50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5)

50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 8
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50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 8

When the sign for his favorite fast-food restaurant came into view, his decision was made. The drive-through window was open and he rolled straight up to it. Sitting in the parking lot, he wolfed down his cheeseburger at record speed, hardly stopping to savor the sheer luxury of it. He washed it down with the vanilla shake and munched on salty fries. He’d be in trouble with Olivia if she found out about this, but that burger had been worth it.

Hell, he was already in trouble. He’d told her he’d be home by seven and it was nearly ten. Knowing she was probably trying to reach him, he’d turned off his cell. He felt guilty about that now. An emergency had developed when the computer system crashed and he’d had to stay until everything was up and running again. He had a newspaper to get out, and there was nothing he could do but see this crisis through.

The lights in the living room were on when Jack parked in front of the house. He’d come to appreciate Olivia’s home on Lighthouse Road, which had a wonderful view of the cove. Jack enjoyed sitting beside Olivia on her wide front porch, watching the sun set on a summer night.

He’d wondered, when they were first married, if he’d be comfortable in a house where Olivia had once lived with her ex-husband. His fears had come to nothing. Olivia and Stan had been divorced for more years than they’d been married, and almost every trace of Stan was gone. There was the odd family photograph here and there, but he didn’t begrudge Olivia that.

Hoping she was asleep, he sneaked into the kitchen as quietly as possible. But the instant the floor creaked, Olivia called his name.

“Hi, honey,” he said.

Olivia marched into the kitchen like the third brigade, dressed in her thick fleece housecoat and fuzzy slippers. Her arms were crossed and she glared at him. “You turned off your cell phone.”

“I know…I’m sorry.”

“Not sorry enough.”

“I left a message for you,” he said, pleading his case. “There wasn’t anything I could do.” He explained the computer situation, repeating the message he’d left on their answering machine, and hoped she understood that he just couldn’t answer questions at the time.

She hesitated, and he could see her weaken. “Sometimes I wonder why we ever got married. I see less of you now than I did while we were dating.”

Sometimes Jack felt the same way. “It seems like that, doesn’t it?” He brought her into the circle of his arms. He loved the smell of her hair and breathed in the scent that was distinctly hers. “There are other advantages to being married, though,” he whispered, slipping his hand inside the front of her housecoat. To his delight she wasn’t wearing her long flannel nightgown, but the silk one that offered him easy access to her breasts.

“Jack, honestly,” she protested, but not too loudly.

“Come on, honey, I’m tired. Let’s go to bed.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Famished.” Her nipples were hard and he felt the stirrings of desire. Ten minutes ago he didn’t think he had enough energy to do more than undress and fall into bed. But now…Well, Olivia had that kind of effect on him.

“I can warm up dinner in the microwave.”

He nuzzled her neck. “I ate on the way home,” he whispered as he brought his mouth to hers. The kiss was long and deep.

Olivia was the one who broke it off. “Jack Griffin, what did you have for dinner?”


She pulled away from him, shaking her head in disgust.

“Come on, honey.”

“Don’t ‘honey’ me. Don’t you realize what you’re doing?”

“I was hungry and a cheeseburger sounded so good.”

She wouldn’t look at him.

Jack eased her back into his arms. “I have an idea that might wipe out all the evil traces of that sinful dinner.”


He slid his hands back inside her warm housecoat, weighing the bounty of her breasts in his palms. It didn’t take much for his desire to be rekindled. “Can’t you guess? I think a little exercise might do wonders for me.”

Her eyes were closed and she let out a soft sigh in response.

“You’re always telling me how good exercise is.”

“That’s true,” she agreed. “But I thought you were tired.”

“I was,” he admitted, his voice sinking to a murmur as he led her toward their bedroom.

“Oh, Jack,” she whispered, climbing onto the bed. “I was so angry with you this evening, and now look at me. I’m like…like mush in your arms.”

This was why he loved her so much: She was as vulnerable to him as he was to her. Kneeling on the bed in front of her, Jack peeled off her nightgown and gloried in the sheen of her bare skin in the room’s faint light.

He was ready for her, painfully ready, as he stripped off his pants and let them drop to the floor. He doubted Olivia would object if he didn’t hang them up tonight.


“Let me look at you,” Corrie McAfee said as Linnette headed toward the front door of the house on Harbor Street, ready to leave for her dinner date with Cal Washburn. She’d stayed with her parents for the last few nights.

“Mom,” Linnette protested. It wasn’t as if she cared whether or not she made a good impression on this blind date. The fact that she was stuck going out with Cal was irritating enough without having to withstand her mother’s scrutiny.

Corrie stepped back to inspect her daughter’s appearance and smiled approvingly. Then, apparently noticing a speck of lint, Corrie brushed it away from Linnette’s shoulder. “You look lovely.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Linnette hadn’t gone to any effort. The long black suede skirt and white sweater weren’t new. The knee-high boots were from last year and her jewelry was a simple locket and gold earrings. She was presentable, and that was good enough. The last thing she wanted to do was impress this cowpoke.

Her intention was to fulfill her obligation and, if possible, enjoy the meal. If Cal asked her out again, she’d simply have to explain that she needed time to settle into her new home. In other words, she’d contact him when and if she was interested. She didn’t want to lead him on; as far as she was concerned, this was one date and one date only.

“Have a wonderful time,” her mother said.

“Mom, don’t!” Linnette groaned. “I hate it when you look at me like that.”

“Like what?” Her mother frowned, her expression completely baffled.

“You have all these expectations about me and Cal, and it’s so unfair.”

“What is?” Roy asked, walking into the living room where the two women stood.

“Both of you,” Linnette cried.

“Hey, what did I do?” Roy asked, glancing at Corrie.

Linnette gestured at them. “It’s like you’ve got me married to…to some man I haven’t even met. Is it any wonder I don’t want to go on this stupid date?”

Her father reached for The Cedar Cove Chronicle and shrugged. “Then don’t go.”

Corrie gasped. “I paid good money for this dinner. I want you to go out with him at least once. It would be rude to phone at the last minute and cancel.”

Linnette had thought of that herself. As much as she wanted out of this, she refused to be unkind about it. But now that she had her parents’ attention, there was another matter she needed to bring up.

“I want to know more about those postcards you’ve been receiving.”

Her father’s eyes narrowed accusingly on her mother.

Before he could blame Corrie for betraying confidences, Linnette explained how she knew. “I found one, Dad, so don’t get all bent out of shape. She tried to keep your scary little secret, but I read one of those postcards.”

“We haven’t had any more in the last week,” Corrie added quickly. She hesitated, then turned to Roy. “Have we?”

Roy’s frown darkened his entire face. “No. And the subject is closed.” With that, he sat down and hid behind the newspaper.


“It won’t do any good to question him,” her mother whispered. She silently pleaded with her to drop the subject.

Linnette already knew how stubborn and unreasonable her father could be. She was furious that he’d excluded her like this. He did the same thing to Mack. Linnette found it chilling that her own father could pretend she wasn’t there, seeking answers, needing reassurance. He didn’t seem to understand that she wasn’t asking these questions because she was intruding on their business. Her concern was genuine.

“I’d better leave now,” she said, retrieving the suede jacket that matched her skirt.

Cal had agreed to meet her at The Lighthouse, the finest restaurant in town, at seven. Linnette was prepared to pay for the dinner if it came to that, but she hoped Cal would offer, since she wasn’t on the clinic payroll yet. Her mother had paid big bucks for this guy, although Linnette wasn’t sure precisely how much. She knew it was over four hundred dollars each for Cal and the dog, who was definitely worth her share of the money. In Linnette’s humble opinion, Cal should be the one paying the tab for tonight’s dinner. Nevertheless, she had enough cash to cover it, unless he ordered expensive drinks.

“Have a good time,” Corrie said again as she walked Linnette to the door.

Linnette didn’t think that was possible. “Any words of wisdom?” she asked in a resigned voice.

The question appeared to please her mother. “I don’t know much about Cal. However, Grace Sherman at the library says he’s a wonderful man but shy, so you might have to carry the conversation.”

Linnette had already figured that. With his stutter, it might be difficult to have much of a conversation at all. Linnette was afraid this evening would be torture. She knew it was going to be a struggle not to finish his sentences for him. Doing that would be terribly impolite and, of course, Cal would resent it, with good reason.

Linnette wasn’t looking forward to going home that night, either; her mother would almost certainly be waiting up to interrogate her about the evening with Cal. But Linnette had a few questions of her own. She hoped to learn more about these postcards so she could tell her brother. Linnette felt they had a right to know that their parents were in potential danger.

If her father’s reaction to a simple question was any indication, she could forget about any hope of shared information from him. He wasn’t talking, but she might be able to persuade her mother to drop a few hints.

When she reached the restaurant, Linnette parked in the only available spot and walked up the steps to The Lighthouse foyer. Funny, she’d never thought to ask Cal what he looked like. Now, standing in a foyer crowded with people, all waiting to be seated, she glanced around, hoping she’d somehow recognize him. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a number of single men milling about.

Wanting to avoid the embarrassment of asking strangers their names, Linnette decided there must be a logical way to do this. Cal would probably be wearing cowboy boots. Unfortunately, that meant she was walking around with her head down, staring at everyone’s feet.

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