311 Pelican Court Page 2

“Zach will have to pay—”

“The hell I will!”

“The divorce is final,” Otto Benson stated. “Zach isn’t responsible for anything more than what’s already been agreed to.”

Rosie’s gaze flew to her attorney, and Sharon reluctantly nodded. All at once, this was more than Rosie could bear. Not only had she lost her husband, but now she was being forced out of her home, too. Moisture welled in her eyes, and she managed to blink it away. Hell would freeze over before she let Zach know what he was doing to her.

A long moment passed before Zach finally spoke. “Okay, I’ll agree to let Rosie stay in the apartment on the days I’m at the house, as long as she’s willing to split the rent.”

Rosie was well aware that she had no choice, but she did have her pride and she was determined to hold on to that. “On one condition,” she insisted, lifting her head.

“Now what?” Zach asked with a long-suffering sigh.

“I don’t want you bringing that woman into the family home. I want our house to be a safe place for the children. In other words, I don’t want Allison and Eddie exposed to your women.”

“What?” Zach glared at her as though she’d spoken a foreign language.

“You heard me,” she said vehemently, meeting his angry eyes. “This divorce has been hard enough on the kids without you parading Janice or any other woman you decide to date through my home. I want the house off-limits to your…your floozies.”

“Floozies?” Zach smirked. “Fine, no floozies. And the same goes for you. I don’t want you bringing any men to the house, either. No studs, no hotties, no boy toys, no—”

“Oh, that’s rich,” Rosie broke in, putting an end to his ridicule. In seventeen years she’d never so much as looked at another man. Not since the day she’d met Zach.

“Do you or don’t you agree?” her ex-husband challenged.

“Of course I agree!”



With their attorneys present, they made decisions about a number of other issues, and Sharon quickly wrote up an agreement. Zach’s attorney reviewed it, and then both Zach and Rosie signed it.

By the time she left the courthouse, Rosie felt as if she’d been pummeled by wave after wave in a stormy sea. Strange as it seemed, her heart actually ached. For weeks she’d dreaded this day and at the same time longed for it, just so the divorce would finally be over. Now she wasn’t sure what she felt, other than this deep pain that threatened to overpower her.

Nine-year-old Eddie was shooting baskets when Rosie pulled into the driveway at 311 Pelican Court

. In a little more than a month, school would start again. Perhaps then their lives would return to some semblance of routine.

Eddie caught the basketball and held it against his side as he waited for her to park the car in the garage. His sad dark eyes watched Rosie as he stepped aside so she could drive past.

Fifteen-year-old Allison was in the kitchen, microwaving a hot dog for lunch. She turned and stared at Rosie, eyes glittering defiantly. She resembled Zach so much just then.

“How’d it go?” Eddie asked, following Rosie into the kitchen. He continued to hold the basketball.

“All right, I guess.”

The microwave beeped and Allison removed the steaming wiener, devoid of a bun. As if it had suddenly lost its appeal, she set the plate on the countertop and studied Rosie.

“There’s been a…minor complication,” Rosie announced. She didn’t believe in hiding the truth from her children, especially when it involved something that would affect them.

“What kind of complication?” Eddie asked, pulling out a kitchen chair. He balanced the basketball on the table, one hand supporting it. Allison crossed her arms and leaned against the counter, pretending to be bored; still, she didn’t leave the room as she so often did.

With effort Rosie managed to show a bit of enthusiasm for Judge Lockhart’s decree. “Well…you guys won’t be moving in and out of the house every few days, after all.”

Allison and Eddie shared a look of surprise. Trying to sound positive, Rosie explained Judge Lockhart’s decision and briefly outlined how the switch would work.

“You mean Dad’s going to live here?” Eddie asked as if he didn’t quite understand. Rosie didn’t blame him for being confused. She was, too. Confused and irritated by this turn of events. Add miserable to the mix, and it pretty much described the way she felt about life in general.

“Your father will be at the house part-time,” Rosie said, so there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding. She’d agreed to turn what had been her sewing room into a spare bedroom for his use. The sewing machine could go in the master bedroom without a problem.

“Oh,” Eddie said. He seemed disappointed, but then his eyes lit up as he realized he’d have his father back, if only half the time. “I think it’s cool!”

“I don’t,” Allison shouted. “As far as I’m concerned, this entire divorce is bogus.” With that she stormed out of the kitchen.

Rosie watched her daughter go, wishing she knew how to reach her. She wanted to put her arms around Allison and hug her and assure her that everything would be all right, but the girl wouldn’t accept any kind of closeness. At least not from her…

“Don’t worry about Allison,” her nine-year-old said. “She’s really glad about Dad coming home, even if it’s only for a few days at a time, but she wouldn’t let you know that for anything.”


Sweat dripped down Grace Sherman’s face, and the intense heat of the mid-July afternoon plastered her T-shirt to her skin. She dipped her roller in the tray and smoothly spread light-yellow paint across her bedroom wall. She was a librarian and, despite all the books she’d taken out on home maintenance, she wasn’t much good at renovations and repairs. Dan had always insisted on looking after the house. Alone at age fifty-five, Grace found that life continued to thrust her into unfamiliar and challenging situations.

“I hope you appreciate what a good friend I am,” Olivia Lockhart said from behind her. She, too, worked at covering the dingy white walls with yellow paint. Cautiously, Olivia—her lifelong friend—moved around the furniture pushed into the middle of the bedroom, protected by old sheets.

“You volunteered,” Grace reminded her, using her forearm to wipe the perspiration from her brow. The room felt stifling and the air was still, even with the windows partially open.

After learning that her husband of thirty-four years, who’d been missing since the previous April, was dead, Grace had developed insomnia. She didn’t understand it. Olivia had suggested she repaint the room, thinking a different color might signify a new phase in her life. Pale yellow was a calm, optimistic color. Maybe her subconscious would get the hint. At the time it had sounded like a good idea, especially when her friend had offered to help. It was just the kind of thing Olivia would do. Over the years, they’d supported each other through everything from minor domestic crises to life-shattering events.

“I can’t believe I thought we could finish this in one day.” Olivia groaned. Straightening, she planted her hands on the small of her back. “I didn’t have any idea how much work this was going to be.”

“How about a glass of iced tea?” Grace was more than ready for a break herself. The two of them had been painting for what seemed like forever but was probably only an hour or two. Still, they’d had to move the furniture and do the prep work first—laying a drop cloth on the floor and taping the windows.

Olivia set aside her roller. “You don’t need to ask twice.”

Grace wrapped both paint-coated rollers in a plastic bag, then headed into the kitchen. By the time Olivia finished washing her hands, Grace had poured the iced tea into tall glasses. Buttercup, her golden retriever, scratched at the screen door and Grace absently let her inside. Panting, the dog lumbered into the house and stretched out under the table, resting her chin on the cool tile floor.

Grace slumped into the chair and released the kerchief tied at the base of her neck, shaking her damp hair free. She wore it shorter these days, since she no longer needed to worry about her husband’s likes and dislikes.

After witnessing Olivia’s pain years before, Grace had never wanted to go through a divorce, but when Dan disappeared she wasn’t left with any options. For financial reasons, it was the only practical choice.

That had been months ago now. Afterward, even learning Dan’s fate was anticlimactic. She was relieved that his body had been discovered, but she’d already endured the worst of the grief and guilt: the not knowing, the doubts, the recriminations—all of which had befallen her after Dan’s disappearance. So this sudden bout of insomnia didn’t make sense to her.

“This was the best idea you’ve had all day,” Olivia said, sinking down on the chair. “Besides putting on a Credence Clearwater Revival CD,” she added. They’d both gotten caught up in the music of their youth and hadn’t realized how hot and uncomfortable they were until the last song on the CD ended.

“We may not have the moves we did thirty years ago, but we aren’t ready for walkers just yet,” Grace said, and Olivia agreed with an easy smile.

“I heard about your latest decree,” Grace said, smiling across the table at her friend. They’d been working together all afternoon, but with the music playing they’d barely had a chance to talk.

“You mean the joint custody case?” Olivia asked.

Grace nodded. “It’s all over town.” This wasn’t the first time Olivia had made a controversial decision in the courtroom.

Olivia rolled her eyes. “At least Jack didn’t write about it in his column.”

So Olivia was going to bring Jack Griffin into the conversation. Good. Grace had been looking for a way to introduce the subject. He and Olivia had been seeing each other for more than a year, and Grace loved Jack for the simple reason that he’d made her friend happy. Once Olivia had started dating Jack, the local newspaper editor, she’d been…more relaxed. More lighthearted. Then, a few weeks ago, Jack and Olivia had a falling out, a difference of opinion, really—and they hadn’t spoken since. Olivia was miserable, although she wasn’t willing to admit it.

“Speaking of Jack,” Grace asked brightly, “what’s new with the two of you?” In her opinion Jack was exactly right for her friend. He was witty and funny and just outrageous enough to be interesting.

Olivia looked up. “I don’t want to talk about Jack.”

“Then don’t. Tell me about Stan.”

Stan was Olivia’s ex-husband, who now lived in Seattle with his second wife, but he’d been making regular appearances in Cedar Cove lately. Something must be up; however, Olivia had kept suspiciously quiet about it.

“You heard about Stan and Marge?” Olivia asked, her eyes rounding with surprise. “Who told you? Mom or Justine?”

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