Serena blinked for a moment, and then a smile broke over her face. "I'm so happy for you! You'll make fantastic parents. I had no idea you were considering adoption."
"Blame Ian," Andrea said, her smile returning. "He and Grace are always talking about the children in India who need homes, and we realized that there are plenty of children in Scotland who need families as well. But we know it won't be easy, and we want to have as much time to devote to him or her as we can."
"Right. How are you going to work that?" Serena asked, looking to Jamie.
"Andrea's hired two new account managers so she can stop traveling and run her business from here. I'm going back to London next week to start interviews, but it could be a long process. I have my eye on someone, but I'm not sure I can entice him away from his current position."
"You mean you're trying to poach from the top," Serena guessed with a laugh. There were only a few restaurateurs in London with higher profiles than Jamie.
He flashed a quick grin that said she was right. "The point is, we don't feel that we can commit to being as involved in the hotel as we should be. Malcolm is doing a great job managing the hotel, but he's not an owner. We need to keep our offerings fresh, continue to bring in guests. After what you did with the gallery, this should be a simple thing."
"That was ten years ago, Jamie—"
"Skills don't expire."
"—and I have two children, one of whom is in school. I can't just pick up at a moment's notice like you can."
The tinkle of piano music from the other room stopped, followed by a crash and a wail. Serena put aside her napkin, but Andrea shook her head and rose instead. "Let me. It couldn't have been anything important. There's nothing truly breakable in the parlor."
She strode out of the room, leaving Serena sitting with her brother. "You two seem happy."
"We are." He smiled at her. "Don't change the subject."
"I don't know, Jamie. I need to think about it."
"If it's the money, we can—"
"It's not the money. I invested the proceeds of the sale. I can liquidate them if I have to. It's more the commitment."
"I never thought you'd be reluctant to visit Skye."
"It has nothing to do with that." Serena folded her hands on the table and lowered her voice. "I've tried to keep Em and Max's lives as stable as possible since Edward died. And now everything seems to be going smoothly. I'm not so sure I want to disrupt this."
"What's there to disrupt? You can work on the marketing ideas at home. Then you go out there one weekend a month, talk to Malcolm, check on Aunt Muriel. It's a mini holiday every few weeks."
What Jamie said sounded logical, but he'd never had to make the three-hour drive with two children. It might sound simple now, but after a few months, she could guarantee it would begin to wear on all of them. "I don't know. I'll have to think on it."
"Good. Think on it." Jamie's face brightened, and without even turning, Serena knew that Andrea had returned with the kids. He seemed to light up whenever his wife was in the room. Truly, they were so in love, it would have been nauseating if she didn't wish them so well. Max ran straight to Serena and climbed into her lap with his three-year-old enthusiasm. Em, on the other hand, quietly slipped into the chair beside her.
"Your Für Elise
is coming along nicely, Em," Jamie said. "When is your mean piano teacher going to let you move on to something else?"
"Stop." Andrea stuck out her tongue at her husband and gave him a nudge with her shoulder. "She'll move on when she's mastered it. And she's very close from what I just heard."
Serena looked between them and felt an answering pang in her own chest. The way they were working together so intently to give their future child what he or she needed only highlighted how suited for each other they were. She couldn't help feeling a twinge of resentment over her own situation—not that Edward had died and left her, but that she'd never had the opportunity to experience that kind of companionship in her ten-year marriage. But she'd gotten Em and Max out of it, and that far overshadowed anything she'd lacked personally.
"Dessert?" Jamie shoved away from the table. "I want your honest opinion of these."
Half an hour later, her honest opinion was that Jamie needed to hire the baker as his pastry chef. There was dense, moist almond cake; a chocolate-chili soufflé; and deep-fried zeppole filled with a light pastry cream. All were fantastic. Even Em, who hadn't been born with a sweet tooth, devoured everything set in front of her.
This excerpt ends on page 13 the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book Human(kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together by Ashlee Eiland.