50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5)

50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 7
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50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 7

“Cliff?” she said in a tentative voice.

“What day is it?” he asked.


“Is this the Friday I invited you for dinner?”

Her heart fell and she nodded. He’d forgotten. Still, she tried to smile as she said, “I’m afraid it is.”

He was immediately apologetic. “I’m so sorry, Grace. I didn’t realize it was this Friday. As you can see, we’re having a problem here.”

“What’s wrong?”

Cliff shook his head grimly. “It’s Midnight. He’s got colic.”

“Colic?” In Grace’s experience, that was an ailment babies came down with during their first few months. She remembered pacing the floor with Kelly, her youngest, as the infant screamed in unrelieved pain.

“It’s life-threatening in horses,” Cliff explained. “The vet’s here and we’re doing everything we can to save him. If worse comes to worse, surgery might be necessary.” He removed his hat and wiped his forearm across his brow. “I’m sorry, Grace, we’ll have dinner another time.”

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked, willing to push up her sleeves and help to whatever extent she could.

“I was about to make a pot of coffee.”

“I’ll do that and bring it out when it’s ready.”

Cliff nodded. “Great. I’d appreciate that.”

“Don’t give it a second thought.”

Once inside the kitchen, Grace searched through several cupboards until she located the coffee grounds. While the coffee brewed, she brought out bread and made half a dozen sandwiches, using the ham and cheese slices she found in the refrigerator. She wasn’t sure how long this crisis had been in effect, but she guessed that Cliff, Cal and the vet could use something to eat.

When everything was ready, Grace carried a tray with the coffeepot and a plate of sandwiches into the barn. Doc Newton was the first one to notice Grace’s presence. As she stood, she smiled her gratitude.

“I’d love a cup of that coffee. With cream,” Vickie said.

Setting down the tray, Grace filled a mug for her.

Cliff, who was on his knees beside the stallion, barely glanced over his shoulder. A large tube came out of the horse’s mouth and to Grace’s uneducated eye, the animal appeared to be in bad shape. Cal was on the other side, gently stroking the black muzzle as he talked in low, soothing tones. Grace realized that for the first time since she’d met Cal, he wasn’t stuttering. Apparently he could communicate with horses better than humans.

Grace poured Cliff a mug of hot coffee. He took it from her with a scant nod of acknowledgement. She offered some to Cal, but he shook his head.

“It’s a waiting game now,” Doc Newman told Grace.

“What are Midnight’s chances?”

The vet shrugged. “Could go either way.”

Grace knew that Cliff had a large financial investment in this stallion, but there was more to it. He loved that horse. He’d often talked about his dreams for the ranch, and it went without saying that Midnight was the very basis of Cliff’s future in ranching. She speculated that losing the stallion could set him back years. But it would be a personal loss as much as a financial one.

Not knowing what else to do, Grace stepped into the background and waited. She didn’t feel she could just walk away. She might not be able to give him any real help, but she wanted Cliff to know she cared.

After an hour she saw that she wasn’t contributing anything. No one wanted more food or coffee, so she returned to the house. It took her all of five minutes to clean up the kitchen. Bored, she turned on the television, flicking from channel to channel, not settling on any one program for more than a few minutes. Every half hour she went to the barn to see what was happening, but there seemed to be virtually no progress. As Doc Newman had said, it was a waiting game.

At ten Grace fell asleep in front of the television, waking with a start at shortly after eleven. She looked outside and saw that Doc Newman’s truck was gone. When she hurried out to the barn again, Grace saw that nothing had changed. Cliff and Cal were still with Midnight; neither seemed to notice her. As quietly as she could, she slipped out of the barn and went back to the house to collect her things.

Not wanting to interrupt Cliff, she climbed into her car and drove home, feeling depressed. She was worried about Midnight’s colic, of course, and extremely upset by Cliff’s attitude toward her. She wondered if he regretted the dinner invitation. Even if Midnight hadn’t taken sick, it wouldn’t have mattered. Cliff hadn’t even remembered this was the night she was coming to dinner. He’d made no preparations, nor had he shown the slightest interest in seeing her. If anything, he seemed happy to avoid her.

Buttercup and Sherlock were waiting when she let herself into the house and their obvious pleasure at her return comforted Grace. She saw that the message light on her phone was blinking. After leaving her purse on the washing machine, she sat down at her small kitchen table to listen, pen in hand.

A faint smile touched her lips at the sound of her best friend’s voice. Olivia wanted to hear all about Grace’s “hot” dinner date. “Phone when you get home. I don’t care how late it is.”

Reluctantly Grace reached for the telephone. Olivia answered on the first ring.

“Don’t you have anything better to do on a Friday night than sit by the phone?” Grace chided.

“Jack’s still at the office.”

Olivia didn’t sound pleased, and Grace didn’t blame her. “It’s almost eleven-thirty!”

“Tell me about it,” Olivia muttered. “But you didn’t call to hear me complain about Jack. How’d it go with Cliff?”

“Dreadful.” Grace went on to fill in the details, ending with her suspicion that Cliff seemed to regret inviting her.

Olivia was silent when she finished. “So what are you going to do?”

“What can I do?” Grace asked, discouraged and baffled by Cliff’s behavior.

“You’re not giving up, are you?” Olivia challenged.

“No,” but this wasn’t said with a lot of enthusiasm. “I guess not. But if he doesn’t—”

“He’ll phone you in the morning,” Olivia broke in.

Somehow Grace doubted that. It was as if Cliff had put her out of his mind.


Jack Griffin was tired and hungry. It was past nine on Tuesday and he still hadn’t left the office; Olivia would be annoyed. He loved that woman, but he craved the challenge of his job as editor of The Cedar Cove Chronicle, too. Olivia claimed he had printer’s ink running through his veins and he figured she was right—otherwise he’d resent all the hours he spent getting out five issues a week.

When he’d been offered the position of editor four years earlier, the newspaper published a single issue each week and was planning to increase that to two. Since he was in his fifties and ready to cut back on the grueling hours he put in for the Spokane daily paper, he’d willingly accepted fewer hours—and less pay. The attraction of moving to Cedar Cove was more than just working for The Chronicle. The real draw was being close to Bob Beldon and to Eric, Jack’s son, who lived in the Seattle area, too. Ironically Eric and his family had moved to Reno three years ago.

Bob Beldon was Jack’s AA sponsor and best friend. Several years earlier, Bob and Peggy had returned to the area and purchased a run-down home on Cranberry Point. Being an all-around handyman, Bob had quickly transformed the huge house into a successful bed-and-breakfast they called Thyme and Tide. The thyme part came from Peggy, who’d immediately planted an herb garden, along with a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Her blueberry muffins were legendary.

After a single visit to Cedar Cove, Jack fell in love with the small community. He interviewed for the Chronicle job and got it. He found a decent rental and settled into what he assumed would be a more leisurely pace of life. He was looking forward to it, looking forward to a change.

Change had come, all right, but not in the way he’d expected. Soon after his arrival in Cedar Cove, he’d met Olivia Lockhart, and the woman had turned his world upside down.

In an effort to become acquainted with the community, Jack had visited her courtroom for a day and watched her deal out judgments on a series of cases. One judgment stood out. A young couple who’d lost their child came before her, seeking a divorce. While most people in the courtroom watched the exchange between the two lawyers presenting the case, Jack had focused his attention on Olivia. He found her mesmerizing. As she studied the couple, her eyes had filled with pain. Only later did Jack learn that Olivia had lost a child, too. Her thirteen-year-old son had drowned in 1986. Under the weight of grief and loss, her own marriage had dissolved. When she denied the couple’s divorce on a technicality, in effect forcing husband and wife to reconsider, he knew he had to write about her in his column.

Unfortunately Olivia had taken exception to what Jack had written. They met one Saturday morning in the local grocery and—although she might not have realized it at the time—their courtship had begun. He fell hard for her and he hadn’t recovered yet. The truth was, he didn’t plan to. They’d been married for over a year and his life had never been more satisfying.

Every now and then Jack had to marvel that a woman as classy as Olivia would marry an ex-alcoholic newsman who didn’t even know which fork to use if there were more than two. But marry him she had, and he considered himself the luckiest man alive.

Of course, Olivia being Olivia, she’d taken it upon herself to educate him. She felt there were some rough edges that needed smoothing out. They’d had a difficult few months in the beginning, while they adjusted to living with each other. Jack was willing to admit he was a slob. Olivia, on the other hand, had a highly developed sense of order and his slovenly habits had driven his poor wife insane.

He just didn’t understand why it was so important to hang up his pants every night when he intended to put them on again in the morning. He made an effort because he knew it pleased her. The same with the peanut butter jar. According to Olivia, he was spreading germs around the entire house by leaving it open on the countertop with a knife stuck in it. So now he took out the knife, put on the lid and shoved it in the fridge. And these days, he actually hung the towel on the rack when he was done with it. He could never arrange them precisely the way Olivia liked, but she didn’t complain. He rinsed off his dinner plate each night and placed it inside the dishwasher, too. Love apparently did that to a man.

The one area that still met with resistance was this diet she had him on. All right, he’d admit it; he could afford to lose a few pounds. Jack had a bit of a paunch, but it wasn’t that bad. Every once in a while, a man needed a double-bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings. He wasn’t opposed to a large order of fries with that, either. They both went well with a vanilla shake.

Just thinking about his favorite meal made Jack’s mouth water as he got into his car to drive home. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. Breakfast had been blueberry yogurt with something stirred into it—probably wheat germ. He hated the taste of wheat germ, so his beloved wife had taken to disguising it. He let her think he’d been fooled.

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