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The lights are out on Gansett, and things are getting steamy!

An island-wide power failure has thrust Gansett into darkness. We’ll take this opportunity to catch up with each of the couples we’ve come to know and love, and meet a few new characters who’ll appear in upcoming books. It’s the heart of summer, the power’s out and things are getting hot on Gansett Island!

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Blackout After Dark

(Gansett Island Series, Book 23)

 

Chapter 1

The invitation had arrived in that day’s mail—a casual housewarming at the new seaside home of Charlie and Sarah Grandchamp. “The gift of your friendship is the only one we need,” the invitation read. Linda McCarthy handed it to her husband, “Big Mac,” over dinner.

“I can’t wait to see the inside of that house,” Big Mac said. “It’s one of my favorites.”

The huge contemporary had one of the best views of the Atlantic on the island. Its six bedrooms and seven bathrooms would allow Sarah and Charlie to have their whole family in residence for a visit, should the opportunity arise. Sarah had told Linda that’d been one of their primary goals in looking for a home of their own—somewhere the entire family could be together.

“I’m looking forward to it as well.” Linda took a sip of the robust red wine her friend Carolina O’Grady had turned her on to during a recent get-together. “And may I add, no one in the entire world deserves happily ever after more than those two do.”

“I agree. Rumor has it he told her to pick any house on the island she wanted, and he’d find a way to get it for her.”

Linda fanned her face. “That’s so romantic. He wants her to have it all.”

“After the nightmare of her marriage to Mark Lawry, she deserves to have it all.”

“Indeed, as does he. And I love that the state is footing the bill for their dream house.”

Charlie had been granted a seven-million-dollar settlement from the state, half a million for each of the fourteen years he’d spent unjustly incarcerated. Their daughter-in-law Stephanie had worked tirelessly for all that time to try to free the stepfather who’d come to her aid and then been charged with the beating her late mother had actually inflicted.

Stephanie’s husband, their son Grant, had written a screenplay based on Charlie and Stephanie’s years’ long odyssey. The movie, called Indefatigable, had been shot in Los Angeles over the winter and would soon be screened for the Gansett Island community. “I can’t wait to see the film. Grant said it came together better than he could’ve dreamed.”

“Has Steph seen it yet?” Big Mac asked.

Linda shook her head. “Apparently, she’s trying to work up the courage to watch it. She says she lived it, and once was more than enough. But she wants to watch the film he worked so hard on, even if he’s told her he’d understand if she never does.”

“That’s a tough one,” Big Mac said. “I wouldn’t want anything to set her back to where she was when we first met her. She had the weight of the world on her shoulders.”

“I don’t think that would happen, but she definitely needs to prepare herself emotionally to watch her story unfold on the screen.”

“That’d be surreal—to see something you lived portrayed on film.”

“I can only imagine.”

“When is the Charlie and Sarah’s party?”

“Saturday night. They waited until Grant and Steph would be back from LA.”

“That’s the day the new lighthouse keepers arrive, a married couple this time.”

“You haven’t said much about them.”

Big Mac was president of the Gansett Island Town Council and had the inside scoop on everything that went on in their tiny corner of the world. He shrugged, fiddled with the stem on his wineglass and seemed sad for some reason.

“Did they send the usual letter to apply for the position?”

“They did.”

“God, I’ll never forget Jenny’s letter.”

Jenny Wilks had applied for the position nearly ten years after losing her fiancé in the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Her letter had been one of the most gut-wrenching things Linda had ever read. Since coming to Gansett, Jenny had become a close friend to the McCarthys and many others on the island. She’d also met and married Alex Martinez, and had a baby they’d named George, after Alex’s late father.

“The new people have an equally gut-wrenching story,” Big Mac said. “Like Jenny’s, almost too much to bear.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“I do, but I haven’t wanted to upset you.”

“That bad, huh?”

Grimacing, he nodded, got up from his seat, went into his office and returned with two pieces of paper he handed to her. And then he refilled both their glasses.

“I’m almost afraid to look.”

“It’s pretty rough. I’m not going to lie.”

Linda took another drink of wine to fortify herself before she began to read.

 

To the Gansett Island Town Council,

My name is Oliver Watkins. My wife, Dara, and I would like to apply for the lighthouse keeper position on your island, even though we have no experience with lighthouses. Do people with experience actually apply? The opportunity for a change of scenery would be extremely welcome to both of us. Just over a year ago, we lost our three-year-old son, Lewis, in an accident that has haunted us every day since as we both blame ourselves for a tragedy that no one could have prevented. But when these things happen, you find yourself reliving every minute, trying to find the moment when you could’ve changed the outcome.

We named Lewis for my hero, the late Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and Civil Rights leader. I worked as an intern in his office after college and met Dara at a party, when she was a law student at Howard.

 

Saddened by what she’d read so far, Linda took another sip of wine before diving back into the letter.

 

We were home on a regular Sunday. Lewis was napping in his room, and so was I, on the sofa while pretending to watch the Ravens game. Dara was on a conference call with work. She’d been crazy busy getting ready for a trial that was due to start in a few weeks. I woke out of a sound sleep when I heard our dog, Maisy, screaming. There’s no other word for the sound she made, and when I realized it was coming from outside, I was up and off the sofa before I was even fully awake. I couldn’t believe that the front door was standing open, but when I realized Lewis had let himself out of the house… My heart stopped. And then I saw why Maisy was screaming. Our baby had been hit by a car, and the driver was hysterical. The neighbors had come out, someone called EMS, but it was too late. We believe Lewis was killed on impact.

 

“Oh.” Linda dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. “Those poor, poor people.”

“I know. It’s so awful.”

 

Having to tell Dara what’d happened was the worst moment of my life. I’ll never forget the way she screamed and tried to get to him, but I wouldn’t let her. I didn’t want her to see what I had, things I’ll carry with me forever. The days and weeks that followed that awful day were simply horrible. In the year since we lost Lewis, our entire world has come unraveled. We’ve been unable to work, so we were forced to sell the home we’d once thought we’d own for the rest of our lives. Our marriage has suffered from an inability to share our mutual grief. She doesn’t want to talk about it, and I do. We both blame ourselves. Me for falling asleep and her for working on a day that she feels should’ve been devoted to family. Our guilt and grief have caused a rift between us that we aren’t sure we can overcome.

In short, everything is a mess, and we need a change badly, but we can’t afford the cost of an expensive move. When I saw your lighthouse keeper ad online, I told Dara about it, and we agreed it certainly couldn’t hurt to apply. That’s the first time we’ve agreed on anything in a long time.

I’m not sure if our marriage is going to survive the devastating loss of our son. But I am sure that we can’t go on the way we are. We appreciate your consideration of our application and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Oliver and Dara Watkins

 

“I’m so glad you hired them,” Linda said.

“We didn’t hesitate to offer it to them after we read their letter.”

“Gansett will be good for them. We’ll surround them with friends and love and a whole new life. It worked for Jenny and Erin, and even Sydney when she came to the island after her terrible loss.”

“I hope you’re right. It sounds like they desperately need a fresh start. And thank you for rolling out the welcome mat for them.”

“I honestly can’t begin to know what they’ve been through. It was horrible enough losing a baby we never got to meet, but losing a three-year-old…” She shook her head. “Unbearable.”

He scooted his chair closer to hers and held out his arms to her. “Completely.”

Linda leaned into his embrace, appreciating the comfort after reading Oliver and Dara’s devastating letter. “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“I don’t know, love. It seems so unfair.”

“Sure does.” After a long moment of contemplative silence, she looked up at him. “Did you see Mac today?”

“He was at the marina all morning but went home after lunch.”

“That poor guy is still so wound up.” They wouldn’t soon forget the fright their oldest son had given them when he collapsed in the spring. Thankfully, he’d been at the clinic when it happened, and it had been determined he’d had an anxiety attack. “I can’t wait to get those twin babies here safely so he can finally relax.”

“I worry he’s going to give himself a heart attack before they arrive,” Big Mac said with a sigh.

“It’s not as if he doesn’t have good reason to be concerned after what happened when Hailey was born, as well as Janey nearly dying having PJ and Vivienne being born on the ferry.” Linda let out a huff of nervous laughter. “Our grandbabies tend to arrive with a bit of drama. You can’t blame Mac for being worried about what the twins have in store for them.”

“At least they’re leaving soon to move to the mainland for the last few weeks. Did you hear if they decided whether Thomas is going with them or staying here?”

“He’s staying with Tiffany so he can start school on time,” Linda said of their six-year-old grandson.

“That’s probably what’s best for him.”

“But it’ll add to his parents’ stress, being separated from him for up to a month, potentially.”

“Tiffany and Blaine and the rest of us will take very good care of him.”

“Of course we will, but his parents will still fret. I hope the babies come early so they can get home and get settled in sooner rather than later.”

“I hope so, too. If there’s one downside to life on an island, access to hospitals and advanced medical care is it.”

“For sure.” Linda’s cell phone rang, and she got up to retrieve it from the counter where she’d left it to charge. “Hi, honey,” she said to her daughter, Janey. “What’s up?”

“Joe and I were wondering if we could stop by for a minute.”

“Of course you can. You know you don’t have to ask first.”

“We’re all a little terrified of the second honeymoon you two have got going on over there at the White House.”

“Oh hush. Are you bringing my grandchildren?”

“Yep. We’ll see you in a few.”

“I’ll put the light on for you.” Linda ended the call and turned to Big Mac. “They’re coming by.”

“So I heard.”

They were always happy to see the kids, especially when they brought their grandchildren. Having all five of their children and Big Mac’s daughter Mallory living on the island was a dream come true for them after their four sons had scattered as soon as they’d been old enough to leave home. One by one, they’d all come home, met the loves of their lives and settled into island life.

Janey was the only one who’d come home after college at UConn. A self-described homebody, she’d left the island to attend two years of veterinary school at Ohio State. She’d decided not to go back to school after her son PJ arrived in extra dramatic fashion with a placental abruption that had nearly killed them both. As Linda flipped on the front light for Janey, she shuddered as she relived the sheer terror of that day.

Big Mac came up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I hope she’s not coming here to tell us they’re expecting again.”

His statement told her he, too, thought it was odd that the Cantrells were coming over so close to the kids’ bedtime, which meant something was up.

“I hope not either. Joe was planning to get a vasectomy, but that hasn’t happened yet.” Their son-in-law, who co-owned the Gansett Island Ferry Company with his mother, Carolina, worked a lot during the summer when the ferries ran almost constantly.

“I vote to get a two-for-one deal for him and Mac after the season,” Big Mac said.

“All in favor, say aye.”

“Aye,” they said together, laughing at their own foolishness.

“Who knew that having them all home would mean lots of worries about babies being born on a remote island?” he asked. They’d managed to have all of theirs in a hospital on the mainland, but that hadn’t happened for their children.

“I have to confess I didn’t really think too much about that until Hailey was born during a tropical storm with the only doctor off-island.”

“That was a wakeup call for sure.” He massaged shoulders that went tight with tension whenever she thought about the many things that could go wrong on an island with limited medical facilities. “We thought it was worrisome when they were teenagers, but it’s even more so now.”

“Definitely.” She sighed with pleasure at the way he kneaded the kinks from her muscles. “It’s the only downside to island life that I’ve ever found.”

“Here they come.” He kissed the top of her head. “Whatever it is, try not to worry. We’ll figure it out. We always do.”

Since that was the truth, she tried to take comfort in his assurances. But she wouldn’t breathe easy until she knew what her daughter was coming to tell them.

 

Chapter 2

Janey’s belly fluttered with nerves as they pulled into the driveway of her childhood home, and she saw her parents standing in the doorway waiting for them.

Joe put his warm hand on top of her cold one. “It’s going to be fine. You know they want this for you as much as I do.”

“It’s true. They do, but they’ll be sad, too.”

“It’ll be okay, Janey. I promise. Let’s go get it over with so we can move forward with our plans.”

She nodded and released her seat belt to get out of the car to fetch Vivienne from her seat while Joe got PJ. Both their kids had light blond hair, like their parents had as children, as well as their father’s hazel eyes.

“Let’s go see Grandma and Papa,” Janey said to her daughter.

Viv let out a squeal at the words Grandma and Papa. Her parents gave all their grandchildren their undivided attention when they were with them, and the kids adored them.

At the front door, Linda took Vivienne from Janey while Big Mac relieved Joe of PJ. Seeing her parents as grandparents to her children was one of the most joyful things in Janey’s life. The thought of what she’d come to tell them threatened to break her heart. But she and Joe had made their decision and were ready to implement it.

They just had to tell everyone, and that was the hard part.

“What’s going on?” Linda asked, laser-focused on Janey.

They didn’t call her Voodoo Mama for nothing. She always knew when something was up.

“We were hoping we could talk to you for a minute,” Janey said, glancing at Joe.

He put his arm around her, reminding her they were a team and were in this together.

Thank God for him. She had that thought many times every day. When she recalled how close she’d come to marrying the wrong man…

“You’re not pregnant, are you, Princess?” Big Mac asked.

“No, Dad!” Janey laughed. “I told you we’re done with babies.” Her daughter being born on the ferry after PJ’s calamitous birth had cured her and Joe of any desire for more kids. They’d tempted fate twice. That was more than enough.

“Oh, thank you, Jesus,” Big Mac said. “You two have already used up your share of my blood pressure medicine.”

“Hush, Daddy. Your blood pressure is fine.”

“Not when my baby girl is in danger, it isn’t.”

“I’m not in any danger.” Janey followed them to the family room, where they put the kids down to play with the toys Big Mac and Linda had gotten for their grandchildren to have at their house.

“How about an ice cream sandwich?” Linda asked PJ, who got excited at the words ice cream no matter how they were presented.

He went with his grandmother to get treats for himself and his sister while Big Mac sat on the floor with Vivienne, the way he had when Janey and her brothers were little. “Just tell us what’s going on so we can stop worrying about it.”

“It’s nothing bad,” Janey said, glancing at Joe.

He sent her a warm, loving smile. His support had made so many things possible for her, and his sacrifices had gotten her halfway through vet school. “So Joe and I have been talking, and it looks like we’ll be going back to Ohio this fall so I can get back to school.”

“That’s great news, honey.” A big smile stretched across her father’s handsome face. “You know we’ve wanted that for you since you were a little girl bringing home injured birds and squirrels to nurse them back to health.”

“It’s just…” She looked down at her hands as she tried not to give in to the tears that’d been plentiful since they made their decision a week ago. In the back of her mind, she’d hoped that OSU would tell her it was too late for the fall, but they’d welcomed her back with open arms. “It’s harder to go this time around.”

“Because you have two little ones,” Linda said, tending to both kids as they made a disastrous mess with the half-size ice cream sandwiches.

“Who are deeply bonded to you, Carolina, Seamus, their aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Not to mention how bonded we are to everyone.” Despite her great desire to have this conversation without them, tears slid down her cheeks anyway. “It’s going to be really hard to leave.”

“It’ll be hard for us to see you go,” Linda said, “but don’t worry about the kids. They’ll be fine as long as they have you and Joe. Years from now, they won’t remember being away from here. They’ll only remember the love they always had from everyone around them.”

“I know, and we’ve talked about that. They’re too little to realize they won’t see you guys or the others for a while, and that’s a blessing.”

“That’s why I encouraged Janey to do this now,” Joe said. “They’re still young enough to roll with it. When PJ starts school, that’ll complicate things even more.”

“That’s very true,” Big Mac said. “I remember making vacation plans after Mac started school without giving a thought to the fact that he couldn’t go then. It was a huge shock to our system that we couldn’t do whatever we wanted anymore. You’re wise to get this done before that’s a factor. And if I could just add… I can’t wait to call you Dr. Cantrell. I’ve been waiting a long time for that.”

“I know you have.” Her dad had been furious with her ex-fiancé, David Lawrence, when he’d talked her out of going to vet school after college. David had made the argument that paying off loans for med school and vet school would kill them financially. “And Doc Potter is getting closer to retiring whether I’m ready to take over the practice or not. He sort of gave me a bit of an ultimatum this summer. He said, ‘If it can’t be you, Janey, it’s gonna have to be someone before too much longer.’”

“After he said that,” Joe added, “I asked Janey how she’d feel about someone else taking over Doc’s practice. That sort of got her seriously thinking about finishing school.”

“I keep telling myself it’s only two more years, but that seems like a lifetime right now. I’m homesick, and we haven’t even left yet.”

“You’ve always been such a homebody,” Big Mac said. “Remember how you wanted to come home every weekend when you were at UConn?”

“I do, and I remember how mean you were, because you wouldn’t let me.”

“For two reasons. One, I had to go get you, which meant leaving my precious island to drive two hours each way, and two, I wanted you to make friends there and enjoy the college experience.”

“I did make friends there, and I did enjoy the college experience, but this is the first I’m hearing that your precious island was more important than your precious daughter.”

“She got you there, hon,” Linda said, laughing.

“Now you know very well that nothing was or is more precious to me than my precious daughter, but I wasn’t going to Connecticut to get you every weekend—and then taking you back two days later.”

“Instead, you made me suffer away from my beloved island.”

“I saw the pictures you sent your mother. You were not suffering. It’s a wonder any schooling got done.”

Janey could’ve play-bickered with her father all night, but Vivienne had a meltdown that led to Joe scooping her up to get her out of there before PJ could start up, too.

Linda produced a wipe from somewhere and had the kids cleaned up in no time.

That was just one of many reasons she’d miss her mother. Both her parents had a way of pitching in right where they were needed before Janey even knew she needed them. And then she was sobbing all over her mother.

“I’m such a big baby,” she said, sniffling.

Linda patted her back and held her the way she had since Janey was a little girl with a skinned knee. “You’re doing the right thing, sweetheart. Even though it’s hard right now, you’ll be so glad you did it.” She pulled back and pushed the hair from Janey’s face. “Think about what an amazing example you’ll be setting for your own daughter by showing her there’s no limit to what she can do if she dreams big and works hard.”

“Your mom is right, Princess,” Big Mac said. “It broke our hearts when David talked you out of vet school the first time around, and we understood why you took a break after you had the babies, but now it’s time to go back and finish what you started. You’ll always regret it if you don’t.”

Janey wiped her face and held her arms out to her son, who was studying her with his little brows knitted with dismay. “You guys will come visit, right?”

“Try to stop us,” Big Mac said.

“Telling you our plan makes me feel better. It’s been so stressful trying to imagine doing this with two kids and the menagerie.” They had a squad of special-needs pets who would travel with them to Ohio.

“Joe will be right there with you to help with everything, and it’ll go by so fast,” Linda said. “You’ll be back for next summer before you know it.”

“I want to blink and be back.” She kissed PJ on the top of his head. “Let’s go rescue Daddy from your sister, buddy.”

“Daddy!”

“He loves his daddy. Thanks, guys, for, you know, every single thing you’ve ever done and continue to do. I don’t know what I’d ever do without you.”

“No need to worry about that, sweetheart,” Big Mac said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

They walked her out and stood in the doorway to wave them off as Joe backed their SUV out of the driveway.

Janey waved until they were out of sight and then broke down into tears again.

“I was hoping you’d feel better after you shared the news with them,” Joe said.

“I do feel better. It’s just hard to know I won’t see them for months. That the kids won’t see them.”

“We’ll see them. We’ll FaceTime every week, and they’ll come visit.”

“I know. It just won’t be the same as having everyone right here.”

When they got home, Joe took Viv from her. “Go take a bath. I’ve got this.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I know I don’t. Go take some time for you.” He kissed her cheek. “And then we’ll have some time for us.”

“Thank you.” Janey kissed her babies good night and waited until Joe had taken the kids upstairs for baths before she went into the kitchen to pour a glass of wine and let out the dogs. She felt like a fool for being so emotional about something she’d wanted her whole life. Dreams had a funny way of changing to fit the circumstances.

Her dream come true was the man upstairs and the children they shared, their pets, their home, their extended family and friends nearby. She wanted for nothing, except for the unfinished business in Ohio that continued to rub at her like a wound with a scab that refused to heal properly. As the summer had progressed, the voice inside her that wanted her to finish what she’d started had grown harder to ignore, until she’d finally told Joe what had been weighing on her.

He’d responded with encouragement and support, even if her desire to go back to Ohio would turn both their lives upside down for the next two years. “As long as we’re together, we’ll figure it out,” he’d said.

From the beginning, he’d been supportive of her desire to attend vet school, even going so far as to hire Seamus O’Grady to run the ferry company for him while he was with her in Ohio. That’d led to Seamus falling for Joe’s mom, Carolina, which never would’ve happened if they hadn’t gone to Ohio in the first place.

After she let in the dogs, Janey scratched Riley between the ears to console him. He always knew when something was bothering her.

Joe came into the kitchen. “There you are. I was looking for you in the tub.”

She turned to face him. “I haven’t made it there yet.”

“So I see. You okay?”

“I’m better now that my parents know and that they’re happy I’m going to finish.”

“You know they’ve wanted it for you as long as you have.”

“I do know that. They were so mad when I told them I wasn’t going after college.”

He put his hands on her hips and leaned his forehead against hers. “We all were.”

“My babies went down fast.”

“Faster than usual. Running them on the beach was a good idea.”

She flattened her hands on his chest and slid them up to wrap around his neck. “I thought it might be. They were wound up today.”

“Have you heard anything from Abby or Adam?” he asked of her sister-in-law and brother.

“Not yet. Their appointment is in the morning, and they’re staying at Uncle Frank’s tonight.”

“I hope everything is okay.”

“That poor girl has been through so much. I just want her to have a nice, easy pregnancy.”

“Me, too. Let’s turn in early. I’m exhausted.”

He’d done three round trips on the ferries that day, which was one more than he usually did lately.

They let the dogs out, shut off lights, locked doors and headed upstairs, peeking in on sleeping little ones before heading into their bedroom.

Joe unbuttoned his shirt and dropped it on the floor.

“Um, hello,” Janey said, as she did every night in what had become a little ritual that was one of many that made up her days and nights with him.

Laughing, he bent to pick up the discarded shirt. “Just making sure you’re paying attention.”

“I’m paying attention, and after growing up with four bovine brothers, I’m not letting you get away with that stuff.”

“Yes, dear. You gonna take your bath?”

“I’m too tired.”

“Get in bed, and I’ll give you a back rub.”

“I should be giving you one. You worked twelve hours today.”

“So did you. Taking care of kids is no easy job.”

“Neither is driving the ferries.”

Joe laughed. “It’s easy compared to chasing our two wild ones.”

“They do give me a run for my money on my days off from the vet clinic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” That had her sobbing again at the thought of spending so much time away from her babies while in school. “I’ll never get to see them.”

“Aw, hon.” Joe wrapped his arms around her. “Yes, you will. It’s going to be fine. I’ll take very good care of them while you’re in school, and we’ll have family time every weekend. It’s all good.”

“They’re going to forget about me.”

Joe laughed and nudged her ahead of him into bed. Once there, he made her comfortable in his arms, her favorite place to be. “Think about your very first memories. What do you remember?”

“Evan and Adam chasing me around the yard like hooligans.”

“How old were you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe five?”

“PJ and Viv won’t remember living in Ohio. They’ll grow up with their mom, a very successful veterinarian, who’ll be the most important person in their lives.”

“Tied for first with you.”

“No, sweetheart. You’ll always be first with them, and that’s fine with me. You’re first with me, too. We’ll have a busy couple of years while you finish school, and then we’ll come home and settle back into life here, and they’ll pick right up where they left off with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“One hundred percent positive. And they’ll be so, so proud of you for finishing school and making your biggest dream come true.”

“Being a vet isn’t my biggest dream. That one already came true because of you and them.”

“And they’ll know that, Janey. They already know how much you love them, and they’ll always know that. Ohio will be just a brief blip in their lives before we come home to stay.”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her wild emotions. “I’m sorry to be so over the top about this.”

“You’re not. I get it, babe. You’re going to be really, really busy, and it’ll cut into your time with the kids, but we’ll make the best of the time we have together, and when you’re busy, they’ll have me.”

She pulled back so she could see his face. “In case I forget to say thank you for this…”

He kissed her. “No thanks needed.”

“Yes, Joe, I do need to thank you for everything you’ve done from the start to make this happen for me. I was thinking downstairs how cool it is that us going to Ohio brought Seamus here, and now he’s married to your mom, and they’re so happy.”

“That’s right. That never would’ve happened without you going to vet school. We have to look at all the positives.”

“I’m glad you see him as a positive now.”

Joe laughed. “It took a while for me to see him as my mother’s partner, but the crazy Irishman has grown on me like nontoxic mold.”

Janey lost it laughing. “He’s a good guy.”

“Yes, he is.”

“You told them our plans, right?”

“Earlier today. They were very happy to hear you’re going back to finish, even if they’ll miss us. They said they’d come visit, too.”

“I hope so.”

Joe rubbed her back, which helped her relax and decompress. “As long as we have each other, everything will be okay. I promise.”

Since that’d been true thus far, Janey decided to take him at his word.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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