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Authors: Marie Force

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

Love After Dark (9 page)

BOOK: Love After Dark
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The look Lizzie gave him had them all laughing. “Of course it is.”

Jared groaned. “What now?”

“We need a senior care facility on this island so elderly patients can get the help they need and remain close to their families, too.”

Paul glanced at his brother, who was listening intently to Lizzie.

“Hmm,” Jared said to Hope. “Speak to me.”

She glanced at Paul, seeming tentative. “It was just a thought I had that I said out loud in front of the wrong person,” she said with a smile.

“Or the
right
person,” Lizzie said. “Depending on how you look at it.”

“She’s like a dog with a bone when she hears about someone in need,” Jared said.

“Awww, isn’t he sweet calling his new wife a dog?” Lizzie said, setting off a new round of laughter. “Woof woof.”

“It’s a brilliant idea, Hope,” David said. “I can think of ten people right off the top of my head who would benefit from such a place, including Marion.”

“And we know the perfect person to oversee it,” Lizzie said to her husband, who frowned.

“I don’t know…”

“What don’t you know? Your brother is between jobs and looking for something new. What would be better for him than this?” To the others, she said, “Jared’s brother Quinn was an army medic and recently returned to civilian life. He was a GP before the army, so he could easily take on something like this, couldn’t he, David?”

“I’m sure he’s probably overqualified,” David said.

“See?” Lizzie said, her eyes flashing with excitement.

“Do you guys see what I live with?” Jared asked, his smile conveying his obvious affection for his wife.

“I know, I’m such a hardship,” Lizzie said, winking at him.

“If you’re serious about this,” Paul said, “the town is about to put the old school building on the market now that the new one is open.”

“Can we look at it tomorrow?” Lizzie asked.

Jared groaned again. “There go my plans to chill by the pool all day.”

“Can we?” Lizzie asked again.

“I’ll see if I can set it up,” Paul said, amused by her enthusiasm.

“Dog meet bone,” Jared said.

Lizzie let out a bark that had them all howling with laughter.
 

Much later, after the others had left, Hope helped Alex, Jenny and Paul clean up.
 

“Can you imagine if this idea of yours actually comes to fruition?” Alex asked.

“I didn’t mean to set Lizzie off on such a tangent,” Hope said. “I was just saying how nice it would be to have something like that here. Of course, I probably put myself out of a job with my big idea.”

“No way,” Jenny said. “If it happens, and that’s a big if at this point, they’ll need tons of people to staff the place.”

“True,” Hope said. “I just hope you guys don’t think I was overstepping by bringing it up.”

“Why would we?” Paul asked. “We value your opinions and ideas, and if this one comes to pass, we’ll owe you a huge debt of gratitude for finding a way to get Mom the care she needs right here on the island. That’d be a miracle to us.”

Alex pointed at Paul. “What he said.”

Hope smiled at their effusive praise. “Well, thanks. You guys are too kind. This was a really fun time tonight. Thanks for including me.”

“You and Ethan are part of the family now,” Jenny said. “Whether you like it or not.”

Hope laughed. “We like it very much.”

Paul was thrilled to hear her say that. At times he wondered if they asked too much of her, especially on days like today when their mother was verbally abusive. Speaking of Marion… Headlights lit up the front of the house. The festive mood the four of them had been in immediately shifted to something far more serious.

“I’ll get your mom to bed,” Hope said.

“I’ll help,” Paul said. “You’ve already put in a full day.”

“I don’t mind.”

He couldn’t deny the attraction he felt for her when she looked at him with those kind eyes and that warm smile. It had been nearly a week since she kissed him, and he’d thought about it at least a thousand times since then. They were leaving on Tuesday to take Marion to the mainland, and he couldn’t wait to have some time alone with Hope to get to know her better.
 

Despite the guilt Paul felt over being interested in an employee, he had to think his dad would approve of his affection for Hope, especially because of the way she took care of Marion.
 

“Since you guys have got bedtime covered, we’re going over to our house to do a few things,” Alex said.

“We’ll take bedtime tomorrow,” Jenny said.

“See you in the morning,” Paul said.

Between the two of them, Paul and Hope got Marion changed and ready for bed. Hope cajoled her to take her medicine, and by the time they got her tucked in, Paul was completely worn out. The relaxing night with friends might never have happened.
 

“I don’t know about you, but I could use another drink,” he said when they returned to the kitchen.

“I wouldn’t say no to that.”

“Beer, wine or more tequila?”

“I’ve consumed my yearly limit of tequila tonight. I’ll have a beer.”

He opened two of them. “Let’s go outside,” he said, gesturing for her to go out ahead of him to the back deck, where the stargazing was at its best.

Chapter 6

Hope and Paul sat on the stairs to enjoy their beers.

“I’m sorry she’s so awful to you,” Paul said. “Alex and I feel terrible about that.”

“Don’t. It goes with the territory. It doesn’t bother me.”


How
does it not bother you? We love her, and it makes us nuts.”

“I guess I’m just used to it. I’ve worked with dementia patients for years, and I’ve learned not to take their abuse personally. Most of them are lovely people who, in their right minds, would be appalled by their behavior. I try to stay focused on who they were rather than who they are now.”

“I feel guilty because sometimes I forget who she used to be.”

“Tell me what you remember.”

“She loved to cook and fuss over Alex and me and our dad. They were crazy in love, constantly dancing and kissing and whispering to each other. It used to gross us out when we were teenagers.”

Hope laughed. “I’m sure it did.”

“Alex used to tell them to get a room.”

“And isn’t he one to talk these days?”

“I know, right?” Paul laughed. “Such a hypocrite.”

“I think he and Jenny are adorable together.”

“I do, too, even if I could do with a little less PDA.”

“They’re moving out soon.”

“None too soon, if you ask me. I’ve had to learn to sleep with headphones on or hear things that can’t be unheard.”

Hope lost it laughing. “Aww, poor Paul. How do you stand it?”

“I can’t stand it. I’ll be first in line to move them the hell out of here.”

“Anyway, about your mom…”

“Right,” he said, wondering how he’d gotten off on a tangent, with her of all people, about sex. “She ran the business after my dad died. Did all the paperwork, managed the retail store, dealt with the customers. We had a good groove going for a long time, and then she started forgetting stuff, confusing one customer with another, arguing with the college kids in the store. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was up with her until one of the kids took me aside and told me the same thing had happened with her grandmother. She was the first to use the word dementia with me. I felt like I’d been electrocuted or something.”

Overcome by the painful memories, Paul took a drink from his bottle and stared out at the darkness. “I asked David to meet me for a beer. He wasn’t the official Gansett Island doctor yet. He was home recovering from chemo.”

“Wait, what? David had
chemo
?”

“He had lymphoma. He’s in remission now and doing great, but he was pretty sick for a while there.”

“Wow, I had no idea. So what did he say when you told him about your mom?”

“That what she was displaying were classic signs of dementia. He recommended I take her to a doctor on the mainland for an official diagnosis. You should’ve heard that battle. She accused me of all sorts of things, including conspiring to get rid of her so I could have the house and business to myself.”

“Aw, jeez,” she said with a sigh. “That had to hurt.”

“It was awful. But I managed to drag her kicking and screaming to the doctor on the mainland who confirmed the diagnosis and put her on medication that slowed the progression, for a while anyway. We lived in a perpetual state of battle for about a year before I called Alex and begged him to come home to help me. I hated making that call. He had a good life in DC, a job he loved and a girlfriend who dumped him when he told her he was moving home.”

“It worked out pretty well for him here.”

“Eventually, but at first he was freaking miserable, and even though he knew he needed to be here, it was tough to see him so unhappy. He hated living here when we were kids. Couldn’t wait to get the hell off this island. So to ask him to come back…”

“You did the only thing you could at the time. He knows that.”

“Yeah, he does, but it still sucked until he met Jenny and then became the happiest SOB you ever met.”

“That he is,” Hope said with a laugh.

“I’m glad for him. No one deserves it more than he does.”

“You do, too.”

Paul had no idea how to respond to that statement. Was she referring to the kiss or was he reading far too much into an innocuous statement? Probably the latter.

“Sorry,” she said. “Didn’t mean to make things more awkward.”

“You didn’t.”

“Yes, I really did. I keep thinking about what happened the other night, and how ridiculously out of line I was. It’s so embarrassing!”

Maybe it was the four beers he’d had that gave him the liquid courage to put his arm around her.

Her body went rigid next to him.

“No need to be embarrassed. You’re not the only one who’s thought about that kiss a few thousand times.”

“Oh,” she said, exhaling and relaxing ever so slightly. “I’m not?”

“Definitely not.”

“A few thousand times?”

“At least. Might be even more than that.”

“Oh. Well…” After a long pause, she said, “Is it possible that we’re only thinking about it because we’re convenient to each other?”

Paul laughed at her use of the word convenient. “This, whatever it is, is hardly convenient. All I can think about is that my father would skin me alive for kissing one of our employees, let alone wanting to do it again. In that way, it’s incredibly
inconvenient
.”

“You… You want to do it again?”

“Yeah, and not at all because you’re
convenient
. It’s because you’re you, and you’re gorgeous and amazing and a great mom and…”

“And what?” she asked, sounding breathless.
 

He wished he could see her face more clearly, but it was too dark. “Sexy. Really, really sexy.”

“Paul…”

“Tell me no if you don’t want me to kiss you again.”

“I kissed you the last time.”

“This one will be all on me, unless you say no.”

“I’m not saying no, but—”

He didn’t wait to hear the second half of her sentence. Before she could change her mind—or he could change his—he pulled her closer and relied upon instinct to find her lips in the dark. Until he was one hundred percent certain she was on board with this kiss, he only rubbed his lips against hers.
 

Then her lips parted and her hand curled around his neck, which was all the encouragement he needed. Paul ran his tongue over her bottom lip, making her gasp. For a second, he wondered if he’d been too forward, but then her tongue touched his, and he forgot about all the reasons why this was a bad idea and lost himself in her. Other than her, he hadn’t kissed anyone in longer than he could remember, and he’d never kissed anyone with quite so much pent-up need.

BOOK: Love After Dark
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