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At Your Most Beautiful

Harper Bliss


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

A Note from Harper

Get Three Books FOR FREE

About the Author

Also by Harper Bliss

Chapter 1

A drop of sweat slid down Maya’s neck. Then another. She pushed a strand of hair away from her face and expelled a deep sigh, but there was no one around to hear it. She could sigh as deeply and dramatically as she wanted, without Tommy responding with an exaggerated eye roll.

All was quiet in the garden. The surface of the pool was as unwrinkled as an untouched bed sheet. Only last weekend, Tommy and two of his friends had been splashing about loudly as eighteen-year-old boys do—bold and brash as though there’s no other way to be at that age.

Two days ago, Maya had driven her son to LaGuardia Airport, where he’d boarded a plane for Paris. He would spend two weeks in Provence with his father and Heidi, followed by five weeks of backpacking through Europe. Seven long weeks without seeing her son. And that was only the beginning of her time without him—her time of no longer being a full-time mother.

Maya had spent plenty of weekends on her own since the divorce, but time alone when Tommy was due to return three days later was very different from time alone when he had just embarked on a seven-week trip, before leaving home for good.

Was this what the infamous empty nest felt like? Had she gone from one cliché—divorcée—to another—empty nester—as seamlessly as the decades had passed by and left her alone in this too-big suburban house at the age of forty-five?

She could only reply with another deep sigh. Maybe it was time to add another cliché to all the others she seemed to have become without noticing. Maybe it was time to open that bottle of pinot gris. She squinted at the sun. It was still pretty high in the sky. Wine o’clock would have to wait until the sun had dipped a fraction lower. Maya had some standards left.

A rustle drew her attention back to the garden. She wasn’t expecting any company, so it probably came from next door. Maya’s neighbor, Brooke, would probably be up for sharing a glass of pinot later, when the time was more appropriate. The rustle sounded closer. Maya sat up and wiped the sweat from her brow.

“I hope you’re wearing sunscreen,” a female voice that was not Brooke Hathaway’s came from the garden next door.

Only then Maya remembered that the Hathaways had gone to their cabin in the Catskills for the weekend. She sat up straighter in order to see over the hedge that separated her property from the Hathaways’.

“Quinn?” Maya asked. Who else could it be but the Hathaways’ daughter?

“The one and only.” Quinn stepped into view. “Hi, Mrs. Mercer. Didn’t you get the memo? Sunbathing is so last century, it’s not even funny.”

The girl next door was still as forward as ever, then. “I truly appreciate your concern for my skin, but I don’t leave the house without a full coat of SPF 50.”

Quinn shot her a bright smile. As far as Maya could see, she wasn’t wearing much more than a pair of flip-flops and an oversized tank top.

“I haven’t seen you in such a long time.” Maya walked over to the hedge. “How have you been?”

“I’m in-between apartments, so I’m staying here for a few weeks while I get my bearings.” She pulled her top away from her skin. “The city’s too hot right now, anyway.” Had she just cast a longing gaze at Maya’s pool? “I hear Little Tommy has flown the nest.”

Tommy used to hate it when Quinn called him ‘Little’. Maya nodded. “He’s in Europe. Starting Stanford in the fall.”

“No surprise there. I always knew Tommy would go to one of the big schools.”

There are good schools on this coast as well, Maya thought. “What are you up to now?” Maya wanted to deflect the attention away from Tommy. He’d only been gone a few days. His bedroom looked as though he was still in high school and he’d be coming back any day. Although it had been a long time coming and Maya had had ample time to prepare emotionally for her son’s departure, it all felt surprisingly raw and unnatural.

“This and that,” Quinn said, just as her mother did whenever Maya inquired after Quinn’s job. “Mainly photography these days, but, um, yeah…” She ran a hand through her curly hair. “The temperature might be more bearable here than in the city, but it’s still damn hot.”

Maya was getting the message loud and clear. Years ago, when Quinn still lived at home, and another brutal summer day had descended on Milbury, she would stand exactly where she was standing now, and cast longing gazes at the pool. Usually, Tommy was quick to invite her over for a swim, but Tommy wasn’t here any longer.

“Come on.” Maya nodded in the direction of the pool. “I can’t bear to see you sweat like that any longer.”

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Mercer.”

“I think you’re a little too old to still be calling me that. It’s Maya.”

Quinn deftly wriggled her body through the bushes, which were much denser now than when Quinn had last made her way through.

“You have my infinite gratitude, Maya.” Quinn was already stripping off her tank top. Underneath, she wore the skimpiest bikini Maya had ever laid eyes on. “Seeing as my main career of late has been tending bar, I can make you a mean cocktail later to thank you.” Quinn tossed her tank top to the side of the pool and shook off her flip-flops. Before diving in, she looked back and treated Maya

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