by Louise McBain
Katie Simmons swore she’d never move back to Georgia. But two years after finishing her degree in museum studies, Katie is still out of work. When she receives an offer to curate the founder’s museum for her college sorority, Katie embarks on a wild scavenger hunt for antique chairs that throws her into the path of rockstar Syd Collins.
When Syd discovers two of the priceless chairs among her grandmother’s estate, she offers to help Katie track down the rest of the collection and the two women explore the landscape of their home state, and each other.
While their attraction grows, an unexpected discovery forces a choice between Syd’s feelings and the exhibit that could launch Katie’s career. Soon Katie is forced to decide—is her relationship with Syd worth the treasure of a lifetime?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"On a Wing and a Chair is my fifth novel and the first I’ve set in my home state of Georgia. This return to a familiar landscape charged the love story with an inherent sense of homecoming, of nostalgia, and fate"
Ashlee G. - This was the first book I've read by this author, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I wasn't involved in Greek life in my time at college so that world is a bit foreign to me and set alongside the world of antique chair collecting I was worried the plot wouldn't hold my attention. I was pleasantly surprised though and the scavenger hunt for the chairs ended up being very entertaining. I loved the side characters, especially Deb who had me laughing out loud a few times. …I can't wait for my next road trip to play the traveling barnyard game too so bonus points for that! Great book that I'd definitely be up to read again in the future.
Karen C. - On a Wing and a Chair had me wishing I didn't have to have a day job. I would've loved to be able to read in one sitting. If you're looking for an easy read with beautiful settings, interesting characters (both mains and their extended families), great dialogue, and most of just a huge dose of intelligent humor, read this and then run through the rest of Louise McBain's back catalog in order.
Emma A. - This author is new to me, but I'll be looking for more of her work because I really liked this story, her writing style and her sense of humor. It's a nice romance in an interesting Southern setting with two likeable leads, some really well-done minor characters and well executed plot that kept me interested from start to finish. The story worked for me, and I enjoyed it. Recommended.
Bonnie K. - This is a very quick read and I enjoyed it very much. I thought the plot was well executed and I thought the main characters were quite likeable. I recommend 4 stars.
Two years ago
East Village, New York
Katie spooned coffee beans into the grinder and snapped the lid into place. She hated to wake the sexy, older woman asleep in her bedroom but there was no way around it. Katie had to be at work and needed caffeine to get out the door. The coffee grinder echoed loudly in her tiny East Village kitchen and she closed her eyes. Last night’s gallery opening had gone much later than she’d anticipated. But what right-minded individual anticipated staying out until two thirty in the morning on a Thursday and bringing home a complete stranger for a marathon session of recreational sex? A year out of graduate school, Katie was still getting a handle on the rhythms of the adult world. Fortunately, there was coffee.
Katie opened her eyes to see the woman—Lauren? Lorraine?—was no longer in bed but standing in the living room with a sheet draped seductively around her gorgeous body.
“Good morning,” Katie said, and went to kiss her cheek. There was little chance she’d see the woman again but she wouldn’t be rude. The night had been fun and Katie hoped Lorraine/Lauren had enjoyed herself too.
“Are you rising and grinding without me?” Lorraine/Lauren said, and pulled Katie against her chest. “I hoped we might do that another way.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have time,” Katie said, and let herself be held for a moment before gently letting go. “I have a meeting in forty-five minutes.”
“Tell me about your job?” the woman asked, and propped her elbows on the counter that separated the kitchen from the rest of Katie’s apartment. Katie didn’t know what Lorraine/Lauren did for a living but her interest in the art world seemed authentic. She’d purchased two paintings at last night’s opening and seemed to be on a first-name basis with everyone at the gallery.
“I think I told you, I’m finishing the first year of my fellowship at the Whitney Museum,” Katie replied. As always, she loved the way the words sounded coming out of her mouth.
“Yes, but what do you do every day?” Lorraine/Lauren asked, looking genuinely interested.
“Right now, I’m learning the financial side of curating an exhibit,” Katie replied, happy to talk about the job she loved. “I’m checking receipts, tracking copyrights, that sort of thing. I’ve also taken over social media and that’s fun. Our curator is Bruno Laredo. He’s very talented.”
Lorraine/Lauren blinked happily. “Dear, odd, little Bruno,” she sniffed, looking nostalgic. “I bet it’s wonderful working with him.”
“You know Bruno?” Katie asked, wondering why she hadn’t mentioned this the night before. If Lorraine/Lauren knew Bruno socially, Katie might be put in a compromising position of having her boss know her private life. Mixing work and pleasure was unavoidable in the art world, but there were boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.
“We were in the same class at Brown,” Lorraine/Lauren replied and accepted a cup of coffee. “Now he works for my husband,” she said, and stirred in a splash of creamer.
“Husband?” Katie said, though she wasn’t truly surprised. Part of her had wondered if the socialite might be married.
Lorraine/Lauren flashed a giant diamond solitaire. “I thought it was obvious.” She shrugged. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”
“Yeah, okay,” Katie said, and moved onto her primary concern. “If Bruno works for your husband, does that mean your husband works at the Whitney, also?”
“Heavens no,” Lorraine/Lauren laughed, as if the idea were preposterous. “Thomas doesn’t work at the Whitney. He just gives the museum money, so they give him input.”
“Your husband is on the board of trustees?” Katie asked, and calmly set down the coffee cup so she didn’t throw it across the room. “I wish you’d told me that last night.”
Lorraine/Lauren wrinkled her nose. “If you’d known Thomas was a trustee you might not have invited me home with you.”
“I definitely wouldn’t have,” Katie replied. She moved out of the kitchen to look for the woman’s shoes. The quicker she was in them, the quicker she’d be gone.
Lorraine/Lauren grabbed at Katie’s arm as she walked by. “Don’t worry about Thomas, he’s skiing with friends upstate and won’t be back until Sunday. We could have the long weekend together. Want to come to my place tonight?”
Katie shook her head. “Last night was great, but I can’t risk my job.”
Lorraine/Lauren dropped her hand. “Bruno is lucky to have found such a dedicated assistant.”
“Please don’t talk to him about me,” Katie said, and Lorraine/Lauren locked her mouth shut with an invisible key.
“A quick shower and I’ll be out of your hair,” she said, but then lingered in the doorway longer than necessary. “Unless you’d like to join me?”
“No, thank you,” Katie said, but watched reluctantly as she disappeared into the bathroom. Yes, Lorraine/Lauren was a bit of a liar, but she also had a Pilates body and a straight woman’s pent-up fantasies.
Katie sponged off as best she could in the kitchen sink and then went into the bedroom to dress. Taking off the T-shirt and boxers, she stuffed them in a drawer and pulled a short, black dress from the closet. When the doorbell rang, she was standing in front of the hall mirror applying makeup to the faint circles under her eyes.
“Rachel?” she called, as her grad-school friend was the only person who ever visited this early. When no one answered Katie called again. “Hello?”
A low, masculine voice came back. “It’s not Rachel.”
“Just a minute,” Katie said, and walked toward the door. If it wasn’t Rachel it had to be the maintenance guy, Carter, who probably needed to do some sort of system test. Katie loved living in a building that had an onsite supervisor but was still getting used to his unscheduled pop-ins. She unbolted the lock but peeked through the hole before slipping off the chain. It wasn’t Carter, but a tall, thin man balanced on crutches. “Who are you?” she asked, worried she already knew the answer.
“It’s Thomas Carlisle,” the man said, confirming her fears. “I’ve come to collect my wife. I understand Laurent left the gallery with you last night.”
Shit. Katie looked down and saw the man’s leg was wrapped in a plastic boot and knew the trustee must have suffered a skiing accident. Double shit. Even if he and Laurent had some sort of understanding that allowed for private recreation, he wasn’t likely to be in a good mood. Katie had no idea how he’d gotten her name and address but knew the chances he’d come inside to share a companionable cup of coffee while his wife finished her shower were slim. Katie wanted to climb out the window but she couldn’t leave an injured man standing in the hallway.
Taking a deep breath, she took the chain off the door.
“I’ll have a Bloody Mary, please,” Katie Simmons told a bored-looking waiter in the dining room of the Metropolitan Club. Katie had no idea why her grandmother had summoned her to the elegantly laid table in midtown Manhattan, but had decided to make the best of it. “With a twist of lime please.”
“Very good, miss,” the waiter said and turned to Flora. “Anything for you, ma’am?”
“I’ll have the same,” Flora told him. “And my name is Mrs. Simmons. I’ll be staying in the Kennedy suite tonight.”
“Welcome to the Metropolitan Club, Mrs. Simmons.” The waiter nodded politely. “My name is Chad. I’ll be back shortly with your drinks.”
“Thank you, Chad,” Flora said, and sipped from her water goblet. A man with a silver chafing dish approached and Flora allowed him to place a popover on each of their plates and then told him not to come back. She shook her head. “They want to fill us up on bread so we’ll go light on the buffet.”
“Good luck with that,” Katie replied, eyeing the bountiful table in the back of the room. “I can’t wait to introduce myself to the fried oysters.”
“I saw those, too,” Flora said, eyes sparkling. “And the lobster tails.”
Katie smiled. Her love of rich food could be traced directly back to her years under Flora’s care after her mother had died. “Thanks for inviting me to lunch.” She raised her glass. “This is a real treat.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Flora said, and knocked her goblet against Katie’s.
Katie couldn’t remember the last time she’d been to a restaurant that served both food and wine. Her mouth watered at the smell of the prime rib she spied at the end of the buffet table. She was truly looking forward to the meal, although she wondered at Flora’s motives for inviting her. What was her grandmother doing in New York and how was it that Flora was staying at the Metropolitan Club?
“How did you get a room here?” Katie asked, tearing into the popover. “And why are you in the city? Is there a new Broadway show I haven’t heard about?” This was entirely possible. Since losing her fellowship at the Whitney, Katie had stopped paying attention to things she couldn’t afford. If there was a hot new show on Broadway, she’d be the last person to know.
“Is this how you greet your sweet, little, old grandmother? With the third degree?” Flora waved a hand dramatically and Katie caught the familiar scents of talcum powder and Dior perfume.
“Flora, it’s so good to see you,” Katie corrected herself. Of the three descriptors seventy-five-year-old Flora had used, old was the only one that was applicable. There was nothing little about her or, heaven forbid, sweet, unless you counted her addiction to key lime pie and tiramisu.
“It’s wonderful to be here, dear,” Flora replied, still avoiding Katie’s question. “I’ve missed your face.”
“You saw my face at Christmas,” Katie reminded her grandmother. She’d driven her beloved Mini Cooper up to her dad’s house in Syracuse where Flora had joined them for the holiday. Katie remembered it particularly well as it had been the last road trip before she’d sold the car to a woman, who’d said she was buying it for her cleaning lady.
“Christmas was two months ago,” Flora said. “I want you to come to Beaumont to visit me. You haven’t been back to Georgia since graduating high school. I’m starting to take it personally.”
“You know it isn’t you,” Katie replied. Her late mother often said that a little bit of Georgia went a long way. Katie was inclined to agree. The four years she’d spent at Beaumont Central High School had filled Katie up to the top of her curly red head. Maybe if she and Beth were still in touch she’d feel differently. When Katie conjured the South, all she remembered was diving insects and feeling out of place.
“How do you like living in Brooklyn?” Flora asked, changing tack.
“It’s okay,” Katie hedged, thinking of the couch she was currently renting at her friend Rachel’s. It was fortunate Flora had wanted to meet Katie at the Metropolitan Club. She couldn’t imagine what her proper, southern grandmother might make of the four-story walk-up Katie had been calling home since giving up the lease on the East Village apartment she’d optimistically taken after finishing grad school. “Rachel is really nice.”
“Is Rachel your girlfriend?” Flora asked. She’d never had any trouble with Katie’s sexuality but often bemoaned Katie’s lack of relationships. Married to Katie’s late grandfather for fifty years, Flora’s only child was Katie’s dad, leaving Katie the only hope of great-grandchildren. Many of Flora’s friends in Beaumont already had this honor, as Katie had heard more than once at Christmas.
“No,” Katie responded firmly. She and Rachel had hooked up a couple of times, but it had just been sex. She certainly wasn’t Katie’s girlfriend and no one Katie wanted to introduce to Flora.
“What did you do with your furniture when you moved out of the Village?” Flora asked, now looking a little concerned.
“I got rid of most of it,” Katie said, leaving out the fact that she’d also sold the Mini Cooper. “Rachel already had everything. It was easier to just move in.”
“I hope you kept your mother’s lamp,” Flora said and Katie imagined she heard a touch of judgment.
“I didn’t get rid of everything,” she said, now feeling defensive. The last two years had been humbling enough without her grandmother taking a swing.
“Of course, you haven’t,” Flora said, and patted her arm.
Katie sighed. It wasn’t Flora’s fault she’d been fired from her fellowship at the Whitney Museum. Friends from grad school, who hadn’t derailed their careers by fucking inappropriate women, were doing exciting things. Katie went to their openings, shook their hands and enjoyed their wine.
“Living with Rachel makes better financial sense. I mean, until I find a better job,” she admitted.
“And how is that going? Any new leads?” Flora cut right to the chase.
“Not since I saw you at Christmas,” Katie replied, and forced a smile. “I’m still working at the preschool. Still picking glitter-glue out of my hair every night.”
“I’m sure the children love you,” Flora said tactfully, but did not pretend to be impressed.
“The kids are great, but as you know, it’s not my dream job,” Katie said, and hung her head. “Honestly, I’m starting to worry a museum career is never going to happen.”
Flora looked thoughtful. “From what you’ve told me, it’s a very competitive field.”
“That’s true,” Katie said, and tried to keep the waver out of her voice. She didn’t want Flora to know her true desperation. But it was becoming more difficult to keep a brave face. Everyone in her grad-school program who hadn’t bailed on New York was now working at a major museum. Katie wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to endure the proximity to her dream jobs without finding one herself. Cheerleading her friends’ successes simply wasn’t enough. “There are a limited number of positions and more applicants every year.”
“You must keep trying,” Flora said. “You can’t score a touchdown if you don’t call a play.”
“It’s not that easy,” Katie said. “And you still haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”
“It’s very simple. The Metropolitan Club has reciprocity with my club back in Beaumont,” Flora said and paused when the waiter returned with their drinks.
“Okay, but that still doesn’t explain what you’re doing in New York,” Katie said when the waiter was gone.
“Isn’t it enough that I wanted to see you?” Flora asked, sipping her cocktail.
“Yes, but why in February?” Katie asked. “You only come to New York in the summer. This is making me nervous. Is something wrong with Dad?”
Flora sighed. “If you must know, yes. He’s worried about your financial difficulties. We both are.”
“What did he say?” Katie asked, feeling her whole body deflate. Her father had promised not to mention the sale of the car. “I can’t believe he called you.”
“Believe it,” Flora said, and put down her spoon. “My son is incapable of keeping a secret. The sooner you learn that the better.”
“He didn’t need to call you,” Katie said, and crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “I’ve solved the problem on my own. It’s all worked out.”
“You had to sell your furniture,” Flora countered.
“I still have Mom’s lamp,” Katie said as if this made a difference. “And I won’t be at Rachel’s forever. I’ve got some ideas,” she lied.
“I’d like to help,” Flora said and took something from her purse.
“I told you, I’m doing fine,” Katie said, wondering how much money Flora would try to give her. Katie was too destitute to say no but knew it would only be a Band-Aid on the real problem. Until she got a job working in her chosen field of study, Katie wouldn’t be truly happy.
Flora placed a set of keys on the table. “I bought your car back,” she said, and slid the keys across the table.
Katie recognized the Colgate College fob and went very still. “You did?” she asked incredulously. Gingerly she picked up the familiar-looking key chain. Turning the key in her hand Katie marveled at Flora’s generosity. Buying back the Mini Cooper would not solve Katie’s problems but it would go a long way to lift her spirits. Perhaps Katie would drive to Beaumont after all. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say.”
Flora looked confused. “The car is not a gift,” she said, surprising Katie. It wasn’t like her grandmother to be stingy or cruel. Why buy back the car if only to tease her?
“Then why did you buy it?” Katie asked.
“I thought the car would make an attractive signing bonus,” Flora replied and took another object from her purse.
“A signing bonus?” Katie asked, staring at the pen in Flora’s hand. “What is it that I’m signing?”
“An employment contract, hopefully,” Flora replied. “I’ve come here to offer you a job.”