With: Jill Mansell
International bestseller Jill Mansell weaves a heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship in her latest novel
1. A brief encounter that could have become so much more…if only everything were different
2. Step-sisters, bitter rivals in every area except one—by unbreakable pact neither will ever steal a man from the other
3. A love triangle that starts out as a mess of secrets and mix-ups, and only gets worse from there
Friendship, family ties, crossed wires and self-discovery, second chances and first impressions
Welcome to Jill Mansell’s blustery seaside world. Once you step inside, you’ll never want to leave!
With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.
When he’d gone out on the evening of his twenty-fifth birthday, Sam had never intended to meet the love of his life. It was meant to be a casual get-together for a motley group of his friends at one of their favorite restaurants, followed by a visit to a club.
What he hadn’t banked on was catching the eye of a blond girl at one of the other tables in the restaurant and liking the look of her enough to keep glancing over in her direction. And each time he did so, as if sensing his attention, she would look up and meet his gaze.
After an hour, it was getting ridiculous. They were both doing it and trying so hard not to smile. Leaving his table, ostensibly to pay a visit to the bathroom, Sam walked past her and waited in the corridor outside.
Less than twenty seconds later she joined him, and this time there were no attempts to hide the smiles.
“Happy birthday, dear Sam,” she said, because his friends had sung the rousing chorus to him earlier before clattering their glasses together for a toast.
Sam said, “It’s not shaping up too badly so far.”
“You never know; it could get better.” Reaching up, she murmured, “Happy birthday to you,” and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Followed by a proper one on the mouth.
Her name was Lisa, she was a nurse at King’s College Hospital, and she shared a flat with four other nurses in Brixton. Having fulfilled her duty at the work party at the restaurant to celebrate the retirement of one of the doctors in their department, Lisa and two of her friends from King’s joined forces with Sam and his friends and spent the next few hours in a club. At the end of the night, she kissed him once more and said, “I’m not coming home with you. If you want to see me again, call me tomorrow and invite me out properly on Saturday night.”
“Fine.” Simultaneously frustrated and impressed, Sam said, “Give me your number then.”
“If you want to see me again,” said Lisa, “you’ll track me down without it.”
Was she joking?
“Are you serious?” said Sam.
“Absolutely.” She’d given him a mischievous look. “I’m deadly serious about finding out if you’re serious about wanting to see me again. Because if you aren’t, why bother?”
“And do you think I will bother?” Lisa’s eyes sparkled. “Oh, I hope so.”
It hadn’t been difficult. He called the restaurant, persuaded them to give him the number of the husband of the doctor whose retirement party it had been, and worked forward from there. Having been passed on to one of Lisa’s friends, he found out which ward she worked on and what time her shift ended. That evening, he waited outside the ward for her to appear.
When she saw him, Lisa said, “So you tracked me down. But did you get my phone number?”
Sam took out his cell phone and pressed a button. Seconds later, a jaunty tone rang out from inside the yellow raffia bag slung over her shoulder. “You might want to answer that,” he said.
When she did, he stood just a few feet away from her and said into his phone, “Hi, this is Sam. I was wondering if you’d like to come out with me on Saturday evening.”
“Thank you.” Her smile broadened as she stepped aside to make room for a patient on a gurney to be pushed into the ward. Speaking into her own phone, she said, “I’d like that very much.”
It had never been Sam’s intention to get married while still in his twenties. But sometimes fate took a hand, you met the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, and after a while it seemed like the next logical step, so why wait?
A year after they’d first gotten together, he and Lisa had moved into a tiny flat in Peckham. Six months later, they had begun making plans for the wedding, to take place on the date of the night they’d first met.
“If we get married on your birthday,” Lisa said, “you’ll never forget our anniversary.”
“Fine, and you aren’t allowed to forget it either,” Sam said.
Three months before the wedding, Lisa suffered a week of increasingly severe headaches that culminated in an epileptic seizure at work and admission to the hospital. A brain scan confirmed what a physical examination had already given the doctors cause to suspect: there was a large tumor growing in her brain.
And suddenly, the future they’d expected to share was no longer the future they found themselves having to face up to. Surgery swiftly followed, as much as possible of the malignant tumor was excised in order to reduce the pressure inside the skull, and Lisa underwent a course of radiotherapy. The tumor was a glioblastoma multiforme, not the kind anyone would choose to have. But Lisa made a good enough recovery to be able to insist that the wedding went ahead.
And for a few more months, she was still herself, more or less, albeit weak and tired and with a frustrating struggle to find the right words when she spoke. Eventually, the neurosurgeon informed them that the tumor was on the march again, and Lisa begged him to operate once more to reduce the mass. It was during this risky second bout of surgery that a bleed occurred, and significantly more damage was done to her brain. After that, she was confined to her bed on the neurosurgical ward, and the surgeon explained to Sam that all they could do now was make her comfortable.
This was when Sam realized he had to come to terms with the fact that while he still loved Lisa, she was no longer the girl he’d fallen in love with. Furthermore, he was on his own. Before, they’d been a team, fighting the tumor together. Now, Lisa was—quite literally—the sleeping partner. There was nothing more she could do to help him through the nightmare that lay ahead.