Mick laughs again, and Ayers asks Colleen for a box to take the rest of Maia’s pizza to go.

“On that note,” Ayers says. “We’re leaving.”

“Ayers…,” Mick says.

Ayers bends down to kiss Gordon between the eyes. Then she turns to Maia. “Ready for ice cream?”

“Facts,” Maia says.

CASH

He is so juiced about taking Baker by surprise with the arrival of Anna and Floyd that he has ignored the fact that they will have another situation on their hands.

That situation is named Irene.

But first, first, Cash takes a moment to savor Baker’s shock and obvious discomfort at seeing his wife and son. He looks caught. He is caught. The only thing better would have been if Ayers had come with Baker to the bar. But no—that would be cruel to Floyd. Cash will avoid compromising Floyd at all costs. He’s learning what it’s like to be the son of a philanderer.

If it were only Floyd who had arrived unexpectedly, the scene would have been touching indeed. Floyd grabs Baker around the legs and Baker, although seeming disoriented at first, squeezes Floyd tight, kisses the boy on the cheek, then squeezes him again. Cash has to admit: Baker is a good dad, very open with his affection, just like Russ used to be.

Baker and Floyd go down to look at the water, and Cash turns to Anna. She seems different here, on the island. Her hair is down and she’s into her second margarita, so she is super-relaxed. Has Cash ever seen Anna relaxed? Maybe once, when she and Baker came to Breckenridge, but that time, Cash remembers, she had turned her hyper-competitive nature toward skiing. She was faster than Baker and more technically sound than Cash, and she had taken great pride in her superior speed and prowess. Now, she is only competitive about her margarita drinking, and Cash can get behind that—especially since Irene, who is unaware of Anna and Floyd’s arrival, waits at home.

“Floyd missed him,” Anna says to Cash. “It wasn’t until Baker left that I realized how much he does—the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry. He coaches Floyd’s basketball team, takes him to chess club on Sundays, and he’s on the fund-raising committee of Floyd’s school, so the phone kept ringing with people donating things for a silent auction that I knew nothing about. I haven’t given him nearly enough credit.”

“He told me you left him,” Cash says. He eyes his own second margarita, half gone.

“Am leaving,” Anna says. “I told him just seconds before your mother called with the news.”

“Ah,” Cash says. He finds he’s disappointed that Baker was telling the truth. “It’s a… colleague of yours?”

“Louisa,” Anna says. She raises a palm. “Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. I like men, I’m attracted to men. This came out of nowhere, but it’s big and it’s real.”

“No judgment here,” Cash says. “Any chance this might be a phase? Any chance you might salvage the marriage?”

“Nope,” Anna says. “But we can salvage the family, I’m pretty sure. We can have a functional divorced relationship, with shared custody.”

Baker and Floyd reappear. “I’d love to join you two for a drink,” Baker says, “but I think we should get Floyd home. He’s overheated.”

Anna pulls out a fifty and leaves it on the bar, much to Cash’s relief. “I made a reservation at a place called St. John Guest Suites,” Anna says. “I didn’t want to assume there would be room for us at the villa.”

“Oh, there’s room,” Cash says. “You can cancel your room.” He then thinks of Irene. “Or keep it—you may want privacy, and you probably won’t get your money back anyway.”

“Nonrefundable,” Anna confirms. “But I’d love to see the place. And to see your mom, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Cash says.

He tries to text Irene about their impending arrival, but his phone has no service on the north shore road. Oh well, he thinks. His mother has been through a bigger shock than this; she’ll be fine. Then again, his mother has been through such a big shock that it feels unfair to pile on more. Cash is sitting in the backseat of the Jeep with Floyd as though he, too, is a child—but he is also the architect of this mess. He alone knew Floyd and Anna were coming. He could have—should have—given Baker and Irene fair warning.

Baker turns right and they wind up the hill and pull up to the gate, which they’ve left open since their arrival. The house comes into view.

“Wait,” Anna says. She turns to Baker. “This is where you’re staying?”

“This is the villa,” Baker says flatly. “My father’s villa.”

“I don’t believe it,” Anna says.

Baker doesn’t respond. He parks and gets out of the car. “Come on, buddy,” he says to Floyd. “You want a tour?”

Baker and Floyd head up the stone staircase to the main deck, with Anna and Cash following a few steps behind. Anna is plainly floored. Cash tries to remember what he felt like six days ago when he saw this place for the first time. He had been gobsmacked. Now he takes it for granted.

“Outdoor kitchen,” Baker says. “Pool, hot tub…”

“The pool has a slide!” Floyd shouts. “To another pool! This house has two pools, one on top and one at the bottom!”

Anna stands on the deck and takes in the view. “What was going on?”

“We’re still not sure,” Cash says. “The helicopter crashed in British waters. Dad’s boss, Todd, signed off to have his body cremated. We’re waiting for the ashes and for a report from the crash site investigators, but it’s tricky because the Brits are the authority, not the FAA or the coast guard. The pilot was killed—he was British—and a local St. John woman.”

“Local woman?” Anna says. “Did your father have a mistress here? Was he that cliché?”

“I think he might have been, yes,” Cash says.

They step into the kitchen, where Irene is sitting at the table. Her head is buried in her arms. She’s asleep.

“Your poor mother,” Anna says. “Don’t wake her.”

Irene raises her head, blinking. “Oh,” she says. She gets to her feet and offers a hand. “Hello, I’m Irene Steele.”

“Irene,” Anna says. “It’s Anna. Anna Schaffer. Baker’s wife.”

Irene steadies herself on the back of a chair. “Anna,” she says. “What are you doing here?” The question comes out as accusatory, just as Cash feared it might, but Anna wears a heavy suit of armor, so Irene’s tone bounces right off of her.

“I brought Floyd down,” she says, and she opens her arms. “I am so sorry about all of this. How awful it must be for you.”

Irene stares at Anna for a moment and then she walks right into Anna’s arms and the two women embrace, and Cash is as amazed that his mother is accepting comfort as he is that Anna is offering it—but he is also relieved.

Baker and Floyd enter the kitchen, Floyd gets a hug and a kiss from Grammie, and Baker announces that he’s taking Floyd down to look at the beach.

“That’s fine,” Anna says. “Then someone should probably drive us to our hotel.”

“Hotel?” Baker says.

“I got a suite at a boutique place in Chocolate Hole,” Anna says. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure how big this home was.”

“There are nine bedrooms,” Irene says. “Stay here, please.”

“Floyd will stay here,” Baker says. “Anna can go to the hotel.” With that, he takes Floyd’s hand and leaves the kitchen, shutting the side door firmly for emphasis.

Irene raises her eyebrows. “Is something going on?”

Anna says, “Baker and I are splitting. I’ve met someone else. Another surgeon at the hospital, actually. Her name is Louisa.”

Cash wishes he’d had a third margarita, or even a fourth, although he admires Anna’s ability to just come out with the plainspoken truth. Her tone is matter-of-fact and holds not even a hint of apology.

Irene opens her mouth, then closes it, then starts to laugh. Cash cringes. Why is he the one who has to bear witness to this confession? Why didn’t he go to the beach with his brother and nephew, or run upstairs to the guest room he has claimed as his own and hide under the bed? Why does he have to be standing here, watching his mother laugh at Anna’s moment of coming out? Irene laughs so hard that tears leak from her eyes. She’s trying to stop herself; she struggles to catch her breath.

“I’m sorry,” Irene says finally. “It’s just I didn’t think anyone else in the whole world could take me by surprise, but you’ve gone and done it. You’re leaving Baker for a woman?”

“A person,” Anna says, and Cash wants to applaud. “Another doctor, who also happens to be female, yes. I’ll apologize for being the one to break up the family, Irene, but I won’t apologize because Louisa is a woman.”

Irene nods. “I didn’t mean to laugh at you. I’m a bit self-absorbed these days, but I appreciate your being direct. Would you like to stay for dinner?”

***

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