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Second chances show up when you’re not looking for them…

Cindy Lawry needs a new roommate now that her sister Julia has moved in with her fiancé, Deacon. When she can’t find anyone, she puts up a flyer in the window of the Curl Up & Dye salon where she works as a hair stylist and at other places around town. With the summer season ending, she can’t afford to live alone, and she doesn’t want to move in with her mom and her new husband. So the roommate search is on, but she’s not getting many inquiries. After growing up in an abusive household, she’s anxious about letting a stranger into her home and her life.

Jace Carson needs to find a new place to live. The employee housing at the Beachcomer is right out of Animal House, and he’s way past the point in life where living like that is fun. All he wants is a quiet place to be in between working as a bartender at the Beachcomber and visits with his young sons, who live on the island. When he sends a text to the number a friend gave him, he doesn’t expect the recipient to be Cindy, the woman he’s been flirting with for weeks at the Beachcomber bar. She comes in and orders water because she suffers from migraines and apologizes for taking up a seat at his bar. He loves having her and her sweet smile at his bar, but he’s not sure that living with her would be such a good idea, especially since all he thinks about every time he sees her is how much he’d like to kiss her.

It’s autumn on Gansett Island, and the residents are settling in for another long winter of cold days and cozy nights. Celebrate the 25th book in the Gansett Island Series, and catch up with some of your favorite characters from past books while Cindy and Jace struggle to overcome demons from the past that threaten their chance at happily ever after.





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Resilience After Dark

(Gansett Island Series, Book 25)


Chapter 1

Gansett Island residents counted down to Labor Day for weeks, during the frenetic last rush of tourists before the island shut down for the long winter. Jace Carson had loved being there during the season, had enjoyed his bartending job at the Beachcomber and was concerned about making enough money to survive the off-season. 

His first order of business, after his daily AA meeting, would be to start looking for a place to live, since the Beachcomber housing was available only to summer employees. He was more than ready to get out of there, after enduring weeks of the crazy partying that went on with the summer employees, many of whom had already headed back to college. The only good thing about the housing was that it had been free.

He’d been counting down to today for another reason. A few weeks ago, he’d told Nina, the AA facilitator, that he’d have something to say by Labor Day. As she glanced his way now, he knew it was time for him to step up for the group the way they had for him since he first joined them in July. 

Jace had gotten to know several of the regulars, including Dr. Quinn James and his new wife Mallory James, as well as the fire chief, Mason Johns, and Jeff Lawry, through the stories they’d told about their addiction struggles and how they’d overcome them to lead a sober life. He appreciated everyone in the group who’d talked through challenges and supported one another throughout the busy season. 

Now it was his turn. Telling his story would never come easily to him, but he’d been in the program long enough now to know that sharing the tough stuff was critical to maintaining his recovery and supporting the others.

“I, ah, want to thank you all for welcoming me into your group this summer and for all the wisdom you’ve shared,” Jace said. “It’s made a difference for me as I became part of a new community.”

“We’ve enjoyed having you, Jace,” Nina said with the same warm smile she’d extended to him since his first meeting.

“Well, thank you again. I came here to Gansett because my boys live here. Some of you may know them, Jackson and Kyle. They’re being raised by Seamus and Carolina O’Grady.”

Mallory gasped. 

“Don’t worry,” Jace said. “Seamus and Carolina know I’m here and have been generous about allowing me to spend time with the boys, although the boys don’t know I’m their biological father. Not yet anyway. We thought it best to hold that back for now, until they’re a little older and able to understand things that are too big for them after losing their mom so recently.”

“She was a lovely person,” Mallory said. 

“Yes, she was, and she deserved way better than what she got from me.” Overwhelmed by memories of the only woman he’d ever loved, Jace took a moment to get his thoughts together. “I can’t remember when exactly it was that I started messing around with heroin and meth. I think it was probably middle school. My older brother ran with a crowd that was into everything we were told to avoid, and I thought I was so lucky that he would take me with him. Our parents encouraged it. They thought it was great that we were growing up as close brothers, but we were drug addicts and criminals.

“You couldn’t tell us that, though. In our minds, we were just having fun, doing what kids do. Except, over time, we needed much more than we could afford. That’s when we started stealing from our parents, grandparents, friends, strangers. We did whatever we had to do to support our habit.

“I met Lisa when I was eighteen and already a full-blown junkie. But she didn’t know that. I’d gotten very good at hiding it from everyone. Even our parents had no clue what we were really doing. We got married young, had the boys one right after the other, and my struggle intensified when I had three people depending on me.”

Jace’s heart beat so fast he worried it might burst. The anxiety was familiar to him, though, as it happened whenever he revisited things he’d much rather forget. “My brother got the big idea to rob a convenience store. He promised me it would be just once, and then we’d have what we needed to get by for a year. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined. ‘One big score,’ he said, ‘and then we’ll be golden.’ He was going to do it with or without me, so I decided to go with him to try to keep him out of trouble.”

Jace ran his hand through his hair repeatedly, until he realized he was doing it and stopped, folding his shaky hands between his knees. “The owner of the store figured us out before Jess had the chance to use the gun that I didn’t even know he had. The owner pulled one on us. Told us to get the fuck out of there before someone got hurt. But Jess… He was desperate for the money and the score. When I saw he had a gun, I was stunned, but I still tried to stop him. He tossed me aside and aimed the gun at the guy. The store owner shot him in the chest.”

Jace took a shaky deep breath and released it slowly, clinging to his composure. “I’ll never forget the sound he made when the bullet hit him or how hard he landed on the floor. I think he probably died instantly, but I was so shocked that I stayed with him, screaming at him not to die, not to leave me. I was still there when the cops came. They called the coroner for him and took me to jail. I was convicted of armed robbery, sentenced to ten years and released on probation after six. By then, my wife and kids were long gone, and no one knew where they were. I heard from Lisa once—when I was served with divorce and custody papers. I worked hard on myself in prison. I attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, took college classes, learned a trade. If you ever need a plumber, give me a call.”

A ripple of laughter went through the group. 

“When I got out six months ago and finally found my family, it was too late. Lisa had died of lung cancer, and the boys were happily settled with people who truly love them. I lost everything to my addiction—the woman I loved, the sons I adored, my reputation. I’ll always be a convicted felon and have to live with the memories of the day my brother was killed right in front of me. I’m focused now on rebuilding my life. I wanted so badly to see my kids, but it was important to me not to disrupt their lives any more than I already had, even if they don’t remember the really bad stuff.”

The emotional wallop that came with recalling everything he’d lost was familiar by now. His throat tightened around a lump that brought tears to his eyes. “They’re such great little guys, so cute and funny and smart. Lisa did an amazing job with them. Seamus and Carolina have been so good to them, and I’m grateful that they have a nice, normal life. They deserve that. I hate that Lisa died before I could tell her… Before I could say how sorry I was for putting her through hell and forcing her to make a new life for herself and the boys without me. I hate that she suffered with her illness and that I wasn’t there to take care of her and our kids. I should’ve been there.”

He wiped tears from his face. “I’ll never forgive myself for what I put her through. And that she died without knowing how much I loved her…” Jace shook his head. “I’ll never forgive myself for that either.” After a pause, he said, “I’ve learned in the program that we can’t change the past. We can only focus on today and tomorrow and trying to do the best we can with the time we have left, to make amends to the people we hurt. I hope that wherever Lisa is now, she knows how sorry I am for what I did. 

“I’ve tried to repair my relationships with my parents and sister, but they’re reluctant to let me back into their lives, which I certainly understand. They lost both their sons and brothers in one dreadful night. I don’t blame them for being cautious toward me. We talk on the phone occasionally, but they haven’t been willing to see me. Not yet anyway. I hope maybe someday they will. In the meantime, I plan to stick around here so I can at least be close to my kids and see them once in a while. My next challenge is to find a year-round place to live on the island, so if you hear of anything, let me know. Other than that, one day at a time, right?”

“Thank you for sharing your story, Jace,” Nina said. “You’re doing all the right things to tend to your sobriety and make amends. We all make mistakes we regret, often terrible, awful mistakes. I hope you’ll also find the grace to forgive yourself at some point.”

Jace didn’t see that happening any time soon, but he nodded in acknowledgment.

After the meeting, the regulars came up to hug him and thank him for sharing. 

Mallory and Quinn invited him out for coffee, but he asked for a rain check. 

After telling his story, he needed to move. If he sat still, the emotional storm might drag him so low, he wouldn’t resurface for days. He didn’t have that luxury. He needed to work.

Mallory handed him her card. “If you need to talk later, call me. Day or night.”

“Thank you,” Jace said, appreciative of her kindness.

He left the meeting and returned to his room at the Beachcomber to change into running clothes. Two laps around the island’s perimeter road was just over six miles, which he ran at a punishing pace. Exercise had been his salvation in prison, where he’d run on the treadmill and lifted weights every chance he got. The freedom to run outdoors… That was something he’d never again take for granted. 

As always, the physical exertion helped to center him. He found it ironic that he’d never been in better shape in his life than he’d been in prison. It took having his whole life taken from him to figure out what mattered and to regain his health. He’d lost things he could never get back, though… His wife and sons, his only brother, his parents, sister, niece and nephew. 

Nina had encouraged him to forgive himself, but some things… Some things were simply unforgivable. 

Cindy Lawry was up early printing flyers to hang at the salon, the diner, the ferry landing and grocery store, all the places people on the island were most likely to see her appeal for a new roommate. Her sister Julia was officially moving out at the end of the month, not that she’d ever really lived in the tiny house they’d shared. She was madly in love with Deacon Taylor and was basically living with him at his place while still paying her half of the rent to Cindy.

It was foolish, Cindy had told her sister, to waste her money paying for a place she didn’t use, so she’d officially “kicked Julia out” as of October first. With the season ending and business at the Curl Up and Dye salon slowing, Cindy needed a roommate ASAP. 

Before work, she hung as many flyers as she could, thanking the shop owners for letting her post them and asking them to talk up the year-round room for rent. They were hard to come by on the island, so she was confident it would go quickly. However, she wasn’t going to settle for just anyone. It had to be a good fit. After growing up in a house with an abusive father, Cindy was all about peace and tranquility in her adult life. 

Cindy had been hired to cut hair at Chloe Dennis’s salon after Chloe was asked to spearhead the new spa at the McCarthys’ hotel in North Harbor. Chloe suffered from rheumatoid arthritis that impacted her hands, so she had said the job at the salon was Cindy’s for as long as she wanted it. With a thousand year-round residents on the island and no other haircut joint in town, Chloe had assured her she’d make enough to get through the winter after the tourists left.

She put the last flyer on the door to the salon and then flipped the sign from Closed to Open. Her first appointment of the day was a cut and color for Mallory James, the nurse practitioner who’d married Dr. Quinn James in August. They were the medical directors at the Marion Martinez Senior Care Facility.

Mallory came in bearing coffee and a corn muffin for Cindy.

“You’re too sweet. Thank you. I’ll enjoy that during my break.”

“Rebecca’s corn muffins are the best.” Mallory put her coffee on the counter and backtracked to take a photo of Cindy’s flyer on the door. “I have a friend who’s looking. Are you accepting men?”

“As long as they aren’t creepy, I’m fine.”

“He’s a good guy. I think he’d be a nice roommate.”

“Thanks for passing it along. I hope I can find someone soon. Julia has already moved out, but she’s hoping someone will move in right away and reimburse her for this month’s rent, which she insisted on paying so I wouldn’t be caught short. She wants to buy a car.”

“I’ll see him in the morning and will give him the info. Is it okay for him to text you to set up a time to see it?”

“Sure. That works.”

They got down to business with color to cover the few gray hairs Mallory had noticed, followed by a cut and blow-dry of her dark hair.

“So how was the honeymoon?” Cindy asked as she cut two inches off the length and added some layers to the front.

“It was amazing. Neither of us had ever been to Ireland, and we loved every minute of it.”

“That’s on my bucket list, along with a hundred other places.” The Lawry family had moved frequently when her dad was on active duty, but none of the places they’d lived had been particularly interesting. 

“I hope you get to go. It’s magical.”

“And your brother’s wife going into labor during the wedding. You McCarthys don’t do anything the easy way.”

“I know, right?” Mallory said with a laugh. “I wasn’t expecting the Life Flight helicopter to come to my wedding or for Maddie to have the babies on the chopper, but thankfully, the girls and Maddie are doing great, and Mac is adjusting to being a father of five.”

“Five kids,” Cindy said. “That’s a lot.”

“I know.”

“My mom had seven with a husband who deployed. How’d she do that?” Not that her father had been much help to anyone when he was home. They’d all preferred the deployments that had gotten less frequent as he’d risen through the ranks.

“Mothers are superheroes. Maddie sure is. She handles everything with good humor and sarcasm that makes me laugh. They’re blessed to have a wonderful nanny helping during Mac’s busy season, which makes such a big difference.”

“Will the nanny stay on in the off-season?”

“She promised Maddie she’d stay until the twins’ first birthday, which also my birthday, Quinn’s birthday and our anniversary. How cool is that?”

“Very cool. How’s Abby doing?” Abby was married to Mallory’s brother Adam McCarthy.

“As well as can be expected with four babies on board.”

Four. How does that even work, anyway?”

Mallory laughed. “You wouldn’t think it was possible, but it is. I expect her to be seriously uncomfortable in the last trimester.”

“I can’t imagine that. They had to be so shocked to get that news.”

“They were, especially because she was told she had almost no chance of conceiving.”

“I had a friend in Texas with PCOS like Abby has, and it was miserable. She’s still hoping to get pregnant.” Polycystic ovary syndrome had caused fertility challenges for Abby.

“That’s so rough. Abby is trying to count her blessings while coping with the shock of it all. Considering her struggles, it’s hard to see this pregnancy as anything other than a miracle.”

“If you’re us, that is. For her, not so miraculous right now.”

“No,” Mallory said, smiling. “But it will be after the babies arrive.”

“Is everyone asking you when you’re going to have one since the wedding?”

“We’re old!” Mallory said with a snort, her dark eyes dancing with laughter. “I think that ship has sailed for us.”

“You’re not old!”

“We’re both forty-one.”

“Forty is the new thirty.”

“Tell that to my moldy old eggs as you’re coloring my gray hairs.”

Cindy laughed. “Stop that. You’re not old.”

“I guess we’ll see what happens. We’re not doing anything to stop it, so if it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”

“That’s very exciting. I’m so happy for you that everything worked out so well for you guys.”

“Thank you. We both had a lot of hard times before we got to the good stuff, but I guess all that makes what we have now that much sweeter.”

“I’m sure it does.”

“What about you? Have you met anyone on Gansett who interests you?”

Cindy thought immediately of the sexy bartender at the Beachcomber who’d become a good friend, as she sat night after night at his bar. “There’s this one guy…”

“Do tell!”

“He’s very nice, sexy as all hell and funny, too.”

“Sounds like the perfect man.”

Cindy shrugged. “Maybe.”

“What’s the hang-up?”

“I’m not sure. We see each other just about every day.” Mostly because she couldn’t seem to work up the willpower to stay away from his bar. What did it say about her that she was sad to know she wouldn’t see him on his nights off? “Lots of subtle flirting and stuff like that, and I’m pretty sure he likes me, too, but it never goes beyond that.”

“Hmm. You could invite him to do something.”

“I could, but I guess I was sort of hoping he might be the one to ask.”

“We’re women of the new millennium, Cindy. It’s okay for us to do the asking.”

Cindy was aware that her outdated expectations came straight from her asshole father, who’d told his daughters never to be “forward” with men lest they be branded sluts. And yes, he’d used that word. She shook off that unpleasant memory to keep her focus on Mallory as she inspected her dry hair for uneven edges. Satisfied, she grabbed her hand mirror to show Mallory the back. “Everything look okay?”

“It looks great, as always. Thank you so much.”

Cindy removed the cape that had protected Mallory’s clothing. “My pleasure. Nice to see you, and thanks again for the muffin.”

Mallory gave her a quick hug. “You, too, and you’re welcome. Ask that man out. The worst that can happen is he says no—and I doubt he will.”

“I hear you.”

After Mallory had paid and set up her next appointment, Cindy waved her off, while thinking about what Mallory had said. If Cindy asked Jace out and he said no, that’d make everything between them so awkward, she might feel that she couldn’t hang out at the Beachcomber anymore. Since that had become her favorite part of the day, she’d hate to risk messing that up.

But the more time she spent with him, the more time she wanted to spend with him.

If only she knew if he felt the same way about her.

Ugh, this was like high school all over again—and that was bad enough the first time around. The last thing she needed was to mess up a nice friendship. If she’d learned anything in her life, it was to leave well enough alone.

Chapter 2

After his meeting the next morning, Jace sent a text to the number Mallory had given him from a flyer she’d seen about a room for rent.

Hi there, saw your flyer and would love to check out your place. I’m off tonight and can come by around six, if that works for you. 

On his days off, Jace attended the morning meeting, did laundry at the Beachcomber, spent two hours at the gym and then went to the beach to swim and lie in the sun. He had to force himself to relax as his body buzzed with an overabundance of energy that he attributed to being locked up for years. Now that he was out, he wanted to fully experience every second of every day. 

He’d texted Seamus to see if he could see the boys after school but hadn’t heard back from him yet. That meant Seamus was probably captaining a ferry trip to or from the mainland. He’d reply when he could. 

Jace had learned to be patient when it came to the man who was raising his sons. Seamus was extraordinarily accommodating to Jace when he certainly didn’t have to be. They had come to an understanding of sorts, after Jace had promised to never do anything to disrupt the family Seamus and Carolina had created for his sons. 

A mutual friend told him Lisa had died while living on Gansett Island. While processing the shock of hearing she was gone, Jace’s first thought had been for his boys. Who was caring for them? Where were they living? Were they all right? He’d been frantic for information, and after a lawyer had helped him contact the O’Gradys, Jace had come to the island looking for answers. What he’d found had restored his faith in humanity—and broken his heart. 

The boys were happily settled with good people who truly loved them. They were doing as well as could be expected after having lost their beloved mother and were thriving in school and in activities such as soccer and Little League baseball. He’d have to be a selfish jerk to do anything to disrupt the custody arrangement Lisa had brokered with the O’Gradys. Jace was determined to put his kids first, as painful as it was for him to acknowledge that Seamus and Carolina were better parents than he ever could’ve been to his own kids. 

The truth hurt, but what did he know about raising kids? Especially kids who’d suffered the traumatic loss of their mother. They didn’t even remember him, which had been crushing. In his heart of hearts, he’d been certain they’d know him. But when they’d looked at him with blank expressions on their adorable faces, his heart of hearts had shattered. 

So now he was relegated to “friend” status and was forced to be content with whatever he could get where they were concerned. They’d told the boys he was an old friend of Seamus’s, and they’d accepted him as such because they followed Seamus’s lead on everything. They obviously adored the Irishman who’d stepped up for them, and Jace couldn’t blame them for that. Seamus was a good man who was well regarded by everyone on the island.

Jace had asked around about the man who was raising his children. Of course he had, and he’d heard only accolades for Seamus as a person and as the man who ran the ferry company so competently for his wife, Carolina, and her son, Joe, who’d inherited it from Carolina’s parents. He’d also heard nothing but praise for Carolina, who was quite a bit older than Seamus and had successfully raised Joe into a man people liked and respected.

Not only were they good people, but they were also loaded, as the ferry company was a total cash cow. The island community depended upon the ferries for everything, from passenger and automobile transport to deliveries of mail, groceries, gas, liquor, and medicine. The list was endless. One of the ferry boat captains was a regular at the bar and had blown Jace’s mind one night describing the full extent of the operation. 

Until he’d come to the island, Jace had never considered what it would take to keep the place going, and now that he knew, he’d concluded that his boys had fallen into a pot of gold. Since he barely had a pot to piss in, he could hardly compete with that. He was still paying off legal fees that would dog him for years to come. 

So, yeah, the boys were way better off with the O’Gradys, and Jace was thankful to get whatever scraps Seamus and Carolina tossed his way. He was determined not to become bitter over it. What good would that do? He had only himself to blame for not being there when Lisa became sick and then passed away. 

He would feel horrible about what he’d put her through for the rest of his life, but he was determined to do better going forward. Jace used his cup from the deli to make a sandcastle fort while hoping that maybe someday, Seamus and Carolina might trust him to take his sons to the beach. He wanted to know how to make a decent sandcastle in case that day ever came. 

His phone chimed with a text, and he pounced on it, hoping it was Seamus. He’d seen the boys briefly yesterday, when he’d stopped by for the clambake Seamus and Carolina had hosted. But because he’d been due at work, he hadn’t been able to stick around. The boys had been caught up with their friend Ethan, so he hadn’t gotten any quality time with them. 

Sure, come by between six and six thirty to see the place. The person at the other end of the text had included the address, which was two blocks from the Beachcomber. Convenient. He didn’t own a vehicle, so finding a place in town would be perfect. 

See you then, he replied.

He didn’t bother to ask any of the usual questions—who are you, what’s your story, do you care about living with a paroled felon? Asking for a friend… He laughed bitterly to himself, wondering if that detail would make it impossible for him to find anything he could afford on the island. Who wanted to live with a criminal, even if the person was an ex-criminal?

Shaking off the depressing thought, he got up, walked into the water and dove into a wave, letting the water wash over him in a frantic rush of power. Being in the ocean made his own problems seem trivial when stacked up against the vastness of the water and the sky. God, he’d missed the sky when he was locked up. Talk about things a person took for granted until they’re gone.

Before prison, he’d never once acknowledged how much he enjoyed looking up at the sky, sun, clouds, moon and stars. Now he never missed a chance to look up and simply take it all in. Floating on his back, he looked for shapes in the clouds the way his mom used to do with him, Diana and Jess when they were kids. 

His son Jackson resembled Jess. Realizing that had been another punch to the gut the day he first saw the boys. His fondest hope was that someday he might reunite his mostly estranged parents and sister with the grandsons and nephews they’d once adored. That might be a pipe dream, though, since a lot of things would have to happen to make that possible.

For now, Jace focused on the mantra of one day at a time preached by NA and AA and worked on keeping his life free of drama and things that might send him looking for the sort of relief he used to get from heroin and meth. Those days had to be over now, or he’d have no prayer of a relationship with his boys. It helped that he’d been clean so long that he had no desire to use. In that way, the years in prison had been beneficial, if you could call it that.

He napped on the beach until late afternoon, which was his favorite time of day there. Most of the people had left, but the sun was still warm and the beach inviting. Feeling refreshed from the afternoon off, he walked back to the Beachcomber to shower and change before his meeting with his potential housemate. He hadn’t had a single other lead on a year-round place, so this needed to go well with only six more days until he had to be out of the Beachcomber housing. 

They shut off the water in the off-season, thus the pending eviction. 

His manager had told him he could stay in a room at the hotel for a reduced rate if he was unable to secure other housing, but he was hoping for something more permanent. 

After showering, he put on a long-sleeved Henley in case his potential roommate was turned off by sleeve tattoos. People were weird about things like that. His chest ached a bit when he thought about having to be honest about his past. It wouldn’t be fair not to tell him or her that he was out on parole, checking in weekly with a parole officer as well as the state cops who worked on the island, and would carry a felony record with him for the rest of his life.

When you considered all that, a few tattoos were probably the least of his concerns.

Jace laughed to himself. Who was he fooling thinking anyone was going to want to live with him? The thought of leaving the island, where his boys were, broke his heart, so he needed to make this work. Somehow. Maybe he’d encounter someone who understood that sometimes people screwed up, but that didn’t mean they were bad or evil.

He studied his reflection in the mirror and saw a mostly handsome face with a few hard edges, golden-brown eyes, decent lips, a fashionable amount of stubble. Using his fingers, he arranged his light brown hair into a messy but stylish look and then shrugged. Having done what he could to make himself presentable, the rest was out of his hands. On the way out of his room, he nodded to a few of the younger guys who worked as bussers and waiters in the restaurant and did a fist bump with Chris, one of the barbacks he worked with frequently. He was a good kid, halfway through college and on his way to a career in engineering. He was heading back to school in Indiana at the end of the week.

None of the people Jace worked with knew about his past, except his manager, because he’d been forced to come clean about his record on the application. He’d promised her she’d never have any trouble with him, and she’d said she appreciated that because she had trouble with most of the young people she hired for the summer at one point or another.

She’d never had any trouble with him, and she wouldn’t. 

Trouble was in the past for him now. He was all about leading an upstanding life with one major goal in mind—to have a relationship with his sons. Everything else was secondary to that. 

He walked the short distance through town, nodding to people he recognized from the bar and waving to Tiffany Taylor, who ran the Naughty & Nice boutique. She was a hot shit who came into the bar with her husband, Police Chief Blaine Taylor, his brother Deacon and Deacon’s fiancée, Julia Lawry. The four of them cracked him up with their banter. Tiffany was always excited to have a night off from motherhood but couldn’t drink because she was pregnant. 

Julia’s sister Cindy was another regular, and if Jace found himself thinking about her when she wasn’t at his bar, well, he couldn’t really help that. She was adorable, sweet, kind, sexy, easy to talk to and funny. He’d sensed an inner sadness in her, though, which made him curious, and she didn’t drink because she suffered from migraines.

Jace loved watching her interact with Julia as well as her other sister, Katie, and her husband, Shane, when they came in, sometimes with their brother Owen and his wife, Laura, who was Shane’s sister. It had taken him a minute to get his mind around a brother and sister marrying a brother and sister, but Cindy had drawn a picture for him on a Beachcomber cocktail napkin that had explained it, while insisting it was perfectly legal.

They were a fun bunch of people, and he enjoyed having them at his bar. He’d made a lot of nice friends on the island, but he didn’t see them outside of work or anything like that. That said, it’d been years since he’d been part of a community, and he’d begun to feel at home here. He hoped he wouldn’t have to leave any time soon.

He took a right onto Beach Street and walked to the small house at the end of the road. It wasn’t much to look at, but the location was excellent. How much would it cost to live this close to downtown and the beach? he wondered.

Hoping for the best, Jace rang the bell and steeled himself to share his past with strangers for the second time in two days. Outside of NA and AA and his manager at work, he hadn’t told his story to anyone since he’d been released from prison. Reliving the nightmare didn’t come easily to him, but he’d learned to own his truth if he wanted to lead a sober life.

The inside door swung open.


Jace laughed, even as his heart ached at having to share his truth with her, of all people. “It’s you.”

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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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