Susan Wiggs.

Summer By The Sea






Praise for the novels of
SUSAN WIGGS

This is the perfect beach read.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber on Summer by the Sea

[Wiggss] keen awareness of sensory detail ensures that the scents and sounds of Rosas kitchen are just as palpable as the heady attraction between the protagonists.

Publishers Weekly on Summer by the Sea

Wiggs is one of our best observers of stories of the heart. Maybe that is because she knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book.

Salem Statesman-Journal

Wiggs explores many aspects of grief, from guilt to anger to regret, imbuing her book with the classic wouldve/couldve/ shouldve emotions, and presenting realistic and sympathetic characters. Another excellent title [for] her already outstanding body of work.

Booklist on Table for Five

With the ease of a master, Wiggs introduces complicated, flesh-and-blood characters into her idyllic but identifiable small-town setting, sets in motion a refreshingly honest romance, resolves old issues and even finds room for a little mystery.

Publishers Weekly on The Winter Lodge

Empathetic protagonists, interesting secondary characters, well-written flashbacks, and delicious recipes add depth to this touching, complex romance.

Library Journal on The Winter Lodge

Wiggss uncomplicated stories are rich with life lessons, nod-along moments and characters with whom readers can easily relate. Delightful and wise, Wiggss latest shines.

Publishers Weekly on Dockside

A wonderfully written, beautiful love story with a few sharp edges and a bunch of marvelously imperfect characters, this is one of Wiggss finest efforts to date. Its sure to leave an indelible impression on even the most jaded reader.

Romantic Times BOOKreviews on Dockside

Susan Wiggs writes with bright assurance, humor and compassion about sisters, children and the sweet and heartbreaking trials of lifeabout how much better it is to go through them together.

New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice

A bold, humorous and poignant romance that fulfills every womans dreams.

Christina Dodd on Enchanted Afternoon

[A] delightful rompWith its lively prose, well-developed conflict and passionate characters, this enjoyable, poignant tale is certain to enchant.

Publishers Weekly on Halfway to Heaven

The Charm School draws readers in with delightful characters, engaging dialogue, humor, emotion and sizzling sensuality.

Costa Mesa Sunday Times

A rare treat.

Amazon.com on The Firebrand

A human and multilayered story exploring duty to both country and family.

New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts on The Ocean Between Us

Summerby theSea

Susan Wiggs
Summerby theSea


In memory of Trixie,

beloved companion, faithful friend.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Part One Antipasto

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Part Two Insalata

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Part Three Minestra

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Part Four Pasta

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Part Five Entrata

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Part Six Dolci

Chapter Forty-Three

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As always, Id like to acknowledge my ever-patient critique group: Rose Marie, Anjali, Kate, Lois, P.J., Susan, Krysteen and Sheila, for their talent, wisdom and courage to sample a number of culinary experiments.

Im deeply grateful to my agent, friend and champion Meg Ruley, and to Martha Keenan and Dianne Moggy of MIRA Books. Molto grazie to Mike Sharpe of Four Swallows Restaurant on Bainbridge Island, Washington, for patiently answering my many questions. And finally, a very special thank-you to my Uncle Tommy, who has no idea why Im thanking him: youve never heard the sound of my voice, but youve always had my love, admiration and respect.

PART ONE
Antipasto

Antipasto: The Italian word for a snack served before a meal. These are dishes to pique the appetite, not quench it. Antipasto literally means before the meal. Mamma used to say it was the anti-noise course because my brothers, Robert and Sal, would be so busy stuffing their faces that theyd forget to complain about being hungry.

Caponata

This has an excellent flavor and makes a very nice presentation on a perfect leaf of lettuce, not that Robert and Sal ever gave a hoot about presentation. And its even quite low in calories, not that guys care about that, either. Serve this as a traditional antipasto with a good crusty Italian bread and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio.

Peel and dice an eggplant, toss with salt, put in a colander and drain for at least a half hour. Then heat up a heavy skillet and add ? cup olive oil, a small onion, chopped, and a stick of celery, also chopped. Add the eggplant and saut?. Finally, add three chopped tomatoes, three minced anchovies, a pinch of sugar, ? cup wine vinegar and a spoonful of capers (the best ones come from Pantelleria Island). If your family likes olives, add some of those, too, along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Simmer for ten minutes. Cool, then store overnight in a glass container. For a smoother spreading consistency, you can whirl the mixture in the food processor, but dont overdo it. Things that are too smooth lose their character.

One

Rosa Capoletti knew that tonight was the night. Jason Aspoll was going to pop the question. The setting was perfecta starlit summer evening, an elegant seaside restaurant, the sounds of crystal and silver gently clinking over quiet murmurs of conversation. At Jasons request, the Friday night trio was playing Lovetown, and a few dreamy couples swayed to the nostalgic melody.

Candlelight flickered over their half-empty champagne flutes, illuminating Jasons endearingly nervous face. He was sweating a little, and his eyes darted with barely suppressed trepidation. Rosa could tell he wanted to get this right.

She knew he was wondering, Should I reach across the table? Go down on one knee, or is that too hokey?

Go for it, Jason, she wanted to urge him. Nothings too hokey when its true love.

She also knew the ring lay nestled in a black velvet box, concealed in the inner pocket of his dinner jacket, right next to his racing heart.

Come on, Jason, she thought. Dont be afraid.

And then, just as she was starting to worry that hed chickened out, he did it. He went down on one knee.

A few nearby diners shifted in their chairs to look on fondly. Rosa held her breath while his hand stole inside his jacket.

The music swelled. He took the box from his pocket and she saw his mouth form the words: Will you marry me?

He held out the ring box, opening the hinged lid to reveal the precious offering. His hand shook a little. He still didnt know for sure if she would have him.

Silly man, thought Rosa. Didnt he know the answer would be

Table seven sent back the risotto, said Leo, the headwaiter, holding a thick china bowl in front of Rosa.

Leo, for crying out loud, she said, craning her neck to see past him. Cant you tell Im busy here? She pushed him aside in time to watch her best friend, Linda Lipschitz, stand up from the table and fling her arms around Jason.

Yes, Linda said, although from across the dining room Rosa had to read her lips. Yes, absolutely.

Atta girl, thought Rosa, her eyes misting.

Leo followed her gaze to the embracing couple. Sweet, he said. Now what about my risotto?

Take it back to the kitchen, Rosa said. I knew the mango chutney was a bad idea, anyway, and you can tell Butch I said so. She let Leo deal with it as she walked across the dining room. Linda was wreathed in smiles and tears. Jason looked positively blissful and, perhaps, weak with relief.

Rosa, you wont believe what just happened, Linda said.

Rosa dabbed at her eyes. I think I can guess.

Linda held out her hand, showing off a glittering marquise-cut diamond in a gold cathedral setting.

Oh, honey. Rosa hugged Linda and gave Jason a kiss on the cheek. Congratulations, you two, she said. Im so happy for you.

Shed helped Jason pick out the ring, told him Lindas size, selected the music and menu, ordered Lindas favorite flowers for the table. Theyd set the scene in every possible way. Rosa was good at things like thiscreating events around the most special moments in peoples lives.

Other peoples lives.

Linda was babbling, already making plans. Well drive over to see Jasons folks on Sunday, and then get everyone together to set a date

Slow down, my friend, Rosa said with a laugh. How about you dance with your fianc??

Linda turned to Jason, her eyes shining. My fianc?. God, I love the sound of that.

Rosa gave the couple a gentle shove toward the dance floor. As he pulled Linda into his arms, Jason looked over her shoulder and mouthed a thank-you to Rosa. She waved, dabbed at her eyes again and headed for the kitchen. Back to work.

She was smiling as she crossed the nonskid mat and entered the kitchen through the swinging doors. Quiet elegance gave way to controlled chaos. Glaring lights and flaming grills illuminated the crush of prep workers, line cooks and the sous-chef hurrying back and forth between stainless steel counters. Waiters tapped their feet, checking orders before stepping through the soundproofed doors that protected the serenity of the dining room from male shouts and clattering dishes.

The revved-up energy of the kitchen was fueled by testosterone, but Rosa knew how to hold her own here. She walked through a gauntlet of aproned men with huge knives or vats of boiling water, pivoting around each other in their nightly ballet. A stream from a hose roared against the dishwashing sink, and hot drafts from the Imperial grill licked like dragons breath at precisely 1010F.

Wait, she said as a prep worker passed by with a plated steak that had been liberally sprinkled with tripepper confetti.

What? The worker, a recent hire from Newport, paused at the counter.

We dont garnish the steaks here.

Come again?

This is premium meat, our signature cut. Serve it without the garnish.

Ill remember that, he said, and set the plate on the counter for a server to pick up.

She planted herself in front of him. Go back and replate the steak, please. No garnish.

But

Rosa glared at him with fire in her eyes. Dont back down, she cautioned herself. Dont blink.

You got it, he said, scowling as he returned to the prep area.

Well? asked Lorenzo Butch Buchello, whose fresh Italian cuisine was drawing in patrons from as far away as New York and Boston.

Yep. Rosa grinned and selected a serrated knife from the array affixed to a steel grid on the wall. Went down on one knee and everything.

Neither of them stopped working as they chatted. He was coordinating dessert while she arranged fluffy white peasant bread in a basket.

Good for them, said Butch.

Theyre really in love, Rosa said. I got all choked up, watching them.

Ever the incurable romantic, Butch said, piping chocolate ganache around the profiteroles.

Ha, theres a cure for it, Shelly Warren cut in, whisking behind them to pick up her order.

Its called marriage, Rosa said.

Shelly gave her a high-five. She had been married for ten years and claimed that her night job waiting tables was an escape from endless hours of watching the Golf Channel until her eyes glazed over.

Hey, dont knock it till youve tried it, Rosa, said Butch. In fact, what about that guy you were datingDean whats his name?

Oh, actually, he did want to get married, she explained.

Butchs eyes lit up. Hey! Well, there you go

Just not to me.

His face fell. Im sorry. I didnt know.

Its all right. He joins a long and venerable line of suitors who didnt suit.

Im starting to see a pattern here, Butch said. He took a wire whisk to a bowl of custard and Marsala, creating an order of his famous zabaglione. You run them off and then say they didnt suit.

She finished up with the bread baskets. Not tonight, Butch. This is Lindas moment. Send them a tiramisu and your congratulations, okay?

She headed back to the dining room and went over to the podium, which faced the main entrance. It was a perfect Friday night at Celestas-by-the-Sea. All the tables in the multilevel dining room were oriented toward the view of the endless sea, and were set with fresh flowers, crisp linens, good china and flatware.

This was the sort of scene she used to dream about back when the place was a run-down pizza joint. Couples danced to the smooth beat of a soft blues number, the drummers muted cymbals shimmering with a sensual resonance. Out on the deck, people stood listening to the waves and looking at the stars. For the past three years running, Celestas had been voted Best Place to Propose by Coast magazine, and tonight was a perfect example of the reason for its charmsea breezes, sand and surf, a natural backdrop for the award-winning dining room.

Did you cry? asked Vince, the host, stepping up beside her. Theyd known each other since childhoodshe, Vince and Linda. Theyd gone through school together, inseparable. Now he was the best-looking ma?tre d in South County. He was tall and slender, flawlessly groomed in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes. Rimless glasses highlighted his darkly-lashed eyes.

Of course I cried, Rosa said. Didnt you?

Maybe, he admitted with a fond smile in Lindas direction. A little. I love seeing her so happy.

Yeah. Me, too.

So thats two of us down, one to go, he said.

She rolled her eyes. Not you, too.

Butch has already been at you?

What do you two do, lie awake at night discussing my love life?

No, sweetie. Your lack of one.

Give me a break, okay? She spoke through a smile as a party of four left the restaurant. She and Vince had perfected the art of bickering while appearing utterly congenial.

Please come again, Vince said, his expression so warm that the two women did a double-take. Glancing down at the computer screen discreetly set beneath the surface of the podium, he checked the status of their tab. Three bottles of Antinori.

Rosa gave a blissful sigh. Sometimes I love this job.

You always love this job. Too much, if you ask me.

Youre not my analyst, Vince.

Ringrazi il cielo, he muttered. You couldnt pay me enough.

Hey.

Kidding, he assured her. Good night, folks, he said to a departing threesome. Thanks so much for coming.

Rosa surveyed her domain with a powerful but weary pride. Celestas-by-the-Sea was the place people came to fall in love. It was also Rosas own emotional landscape; it structured her days and weeks and years. She had poured all her energy into the restaurant, creating a place where people marked the most important events of their livesengagements, graduations, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, promotions. They came to escape the rush and rigors of everyday life, never knowing that each subtle detail of the place, from the custom alabaster lampshades to the imported chenille chair covers, had been contrived to create an air of luxury and comfort, just for them.

Rosa knew such attention to detail, along with Butchs incomparable cuisine, had elevated her restaurant to one of the best in the county, perhaps in the entire state. The focal point of the place was a hammered steel bar, its edges fluted like waves. The bar, which shed commissioned from a local artisan, was backed by a sheet of blue glass lit from below. At its center was a nautilus seashell, the light flickering over and through the whorls and chambers. People seemed drawn to its mysterious iridescence, and often asked where it came from, and if it was real. Rosa knew the answer, but she never told.

She checked the time on the screen without being obvious. None of the servers wore watches and there was no clock in sight. People relaxing here shouldnt notice the passing of time. But the small computer screen indicated 10:00 p.m. She didnt expect too much more business, except perhaps in the bar.

She could tell, with a sweep of her gaze, that tonights till would be sky-high. Im so glad summers here, she said to Vince.

You know, for normal people, summer means vacation time. For us, it means our lives belong to Celestas.

This is normal. Hard work had never bothered Rosa. Outside the restaurant there was not much to her life, and she had convinced herself that she liked it that way. She had Pop, of course, who at sixty-five was as independent as ever, accusing her of fussing over him. Her brother Robert was in the navy, currently stationed with his family overseas. Her other brother, Sal, was also in the navy, a Catholic priest serving as chaplain. Her father and brothers, nieces and nephews, were her family.

But Celestas was her life.

She stole a glance at Jason and Linda, and fancied she could actually see stars in their eyes. Sometimes, when Rosa looked at the happy couples holding hands across the tables in her restaurant, she felt a bittersweet ache. And then she always pretended, even to herself, that it didnt matter.

I give you two months off every year, she pointed out to Vince.

Yeah, January and February.

Best time of year in Miami, she reminded him. Or are you and Butch ready to give up your condo there?

All right, all right. I get your point. I wouldnt have it any other

The sound of car doors slamming interrupted them. Rosa sent another discreet look at the slanted computer screen under the podium. Ten-fifteen.

She stepped back while Vince put on his trademark smile. So much for making an early night of it. The comment slipped between his teeth, while his expression indicated hed been waiting all his life for the next group of patrons.

Rosa recognized them instantly. Not by name, of course. The summer crowds at the shore were too huge for that. No, she recognized them because they were a type. Summer people. The women exuded patrician poise and beauty. The tallest one wore her perfectly straight golden-blond hair caught, seemingly without artifice, in a thin band. Her couture clothesa slim black skirt, silk blouse and narrow kid leather flatshad a subtle elegance. Her two friends were stylish clones of her, with uniformly sleek hair, pale makeup, sleeves artfully rolled back just so. They pulled off the look as only those to the manor born could.

Rosa and Vince had grown up sharing their summers with people like this. To the seasonal visitors, the locals existed for the sole purpose of serving those who belonged to the venerable old houses along the pristine, unspoiled shore just as their forebears had done a century before. They were the ones whose charity galas were covered by Town & Country magazine, whose weddings were announced in the New York Times. They were the ones who never thought about what life was like for the maid who changed their sheets, the fisherman who brought in the days catch, the cleaners who ironed their Sea Isle cotton shirts.

Vince nudged her behind the podium. Yachty. They practically scream Baileys Beach.

Rosa had to admit, the women would not look out of place at the exclusive private beach at the end of Newports cliff walk. Be nice, she cautioned him.

I was born nice.

The door opened and three men joined the women. Rosa offered the usual smile of greeting. Then her heart skipped a beat as her gaze fell upon a tall, sandy-haired man. No, it couldnt be, she told herself. She hopedprayedit was a trick of the light. But it wasnt, and her expression froze as recognition chilled her to the bone.

Big deal, she thought, trying not to hyperventilate. She was bound to run into him sooner or later.

Uh-oh, Vince muttered, assuming a stance that was now more protective than welcoming. Here come the Montagues.

Rosa struggled against panic, but she was losing the battle. Youre a grown woman, she reminded herself. Youre totally in control.

That was a lie. In the blink of an eye, she was eighteen again, aching and desperate over the boy whod broken her heart.

Ill tell them were closed, Vince said.

Youll do nothing of the sort, Rosa hissed at him.

Ill beat the crap out of him.

Youll offer them a table, and make it a good one. Straightening her shoulders, Rosa looked across the room and locked eyes with a man she hadnt seen in ten years, a man she hoped she would never see again.





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