The hurt-little-boy look was back. “Justine, you don’t think I’d purposely do anything to jeopardize your relationship with Seth, do you?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. I mean it, Warren, stay away from me.”

“You told him, didn’t you?” Warren’s eyes narrowed. “That big Swedish oaf is jealous.” He laughed, although the sound was humorless.

She refused to defend Seth or make excuses for him. Her husband was uncomfortable with her seeing Warren and that was the end of it. Her relationship with Warren was over; it had been for a long time, regardless of their recent lunch date. Nothing he said or did was going to change her mind.

“The next thing I know,” he said bitterly, “you’ll be telling me that big oaf got you pregnant.”

“Warren, please.” She dragged out his name, implying that this conversation was boring her. “Just go.” She wasn’t willing to stand in the doorway and argue with him. She started to close the door, but Warren’s words stopped her.

“You are pregnant, aren’t you?” he demanded. “Don’t you see what he’s doing to you?”


“Don’t let it happen, Justine. I’d hoped you’d come to your senses before—”

She was through listening and shut the door with a resounding bang.

Leaning against it, Justine felt weak with relief. He was gone. She’d been an idiot to go out for lunch with him that day. She saw now that it was disloyal to Seth; furthermore, Warren was too competitive to ever be a friend, as she’d naively thought. Not only that, Cedar Cove was a small town, and perceptions mattered. She couldn’t risk humiliating her husband by allowing people to think she was seeing Warren—her supposed former lover—behind his back.

Warren had brought up an interesting point, though. Pregnancy. Shortly after Jordan’s death and her parents’ divorce, Justine had decided she didn’t want children. But now that she was married, she realized her views had changed. She could only hope Seth felt the same way.

Jack Griffin slapped cologne on his freshly shaved cheeks and blinked at the sting. He caught his reflection in the spotted and foggy mirror and wiggled his eyebrows a couple of times.

“Tonight,” he said aloud, reminding himself that this could very well be the evening he lured Olivia Lockhart into his bed. Their relationship had been progressing nicely—very nicely. But they were both mature adults, and with those years had come a certain…patience. A kind of caution. They weren’t twenty-year-olds at the mercy of their hormones. Still, he was a man in every sense of the word, and he’d like nothing better than to take their relationship to a physical level. Beyond kissing and cuddling…He was ready to make the leap and hoped she agreed.

The divorced family court judge wasn’t like other women he’d known. Olivia had class and culture, and he was a no-account drunk who remained sober one day at a time.

Grace Sherman had told him about Olivia’s upcoming birthday and he was grateful. This was exactly the occasion he’d been looking for, a chance to show her exactly how much he cared. Jack had searched long and hard for the perfect birthday gift. His quest had been to find something that would let her know the message of his heart. Something that suited a woman who was both sophisticated and unpretentious. The diamond tennis bracelet was it.

Choosing a clean shirt, he reached for the gray velvet box and examined the bracelet. It was stunning, if he said so himself. He’d never bought anything as beautiful as this, not even for his ex-wife. The jeweler had sold him on the quality, and had then shaved off an extra ten per cent when Jack showed more than idle interest. Nothing wrong with being practical, he figured. The extra cash would go toward a fancy dinner at The Captain’s Galley. He enjoyed imagining Olivia’s reaction when she opened the box. Twice now he’d wrapped it, and then because he wanted to be assured it was as lovely as he remembered, he’d unwrapped it just to take another peek.

Whistling, Jack finished dressing. Tonight, he said again, his blood already heating at the thought of Olivia lying in his arms.

A sound came from the direction of his living room and he stuck his head outside the bedroom door. “Anyone here?”

No response.

Jack frowned, then checked his reflection one last time.


Jack froze. Eric was here? Now?

“Eric?” Jack stepped out of the bedroom to find his twenty-six-year-old son standing in the middle of his living room, a suitcase in his hand.

“You were on your way out?” Eric asked.

“I’m not expected for a while,” Jack assured him. The boy looked dreadful, his complexion pale with pain. His shoulders were hunched and his misery was evident in every line of his body. “What’s wrong?”

Eric shrugged.

Experience had taught him that only a woman was capable of bringing a man to this point. “Did you and Shelly have a fight?”

Eric’s returning snort was devoid of humor. “You could say that.”

Glancing at the suitcase in his son’s hand, he assumed this was more than the usual disagreement. “She kicked you out?”

Eric nodded.

His son slumped onto the sofa and gazed pleadingly up at Jack. “Do you have time to talk, Dad?”

Jack’s relationship with his son was tenuous at best. For almost his entire life, Eric had lived with his mother. Even after Jack became sober, Eric had rejected every effort he’d made to establish a relationship. This year, this past spring, was the first time Eric had agreed to see Jack. Afraid he might inadvertently say or do something to distress his son, Jack had invited Olivia along for the initial meeting. They’d all had dinner on the Seattle waterfront. Buoyed by the success of that outing, Jack and Eric had gotten together every month or so since.

Jack was thrilled with the prospect of having a good relationship with his only child. He had a lot to prove, both to Eric and himself. He didn’t want anything to injure this fragile beginning.

“Of course I have time. Tell me what’s on your mind.” Jack sat down across from his son, leaning forward so Eric would know he was interested and that he cared.

“It’s Shelly and her pregnancy,” Eric murmured.

That much Jack had guessed, but he didn’t say anything.

“The baby can’t be mine. I told her that and she blew up at me. She said if I seriously think she’s pregnant by someone else, then I should get out of her life.”

“I’m sure she didn’t mean it,” Jack murmured. “Women say things like that when they’re upset.”

“She meant it enough to throw me out of the apartment.”

So much for that pearl of wisdom, Jack mused. He cursed himself for not being better at this.

Eric looked as if he was about to weep. “She said she never wanted to see me again.”

“I’m sure she didn’t mean that, either.”

“I think she did.”

“Perhaps she did when she said it, but she’ll have a change of heart later.” Jack winced at his own glibness. “Soon,” he added. “She’ll ask you to come home soon.”

“I hope she does,” Eric said emphatically. “The apartment’s leased in my name,” he added, “but I don’t want her to move. She can have the apartment if she wants.”

“What about you? Where will you go?”

Eric hesitated, then glanced up. “Would you mind very much if I stayed here with you? Just for the time being.”

“Me?” Jack echoed, and was instantly sorry. “Me—well, I guess we won’t get in each other’s way too much, if it’s only for a few days.” So much for romantic evenings with Olivia anytime in the near future.

“It probably won’t be for long.” Eric sounded hopeful.

“Of course not,” Jack said, his voice as confident as he could manage. “My guess is that Shelly will call tomorrow, wanting you to come home.”

“You think so?” Eric’s eyes brightened.

“Sure thing.”

Eric shook his head, his expression grim. “I doubt it, Dad. First of all, I didn’t tell her I was coming here and secondly…” He paused and rubbed his face. “Do you think the doctors might’ve made a mistake about me?” The appeal in his eyes was painful to see.

“You mean about being able to father children?”

“Yeah. Is there any chance?”

Jack looked at him thoughtfully. “It was a lot of years ago. There are ways of finding out about these things, you know.”

“Yes, but Shelly says…” He sighed deeply. “I wouldn’t suspect her of being with another man, but a little while ago she mentioned this new guy she’s working with and they seemed to be real buddy-buddy. They were doing a lot of overtime together—and now she turns up pregnant. What else am I supposed to believe?”

Jack glanced at his watch. Olivia was expecting him to pick her up in five minutes.

“You have somewhere to go, don’t you?” Eric asked. “You should leave,” he urged, but if anything, he sounded worse than when he’d first arrived.

“Let me see what I can do,” Jack said, his own heart sinking fast. He couldn’t leave Eric like this. The boy was hurting and needed to talk. For so many years, he hadn’t been any kind of father to his son, and he wasn’t about to fail Eric again.

“Let me call Olivia,” he said. “She’ll understand.”

“You’re sure?” Eric asked.

“Of course.” Disheartened, Jack sequestered himself in his bedroom and dialed Olivia’s number.

She answered almost immediately, and seemed surprised to hear from him.

“I have to break our date.”

“Our date tonight?” She sounded as disappointed as he was.

“Eric’s here,” Jack explained.


“Shelly kicked him out and he came to me. He needs to talk. And he may end up staying here for a few days.” He sighed. “I hate to do this to you, but you understand, don’t you?”

“Of course,” she said softly. “He’s your son.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry about this.”

“I’ll call Mom and keep the reservation. I’d rather have dinner with you, but I understand. Children—regardless of their age—always need to come first. You know how strongly I believe that. Thanks for telling me, Jack, and good luck.”

Jack understood that she was praising his effort to communicate with his son—and with her. The one thing Olivia hated above all else was secrets, a lesson he’d learned early on in their relationship when he’d tried to hide the fact that he was a recovering alcoholic.

“I’ll talk to you later,” she said.

“Later,” Jack repeated and then because he’d almost forgotten, he added, “Olivia?”


“Happy Birthday.”


“Do you have plans for tonight?” Grace phoned to ask Olivia late Friday afternoon, the following week. It was a clear, crisp day toward the end of October, and Olivia had been waiting to hear from Jack ever since his phone call on her birthday.