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Her answer was met with silence.

“Do you mean now?” she asked.

“No,” he said quickly. “How about later this afternoon? After five?”

“Okay.” Her social calendar was empty. This had been a shock to Bethanne. Her friends had rallied around her and supported her through the divorce, but they no longer invited her to socialize with them. Most events in their circle were geared to couples, and as a newly single woman—an unwillingly single woman—she’d become an outcast. Besides, she suspected Tiffany had taken her place at some of those dinners and parties. Just when she most needed her friends, they’d disappeared.

“Would you be willing to have dinner with me? My treat.” He sounded hesitant, as if he expected her to decline.

“That would be nice,” she said impulsively. “Where would you like to meet?”

“Anthony’s, say around six. I’ll make the reservation.”

The waterfront restaurant wasn’t far from Pike Place Market and was well known in the area as one of the top seafood places.

Bethanne thanked him and ended the call, both puzzled and pleased. This wasn’t a date, but it was as close to one as she’d come in the last twenty-two years.

“Who was that?” Annie asked when Bethanne replaced the receiver.

For some reason, Bethanne was reluctant to explain. “An old friend,” she finally said.

“He wants to take you out?” Annie asked, as if this were beyond imagining.

“Do you think I shouldn’t go?” Bethanne instantly assumed she’d made a mistake in agreeing to meet Paul.

Annie shrugged. “I don’t know. Why ask me? Who’s the adult here, anyway?”

“You’re right,” Bethanne said. “I’m the adult and I’m meeting…an old friend.”

When it was time to leave, both Annie and Andrew were gone for the evening, so Bethanne propped a note for them on the kitchen counter, the way they did for her.

She had to find parking downtown, because she couldn’t afford the lot prices. Fortunately, she located a place three short blocks from the restaurant. When she walked toward Anthony’s, Paul Ormond was already there, standing outside waiting. He waved at her as she approached.

Paul was around thirty-five, she guessed, with dark hair and eyes, a pleasant face and a bit of a paunch. If she remembered correctly, he worked in the downtown area for an international shipping firm. He wore a suit and tie. Bethanne was surprised that the lovely Tiffany would have married such an ordinary-looking man. The impression she had of “Tiff” was of a status-conscious woman, to whom a husband’s appearance would be almost as important as her own.

“Thank you for coming,” Paul said as he opened the door to the restaurant. When he stepped forward and announced his name to the hostess, they were immediately seated.

They both ordered a glass of wine and Paul stared out the window at Puget Sound. “I imagine you’re wondering why I called you,” he said after several minutes of silence. Oddly, Bethanne didn’t feel uncomfortable, nor did she feel her usual urge to make small talk.

She nodded. “I was kind of curious. The divorces have been final for quite a while now.”

“It doesn’t feel that way to me.”

“Me neither,” she admitted. “I—” She started to tell Paul that Grant had refused to pay for Andrew’s football camp. It didn’t matter, she had to remind herself. It just didn’t matter.

“When did you find out about the affair?” he asked.

She was embarrassed to tell him the truth. “Not until Grant told me. You know how they say the wife’s always the last to know. What about you?”

“I knew almost from the first,” he said, “but I couldn’t make myself believe it.”

“How long were you and Tiffany married?”

“Six years,” he said. “Four good ones, at any rate. Then she met Grant.” He shook his head. “I think I guessed what was going on when she wanted to delay having a family.”

Bethanne knew from what Grant had told her that there were no other children involved. The whole thing was bad enough without hurting more innocents.

She took a sip from her glass of chardonnay, then another. “Annie told me this afternoon she thinks they’re getting married.”

Paul arched his eyebrows. “I suppose that’s inevitable.”

Although her appetite had vanished with talk of the affair, Bethanne opened the menu. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it,” she whispered.

“Please don’t say that,” Paul begged. “I was hoping, you know, that everything was better for you.”

“It is better,” she said valiantly, “it’s just that…I don’t feel it yet.” If being alone hurt this badly all these months after the divorce, she couldn’t imagine that pain would ever go away.

“Your husband and my wife were cheating on us,” he said with sudden anger. “So, why are we the ones feeling bad?”

It wasn’t fair. She was the injured party; Paul, too. While Grant and Tiffany were free of their responsibilities and probably partying every night, Bethanne was dealing with children whose security had been shattered, an aging house and more emotional pain than any one person should be expected to bear.

“I told myself they have to live with what they’ve done,” Paul said, “but that’s little comfort.”

“It’s no comfort.”

Paul opened his menu, too. “I was thinking—”

“Do you mind if we don’t talk about the divorce?” Bethanne asked abruptly. “We’re supposed to be getting on with our lives. Let’s order dinner, okay?”

Paul nodded. “Have you decided what you want?”

“Just an appetizer. The smoked salmon, I think. And maybe a cup of chowder.”

He called over the waiter and they placed their orders, with Paul choosing the chowder and a small dish of seafood pasta. “So, are you?” he asked. “Getting on with your life, I mean.”

“I’m really trying.”

“How?” he asked, and at her startled look, he added, “The reason I want to know is that I need help. I guess I was hoping you were doing better than I am and might have some words of wisdom to share.”

“I…I joined a knitting class.”

Paul grinned, and when he smiled he was almost boyishly handsome. “That’s more of a women’s thing, I think.”

“Plenty of men knit, too.”

“They do?”

She shrugged. “That’s what I’ve heard.”

“I’ve taken up golf, but so far I don’t show any real knack for it.”

Another silence, as they concentrated on their chowder, which had just been delivered. They both murmured appreciatively. It truly was delicious, and Bethanne found herself automatically deconstructing the ingredients, the way she used to when she was married and always searching for new recipes. Unexpectedly, that made her feel better, not worse, as if she’d recovered a small part of the woman she used to be.

She tried her smoked salmon. Good, but she wouldn’t have served it with the curried mayonnaise. Too many strong flavors.

Time to wade back into the conversational waters. “Have you started dating again?” she asked.

He shook his head. “What about you?”

Smiling, she pointed to him. “You’re my first dinner date in twenty-two years.”

“You’re my first date in seven.”

“Is that cause for celebration?”

Paul chuckled. “I think it is.” With that he gestured to the waiter and they ordered a second glass of wine.

Paul might not be the most attractive man she’d ever met, especially compared to Grant, but Bethanne was struck by how genuine he was, how generous and caring. Even though he was in as much pain as she was, he’d told her he was sorry that his wife had been the one to break up her family.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked, as they walked out of the restaurant.

Bethanne had only one burning need. A job. “Do you know anyone who’d be willing to hire me?”

“For what?”

She sighed. “At this point, I’d do just about anything.”

“Do you have computer skills?”

“Well…” The truth was, she didn’t. Bethanne knew her way around the Internet, but mostly because her kids had shown her. She could manage basic word processing programs, but anything beyond that and she was at a loss.

“Maybe you should get some training,” Paul suggested.

He was right, but she hated the thought of it. This adjustment, trying to find employment after so many years out of the job market, was almost as difficult as the divorce.

Paul insisted on walking her to where she’d parked her car. “I had a good time tonight, Bethanne, thank you.”

“Thank you.” They exchanged handshakes. “If you ever need someone to talk to, give me a call.”

He perked up. “You wouldn’t mind?”

“Not in the least.”

Bethanne listened to the radio on the drive home. It was almost ten by the time she pulled into the driveway. She hadn’t even made it to the house before the front door was thrown open and her children stood in the entrance glaring at her.

“Just exactly where were you?” Annie demanded.

“We were worried sick,” Andrew said.

Bethanne stared back at them in complete shock. “I beg your pardon? Annie, I told you I was seeing an old friend.”

“But you didn’t say you were going to be this late!” Annie cried in disgust.

“We talked and…and the time flew,” Bethanne answered before she thought better of it.

“I can’t believe you’d do this,” Andrew muttered.


“After everything you’ve said to us about knowing where we are and who we’re with.” Andrew shook his head.

“This is totally bogus,” Annie muttered.

“Could you please let me in?” As they moved aside, she said, “I left you a note.”

“I know, but you didn’t give us the guy’s name or tell us where you went. I’m not sure about this, Mom,” Andrew tried to explain. “It just doesn’t seem right that my mother’s the one on a date.”

“It shouldn’t be such a big deal,” Annie said, speaking more thoughtfully now. “But it doesn’t feel right.”

“It doesn’t for me either,” Bethanne agreed. “However, this is my new reality.” For the first time, she could say those hated words without flinching.

“So we should get used to it?” Andrew asked.

Bethanne nodded. Her children had nothing to worry about; she was their rock, their security. Their mother. That wouldn’t change no matter what their father did.



If Courtney could trust her grandmother’s antique scale, it showed that she’d lost four pounds. Five if she balanced on one foot and stared straight down at the dial. This was the first time in months that she’d managed to stay on any formal eating program. She felt good, really good.