Authors: Helen Brenna
Tags: #An Island To Remember
Lauren’s hair was still long, but darker than Missy remembered and her figure had turned decidedly womanly. Kurt’s hair had lost some of its babyish curl and his face and arms displayed the healthy look of a young athlete.
“Are they driving?” Missy asked.
“Oh, yeah.” Noah Bennett laughed, throwing his arm around his wife’s shoulder. “For the first time they were a bit reluctant to come to Mirabelle for the summer.”
“I suppose that no car rule puts a damper on things.”
“A little.” Sophie smiled. “But they both love Mirabelle.”
“Sixteen, hmm,” Missy mused. “Would either of them be interested in working at Whimsy over the week of Fourth of July?” That was the busiest week of the entire tourist season and she and Gaia could no doubt use the help.
Noah and Sophie glanced at each other.
“They’re both helping out Marty and Brittany at the inn,” Noah explained.
“But Lauren would jump at the chance to work at your shop,” Sophie added. “She gushes over your merchandise.”
“Why don’t you ask her,” Noah suggested.
“I’ll do that.”
Noah and Sophie meandered away as someone called her name. Missy spun around to find Natalie Steeger Quinn coming toward her. “Natalie!” She hugged her friend. “When did you get back to the island?”
Natalie lived in Minneapolis during the school months and ran a summer camp for kids on the property she inherited from her grandmother on the northwest side of Mirabelle. Though they’d e-mailed and talked by phone on occasion over the winter, nothing replaced seeing each other in person.
“A couple weeks ago, but things have been so chaotic with the baby and the new camp kids that I haven’t had time to come into town. Couldn’t miss this, though!”
Natalie’s husband, Jamis, their baby girl tight in his arms, came toward them. “Hello, Missy.”
“Hi, Jamis.” She held out her arms. “Can I hold her?”
Clearly reluctant to give up his child, it took him a moment to hand her over. Missy looked into the wide, dark eyes of tiny Anna and felt her heart melt. “She’s beautiful.”
Jamis put his arm around Natalie’s shoulder and kissed her head. “I need a beer before I face this crowd.” With that he wandered over to the coolers.
“Well, he’s as friendly as ever.” Missy chuckled. “How’s it going?”
“With all that’s happened so quickly, there’ve been a few wrinkles to iron out.” Natalie grinned. “I’ve never been happier than I am with Jamis.”
The unlikely couple had met here on Mirabelle almost exactly one year ago, and since then, they’d adopted four kids, gotten married and gave birth to their own child. Marriage and motherhood looked as if they agreed with Natalie.
When the baby fussed and Missy’s attempts at calming her failed, she handed her over to Natalie.
Natalie propped the little bundle on her shoulder and within minutes all was quiet. “What about you?” Natalie said, concerned. “I’ve heard a couple of unsettling rumors through the Hendersons.”
Missy explained everything.
Natalie searched through the crowd. “That’s him over there, isn’t it?” True to form, she’d completely passed over the Camden part to focus on the husband-returning-from-the-dead part.
Jonas sipped on a beer and busied himself preparing for a campfire later in the evening. He’d stacked firewood near the fire pit and was arranging kindling inside the ring of rocks Jan and Ron had built in their backyard.
“The one true love of your life back from the dead,” Natalie murmured. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re married. You still love him.” Natalie shrugged. “Seems simple enough to me.”
Leave it to Natalie to see only the positive in everything.
“Who said I still loved him?”
Natalie laughed and shook her head. “You didn’t have to
“Not everything is as simple as it looks.”
“He came back for a reason, Missy.”
“When he leaves again?”
“What if he stays?”
“Fate was wrong, Natalie. It happens.”
“Maybe. Then again, maybe her timing was just off by a few years.”
Their timing was off? That was something Missy had never considered. What if she and Jonas had met too soon?
Natalie suddenly waved excitedly. “Sarah! It’s good to see you!”
Missy held her breath as Sarah joined them. Sarah hugged Natalie and glanced at Missy, but quickly looked away. They hadn’t seen or spoken to one another since the tell-all discussion in the back room of her shop.
As Sarah and Natalie caught up, Brian ran to Missy and gave her a hug. “How you doing, Bri?”
“Okay.” Then he glanced at the group of kids of varying ages gathered around a table of munchies and said, “I gotta go!”
A moment or two later, the Hendersons arrived at the party and Natalie was drawn into a conversation with them. Missy and Sarah were left standing awkwardly side by side.
“Can we talk?” Missy asked.
Tentatively, Sarah glanced at her. “I’d like that.”
“I hope you understand nothing I did, didn’t do, said, or didn’t say was meant to hurt you.”
“I know that now.” Sarah’s eyes watered. “I probably over-reacted a bit, but…” she said, pausing to gather herself. “I’m not ready to go into the details, yet, but Brian’s dad comes from a very wealthy family. Not in a Camden way, but they’re rich enough to throw their weight around. And they do.”
That explained a lot. Knowing her friend would share more when and if she was ready, Missy didn’t push. “I’m sorry, Sarah.”
“Missy, you’re nothing like them, and I should’ve remembered that right off the bat. You have nothing to be sorry about.”
Missy threw her arms around Sarah and hugged her.
“Honestly, I felt a little lost these last couple of days without you.”
“You weren’t the only one.”
Sarah stepped back and took a deep breath. “So what’s happening between you and your…husband?” She laughed. “It’s just so weird to say that. I swear, it won’t be long and I’ll be the only single woman on Mirabelle.”
A buffet was set up at one end of the yard with a large frosted cake covered in candles at one end, hot dogs, burgers and grilled chicken on the other end and corn on the cob, watermelon, baked beans, potato salad and various other side dishes and munchies in between. Folks wandered back and forth from the food to the coolers. They stood in groups or sat at the many tables he and Ron had set up earlier that day.
Since Missy had practically dragged him over here almost an hour ago, Jonas had kept to himself, delaying as long as possible the inevitable socializing. What he couldn’t figure out was why she wanted him here in the first place.
He glanced around looking for someone he could stand next to without bothering overly much with conversation. The guy at the grill looked like a good candidate. Beer in hand, he seemed perfectly content flipping burgers and ignoring the crowd. Jonas wandered over to him. “Hey.”
“Hey yourself.” The guy barely glanced at him.
“Need any help there?”
“Got it covered.” He took a swig off his beer. “Missy’s husband, right?” Obviously, the man noticed more than he let on.
“Yeah. Jonas.” To keep on the safe side, he didn’t bother with his last name.
“Jamis Quinn.” With a spatula in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, he didn’t offer to shake hands. “You sure caused quite a stir showing up here on Mirabelle.”
“I’ve been away on some…long-term business.”
“Sure you have.”
Jonas ignored the comment. He couldn’t help but notice Missy talking with a woman he’d never met and cuddling a small bundle of a baby in her arms. What was it with her and babies?
“That’s my wife, Natalie,” Jamis said, his gaze suddenly softening. “And Anna, our youngest.”
He nodded. “If I were you, I’d watch out. Baby fever’s making its way around this island.”
Jonas couldn’t help but chuckle. The virus wasn’t likely to hit Missy’s house, at least not while he was still on Mirabelle. “How many kids do you have?”
“No shit?” The guy didn’t look that old.
“Four are adopted,” he offered in response to Jonas’s puzzled look. “Galen and Sam are my oldest.” With a proud look on his face, he pointed at a couple of teenagers. “They’re over there with the Bennett twins, Kurt and Lauren. My two little ones, Toni and Ryan are there,” he said, smiling and pointing at a table of younger kids. “Sitting with Garrett and Erica’s nephew, Jason, and Sarah Marshik’s son, Brian.”
Big happy families.
Now Missy was holding Garrett and Erica’s baby boy. If she wanted kids so damned much why hadn’t she gotten married again right after he’d died?
“I’m happy for you guys that you’ve decided to adopt,” Jamis said. “It’s been the best thing for me and Nat.”
“Adoption,” Jamis said, turning a couple burgers. “Missy’s—” He glanced at Jonas and immediately shut his mouth.
“Missy’s adopting,” Jonas murmured. That fit her.
“I’m sorry. I assumed…”
“That since I’m her husband I’d know. Don’t worry about it, man.”
Missy as a mother. Somehow it made so much sense. Jonas wondered if his sudden reappearance had impacted the process. Figures. One more way Jonas had screwed up her life.
The conversation turned to the mundane and several hours later, Jonas, having kept on the fringes for most of the night, finally sat silently around the blazing campfire. He would’ve gone back to Missy’s house except for the fact that he’d found himself fascinated by watching Missy, listening to conversations and getting to know these islanders a little better.
Drinking hot cocoa, chatting and laughing, a group of about ten had remained long after the rest of the party had gone home. Someone mentioned that a place called the Draeger mansion on the outskirts of town had finally sold, and the talk turned to rumors it had been purchased by the Andersens’ long lost daughter. In spite of the company, every time Jonas glanced over the flames into Missy’s face and caught her gaze, it seemed as if they were completely alone in the darkness.
During a lull in the conversation, Missy pulled a small pouch out of a pocket in her fleece jacket and handed it to Ron. “Happy Birthday, Ron.”
“Hey, we said no presents.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
Ron reached inside the small, beaded fabric bag and took out a bracelet made from turquoise.
“Turquoise is a natural healing stone,” Missy explained. “It’s probably overkill, but I included all seven chakras stones to promote well-being. There’s one for Jan, too.”
Ron handed the bag to Jan.
She took out another bracelet and smiled at Missy. “They’re beautiful.”
“Thank you, Missy,” Ron said before he and Jan exchanged looks.
Jan released a heavy sigh. “I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell them.”
“What?” Sarah asked.
“Jan and I are retiring,” Ron said.
The sounds of disappointment traveled around the circle, but Missy held silent, straightening her spine as if waiting for more bad news.
“We’re not going anywhere, though,” Ron said. “At least not for a while.”
“You’re not?” Missy said.
“We don’t mind the winters,” Jan said.
“We’re just getting old,” Ron explained. “Tired. We need to relax more.”
“So I’m leaving my job at the Mirabelle Inn,” Jan said.
“And I’m selling the equipment rental business,” Ron added.
“What about the buildings you own?” someone asked.
“Oh, we’ll hold on to those.” Ron smiled. “I need something to do.”
Jonas was glad for Missy’s sake that the Setterbergs would be staying on the island. He glanced at Missy and noticed her almost sighing in relief. Jonas didn’t know much about Jan, but he could imagine how the older woman’s protective instincts had helped Missy feel the love she’d been wanting her entire life. Ron, though, was the father Missy had always wanted. Who wouldn’t want Ron for a father?
Although Ron’s comments to Jonas earlier in the day had held a distinctly parental tone, Jonas had felt amazingly comfortable with the man.
Trust what we know.
What did Jonas know?
He remembered back to the first months of his marriage to Missy. Remembered how she’d looked at him, with trust and reverence. How she’d touched him, with both tenderness and passion. Back then he’d never doubted her love for him.
So what had happened?
Unable to answer the questions turning over and over in his mind and feeling exhausted, mentally and physically, Jonas slipped away unnoticed from the fire. He went back to Missy’s house and sat quietly in one corner of the deck, hiding in the shadows.
Only partially listening to the conversation continuing by the fire at the Setterbergs’, he glanced into a brilliant night sky. Suddenly, the cat jumped onto his lap. Jonas scratched his neck and the animal slowly settled down to knead his leg. The tension that had been building inside him all night left his shoulders, freeing his mind. Over and over, he went through the time he’d spent with Missy what seemed so long ago, trying to find the moment when things had begun changing between them.
The group around the fire called it a night and dispersed, and a moment later Missy came back to her yard. She stepped onto the deck. He knew the exact moment she felt his presence. For a moment, she fell completely still, and then she turned to go inside.
“Missy?” he whispered.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know you were out here.”
“When did our marriage start falling apart?”
At first, she didn’t say anything, but still she sat across from him. The cat jumped down from his lap and went to Missy. “I think for me,” she began slowly, “it was the night you called from Los Angeles to tell me you wouldn’t be back as expected. It was our six-month anniversary. Six months that we’d been married. I’d made a special dinner. Steak for you. Fish for me. Everything was out, ready to go. Your flight was supposed to have already touched down.”
“I remember. I was under a lot of pressure. That was the first really big case I was in charge of.”
“For me it was the first in a long string of missed dinners and weekends spent alone.”
“They were watching, wanted to see what I could handle,” he said. Not to mention the fact that if he’d made good with the FBI, maybe then her family—her father—would accept him. “I wanted so much for us, Missy. A home. A family. A life. I wanted to provide for you.”
“And all I ever wanted was for you to be there.”
“You knew the demands of my job before you married me.”
“I can’t argue with that. It’s true.” She put her head down. “I was naive, selfish. I thought…I thought
be enough. That you’d want to be with
more than be off on the next assignment.”
“Missy, I wanted to be with you, but it was my job. The way I paid the bills, cared for you, provided for you.”
“I didn’t need anyone to provide for me. Not then. Not now. I can take care of myself, Jonas. All I ever wanted was to share my life with you.”
His first reaction was to argue that she was being impractical again. There was no way he could’ve relied on her trust fund to support them, but that wasn’t entirely fair. A lot of FBI agents made a decent living without the long hours. Was it possible it hadn’t been her expectations alone that had driven him so hard in his job?
“I’ll admit, I was immature,” she went on. “Probably hard to live with, but I never set out to hurt you, Jonas.”
“You filed for a divorce.” She’d not only broken his heart, she’d hurt his pride. It was something he had to face and accept. What Ron had said to him suddenly struck home.
Trust what you know.
He knew Missy. She’d loved him. Something had happened. “Why? Can you finally tell me why?”
Missy looked away.
“The last straw was not being able to get ahold of you, not being able to talk with you…” She paused, seemed to be gathering herself. “The day I’d had a doctor’s appointment and found out that I’d…I’d had a miscarriage.”
“What?” he said, not comprehending.
She glanced back at him. “I had a miscarriage.”
“Miscarriage?” He stared at her. “You were pregnant?”
“With our child?”
Silently, she nodded.
He tried to absorb it, make sense of it. Trying to remember back to everything that had happened the days preceding her filing for a divorce. He’d gotten home from two weeks away on a tough assignment and she’d changed. He’d sensed it the moment he’d stepped inside the house.
He covered his face with his hands as images of her holding that baby at Duffy’s and then tonight at Ron’s party ran through his mind. She’d lost her own baby. She’d been in pain, physical, emotional and she’d suffered through it alone. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you were gone. Like you were always gone. Because it hurt like hell to know whatever case you were working on was more important than me. That you would drop everything you were doing for work, but that I didn’t matter.”
“That isn’t fair.” Defense mechanisms quickly rose. “Things were different then. You were…immature and had unrealistic expectations of a husband.”
“Actually, there’s some truth to that.” She nodded, wrapped her arms around herself. “But is it unrealistic to expect a husband to be around more often than not?”
The ramifications hit Jonas like a bus. “You never even told me you were pregnant.”
“Would it have made a difference?”
He didn’t know what to say, couldn’t seem to find his voice. It was all too much to swallow.
She stood and headed toward the house. “That’s what I thought.”