Owen Lawry stood on the porch of the Sand & Surf Hotel to watch the last ferry of the day leave South Harbor for the mainland. He and his van were supposed to have been on that boat. With his obligations on Gansett Island over for the season, he’d planned to be heading for a two-month gig in Boston, the same autumn engagement he’d had the last five years. It paid well, and, after all this time, the club owners were friends.
His gaze was riveted to the ferry as it steamed past the breakwater into open ocean, where it dipped and rolled in the October surf. As the sun set on Columbus Day, officially ending another summer season on Gansett, Owen wondered what the hell he was still doing here when he was supposed to be on that boat, leaving for good-paying work on the mainland.
“You know why you’re still here,” he muttered, thinking of the blonde beauty who had him all tied up in knots. He was at the point where he wondered if a man could actually die from pent-up desire.
It might’ve been better for them both if he’d left as scheduled, if he’d taken the gig in Boston and gone about his carefree existence with the same lack of responsibility that had marked his entire adult life.
What was he doing here pining after a woman who was still married to someone else and carrying her estranged husband’s child? What was he doing spending every waking moment with a woman who’d made it clear she was unavailable for all the things he suddenly wanted for the first time in his thirty-three years? He was driving himself slowly mad. That was the only thing he knew for certain.
Before he met Laura McCarthy, he was perfectly satisfied with his life. He spent summers playing his guitar and singing on the islandthe closest thing to a real home he’d ever hadworked autumns in Boston and winters in Stowe, Vermont, playing to the ski crowd. In the spring, he headed for a few months off in the Bahamas. It was a good life, asatisfyinglife. Watching the last ferry of the day fade into the twilight, Owen had the uneasy sensation that he was also watching that satisfying life slip through his fingers.
He usually felt sorry for guys who allowed themselves to be led around by a woman. His best friends, Mac, Grant and Evan McCarthy, Joe Cantrell and Luke Harris, had fallen like dominoes lately, one after the other finding the women they were meant to be with. Only Adam McCarthy remained untethered and seemed happy that way.
Owen, on the other hand, was stuck in purgatory, caught between the single life he’d embraced with passionate dedication and the committed life he never imagined for himself. He wasn’twithLaura, per se. He just spent all his free time with her. Weeks ago, they’d shared a couple of chaste kisses that had been hotter than full-on sex with other women.
Since then, there’d been nothing but an occasional hand to his arm or a brief hug here or there. He’d continued to collect her off the bathroom floor each day until the relentless morning sickness suddenly let up as she entered her fifth month of pregnancy.
As he leaned against the railing he’d recently replaced on the hotel’s front porch, Owen realized he actually missed that time with her in the mornings when she’d been so sick and he’d been there to prop her up. “You’re such a fool,” he said to the gathering darkness.
The autumn days were shorter, the nights longer and the chilly air a harbinger of things to come. Shivering in the breeze, Owen questioned his decision to stay with Laura this winter for the millionth time. Did she even want him here? Did she want company, or did she wanthim? If she wanted him, she was doing a hell of a job hiding it. For a while there, he’d thought they were at the start of something that could’ve been significant for both of them. Now he wasn’t so sure.