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Book 14 in the Gansett Island Series
“Sweet, sexy and packed with a lot of emotion this book reminded me of why I fell in love with this series years ago.”—five star review from Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
Celebration After Dark is a bestseller hitting the New York Times ebook list at no. 14, USA Today at no. 45 and an IndieReader at no. 1.
On the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary, Big Mac and Linda McCarthy take a look back at how they came to be, while each of their children confront a new challenge in their own lives. Come to Gansett Island to celebrate the holidays and the anniversary of the island’s most loved couple! More than 25,000 words.
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Mac McCarthy Senior, known to all as Big Mac, woke on the morning of December twentieth to the distinctive sounds of winter on Gansett Island—howling wind, icy snow pinging against the windows and groaning beams in the house he’d called home for nearly four decades. But today was not any average winter day. On this day forty years ago, he married the love of his life. Today was a day for celebration.
The kids were throwing a party later that Mac and Linda weren’t supposed to know about. “Voodoo Mama,” as the kids called Linda, knew everything they were up to. She’d picked up on the scent of a party months ago, which was why they hadn’t planned one for themselves. He had a few surprises of his own to mark the occasion that he couldn’t wait to give her.
She slept curled up to him, the way she did every night. Even on the few occasions when they’d been at odds, she always reached for him in her sleep. Their marriage had been filled with love and joy and five incredible kids who’d been the light of their lives. Each of them had found their soul mate in the last few years, which was the only thing he and Linda had ever truly wanted for them.
Nothing made Big Mac more content than seeing his kids happy and in love with people he would’ve hand-chosen for each of them. Mac with Maddie, Grant with Stephanie, Adam with Abby, Evan with Grace and Janey with Joe. All of them perfect matches in every way that mattered.
In addition to his own five, he’d been like a father to Luke Harris, the young man who’d worked for him at the marina since he was fourteen, and who was now happily married to his first love, Sydney Donovan Harris, with a baby on the way.
A few years ago, Big Mac had made Mac and Luke his partners in the marina, which was one of the best things he’d ever done. It freed him up to relax a little while the two young guys put their considerable energy into steering the business into the modern era. Big Mac was more than happy to take a backseat to them. He had grandchildren to coddle, bullshit to shoot, fish to catch and a wife to take traveling as he’d promised her he would once the kids were launched and the businesses were in good hands.
And then there was Mallory Vaughn, the woman who’d appeared earlier in the year with the life-changing news that she was the daughter he’d never known he had, the product of a brief relationship that ended before he met Linda. Talk about shocking! But Linda had set the tone, accepting Mallory into their family and making sure her arrival didn’t turn into a crisis for them. He’d never loved his gorgeous wife more than he had watching her welcome his daughter into their home and family.
The bedside clock read 6:20, which was far too early to wake Linda to begin the celebration. With nowhere to be for hours, they had the day to themselves before the party. That was plenty of time to shower her with the gifts he’d spent months organizing, among other things he wanted to do today.
He was kind of glad it was snowing. The men of the family had been spending every possible minute helping his son Mac and nephew Shane with the addition to the home of their friends Seamus and Carolina O’Grady, who’d recently taken in two young boys after their mother’s tragic death. Everyone wanted to see the new family settled as soon as possible, and they were down to finish work on the addition. With the storm raging outside, Big Mac could justify a day off to spend with his wife.
In the meantime, he found his thoughts wandering back in time to the summer day when he first laid eyes on the woman who would become the center of his life. He’d been home in Providence to close on the ramshackle marina that several people had told him not to buy. His dad had been particularly vociferous in his objections.
“Your grandmother left you that money so you could make something of yourself, Mac,” his father had said. “She’d be very disappointed to see you pissing it away on a hunk of junk in the middle of nowhere.”
“I’m sorry you think so, Dad, but I’ve got a feeling about this place. With a little love and a lot of work, I think I can turn it into a gold mine.”
“And how do you plan to eat while you’re waiting to strike gold?”
“I’ve got my charter captain’s license and feelers out all over the place. I’ll find work. Don’t worry.” As long as he was near the water in some way or another, Mac was confident he could make a living somehow.
Frank McCarthy Senior shook his head with disgust and dismay over the plans his middle son had made for his little corner of Gansett Island.
“Let him be, Frank,” Mac’s mother, Jane, had said. “He’s got to make his own way the same way you made yours. Harping on him isn’t going to change his mind, especially when he’s signing the papers tomorrow.”
Despite his mother’s support, Mac had left his parents’ home that day feeling dejected and scared for the first time since he’d fallen in love with the marina. What if his dad was right? What if he pissed away the nest egg his grandmother had left him on something that would never pay off?
As he drove the truck he’d bought in high school that was now on its last legs to his brother Frank’s place, he blasted Bruce Springsteen’s new album Born to Run in the tape deck. His chest tightened with anxiety and panic. He’d wagered everything he had and then some on the marina, knowing it needed a load of work to make it presentable. He’d never been afraid of hard work and had been looking forward to getting on with it before his dad filled his head with doubts.
Mac found a parking space two blocks from Frank’s house, and after he shut off the engine, he sat there for a minute thinking it through from every angle. One of the lawyers Frank had interned with over the summer had been good enough to look over the contracts for the purchase of the marina and declared them sound. Mac had had the place surveyed, and even though it looked a little rough around the edges to the naked eye, it was structurally sound. He had financing in place for the portion not covered by his inheritance and had money built into the loan for renovations.
It would take years to own the place free and clear, but he still had faith that eventually the investment of his time and money would pay off. And if it didn’t? Well, he was a young guy with plenty of time to recover and find something else to do with his life.
He got out of the truck and walked to Frank’s apartment, which occupied the first floor of a three-story Victorian. Frank was heading to law school at Brown in the fall and lived there with two other guys. The three of them were hosting this afternoon’s party in their backyard. Mac was in bad need of some time with his big brother—not to mention a couple of cold ones.
Mac let himself into the apartment with the key Frank had given him so he could crash on the sofa rather than stay at home where his mother would want him home by midnight and then sniff him, looking for telltale signs that he’d been drinking. It was easier to stay with Frank, who expected him to smell like beer because they usually drank it together.
“Mac!” Frank called from the kitchen door. “Get in here and check out these wings that Brett made. They’ll set your mouth on fire.”
“And doesn’t that sound like fun?”
Frank took a closer look at him. “What’s with you?”
Leaving the kitchen and the wings behind, Frank took Mac by the arm and steered him back the way he’d come. They went through the front door to the porch. “I’ll ask again—what’s with you?”
Mac hesitated, but only for a second, because this was Frankie, his big brother and best friend. If anyone would tell it to him straight, it was Frank. “Am I making a huge mistake buying the marina?”
“You heard me. Am I pissing away the money Grandma left me on something stupid?”
“Where’s this shit coming from?”
“Something Dad said has me thinking. What if it’s a total disaster, and I lose my shirt?”
“What if it’s a huge success and you make millions? Have you considered that possibility?”
“Not really. I’d be perfectly satisfied to make a decent living from the place. I’m not looking for millions.”
“Still, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. People are saying Gansett is the next Martha’s Vineyard. Sky’s the limit, bro, and you’re in on the ground floor.”
“You still think it’s a good idea to buy the place?”
“If I didn’t, I would’ve said so.” Frank was the one person from his life in Providence who’d been out to the island to see the marina, because Mac trusted his brother’s instincts and wanted his opinion. “You’ve got your work cut out for you to undo years of neglect, but that’s nothing you can’t handle.”
Frank’s assurances helped to calm the wave of panic that had been growing since Mac left their parents’ home.
“You’re going to sign those papers tomorrow and take the plunge, because if you don’t, you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what might’ve happened if you had.”
“That’s very true.”
“Sometimes you’ve just got to go for it, Mac, and let the chips fall where they will. Either it’ll be a success or it won’t, but the only failure here would be in not trying.”
“Thanks, Frankie. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
“Dad means well. You know he does, but sometimes he spouts off without thinking. Don’t let him fill your mind with doubts. This is what you want, Mac. Go for it.”
“I’m going to.”
“Good. You’ve already sacrificed a lot for that marina.” Frank reminded him of the brief but promising relationship with Diana Vaughan that had ended because she wasn’t interested in life on a remote island.
Mac had missed her in the months since they broke up, but he knew it had been the right thing to end it now rather than later when it would be harder to reconcile their differing life goals. “Yeah, you’re right. Too late to turn back now.”
“Yes, it is, and it’s going to be great. I know it.” Frank’s gaze shifted to the street, his smile lighting up his face. “Here comes my girl, and she’s brought friends. Cute friends.”
Mac looked toward the street and saw Joann, Frank’s girlfriend since high school, coming down the sidewalk with three other girls in tow. Mac immediately zeroed in on one of them. Petite with long blond hair, she had an arresting face and eyes that danced with glee at something one of her friends had said.
Watching her come closer, Mac felt like he’d been sucker-punched.
“Earth to Mac,” Frank said, drawing his attention off the blond goddess.
“W-who is that?”
“The blond with Joann. Who is she?”
“That’s her friend Linda from PC,” he said, referring to Providence College.
Joann came up the stairs and launched herself at Frankie, laying a wet, sloppy kiss on him. “God, this week was endless.”
“For me, too, baby.”
The two of them had been mad about each other from the moment they met in high school, when Jo’s family moved to the city. Frank had come home from the first day of his sophomore year professing he’d met his future wife, and they’d been together ever since.
Keeping an arm around Joann, Frank said, “Ladies, this is my brother, Mac. Mac, meet Josie, Linda and Kathy.”
Linda. Her name is Linda. Mac shook hands with all three women and then gave his full attention to the one in the middle, who stood out in the group of gorgeous women like a shining star. He’d never been so bowled over by a girl—or a woman. She was all woman, but giggled like a girl with her friends as they made their way inside with Joann leading the way.
“Easy, big fella,” Frank said, his hand on Mac’s arm.
“How do you think Linda would feel about living on Gansett Island with an up-and-coming marina owner?
Frank tossed his head back and laughed as hard as Mac had ever seen him laugh.
Too bad Mac was serious.
“You don’t do anything halfway, do you, Mac?”
“What’s the point of doing something halfway?”
“Go easy so you don’t scare her off. She’ll think you’re some sort of ax murderer if you ask her to come live on your remote island five minutes after you meet her.”
“Laugh all you want, Frankie, but that girl is going to live with me on my island. Mark my words.”
Shaking his head in amusement, Frank said, “Good thing you’re going to have a lawyer in the family. You’ll need me to defend you when she files charges against you.”
Mac laughed at Frank’s joke, but he suspected he’d need his brother to be his best man before he’d ever need his legal services.
Big Mac chuckled at the memory of that long-ago day. It had been ages since he’d thought about how his father had nearly talked him out of buying the marina—and what a mistake that would’ve been. He’d paid off the loan within five years and had gone on to make millions on the place, just as Frankie had predicted. It hadn’t happened overnight, but after the island was featured on a TV show on East Coast destinations two years after he bought the marina, nothing was ever the same.
And speaking of never the same…he was never the same after that day at Frank’s house. That was the day his life really began, the day he met Linda.
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