Authors: Debbie Macomber
“As always, Macomber draws rich, engaging characters.”
Thursdays at Eight
“A multifaceted tale of romance and deceit, the final installment of Macomber's Dakota trilogy oozes with country charm and a strong sense of community.”
“Macomber closes book two with a cliffhanger, leaving readers anxiously awaiting the final installment to this first-rate series.”
“Sometimes the best things come in small packages. Such is the case hereâ¦.”
Return to Promise
“Ms. Macomber provides the top in entertaining relationship dramas.”
Reader to Reader
“Macomber's storytelling sometimes yields a tear, at other times a smile.”
Newport News, VA Daily Press
“Popular romance writer Macomber has a gift for evoking the emotions that are at the heart of the genre's popularity.”
“Well-developed emotions and appealing characters.”
Welcome back to Cedar Cove! Olivia, Grace, Charlotte, Jack, Justine and Seth are eager to continue their storiesâand introduce you to a few other residents. Like small towns everywhere, Cedar Cove is a mixture of the good, the bad and the unexpected. That's my way of telling you that a few surprises await you in this story. Yes, you're finally going to discover what happened to Dan. And the Beldons will have a most unusual guest at their bed-and-breakfastâ¦. So along with a visit to small-town America, I've tossed in a bit of mystery.
My hope, as always, is that you'll feel right at home in Cedar Coveâwhether you begin the series with the first book or the tenth. Note that you can tell where the book appears in the Cedar Cove series by the address. Just look at the first number in the address. (For instance,
204 Rosewood Lane
is the second book.)
If you're wondering if there really could be a town like this, let me assure you there canâ¦and there is. Cedar Cove is based on my own hometown of Port Orchard, Washington. Naturally, my characters aren't based on anyone in town, despite all the speculation over coffee at the Pancake Palace (not the restaurant's real name). You see, I've lived in small towns all my life and I've learned that people are basically the same everywhere.
Now, sit back and relax. My friends in Cedar Cove can't wait to fill you in on everything that's been happening. And when you've finished reading this book, please let me know what you think. You can reach me in two waysâthrough my Web site at www.debbiemacomber.com (write your comments in the guest book) or write me at P.O. Box 1458, Port Orchard, WA 98366. I'd love to hear from you.
To Nina Lyman and her incredible cats.
What a blessing your friendship has been.
race Sherman stared down at the legal form that would start the divorce proceedings. She sat in the attorney's office with Maryellen, her oldest daughter, who'd come with her to offer support. Grace reminded herself that this should be straightforward, that her decision was made. She was ready to end her marriage, ready to piece together her shattered life. To begin againâ¦ But her hand shook as she picked up the pen.
The inescapable fact was that she didn't want thisâbut Dan hadn't left her with any other option.
Five months ago, in April, her husband of almost thirty-six years had disappeared. Vanished without a trace. One day everything was perfectly normal, and the next he was gone. Apparently by choice and without a word of explanation. Even now, Grace had difficulty believing that the man she'd lived with, the man she'd loved and with whom she'd had two daughters, could do anything as cruel as this.
If Dan had fallen out of love with her, she could accept
that. She would've found enough pride, enough generosity, to release him without bitterness. If he was that miserable in their marriage, she would've gladly set him free to find happiness with someone else. What she couldn't forgive was the misery he'd heaped on their family's shoulders, what he'd done to their daughters. Especially Kelly.
Dan had disappeared shortly after Kelly and Paul had announced that after years of trying, they were finally, excitedly, pregnant. Dan had been thrilled, and Grace, too. This baby was going to be their first grandchild. They'd waited so long.
Kelly had always been close to her father and his disappearance at this critical time in her life had devastated her. She'd pleaded with Grace to postpone the divorce proceedings, convinced that her father would return before Tyler was born. When Dan did return, he'd have a logical reason and would explain everything to their satisfaction.
He hadn't come back, though, and there'd been no further information. Nothing but doubts, questions and a churning, deepening anger that intensified in the endless weeks that followed.
When Grace couldn't stand not knowing any longer, she'd hired Roy McAfee, a private detective and former policeman she trusted. Roy had done an extensive search, certain that Dan had left a paper trail, and he'd been right. What Roy had uncovered was a complete shock to Grace. A year earlier, Dan had purchased a travel trailer, paying cash for it. Grace had no idea where he'd gotten that kind of money, nor did she know anything about the trailer. He'd never mentioned it, nor had she seen it. To this day she had no idea where he'd kept it all those months. Or where it was now.
Given the mounting evidence, she had her suspicions.
Grace believed that Dan had used the travel trailer to sneak away with another woman. There'd been one sighting of him and it had come late in May. It almost felt as if her husband had orchestrated this brief reappearance, as if he was taunting her, challenging her to find him. That day had been a low point for Grace.
A coworker of Dan's had spotted him at the marina and Maryellen had hurried to the library to fetch her. But by the time Grace reached the marina, Dan was gone. A woman had pulled up to the curb and Dan had climbed into the vehicle and driven away, never to be seen or heard from again.
In retrospect, she'd come to believe that Dan was providing her with the answers she so desperately needed. She could think of no other reason he would mysteriously arrive at the busiest place in town, where he was most likely to be seenâand recognized. The library where she worked was less than two blocks away. Clearly, her husband lacked the courage to tell her there was someone else. Instead he'd chosen another, crueler way to inform her; he'd humiliated her in front of the entire community. Grace knew without being told that everyone in Cedar Cove pitied her.
That sighting had settled the matter in Grace's mind. Whatever love she still felt for Dan died that afternoon. Until then, she hadn't wanted to believe there was someone else. Even when the VISA bill showed up with a hefty charge from a local jeweler, Grace had refused to accept that her husband was involved with another woman. Dan just wasn't the kind of man who would be unfaithful to her. She'd trusted him. Not anymore.
“Are you okay, Mom?” Maryellen asked, touching her arm.
Grace's hand tightened around the pen. “Fine,” she
snapped, instantly regretting her tone. She hadn't meant to sound so sharp.
Her daughter looked away. Grace focused on the divorce papers, hesitated a moment longer and then with haste signed her name.
“I'll see that this is filed immediately,” Mark Spellman said.
Grace relaxed, leaning back in her chair. This was all there was to it? You could end a thirty-five-year marriage simply by signing your name? “That's it?”
“Yes. Since you haven't heard from Daniel in five months, I don't foresee any legal complications. The divorce should be final in a few weeks.”
Almost four decades tossed out the window like so much garbage. The good years, the bad years, the lean ones, the years they'd scrimped and saved. Like all couples, they'd had their share of problems, but despite everything they'd held their marriage together. Until now, until thisâ
“Mom?” Maryellen whispered.
Grace nodded abruptly, surprised at the emotion that choked her. She'd shed all the tears she intended to. In the months since Dan's disappearance, Grace had deeply grieved the loss of her marriage and the man she thought she knew. The truth of it was, she no longer had a choice; divorce had become inevitable. It was essential that she protect her financial interests. According to the attorney, she couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing.
Her legal situation was one thing, and she'd dealt with that, but the emotional impact had left her badly shaken. Despite her resolve, the grief hadn't diminished. And the humiliation of what Dan had done was with her constantly. Everyone in town was aware of her circumstances and the fact that her husband had walked out on her.
Slowly, Grace set the pen aside.
“I'll wait to hear from you, then,” she said to her attorney, rising out of the chair. Maryellen stood with her.
The attorney, a young man closer to Maryellen's age than her own, escorted them to the office door. He began to say something, then merely looked down and murmured a brief goodbye.
Outside his small home office, the sky had turned a depressing leaden gray. Grace felt a burden of sadness settle over her; she'd known this appointment wasn't going to be easy, but she hadn't expected it to exact such a toll on her self-confidence.
Maryellen glanced at her watch. “I need to get back to the gallery.”
“I know,” Grace said. Her daughter had offered to go to this appointment with her for moral support. Although she was grateful, Grace had thought it unnecessary. But Maryellen was right.
Her daughter was divorced, too. Maryellen had married young and unwisely, and the marriage had ended in less than a year. The experience had so biased her against men, she'd steered away from relationships ever since. Grace had tried to assure her that she'd meet a wonderful man someday, a man waiting for someone exactly like her. Maryellen had considered that naive and refused to listen and now Grace understood why. Divorce
and it was the kind of vicious pain that reached deep inside a person. Grace felt off balance and guilty, as though she had somehow failed. As though it was all her fault. Maryellen knew what it was like because she'd experienced these emotions herself when she was much younger and without the wisdom or perspective maturity brings.
“Will you be all right?” Maryellen asked, obviously reluctant to leave.
“Of course,” Grace said, forcing a smile. She ought to be feeling a measure of relief, after all. She'd finally taken action. She'd given Dan every opportunity, even issued a series of mental ultimatums and deadlines. He would come back when Kelly's baby was born. By the Fourth of July. By their wedding anniversary. First one, then another, until she faced the truth. He
coming back. If she hadn't heard anything from him by now, she shouldn't expect that she ever would. Dan had no intention of being found.
“Are you going back to work?” Maryellen asked.
“No,” she said, refusing to allow herself to succumb to self-pity. “I'm going to lunch.”
“Lunch? It's after four. You didn't eat earlier?”
“No.” Grace didn't add that her appetite had been nonexistent for days as the appointment with the attorney grew closer. Then, because she knew her daughter was worried, she added emphatically, “I
going to be all right, Maryellen.”
Maryellen gazed down the steep hill toward the waterfront, where boats gently bobbed in the protected waters of the cove. Vehicles cruised down Harbor Street, so close together they looked like one continuous line. The Bremerton shipyard workers were out, and traffic filled the roads as husbands and fathers hurried home to their families. The same way Dan once had.
“I'm so furious with Dad I don't know what I'd do if I ever saw him again,” Maryellen said between gritted teeth.
Grace knew, though. She was convinced that Maryellen would be grateful, that she wouldn't care what he'd done as long as he came home. And Kelly, their youngest, would shout with joy and tell them all how wrong they'd been. She'd run to her father with open arms, eagerly awaiting the excuse that would explain everything.
“I'm fine,” Grace insisted. “Really.”
Still Maryellen hesitated. “I hate to leave you.”
“I'll get over this.” Although that was hardly the way she felt. But if Grace had learned anything in life, it was the importance of balance. For each loss, there were compensations, and she reminded herself to keep the good things firmly in sight. “I have so much to be grateful for. You and Kelly, and now a grandson. I'm so sorry it had to end this way with your father and me, but I'm going to come back stronger than ever.” Even as she said the words, Grace knew they were true. The sense of loss was profound, but balance would return to her life and so would joy.
It was Justine Gunderson's lunch break, and all she wanted to do was run home and check the mail. She hadn't heard from Seth in nearly a week. All right, five days, but each one of those days felt like a year. Her husband of little more than a month was in Alaska, fishing the crab-rich waters of the Bering Sea. Seth had warned her when she drove him to the airport that he'd be working sixteen-hour days. He'd assured her that he was crazy in love with her and would be back before she had time to miss him.
Seth had been wrong. Justine was miserable. They'd married, as the old western hit said, “in a fever,” unable to delay the wedding even one minute once they'd made the decision. Without telling either set of parents, they'd raced to Reno, gotten the license, found a preacher and afterward headed straight for a hotel room.
They were young and healthy and very much in love. Justine had known Seth nearly her entire life. He'd been her twin brother's best friendâuntil Jordan drowned at age thirteen. Justine and Seth had been in the same high-school
graduating class. In the ten years that followed, he'd lived in Cedar Cove but they hadn't been in contact until recently, when they'd both reluctantly joined the committee planning their class reunion.
At the time, Justine had been dating Warren Saget, a local developer. Warren was quite a few years older than Justine; in fact, he was just a little younger than her own father. Warren liked having a beautiful woman on his arm and Justine suited him perfectly. It helped that she was willing to keep his little secretâwhile he might be successful in the board-room, his powers didn't extend to the bedroom. When they were together, she often spent the night at his plush hillside house overlooking the cove, but that was more for show than anything. She had her own bedroom in Warren's home. Justine knew very well what people thought, but she'd never much cared.
However, her mother did. Olivia Lockhart shared the general assumptions about her arrangement with Warren and had plenty of opinions on the matter. Justine didn't enlighten her because it was none of Olivia's business. This disagreement between them had put a strain on the mother-daughter relationship. Her grandmother hadn't been particularly pleased, either, but Charlotte wasn't nearly as open in her disapproval. No doubt hoping to distract her from Warren, her mother had encouraged Justine to date Sethâalthough even Olivia had been shocked when Justine phoned to tell her she'd impulsively married him.
The marriage was practically as big a surprise to Justine as it was to her family. After a spat having to do with Warren, Seth had walked away from her. Justine couldn't let it end like that, not with Seth, and she'd gone to him, hoping to make amends. To say they'd settled their differences was something of an understatement.
After the wedding, they'd only had that one weekend before Seth had to return to Alaska. In the weeks since, she'd heard from him intermittently, but he couldn't callâor receive callsâwhile he was at sea, so their communications were few and far between.
Justine glanced at the time and tried to decide whether she should drive home and check the mail or not. If there was no letter, she'd feel depressed for the rest of the afternoon. On the other hand, if Seth did happen to send her a message, she'd be walking on clouds for days afterward. She needed a letter, a phone call,
that would remind her she'd made the right choice in marrying him. Getting married was the only impulsive thing she'd ever done in all her twenty-eight years. She liked her life orderly and precise. The need for control had always ruled her choicesâuntil she fell in love with Seth.
This commitment to order was one reason she fit in so well at First National Bank, rising quickly to the position of manager. Numbers made sense; they added up neatly; they were unambiguous. To the best of her ability, that was the way Justine lived her lifeâwith strong convictions and with exactness, leaving little room for frivolity and impulse.