Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores July 2022.)

CHAPTER ONE
Zanne

Zanne stood on the terrace, enjoying a rare moment of solitude as soft light tiptoed over the Santa Monica Mountains and birdsong trilled from the sycamores. She couldn't have imagined when she joined the personal staff eight years ago that it could ever be this quiet here. It hadn't been easy this morning tearing herself away from her new girlfriend, still curled up under the covers, to be the first to arrive at the estate. But today, Zanne was Ted Stabler's acting chief of staff.

Twelve hours from now, this terrace would be teeming with people, and right here at the top of the steps, Holly Stabler would give her hostess speech at the party.

It was a scene worthy of the cover of Architectural Digest. The terrace was paved with lantern-shaped terra-cotta tiles and stepped down to encircle a long, rectangular swimming pool. The pool had a plaster bottom that was painted black, and looked like a mountain lake where fauns and sprites might bathe, a far cry from the Pomona Y where Zanne had learned to swim. Around it, there were gatherings of lounge chairs and tables, each vignette sheltered by a canvas umbrella dyed a custom shade of fern, and beyond that, a high brick wall that shielded guests from the staff spaces on the other side. Purple bougainvillea overflowed the planters, and jacaranda blossoms honeyed the air. On the far side of the terrace, outside the wisteria-covered pool house with its retractable walls, were a fire pit and a pizza oven and a soda fountain where the children loaded up their sports bottles on hot summer days with orange La Croix, lemon San Pellegrino, root beer, and chocolate syrup. The place was already perfect for entertaining, and yet, in a few hours, the entire head count of Panache Parties would descend on the Stabler estate, and together with the personal staff's events team, they'd transform this oasis into an adult playground where Hollywood's highfliers would rub elbows, make deals, and raise money for Bump to Pump, Holly's favorite charity.

Zanne walked across the terrace and down a little knoll to the craftsman cottage that housed Ted's office. Ted's actual chief of staff, Dawn, had asked Zanne to cover for her today so she could meet with her contractor. Did Dawn really mean for Zanne to be at her post by 6:00 a.m.? Probably not, but Zanne had never sat first chair for an entire day before. Inside, the office was spare, minimalist, the left wall all glass. She lifted the window shades and emptied the outbox, stuck her finger in the aloe plant's soil, even though the landscapers had checklists and calendar reminders that told them when to water, and gave the desk an extra look, making sure everything was just how Ted liked it—the keyboard parallel to the edge of the desk, legal pad perpendicular to the keyboard, shades left down 25 percent of the way. Then she slipped out, the office quiet as a cathedral.

In the parlor area, Zanne sat down at Dawn's desk and logged into the computer to go over the calendar. Holly Stabler would be up soon and expecting an update on the party preparations. Ted Stabler—the wunderkind who'd directed The Starfighter trilogy, three of the highest-grossing films of all time, and parlayed that success into the creation of a multimedia empire—was a late riser, but once he began his day he worked tirelessly, often until one or two in the morning. Teeing up the conditions he needed to task-shift seamlessly without squandering a minute would take all of Zanne's focus. On top of that, she had the party tonight to oversee. If the party went well, Zanne, deputy of special projects, might get the chief job when Dawn retired, any day now, but if it was a flop, it would doom her chances for promotion; she could even be fired. And then there was Gaby. Zanne's stomach did a little flip, part anticipation, part fear. Her girlfriend's interview for the personal staff was later this morning. The executive assistant position paid well, like all the positions here, and it would keep Gaby in LA. But Zanne wished the interview weren't today.

For now, she had to clear her mind and concentrate. There were emails to return from Hong Kong, London, and New York, agendas to review and talking points to draft. And there was the events team's run-of-show for the party to drill down on and make sure there were no loose ends, no mistakes.

Zanne got to work, anxiously at first, but soon she felt herself dissolving into the flow, no body, no breath, only brain, consuming information and either rejecting or reshaping it according to the sole criterion of how well it hewed to the Stablers' priorities. She savored these last moments of peace before the main house would begin to buzz with the urgency of the Stabler family's wants and needs. Meanwhile, she knew the cottages tucked behind the main house were already filling with the landscapers and housekeepers and executive assistants and IT geeks and travel assistants and researchers and drivers and jacks-of-all-trades who kept this place running better than a Swiss watch, even better than an atomic clock, striving collectively for the exactitude contained in Coordinated Universal Time, pegged to the leap second even as the rest of the world spun on in uninformed bliss.

* * *
...

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Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores July 2022.)

CHAPTER ONE
Zanne

Zanne stood on the terrace, enjoying a rare moment of solitude as soft light tiptoed over the Santa Monica Mountains and birdsong trilled from the sycamores. She couldn't have imagined when she joined the personal staff eight years ago that it could ever be this quiet here. It hadn't been easy this morning tearing herself away from her new girlfriend, still curled up under the covers, to be the first to arrive at the estate. But today, Zanne was Ted Stabler's acting chief of staff.

Twelve hours from now, this terrace would be teeming with people, and right here at the top of the steps, Holly Stabler would give her hostess speech at the party.

It was a scene worthy of the cover of Architectural Digest. The terrace was paved with lantern-shaped terra-cotta tiles and stepped down to encircle a long, rectangular swimming pool. The pool had a plaster bottom that was painted black, and looked like a mountain lake where fauns and sprites might bathe, a far cry from the Pomona Y where Zanne had learned to swim. Around it, there were gatherings of lounge chairs and tables, each vignette sheltered by a canvas umbrella dyed a custom shade of fern, and beyond that, a high brick wall that shielded guests from the staff spaces on the other side. Purple bougainvillea overflowed the planters, and jacaranda blossoms honeyed the air. On the far side of the terrace, outside the wisteria-covered pool house with its retractable walls, were a fire pit and a pizza oven and a soda fountain where the children loaded up their sports bottles on hot summer days with orange La Croix, lemon San Pellegrino, root beer, and chocolate syrup. The place was already perfect for entertaining, and yet, in a few hours, the entire head count of Panache Parties would descend on the Stabler estate, and together with the personal staff's events team, they'd transform this oasis into an adult playground where Hollywood's highfliers would rub elbows, make deals, and raise money for Bump to Pump, Holly's favorite charity.

Zanne walked across the terrace and down a little knoll to the craftsman cottage that housed Ted's office. Ted's actual chief of staff, Dawn, had asked Zanne to cover for her today so she could meet with her contractor. Did Dawn really mean for Zanne to be at her post by 6:00 a.m.? Probably not, but Zanne had never sat first chair for an entire day before. Inside, the office was spare, minimalist, the left wall all glass. She lifted the window shades and emptied the outbox, stuck her finger in the aloe plant's soil, even though the landscapers had checklists and calendar reminders that told them when to water, and gave the desk an extra look, making sure everything was just how Ted liked it—the keyboard parallel to the edge of the desk, legal pad perpendicular to the keyboard, shades left down 25 percent of the way. Then she slipped out, the office quiet as a cathedral.

In the parlor area, Zanne sat down at Dawn's desk and logged into the computer to go over the calendar. Holly Stabler would be up soon and expecting an update on the party preparations. Ted Stabler—the wunderkind who'd directed The Starfighter trilogy, three of the highest-grossing films of all time, and parlayed that success into the creation of a multimedia empire—was a late riser, but once he began his day he worked tirelessly, often until one or two in the morning. Teeing up the conditions he needed to task-shift seamlessly without squandering a minute would take all of Zanne's focus. On top of that, she had the party tonight to oversee. If the party went well, Zanne, deputy of special projects, might get the chief job when Dawn retired, any day now, but if it was a flop, it would doom her chances for promotion; she could even be fired. And then there was Gaby. Zanne's stomach did a little flip, part anticipation, part fear. Her girlfriend's interview for the personal staff was later this morning. The executive assistant position paid well, like all the positions here, and it would keep Gaby in LA. But Zanne wished the interview weren't today.

For now, she had to clear her mind and concentrate. There were emails to return from Hong Kong, London, and New York, agendas to review and talking points to draft. And there was the events team's run-of-show for the party to drill down on and make sure there were no loose ends, no mistakes.

Zanne got to work, anxiously at first, but soon she felt herself dissolving into the flow, no body, no breath, only brain, consuming information and either rejecting or reshaping it according to the sole criterion of how well it hewed to the Stablers' priorities. She savored these last moments of peace before the main house would begin to buzz with the urgency of the Stabler family's wants and needs. Meanwhile, she knew the cottages tucked behind the main house were already filling with the landscapers and housekeepers and executive assistants and IT geeks and travel assistants and researchers and drivers and jacks-of-all-trades who kept this place running better than a Swiss watch, even better than an atomic clock, striving collectively for the exactitude contained in Coordinated Universal Time, pegged to the leap second even as the rest of the world spun on in uninformed bliss.

* * *
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...