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Authors: Marie Force

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction

Love After Dark (8 page)

BOOK: Love After Dark
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Chapter 5

As they did most evenings after work, David Lawrence and his girlfriend, Daisy Babson, stopped by so Daisy could spend some time with Marion. Tonight, David came with information about the in-patient evaluation he was arranging for Marion.
 

Hope paid close attention to the paperwork the hospital had sent, outlining the various tests that would be performed and the timing of everything.

“You can expect her to be there for at least one night, possibly two,” David said. “They’ll let you know after the first day how it’s going.”

Hope tried to remain professionally engaged in what David was saying, but in the back of her mind was the thought of at least one night—possibly two—alone with Paul. After what’d happened between them the other night, that might make for an awkward couple of days.
 

“If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to call me,” David said. “Even when you’re on the mainland. I can listen in to the meeting with the doctors, too, if that would help.”

“I’m sure Paul and Alex would appreciate that.”

As she said his name, Paul came in from work, looking the same as he did every day—tired, dirty and sexy. Before she moved to Gansett, Hope would’ve said her “type” was white-collar career men. That was then. This was now. Dirty and sexy did it for her big-time. But then she reminded herself, as she often had to, that he was her boss and thus off-limits to her.

She couldn’t think of their middle-of-the-night kiss without feeling mortified by her behavior. The way she’d all but attacked him when he’d been offering comfort after Lisa died. Ugh.

“Hope?” Paul said, making her realize he’d been speaking to her while she’d been daydreaming about kissing him.
 

“Yes?”

He smiled, and oh, what that smile did to his already-gorgeous face. “Where’d you go?” he asked, although judging by the way he looked at her, he knew exactly where her mind had wandered. Had he been thinking about it, too?

“I was just going over what I’ll need to do to get Ethan ready for me to be gone for a couple of days.”

“If it’s too much, I can take my mom by myself.”

“It’s not. Not at all. Unless you’d rather—”

“Not even kinda,” he said, smiling again.

“I made the appointment for next week because I knew you’d want to be here for Lisa Chandler’s funeral,” David said to Hope.

“Yes, thank you for thinking of that. Have you seen the boys today?”

“I was there earlier, and they seem to be doing okay. Seamus and Carolina are taking good care of them.”

“Poor babies,” Hope said. “It’s so sad.”

“It really is. I guess I should go collect Daisy and take her to dinner.”

“Thank you again for everything, David,” Paul said.
 

David shook hands with him. “I wish there was more I could do. I’ll see you all tomorrow.” He walked out to join Daisy and Marion on the front porch. They wouldn’t leave without letting someone know, so Hope took advantage of the rare opportunity to relax for a minute.
 

The minute was short-lived when Ethan came running in through the back door, letting the screen slam behind him. “You’re home!” He nearly crashed into Paul, who moved quickly to scoop up the boy and flip him over his shoulder, making Ethan scream with laughter.
 

“What’s the rush, little man?”

“I wanna check the pumpkins, but Mom said I had to do my homework and wait for you. Can we go? Can we?”

Hope wanted to tell Paul he didn’t have to take him if he was too tired, but before she could get the words out, they were headed to the front door with Ethan still over Paul’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes and laughing all the way. It did funny things to her insides to see Paul with her son, to know that Ethan was completely infatuated with him. But that also scared her. Was it safe to allow Ethan to become attached to Paul, Alex, Jenny and Marion?

If the doctors on the mainland recommended in-patient care for Marion, where would that leave her? Out of a job and out of a home, too. Her stomach ached at the thought of starting over—again. They were so happy here on Gansett, which felt like home after only a couple of months. Ethan was happily settled in his new school and making friends who didn’t know about their painful past.

It would be awful to have to leave this island that had begun to feel like home, not to mention the family that she, too, had become attached to. Paul, Alex and Jenny were more than just her employers. They were new friends, too, the first new friends she’d made in years, as were David, Daisy, Erin, Jared and Lizzie, among others.
 

David stuck his head in the front door. “We need to run, Hope.”

She shook off the melancholy and got up to see to Marion. On the porch, Daisy was hugging Marion. Thank goodness for Daisy, who brightened Marion’s days with her sunny disposition and ability to roll with whatever Marion tossed her way. They all looked forward to Daisy’s daily visits as a respite in the storm of Marion’s illness.

“Thanks again for coming by, Daisy—and David,” Hope said.

“We enjoy our time with Marion,” Daisy said.
 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, right?” Marion asked.

“Yes, you will.” Except for their recent week off island, Daisy never missed a day with Marion, not since the day Marion turned up, barefoot and confused, on Daisy’s front porch in town. The incident had led to Hope’s hiring, and she was careful to keep a close eye on Marion, knowing her penchant for wandering.
 

Hope and Marion waved to David and Daisy as they drove off.
 

“Such a nice girl,” Marion said with a sigh. Then she looked over at Hope, her smile fading. “Who are you?”

“I’m Hope, and I’m here to help you.”

Marion sniffed with indignation. “I don’t need your help, so you can just go back to wherever you came from.” She got up and went inside, letting the screen door slam the same way Ethan had. Hope was about to get up to go after her when Paul came around the corner from the fields with Ethan on his shoulders. Her little boy was laughing hysterically.

Paul was smiling, too, and the sight of the two of them laughing together filled her with giddy feelings of gratitude and hope. She liked him. She’d liked kissing him. And despite all the reasons why she shouldn’t, she was looking forward to two days alone with him on the mainland.
 

On Saturday night, Jared, Lizzie, David, Daisy and Erin came to the Martinez home for a cookout. Marion’s friends had taken her to a spaghetti dinner at the church hall, and Ethan was spending the night with one of his new school friends, so Hope was officially off duty and could enjoy a relaxing evening with her own new friends.
 

Jenny had the blender going at full speed and produced a frothy salted margarita that she handed to Hope. “You’ve earned this times ten today,” Jenny said.

Marion had been in a foul mood all day, until her friends showed up and her disposition sweetened considerably. Hope certainly understood that the moods were part of the illness, but it wasn’t easy to be on the receiving end of hours’ worth of frustrated rage.
 

Hope took a big sip of the delicious drink and let the heat of the tequila warm her from the inside.
 

“Good?” Jenny asked.

“Perfection.”

“Excellent! Erin, Daisy, Lizzie! Come get your margaritas.”

The guys had opted for beers and were on the front porch messing with the grill, as men did.
 

“Really good, Jenny,” Lizzie said.
 

“So how’re the wedding plans coming?” Erin asked.

“Excellent, thanks to Lizzie,” Jenny said. “She’s got everything under control.”

“Or at least I hope I do. This is our first really big wedding at the Chesterfield, so Jenny and Alex know they are our test subjects.”

“Since you guys bought the place for us, the least we can do is be your guinea pigs.”

Lizzie wrinkled her nose. “I never said anything about pigs, so don’t tell anyone that. It wouldn’t be good for business.”

The others laughed.

“You know what else this island needs?” Hope said.

“What’s that?” Lizzie asked.

“A home for the sick and aged. Where are people supposed to go when their families can’t care for them at home anymore? They have to go to the mainland, which separates them from their families.”

“That’s so true,” Jenny said. “Alex and Paul wrestle with that every day. They know Marion probably needs to be in a place devoted to the kind of care she needs, but to do that, they’d have to put her somewhere far away from them.” She raised her glass in toast to Hope. “Thank God for Hope. We say that every day, but she works nonstop because dementia never takes a day off.”

“This is very interesting,” Lizzie said. “I’ll talk to Jared about it.”

“I didn’t say that expecting you guys to do something about it,” Hope said, slightly horrified that Lizzie had taken her so literally when she’d been venting.

“I’m not sure we can do anything, but it’s worth a conversation. Besides,” Lizzie added with a saucy grin, “you all know my favorite thing to do is spend Jared’s money on worthwhile causes.”

“She’s very good at that,” Daisy said. “The way you guys mobilized help for Lisa Chandler made her final days so much better than they would’ve been otherwise.”
 

“Jared and I both believe there’s a responsibility that goes with having the kind of resources he has,” Lizzie said. “It made us happy to help Lisa and her boys. If you don’t use your money to do good for others, you’re just another rich billionaire asshat, and I won’t let him become an asshat.”

“You’re too funny,” Erin said.
 

“Well, it’s true,” Lizzie said. “I’m all about keeping it real, and I will look into the possibility of starting a place on the island for people like Marion.”

“Wow,” Hope said. “You don’t fool around.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Jenny said. “And I’ll always be thankful to her and Jared for buying the Chesterfield for me.”

“Me, too.” Alex came into the kitchen and put an arm around Jenny from behind. “We’re going to have the most beautiful wedding that Gansett Island has ever seen.”

Jenny smiled back at him, and the powerful connection they shared was so obvious that Hope experienced a twinge of envy. As much as she’d once loved her ex-husband, they hadn’t had what Jenny and Alex did. Or what David and Daisy had or Jared and Lizzie. After spending time with them, Hope was determined to never again settle for less than what they had.
 

Paul grilled steaks and potatoes for their guests, who’d brought salads and dessert to add to the party. It was nice to take a break from their many responsibilities and to spend some time with good friends.
 

Over dinner, the conversation went from Alex and Jenny’s wedding and their plans to move into their new house, to the vacation David and Daisy had recently taken in Bermuda, to Erin’s adventures at the lighthouse.

“Hope mentioned something earlier that I want to look into further,” Lizzie said to her husband during dessert.

“Is this going to cost me money?” Jared asked with a good-natured grin.

BOOK: Love After Dark
13.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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