Little, Brown and Company
The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married—and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day—she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.
But the wedding isn't Gaby's only surprise—she has one more gift for her children, and it could change all their lives forever. With deeply affecting characters and the emotional twists of a James Patterson thriller, The Christmas Wedding is a fresh look at family and the magic of the season.
Little, Brown and Company
Book One | Christmas Dreaming
THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS in Claire's house that night were highly creative, to say the least, but mostly sad, really sad. Hank slept on the foldout couch that he had occupied most of the day. Gus slept on the kitchen floor because Claire, Toby, and Gabrielle couldn't carry him another foot.
It worked out, in an oddball sort of way. The kitchen turned out to be a fairly convenient spot for Gus. When he awoke at three in the morning with an advanced case of the munchies, he was where a guy should be to eat an entire box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a half jar of peanut butter, and about a half pound of baking chocolate.
Claire was afraid that when Hank's weed wore
off, he would come upstairs and try to fall asleep next to her.
So she covered herself completely with quilts and blankets and tried to fall asleep on the white wicker sofa in the sunroom.
Of course, she knew she'd never fall asleep there. And she was right. At midnight she sat up and stared out at the small sliver of cold, moonlit beach. Then Claire did what she rarely did. She cried her eyes out. Not for herself. For everybody else in the house. She had a habit of putting herself last, just the way her mother did.
The tears came rushing down her puffy, aching cheek. She finally buried her face in a quilt to keep the noise of her weeping from her sleeping family. But she just couldn't stop the cascade of tears.
Yes, she thought, I can forgive Gus. He's a teenager.
What did he do that was so awful? Some mischief with the stupid portable toilets. Then he got stoned like a million other misguided American teenagers. But she could not forgive Hank, not anymore. Damn him. Most husbands were not getting stoned on Sunday afternoons that could be spent with their families; most husbands were not slapping their wives across the face. And if there were other husbands like that, well, Claire didn't want to be married to any of them either. So now what did she do?
Claire knew she was strong—she'd had the twins via natural childbirth (twenty-six hours of labor), still ran three miles a day—but, shoot, she thought, you can be the strongest person in the world and still make some bad decisions and have a pretty miserable life.
Her cell phone rang. What the? Oh, who else? It was her sister Lizzie, the sister who lived seven miles from Gaby up in Housatonic.
"I wake you?" Lizzie asked.
"No, I'm just sitting up reading. You know me, Lizard. Read till I drop."
"Nerd. Bookworm. I wanted to call earlier, but Mike was feeling good enough to go out to dinner. So we all stuffed ourselves down at Bub's Barbecue."
"How's Mike doing?"
"Same. Good days and bad. Still telling jokes. He's really a trouper. I admire him."
"Well, at least you all had a little fun today. That's good. I admire you."
"Yeah, thanks," Lizzie sighed. Then, with enthusiasm, she said, "Anyway, what do you think the story is with Gaby?"
"I think the story is that she's getting married. To whom—I have no idea. Maybe Tom Hayden?"
"You don't think she's telling stories?"
"Mom loves a tease, a good mystery, but no. Anyway, I think it's great."
A pause. Claire spoke again.
"I said 'I think it's great.' Don't you?"
A shorter pause.
"I guess so. I mean, yes. Yes. I think it's great."
"What's the matter, Liz? I need some backstory here."
"It's just...I know this is going to sound stupid. I know it's irrational...but it seems like...I don't know...I really miss Dad."
"I hate to say this, Liz. This is tough for me. But do you think it has something to do with the fact that Mike is pretty sick right now?"
Loudly and almost jokingly Lizzie replied, "Well, of course it does, Dr. Phil."
They both laughed like the good friends and confidantes they'd always been.
"What does Mike think about it?" Claire asked. "The wedding? The mystery groom?"
"He says there's nothing the Summerhill women can do that would surprise him. Is Hank...somewhat with the program?"
He doesn't have a fricking clue. "Oh, yeah. Hank's a worrywart about the weather, but he thinks it will be fun." Staying in South Carolina and smoking weed until he drops.
Another pause, a chance for Claire to talk her heart out, to spill about Hank the asshole. "So, you guys are good, though?" she asked her sister.
The chance to spill had passed.
"Yeah, we're good, C. Nothing an extra ten thousand a year wouldn't make better. But tomorrow I'm headed over to Mom's house. I'll get more information out of her. Mom will blab."
"Forget it. My money's on Mom," said Claire. "Gaby wants everybody home for Christmas. And you know what, she's right. We need to get together. And meet our new dad."
They said their good-byes. Claire returned to her view of the beach. Why hadn't she told Lizzie that she wanted to plunge a carving knife through Hank's heart?
Why? For the same reason Lizzie never complained about having to drive Mike to chemo twice a week or about his being struck by cancer at thirty-six. Why? Because they were Summerhill women. And that's the way Summerhill women had to be. Strong and tough. Claire and Lizzie and Emily and, of course, the strongest of them all, Gaby.
So who the hell are you marrying, Mom? Why the big secret? Why all the mystery? Claire was betting on Tom Hayden. But maybe it was Jacob Coleman. Jacob was a real cutie.
Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson
Audiobook (Unabridged CD)
Read by Susan McInerney, Kathleen McInerney, Ax Norman, Allyson Johnson, and Eileen Stevens
Susan McInerney is an audio book narrator of fiction and non-fiction—over 160 titles. She brings her experience in theatre, television, and radio to the recording booth.
Kathleen McInerney is an Audie award winning narrator. She has performed in New York City and around the U.S. in both classical and contemporary theater. Her other credits include television commercials, daytime drama, radio plays, and animation voice-over.
With nearly 20 years of voiceover experience, Ax Norman has voiced every conceivable type of voiceover. Ax has voiced over 60 audio books including I Drive a Dump Truck, Art Through the Ages, and Field Trip Mysteries.
Allyson Johnson began her entertainment career in her hometown of Chicago as an Emmy Award winning child news anchor. A graduate of Brown University, she is a working actress, singer, and audio book narrator in the New York City metropolitan area.
Eileen Stevens is a voice over actress living and working in NYC. Her voice can be heard on cartoons, promos, English as a Second Language programs, and audio books. She currently is the voice of "Iris" on "Pokemon" and a frequent narrator at Audible.com, among others. She’s directed audio books for Random House and was producer/director at Full House Productions, a recording studio in NYC, for over 6 years. She’s also a graduate student in speech language pathology at Hunter College.
Little, Brown and Company