Windemere, the upscale inn his parents recently purchased and that just may put her family’s restaurant, La Dolce Vita, out of business, Lila’s got a whole new set of problems.
Eva Rosetti is so ecstatic to finally have her daughter home that she pushes aside her misgivings about having to come face-to-face with Lila’s father again. That is until he sweeps into town and feelings Eva thought far behind her resurface....
With a family business to save and a wedding to plan, Eva and Lila’s reunion is more than either bargained for, but with a little luck and a whole lot of support from friends and family, it may just turn out to be the best summer of their lives.
Lila Rosetti raised her gaze from her phone to her fiancé. He could pass for Matt Damon if the actor wore thick black horn-rimmed glasses and had a weakness for argyle sweater vests. But at that moment it wasn’t David’s handsome face that captured her attention, it was the black silk blindfold in his hand. “You can’t be serious?”
She’d had the same reaction when he brought the blindfold home four months earlier and suggested that it was time to spice up their love life. Only she’d laughed then. She couldn’t help it. David wearing a roguish grin while talking about their sex life was completely out of character for him.
They were boringly vanilla in the bedroom and outside it. Something they took pride in. No over-the-top emotions for them. Grand passion was overrated in their minds. They preferred the comfort they derived from their quiet, loving relationship.
Except David hadn’t been joking.
Lila had swallowed her disappointment that she wasn’t getting her standard Valentine’s Day gift of a heart-shaped box of chocolates and went along with David’s efforts to spice up their love life. She’d put his role-playing suggestion down to stress. It wasn’t as if she could blame it on a midlife crisis. David was thirty. But he had been stressed about the sale of her father’s London-based hotel group, where they’d worked together for the past three years—Lila as director of branding and David as director of sales.
Lila supposed her inability to set a wedding date had been responsible for at least some of David’s stress. He’d grown impatient with her unwillingness to commit to a date. Lila had no idea why the thought of marrying him had kept her awake at night. David was everything a woman could want in a husband—smart, ambitious, and dependable—and they shared common values and goals.
It was a moot point now. That silky black blindfold and their uptick in sexy times had taken care of her indecision. They had a baby on the way.
“Come on, honey. Don’t be a spoilsport. Put it on.” David leaned over, raising the blindfold to her eyes.
Seriously? They didn’t do PDA, and now he wanted to get kinky on the commuter plane they’d boarded at Logan International Airport thirty minutes before?
She tugged the blindfold from her eyes, lowering her voice so as not to draw the attention of the five other passengers on board. “I’m not a spoilsport.”
She was a rule follower, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t fun. She thought back to the beach parties she’d dragged her cousins away from when things had gotten out of hand, or, more to the point, when Sage and Willow had. Her cousins would probably agree that she was indeed a spoilsport.
But joining the Mile High Club was a horrible idea with high potential for arrest and even higher potential for embarrassment. “You’re taking this role-playing a little too far, don’t you think? We’re not Anastasia and Christian, and this is not your private jet, David.” She handed him the blindfold.
He frowned as if he didn’t understand what she meant, and then his serious blue eyes widened behind his glasses. “No, that’s not why I want you to wear the blindfold.” He huffed a self-conscious laugh. “I can’t believe you thought…” He shook his head and then whispered, “It has nothing to do with…you know—” He glanced around the plane. “Sex.”
Was it any wonder she’d thought he was joking when he brought the blindfold home? He couldn’t even say “sex” without blushing. She felt a rush of affection for him. They really were the perfect match. “Then why do you want me to wear it? You’ve been acting weird ever since you insisted we join your parents for dinner tonight.”
David’s parents had invited them for a celebratory dinner at their spectacular vacation home in Hyannis Port. Lila knew the Westfields were excited that they’d finally set a wedding date, but she’d tried putting the dinner off until she and David were settled. They’d arrived in Boston the week before, and they needed to find jobs and a place of their own.
“I’ve been acting weird? You nearly had a panic attack when I mentioned the dinner.”
“Because I had to cancel three viewings with the Realtor.” The woman hadn’t been shy about voicing her displeasure. Lila didn’t blame her for being upset. She’d hated canceling at the last minute but David had been adamant they join his parents for dinner. “You know how tight the market is. At this rate we’ll be living out of our suitcases at your parents’ condo for the foreseeable future.”
She was stressed about finding a place to live and a job, but that wasn’t the reason for her near panic attack. It was David’s parents wanting to celebrate their upcoming wedding at their vacation home. Lila hadn’t broken the news to her family, and Hyannis Port felt a little too close to her hometown for comfort. Her family lived on the northern tip of Cape Cod in the small town of Sunshine Bay.
She added “call Sage and Willow” to the next day’s to-do list on her phone. She couldn’t put it off any longer. She’d need backup when she broke the news to her mother about her upcoming wedding. She was invoking the Cousins Pact, a verbal contract she, Sage, and Willow had agreed to as children. No matter how the others personally felt about whatever news one of them had to break to her mother—and their grandmother—they’d back each other 100 percent.
Except this would be a harder sell than the last time Lila had invoked the Cousins Pact. To say her family didn’t believe in marriage was an understatement. And that included her cousins.
“Stop stressing about where we’ll live. It’s not good for the baby, and I’ve got a… Just trust me, honey. It’s all going to work out,” David said as he glanced out the window. He got an oh crap look on his face and slammed the blind shut.
“What’s going on? Is something wrong with the plane?” She wasn’t a nervous flyer. She’d been flying across the pond on her own since she was twelve. But she’d rather know if there was a problem. Her motto was “Be prepared.” Even as a little girl she hadn’t liked surprises.
“No, we’re landing, and I want it to be a surprise,” he said as he replaced the blindfold and tied it at the back of her head.
She cringed. He knew how she felt about surprises. But wait a minute… “How is us arriving at Hyannis Port a surprise?” They’d visited his parents at their vacation home before, several times in fact. Then a thought hit her, and she groaned. “Please tell me your parents aren’t meeting us with balloons and a banner.” It was something his mother would do. Jennifer was a sweet woman who looked for any excuse for a celebration. She should’ve been an event planner.
Even though Lila couldn’t see David through the blindfold, she turned to face him and lowered her voice. “You didn’t tell them about the baby, did you? You promised—”
He gently rubbed her flat stomach through the beige linen slacks she’d paired with a short-sleeved beige peplum jacket. “Of course not. We agreed to wait until you were twelve weeks,” he said. “My mother will be over the moon.”
David had been too. No doubt Lila agreeing to set a wedding date the morning after the stick turned blue had added to his excitement. She was still adjusting to the idea that she was carrying a tiny human …and getting married. Of the two, the idea of having a baby was easier to adjust to. She’d been raised by a family of single mothers.
And they’d be just as thrilled that she was expecting. Lila had considered leading with the baby news and keeping quiet about the wedding news. It wasn’t as if their wedding would make the society pages. David had agreed, albeit reluctantly, to her request that they get married at the courthouse. But she was avoiding the inevitable. As much as she dreaded breaking the news to her family, she had to tell them.
As David guided her down the aircraft stairs, Lila realized he hadn’t confirmed or denied her suspicion that they’d be greeted by his parents carrying a banner and balloons.
“Where are your mom and dad?” She couldn’t hear Jennifer excitedly calling their names. All she heard was the quiet conversations of the other passengers, the sound of a car engine idling close by, and the distant cries of seagulls.
“They’re, uh, meeting us at the restaurant. No, not yet.” He grabbed her hand, stopping her from removing the blindfold.
“David, this is ridiculous. I feel like an idiot.”
“You don’t look like an idiot. You look beautiful.” He pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “Not much longer now.”
At the nervous hitch in his voice, she whipped her head in his direction. Something was going on, and she had a feeling it wasn’t something she’d like. She lifted her left hand to lower the blindfold but David grabbed that one too, half dragging her after him.
She opened her mouth to give him crap, but then she heard his self-conscious laugh as he explained to someone that he had a special surprise for his bride-to-be, adding under his breath, “Smile, honey. I’m not sure they believe me. They look like they might call the cops.”
The last thing Lila wanted was to be the center of attention. Unlike her mother, she preferred to stay in the background. She forced a smile for their invisible audience, saying through clenched teeth, “Then take this blindfold off me.”
“Just give me… There’s the cab.” Picking up his pace, David towed her after him. She heard a car door open and felt a rush of cool air enveloping her—a welcome relief from the heat. His hand still encircling her wrists, David helped her inside the car and then got in beside her.
His grip loosened as he fastened her seat belt, and she pulled her hands free. She managed to get the blindfold off a second before he covered her eyes with his palm.
“David, if you don’t remove your hand this—”
“I just need one more minute.” He leaned forward, whispering something to the driver. When the car pulled away, David lifted his palm and peered in at her. “If I take my hand away, will you promise you’ll let me explain before you yell at me?”
“Why would I—”
“Please,” he said, a pleading note in his voice and in his eyes.
“Fine.” She prayed she was overreacting. How bad could it be?
He lowered his hand and then turned her to face him. She glanced out the window, and her gaze shot to his. “How could you?”
“I know you’re mad, honey. But just give me a chance to explain.”
“There’s nothing you can say that would explain why we’re in Sunshine Bay, David.” She turned to the driver. “Can you take me back to the airport, please?”
The man looked from her to David and then glanced in his rearview mirror. “Are you sure about that? The plane just took off, and there aren’t any outgoing flights scheduled until tomorrow morning.”
“It’s okay,” David told the driver. “Just take us to—”
“There’s nothing about this that’s okay, David.” Lila was furious and panicked at the same time. She took several slow, deep breaths in an effort to calm herself and the nausea rising up in her throat before addressing the driver. “Don’t take us to La Dolce Vita. Take us to…” She trailed off. Her cousin Willow had recently moved into a new place in Sunshine Bay, and she wasn’t sure of her address.
“We’re not going to La Dolce Vita, Lila. I wouldn’t do that to you. I know you need time to figure out a way to break the news that we’re getting married to your family.”
She didn’t miss the eye roll in David’s voice. No matter what he said, he wasn’t as understanding about her family’s aversion to marriage as he pretended to be. He’d laughed when she’d first told him about the Rosetti curse, and it had become a running joke with him. She hadn’t appreciated his making fun of her family’s superstition and had told him so. It didn’t matter that she didn’t believe in the Rosetti curse either. They were her family, and as much as they drove her crazy at times, she adored them.
“If we’re not going to the restaurant, where are we going?”
He raised a shoulder, and then, squeezing one eye shut, murmured, “Windemere.”
“Are you out of your mind? I’m not going to Windemere.” She crossed her arms and shook her head. “No way.”
He took her hand in his. “Just let me explain.”
She pulled her hand away and turned to face the window. “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind, David.”
Familiar sights came into view as the taxi crawled along Main Street behind several people on bikes. The cobblestone sidewalks were crowded with tourists taking in the quaint houses and B and Bs with their lush and colorful gardens and the eclectic mix of galleries, shops, cafés, bakeries, and bars that lined the narrow three-mile street that led down to the harbor and Windemere. “It’s bad enough that you lied to me about where we were going. But to bring me to Windemere?”
All her family could talk about when she’d surprised her mother for her fiftieth birthday in April—sans David and her engagement ring—was Windemere and their fear that the high-end restaurant and inn would put their restaurant out of business. There were several eateries in Sunshine Bay, but La Dolce Vita had been the only fine dining establishment in town before Windemere’s arrival on the scene.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I need you with me, and I knew you wouldn’t come if I told you the truth.” He tugged on her hand to get her to look at him. “My dad owns controlling interest in Windemere.”
“I had no idea. He told me when he invited us for dinner. I think he’s going to offer me a job. I’m pretty sure he wants me to run Windemere for him. That would be great, wouldn’t it? We wouldn’t have to stress about finding jobs or a place to live, and with the baby coming, you’ll want to be close to your family.”
She searched his face. He was serious. She’d shared her family’s worries about Windemere on her return to London. But it wouldn’t matter to David. For as long as she’d known him, he’d been vying for his father’s attention and respect. If Gavin offered him the job, she had little doubt that he’d jump at the offer. And she wasn’t sure that she could come up with a legitimate argument to get him to change his mind.
He rushed on. “I know your family’s worried about their restaurant, but they’re not seeing the big picture. Windemere will attract a high-end clientele to Sunshine Bay, and that will benefit all the local businesses, including La Dolce Vita,” he said as the taxi pulled into the circular driveway in front of the grand historic mansion that housed Windemere.
David paid the driver and got out of the car, holding out his hand. “Please, I need you. I can’t do this without you. We’re a team.”
A team that needed jobs and a place to live, she thought on a sigh. She had no doubt David would eventually bring up the fact that he’d worked for her father and lived in London because of her, so she owed him this. It wasn’t an entirely fair argument, but he didn’t always play fair.
“I promise, we’ll leave as soon as dinner’s over. We won’t even stay for dessert. I’ll rent a car. And you don’t have to worry about running into your family,” he said as she got out of the cab. “It’s not like they’re going to patronize the competition.”
He made a good point. Her family wouldn’t be caught dead at Windemere’s grand opening. All Lila had to do was get in and out of the restaurant without being recognized. It shouldn’t be hard. She’d left Sunshine Bay for London ten years earlier, and she only made it home for visits twice a year. Something her mother hadn’t forgiven Lila’s father for. No doubt she’d blame him for Lila’s upcoming marriage too. And if Gavin offered David the job, and he accepted…
She pushed the thought away. Her stomach was already queasy with nerves. The maître d’ greeted them when they entered the dramatic reception area, smiling broadly when David gave his name. Thankfully, Lila didn’t recognize the man. As they followed behind him, she got her first look at the restaurant and sucked in a breath at the view of the shimmering sapphire bay through billowing sheer curtains that separated a white marble dance floor from the patio. The restaurant wasn’t only stunning, it was also packed.
“Walk in front of me.” She tried to look natural, but it was difficult when she had to bend her knees and duck her head to stay out of sight behind David. “Promise me there are no more surprises,” she whispered in his ear.
His shoulders tensed. “There might be, but trust me, you’ll be happy about one of them.”
Lila was about to stop him and get him to tell her what he meant, but she spotted a man with a familiar head of golden hair and broad shoulders sitting at the table with David’s family. It was her father, James Sinclair. Despite having seen him two weeks before, she gave a delighted cry—“Dad!”—and rushed past David to greet her father.
“What are you doing here?” she asked as she hugged him.
“I thought you might need my support. How did your mother take the news?’
“James, don’t ruin my surprise.” David’s mother pouted while standing to hug Lila and David. She pulled back, gesturing at the empty chairs across from her. “Now sit before I burst.”
Her stomach gurgling with nerves, Lila greeted David’s father and his older brother with a strained smile. While she loved David’s mother, she wasn’t overly fond of his father and brother. Gavin IV, or Gavin Jr. as she thought of him, was the exact opposite of David in looks and personality. He was a flashy dresser who talked incessantly about himself. Apparently he’d been a big deal in high school and college but hadn’t fared as well when he got out in the real world. He changed jobs as often as he did girlfriends. The last Lila had heard, he was working in commercial real estate. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d put the Windemere deal together.
Once they’d taken their seats, Jennifer clapped her hands, her eyes shining. “Okay, are you ready for my surprise?”
Lila’s father rubbed his hand up and down the side of his face, something she’d seen him do when he was avoiding breaking unpleasant news. Gavin must’ve told him he planned to offer David the managerial position. It explained why he’d asked how her mother had taken the news. Lila had talked about Windemere with her father. Unlike David, he understood her family’s concerns.
“We’re ready for your news, Mom,” David said with a covert glance at Lila. He covered her hand with his as if ensuring she wouldn’t bolt.
Practically bouncing on her chair, Jennifer made a ta-da motion with her hands. “We’re having your wedding here at Windemere! And you don’t have to worry about a single thing, Lila. I’ve taken care of everything. Your wedding will be the talk of the cape. Everyone is so excited. I’ve already heard back from half the guest list confirming they’re coming, and I only sent the invitations out last month. I think it’s because it’s a weekend-long wedding. They’re becoming quite the thing, you know.”
“Woman, relax.” David’s father shook his head. “Once she gets started about a party, you can’t shut her up. But hey, even I have to admit, I was blown away by the response. Three hundred of the crème de la crème of Boston society coming to Windemere for a weekend? It’s just what we need to put this place on the map.” Gavin pointed his wineglass at David. “Don’t screw it up, Son.”