For sisters Samantha and Ella Mitchell, Christmas is their most precious time of the year. But this year, they’ll be buying presents for the most unexpected guest of all—their mother. It’s been five years since they last saw each other. But when their mom calls out of the blue, Samantha and Ella cautiously agree to spend Christmas all together in the beautiful Scottish Highlands…
Gayle Mitchell is at the top of her career, but her success has come at a price—her relationship with her daughters. Her tough-love approach to parenting was designed to make them stronger, but instead managed to push them away…until a brush with her own mortality forces Gayle to make amends.
As the snowflakes fall on their first family celebration in years, the Mitchell women must learn that sometimes facing up to the past is all you need to heal your heart…
When Gayle Mitchell agreed to a live interview in her office, she hadn’t expected her life to fall apart in such a spectacular fashion in front of an audience of millions. She was used to giving interviews and had no reason to think that this one might end in disaster, so she sat relaxed, even a little bored, as the crew set up the room.
As usual, the lights were blinding and kicked out enough heat to roast a haunch of beef. Despite the frigid air-conditioning, the fabric of Gayle’s fitted black dress stuck to her thighs.
Beyond the soaring glass walls of her office lay what she truly believed to be the most exciting city on earth. Also one of the most expensive—but these days Gayle didn’t have to worry too much about that.
Once, the place had almost killed her, but that had been a long time ago. That memory contributed to the degree of satisfaction she felt in being up here, on top of the world, gazing down from her domain on the fiftieth floor. Like planting a stiletto on the body of an adversary, it was symbolic of victory. I won. She was far removed from those people scurrying along the freezing, canyon-like streets of Manhattan, struggling to survive in a city that devoured the weak and the vulnerable. From her vantage point in her corner office she could see the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center and, in the distance, the broad splash of green that was Central Park.
Gayle shifted in her chair as someone touched up her hair and makeup. The director was talking to the cameraman, discussing angles and light, while seated in the chair across from her the most junior female reporter on the morning show studied her notes with feverish attention.
Rochelle Barnard. She was young. Early twenties? A few years older than Gayle had been when she’d hit the lowest point of her life.
Nothing excited Gayle more than raw potential, and she saw plenty of it in Rochelle. You had to know what you were looking for, of course—and Gayle knew. It was there in the eyes, in the body language, in the attitude. And this woman had something else that Gayle always looked for. Hunger.
Hunger was the biggest motivator of all, and no one knew that better than her.
She hadn’t just been hungry—she’d been starving. Also desperate. But usually she managed to forget that part. She was a different woman now, and able to extend a hand to another woman who might need a boost.
“Ten minutes, Miss Mitchell.”
Gayle watched as the lighting guy adjusted the reflector. In a way, didn’t she do much the same thing? She shone a light on people who would otherwise have remained in the dark. She changed lives, and she was about to change this woman’s life.
“Put the notes down,” she said. “You don’t need them.”
Rochelle glanced up. “These are the questions they want me to ask. They only handed them to me five minutes ago.”
Because they want you to stumble and fall, Gayle thought.
“Are they the questions you would have chosen to ask?”
The woman rustled through the papers and pulled a face. “Honestly? No. But this is what they want covered in the interview.”
Gayle leaned forward. “Do you always do what other people tell you?”
Rochelle shook her head. “Not always.”
“Good to know. Because if you did, then you wouldn’t be the woman I thought you were when I saw you present that short segment from Central Park last week.”
“You saw that?”
“Yes. Your questions were excellent, and you refused to let that weasel of a man wriggle out of answering.”
“That interview was the reason you asked for me today? I’ve been wondering.”
“You struck me as a young woman with untapped potential.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity.” Rochelle sat straighter and smoothed her skirt. “I can’t believe I’m here. Howard usually does all the high-profile interviews.”
Why were people so accepting of adverse circumstances? So slow to realize their own power? But power came with risk, of course, and most people were averse to risk.
“Things are always the way they are until we change them,” Gayle said. “Be bold. Decide what you want and go after it. If that means upsetting a few people along the way, then do it.” She closed her eyes as someone stroked a strand of her hair into place and sprayed it. “This is your chance to ask me the questions Howard Banks wouldn’t think to ask.”
Which shouldn’t be too hard, she thought, because the man had the imagination and appeal of stale bread.
Howard had interviewed her a decade earlier and he’d been patronizing and paternalistic. It gave Gayle pleasure to know that by insisting on being interviewed by this junior reporter she’d annoyed him. With any luck he’d burst a blood vessel in the most valuable part of his anatomy—which, for him, was probably his ego.
“If I don’t give them what they’re expecting, I could lose my job.”
Gayle opened one eye. “Not if you give them something better than they’re expecting. They’re not going to fire you if the ratings go up. What’s on their list? Let me guess… My work-life balance and how I handle being a woman in a man’s world?”
The woman laughed. “You’re obviously a pro at this.”
“Think of the people watching. Ask the questions they’d ask if they were in the room with me. If you were a woman eager to make a change in your life, what would you want to hear? If you were struggling to get ahead in the workplace—” which you are“—constantly blocked by those around you, what would you want to know?”
Rochelle picked up the papers from her lap and folded them in a deliberate gesture. “I’d want to know your secrets—how you handle it all. How you handled it at the beginning, before you had everything you have now. You started with nothing. Put yourself through college while working three jobs. And you’ve become one of the most successful women in business. You’ve transformed companies and individuals. I’d want to know whether any of your experiences might be of use to me. Whether you could transform me. I’d want to come away feeling so inspired I’d call the show and thank them.”
“And you think they’d fire you for that?”
The woman stared at her. “No, I don’t.” She slapped the papers down on the desk. “What is wrong with me? I’ve read all your books several times, and yet I was about to ask the questions I’d been handed. One of my favorite sections in your last book was that bit about other people’s expectations being like reins, holding you back. You were our role model in college.” She pressed her palm to her chest. “Meeting you is the best Christmas gift.”
USA Today & Sunday Times bestselling author with HQ Stories and HQN Books