Exclusive extract: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Susan Wiggs’ new release, Family Tree, today. Susan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lakeshore Chronicles series which I absolutely love. She is the proud recipient of three RITA awards for Lakeside Cottage, Lord of the Night and The Mistress, and is often a finalist for the prestigious award. She lives in Washington. Later today I’ll be sharing my review of this lovely book but first I have an exclusive extract to share with you.

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

Chapter 2

So, Dad,” said Teddy, swiveling around on the kitchen barstool, “if the water buffalo weighs two thousand pounds, how come it doesn’t sink in the mud?”

Fletcher Wyndham glanced at the show his son was watching, an unlikely choice for a ten-year- old kid, but Teddy had taken a shine to The Key Ingredient. Most people in Switchback, Vermont, tuned in to the cooking show, not because of the chef or the hot blond cohost. No, the reason was behind the scenes—a quick blip in the credits that rolled while the slightly annoying theme song played.

Her name was Annie Rush—the producer.

The most popular cooking show on TV was her brainchild, and she’d been born and raised in Switchback. Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher had gone to school with Annie. A while back, the show had filmed an episode right here in town, though Fletcher had kept his distance from the production. Since then, Annie held celebrity status, even though she didn’t appear on camera.

That was just as well, Fletcher decided. Seeing her on TV every week would drive him nuts. “Good question, buddy,” he said to his son. “That one looks like he’s walking on water.”

Teddy rolled his eyes. “It’s not a guy buffalo. It’s a girl buffalo. They make mozzarella cheese from the milk.”

“Then why not call it a milk buffalo?”

“’Cause it lives in the water. Duh.”

“Amazing what you can learn from watching TV.”

“Yeah, you should let me watch more.”

“Dream on,” said Fletcher.

“Mom lets me watch as much as I want.”

And there it was. Evidence that Teddy had officially joined a club no kid wanted to belong to—confused kids of divorced parents.

Looking around the chaos of the house they’d just moved into, Fletcher pondered an oft-asked question: What the hell happened to my life?

He was able to precisely locate the turning point. A single night of too much beer and too little judgment had set him on a path that had changed every plan he’d ever made.

Yet when he looked into his son’s face, he did not have a single regret. Teddy had come into the world a squalling, red-faced, needy bundle of noise, and Fletcher’s reaction had not been love at first sight. It had been fear at first sight. He wasn’t afraid of the baby. He was afraid of failing him. Afraid to do something that would screw up this tiny, perfect, helpless human.

There was only one choice he could make. He had shoved aside the fear. He had given his entire self to Teddy, driven by a powerful sense of mission and a love like nothing he’d ever felt before. Now Teddy was in fifth grade, ridiculously cute, athletic, goofy, and sweet. Sometimes, he was a total pain in the ass. Yet every moment of every day, he was the center of Fletcher’s universe.

Teddy had always been a happy kid. The kind of happy that made Fletcher want to enclose him in a protective bubble. Now Fletcher realized that, despite his intentions, the bubble had been pierced. The end of his marriage had been a long time coming, and he knew the transition was hard on Teddy. Fletcher wished he could have spared his son the pain and confusion, but he needed to end it in order to breathe again. He only hoped that one day Teddy would understand.

“The water buffalo is a remarkable feat of nature’s engineering,” said the cohost of The Key Ingredient, who served as the sidekick of the life-support system for an ego, aka Martin Harlow.

“Why is that, Melissa?” asked the host in a phony voice.

She gestured at the sad-looking buffalo, standing in a small pen against a none-too- subtle computer-generated swamp. “Well, the animal’s wide hooves allow her to walk on extremely soft surfaces without sinking.”

The host stroked his chin. “Good point. You know, when I was a kid, I thought I had a fifty percent chance of drowning in quicksand, because it happened so much in the movies.”

The blonde laughed and shook back her hair. “We’re glad you didn’t!”

Fletcher winced. “Hey, buddy, give me a hand with the unpacking, will you?”

The big items had all been delivered, but there were several loads of unopened boxes.

“The show’s almost over. I want to see how the cheese turns out.”

“The suspense must be killing you,” said Fletcher. “Hey, you know what they make with the

mozzarella cheese?”

“Pizza! Can we order pizza tonight?”

“Sure. Or we could just eat the leftover pizza from last night.”

“It’s better fresh.”

“Good point. I’ll call after we unpack two more boxes. Deal?”

“Yeah,” Teddy said with a quick fist pump.

The new house had everything Fletcher had once envisioned, back when he’d had someone to dream with—a big kitchen open to the rest of the house. If he knew how to cook, delicious things would happen here. But the person who made the delicious things was long gone from his life. Still the old dream lingered, leading Fletcher to this particular house, a New England classic a century old. It had a fireplace and a room with enough bookshelves to be called a library. There was a back porch with a swing he’d spent the afternoon putting together, and it was not just any swing, but a big, comfortable one with cushions large enough for a fine nap—a swing he’d been picturing for more than a decade.

They tackled a couple of boxes of books. Teddy was quiet for a while as he shelved them. Then he held up one of the books. “Why’s it called Lord of the Flies?”

“Because it’s awesome,” Fletcher said.

“Okay, but why is it called that?”

“You’ll find out when you’re older.”

“Is it something dirty I’m not supposed to know about?”

“It’s filthy dirty.”

“Mom would have a cow if I told her you had a dirty book.”

“Great. Here’s a thought. Don’t tell her.”

Teddy put the book on the shelf, then added a few more to the collection. “So, Dad?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Is this really where we live now?” He looked around the room, his eyes two saucers of hurt.

Fletcher nodded. “This is where we live.”

“Forever and ever?”

“Yep.”

“That’s a long time.”

“It is.”

“So when I tell my friends to come over to my house, will they come to this one or our other house?”

There was no our anymore. Celia had taken possession of the custom-built place west of town.

He stopped shelving books and turned to Teddy. “Wherever you are, that’s home.”

They worked together, putting up the last of the books. Fletcher stepped back, liking the balance of the bookcases flanking the fireplace, the breeze from the back porch stirring the chains of the swing.

The only thing missing was the one person who had shared the dream with him.

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from HarperCollins.

Find out more about Susan and her writing at: http://www.susanwiggs.com/

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