The Invitation is the final novel in beloved bestselling author Barbara Delinsky's Matchmaker trilogy about a treasure hunt that turns up the heat—and the most unlikely prize of all…
Shaye Burke has become used to her Aunt Victoria's wild schemes. But a Caribbean treasure hunt? With an honest-to-goodness pirate at the helm? Ahoy!
Rugged, sexy Noah VanBaar did not know what he was in for when he boarded the beat-up old sloop with no engine. Surely, there would be no opportunity for romance on this so-called vacation. But when he meets the gloriously seductive Shaye, all bets are off. Could it be that, after years of failed matchmaking attempts, Victoria's finally got it right?
Originally published as A Single Rose.
About the Author
BARBARA DELINSKY is the author of more than twenty New York Times bestselling books, including Before and Again, The Scent of Jasmine, and Love Songs. She has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, more books than she'll ever be able to read, two tennis racquets, and enough electronic devices to keep in close touch with her children and their families.
Date of Birth:August 9, 1945
Place of Birth:Boston, Massachusetts
Education:B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969
Read an Excerpt
By Barbara Delinsky
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1987 Barbara Delinsky
All rights reserved.
Victoria Lesser took a break from the conversation to sit back and silently enjoy the two couples with her. They were a striking foursome. Neil Hersey, with his dark hair and close-cropped beard, was a perfect foil for his fair and petite wife, Deirdre, but the perfection of the match didn't stop at their looks. Deirdre's quick spirit complimented Neil's more studied approach to life. In the nineteen months of their marriage, they'd both grown personally and professionally.
As had the Rodenhisers. Though married a mere six months, they'd been together for nearly fifteen. Leah, with her glossy raven pageboy and bangs and the large round glasses perched on her nose, had found the ideal mate in Garrick, who gave her the confidence to live out her dreams. Garrick, sandy-haired, tall, and bearded like Neil, had finally tasted the richness of life that he'd previously assumed existed only in a scriptwriter's happy ending.
Glancing from one face to the next as the conversation flowed around her, Victoria congratulated herself on bringing the four together. It had been less of a brainstorm, of course, than her original matchmaking endeavors, but it was making for a lively and lovely evening.
Feeling momentarily superfluous, she let her gaze meander among the elegantly dressed patrons of the restaurant. She spotted several familiar faces on the far side of the room, and when her attention returned to her own party, she met Deirdre's eye. "Recognize them, Dee?"
Deirdre nodded and spoke in a hushed voice to her husband. "The Fitzpatricks and the Grants. They were at the lawn party Mother gave last fall."
Neil's wry grin was a flash of white cutting through his beard. His voice was low and smooth. "I'm not sure I remember the Fitzpatricks or the Grants, but I do remember that party. We were leaving Benji with a baby-sitter, and almost didn't get away. He was three months old and in one hell of a mood." He sent a lopsided grin across the table. "He takes after his mother in that respect."
Deirdre rolled her eyes. "Don't believe a word he says."
"Just tell me it gets better," Leah Rodenhiser begged. "You heard what Amanda gave us tonight."
Victoria, who had never had a child of her own and adored even the baby's wail, answered with the gentle voice of authority. "Of course it gets better. Amanda was just frightened. My apartment is strange and new to her. So is the babysitter. I left this number, but we haven't gotten a frantic call yet, have we?"
"I think you're about to get a frantic call from across the room," came a gravelly warning from Garrick. "They've spotted you, Victoria."
"Go on over," Deirdre urged softly. "If you don't, they'll come here. Spare us that joy. We'll talk babies until you get back."
Victoria, who knew all too well Deirdre's aversion to many of her mother's friends, shot her a chiding glance. But the glance quickly mellowed, and touched each of her guests in turn. "You don't mind?"
Leah grinned and answered for them all. "Go. We're traveling sub rosa."
"Incognito." Beneath the table she felt Garrick squeeze her hand. Once a well-known television star, he cherished his privacy. Basically shy herself, Leah protected it well.
"Are you sure you can manage without me?" Victoria quipped, standing when Neil drew out her chair. "Talk babies. I dare you." Her mischievous tone faded away as she headed off to greet her friends.
Four pairs of eyes watched her go, each pair as affectionate as the next. Victoria held a special place in their hearts, and they weren't about to talk babies when there were more immediate things to be said.
"She is a wonder," Leah sighed. "Little did I know what a gem I'd encountered when I ran into her that day in the library."
Neil was more facetious. "We didn't think she was such a gem when she stranded us on her island up in Maine. I don't think I've ever been as furious with anyone before."
"You were pretty furious with me before that day was out," Deirdre reminded him.
His grin grew devilish. "You asked for it. Lord, I wasn't prepared for you." He shifted his gaze to Leah and Garrick. "She was unbelievably bitchy. Had her leg in a cast and a mouth —"
Deirdre hissed him into silence, but couldn't resist reminiscing on her own. "It was just as well there weren't any neighbors. We'd have driven them crazy. We yelled at each other for days."
"While Leah and I were silent," Garrick said. "We were isolated in my cabin together, barely talking. I'm not sure which way is worse."
"Amazing how both worked out," Leah mused.
Deirdre nodded. "I'll second that."
"We owe Victoria one," Neil said.
"Two," Garrick amended.
Deirdre twirled the swizzle stick in her spritzer. "It's a tall order. The woman has just about everything she wants and needs."
Leah frowned. "There has to be something we can do in return for all she's given us."
"She needs a man."
Deirdre was quick to refute her husband's contention. "Come on, Neil. She has all the men she wants. And you know she'll never remarry. Arthur was the one and only love of her life."
Garrick exchanged a glance with Neil. "That doesn't mean we can't treat her to some fun."
Leah studied her husband. "I'm not sure I care for that mischievous gleam in your eye. Victoria is my friend. I won't have you —"
"She's my friend, too," he interrupted innocently. "Would I do anything to harm her?"
Neil was on Garrick's wavelength all the way. "The idea is to do something for her that she wouldn't dream up by herself."
"But she does just about everything she wants to," Deirdre pointed out. "She lives in luxury, dabbles in ballet, ceramics, the cello. She travels. She has the house in Southampton. ..." Her eyes brightened. "We could rent a yacht, hire a crew and put them at her disposal for a week. She'd be able to go off alone or invite friends along."
Garrick absently chafed his mustache with a finger. "Too conventional."
"How about a stint with Outward Bound?" Leah suggested. "There are groups formed specifically for women over forty."
Neil shot Garrick a look. "Not quite what I had in mind."
Deirdre had caught and correctly interpreted the look. "You have a one-track mind. Believe me, we'd be hard put to find a man with enough spunk for Victoria. Can you think of anyone suitable at Joyce?" Joyce Enterprises was Deirdre's family's corporation. Upon their marriage, Neil had taken it over and brought it from stagnation to productivity to expansion. Of the many new people he'd hired — or clients and associates of the company — Deirdre couldn't think of a single male who would be challenge enough for Victoria.
Neil's silence was ample show of agreement.
"It would be fun," Leah declared, "to turn the tables on Victoria."
"Someone good-looking," Deirdre said, warming to the idea.
Leah nodded. "And bright. We want a match here."
Neil rubbed his bearded jaw. "He'll have to be financially comfortable if he can afford to go in for adventure."
"Adventure," Garrick murmured. "That's the key."
Deirdre's brows lifted toward Neil. "Flash?" Flash Jensen was a neighbor of theirs in the central Connecticut suburb where they lived. A venture capitalist and a divorcé, he was always on the lookout for novel ways to spend his time.
Neil shook his head. "Flash is a little too much."
Leah chuckled. "We could always fix her up with one of Garrick's trapper friends. She'd die."
Garrick nodded, but he was considering another possibility. "There's a fellow I've met. One of my professors." Earlier he'd explained to the Herseys that he was working toward a Latin degree at Dartmouth. "Samson may well ... fit the bill."
"Samson?" Leah echoed in mild puzzlement. She knew who he was, but nothing of what Garrick had told her in the past put the man forward as a viable candidate.
"He's a widower, and he's the right age."
Deirdre sat straighter. "Samson. From the name alone, I love him."
"That's because you've always had this thing about full heads of hair," Neil muttered in her ear. He'd never quite forgotten their earliest days together, when, among other things, she'd made fun of his widow's peak.
Deirdre hadn't forgotten either. As self-confident as Neil was, he had his sensitivities, and his hairline was one of them. "Forget hair," she whispered back. "Think strength. You have it even without the hair."
"You're putting your foot in deeper," he grumbled.
"I think you're right." Hastily she turned to Garrick, who'd been having a quiet discussion with Leah during the Herseys' private sparring. "Tell us about Samson."
Garrick was more than willing. "His name is Samson VanBaar. Leah thinks he's too conservative, but that's because she doesn't know him the way I do."
"He smokes a pipe," Leah informed them dryly.
"But that's all part of the image, love. Tweed jacket, pipe, tattered briefcase — he does it for effect. Tongue-in-cheek. A private joke."
"Weird private joke," was Leah's retort, but her tone had softened. "Do you really think he'd be right for Victoria?"
"If we're talking adventure, yes. He's good-looking and bright. He's independently wealthy. And he loves doing the unconventional." When Leah remained skeptical, he elaborated. "He's a private person, shy in some ways. He takes his little trips for his own pleasure, and they have nothing to do with the university. I had to coax him to talk, but once he got going, his stories were fascinating."
Deirdre sat forward, propping her chin in her hand. "We're listening."
"How does dog-sledding across the Yukon sound?"
"How about a stint as a snake charmer in Bombay?"
"Not bad, if you're into snakes."
"Try living with the Wabians in Papua New Guinea."
"That does sound a little like Victoria," Leah had to admit. "When I first met her, she was boning up on the Maori of New Zealand."
Neil rubbed his hands together. "Okay. Let's see what we've got. A, the guy is okay in terms of age and marital status. B, he's good-looking and reasonably well-off. C, he's a respected member of the academic community." At the slight question in his voice, Garrick nodded. "And D, he's an adventurer." He took a slow breath. "So how do we go about arranging an adventure that Victoria could join him in?"
"I believe," Garrick said with a smug gleam in his eye, "it's already arranged. Samson VanBaar will be leaving next month for Colombia, from which point he'll sail across the Caribbean to Costa Rica in search of buried treasure."
"He has a map," Garrick went on, his voice lower, almost secretive. "It's old and faded —"
"You've seen it?"
"You bet, and it looked authentic enough to me. Samson is convinced that it leads to a cache on the Costa Rican coast."
"It's so absurd, it's exciting!"
"Could be a wild goose chase. On the other hand —"
"Victoria would love it!"
"She very well might," Garrick concluded.
Neil was weighing the pros and cons. "Even if nothing comes of it in terms of a treasure, it'd certainly be a fun — how long?"
"I think he's allowed himself two weeks."
"Two weeks." Deirdre mulled it over. "Could be disastrous if they can't stand each other."
"She threw us together for two weeks, and we couldn't stand each other."
"It wasn't that we couldn't stand each other, Neil. We just had other things on our minds."
"We couldn't stand each other."
"Well, maybe at the beginning, but even then we couldn't keep our hands off each other."
Leah rushed in to fill the momentary silence. "She threw us together for an indefinite period of time."
"Not that she planned it that way. She didn't count on mud season."
"That's beside the point. She sat by while I gave up my loft and put my furniture into storage. Then she sent me off to live in a cabin that had burned to the ground three months before. She knew I wouldn't have anywhere to go but your place, and those first few days were pretty tense. ..." Her words trailed off. Remembering the nights, she shot Garrick a shy glance and blushed.
Deirdre came to her aid. "There's one significant difference here, I believe. Victoria got us together in Maine; she got you two together in New Hampshire. Costa Rica — that's a little farther afield, and definitely foreign soil."
"It's a democratic country," Garrick pointed out, "and a peaceful one."
"Right next door to Nicaragua?" Leah asked in dismay, pushing her glasses higher on her nose as she turned to Neil. "Do you know anything about Costa Rica?"
"She is peaceful. Garrick's right about that. She's managed to stay out of her neighbors' turmoil. And she happens to be the wealthiest country in Central America."
"Then Victoria would be relatively safe?"
"From Samson?" Deirdre asked. "Is he an honest sort of man?"
"A Latin professor on tenure at one of the Ivies?" was Garrick's answer-by-way-of-a-question.
Neil stopped chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Is he, in any way, shape or manner, a lecher?"
"I've never heard any complaints," Garrick said. "Victoria can handle him. She's one together lady."
Having no argument there, Neil put the matter to an impromptu vote. "Are we in agreement that two weeks with Samson VanBaar won't kill her?"
Three heads nodded in unison.
"I'll speak with Samson and make the arrangements," Garrick offered. "I can't see that he'd have any objection to bringing one more person along on the trip, but we'd better not say anything to Victoria until I've checked it out."
"It'll be a surprise."
"She won't be able to refuse."
"She'll never know what hit her."
Garrick's lips twitched. "That'd be poetic justice, don't you think? After what she did to us —" His voice rose and he broke into his best show-stopping smile as the object of their discussion returned. "Hel-lo, Victoria!"
* * *
Five days after that dinner in New York, Victoria received a bulky registered letter from New Hampshire. Opening it, she unfolded the first piece of paper she encountered.
"Dear Victoria," she read in Garrick's classic scrawl. "A simple thank you couldn't possibly convey our gratitude for all you've done. Hence, the enclosures. You'll find a round-trip ticket to Colombia, plus detailed instruction on where to go once you're there. You'll be taking part in a hunt for buried treasure led by one of my professors, a fascinating gentleman named Samson VanBaar. We happen to know you have no other plans for the last two weeks in July, and if you try to call us to weasel your way out, we won't be in. Samson is expecting you on the fourteenth. Have a wonderful time! All our love, Garrick and Leah and Deirdre and Neil."
Bemused, Victoria sank into the Louis XVI chair just inside the living-room arch. A treasure hunt? She set aside the plane tickets and read through the instructions and itinerary Garrick had seen fit to send.
New York to Miami to Barranquilla by plane. Accommodations in Barranquilla at El Prado, where Samson VanBaar would make contact. Brief drive from Barranquilla to Puerto Colombia. Puerto Colombia to Costa Rica — Costa Rica — by sail. Exploration of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica as designated by Samson VanBaar's treasure map. Return by sail to Colombia and by plane to New York. Expect much sun, occasional rain. Dress accordingly.
The instructions joined the letter and tickets on her lap. She couldn't believe it! She'd known they had something up their sleeves when she'd returned to the table that night and seen smugness in their eyes.
They'd been sly; she had to hand it to them. They'd waited until the arrangements were made before presenting her with the fait accompli. Oh, yes, she could graciously refuse, but they knew she wouldn't. She knew she wouldn't. She'd never gone in search of buried treasure before, and though she certainly had no need for treasure, the prospect of the search was too much to resist!
Excerpted from The Invitation by Barbara Delinsky. Copyright © 1987 Barbara Delinsky. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cute trio of stories this is th e
Good short read. Ideal for a rainy day.