Her Long Walk Home

Her Long Walk Home

A Sea View House Novel - Book 1 is FREE!
In the coastal town of Pilgrim Cove, strangers are welcomed, and everyone else takes a front row seat to watch a love story unfold.

Rebecca Hart has her life together—great job, great friends and ready to run the Boston Marathon. Her life turns in an instant when she’s injured in the bombing.

Single dad and veterinarian, Adam Fielding, intends to remain a bachelor after being “abandoned” twice. Once by the love of his life and once by a second-best girlfriend.

When Rebecca arrives at Sea View House to recover, neither she nor Adam is prepared to let the magic of the place affect them.

Will these two open their hearts and run toward a new finish line together?

"I AM GLAD THAT THE SEA VIEW HOUSE MAGIC IS CONTINUING! THIS IS A GREAT SERIES AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR!"

Reviewed by reader Debbie Green at Amazon.com

"I grew up in Boston and lived through the horror of the Marathon bombing. We lived througth the bombing not know where my niece was as she was running for Dana Farber Cancer Center team and her parents who were on their way to the finish line. I did not know what this book was about till I got in to it. It is a wonderful story about survival and finding love when you are not expecting it. Rebecca and Adam both have issues. One with the aftermath and survival from the bombing. One with moving on from losing a love one and taking a chance at another chance with love. I loved the town , the people you meet and the great New England living. You will love this book and I can't wait to read the next one. Enjoy!"

Reviewed by reader Debbie O. at Amazon.com

Chapter One

“Will she use the ramp or try the stairs?”

Bartholomew Quinn, proud founder and co-president of Quinn Real Estate and Property Management, leaned forward in his oversized leather chair and peered through the large front window of his Main Street office. A young woman faced the building, her dark hair neatly gathered behind her neck. She wore a long dark skirt and a red sweater. In her right hand, she held a cane. Bart watched her glance flicker between the two paths. Ramp or stairs? Either might be considered a challenge for her, but… He caught her determined expression as she made her choice.

Quickly transferring the cane, the woman placed her right hand on the railing. Her chin jutted forward as she raised her right foot to the first step, her left following only a tad more slowly.

“Atta girl,” he cheered.

Quinn had become familiar with this girl’s background through a trustworthy friend. Now he’d seen her in action for himself. In a moment, he’d depend on his gut instinct to fill in the blanks. He’d been blessed with the knack, those “people skills” folks talked about, and those instincts had never let him down. He’d know Rebecca Hart well by the time their conversation was over.

A sea breeze brought the flavor of the ocean to Bart’s nose, and he inhaled with joy. Another summer season was poised to begin in Pilgrim Cove, his favorite place on earth. He’d spent his entire adult life here, and he’d be buried here—God willing—many years from now. He was young! Seventy-six years young, and people in this town depended on him.

He and his buddies had come through every time. They made themselves available to meet, greet, and befriend newcomers as well as summer folk. Or, as his granddaughter Lila would say, they were always ready to meddle—especially him. Well, his lassie might have a point. But he wasn’t so sure. So far, all his “meddling” had turned out well.

And now, Rebecca Hart had come to see him. His anticipation sizzled as he walked down the hallway to greet her. Hopefully, Sea View House would be sheltering a new resident.

#

Becca hid her smile as she evaluated Bart Quinn. The old guy had definitely kissed the Blarney Stone more than a few times, but he still had it—that courtesy of his generation. A true gentleman. He’d put her at ease immediately and treated her as though she were like anyone else. As though she hadn’t been watching the runners at the finish line in Boston instead of running herself. As though the marathon had never happened. Except, of course, it had, and she wasn’t one to wear rose-colored glasses. Leaning across Quinn’s desk, Becca stared directly at him, commanding his full attention.

“My cousin, Josie, and I checked into the Wayside Inn last night, but I can’t afford to stay there much longer. So I’d like to see this house you have where the rent is so reasonable it has to be a mistake.” If there was a mix-up, she’d need to find another place right away. “My graduate professor at BU insisted I contact you. He said his colleague at Harvard had some clout with this office. Is that true?”

The light in Quinn’s blue eyes rivaled the light of the sun. It sparkled and blazed as he rubbed his hands together. Becca sat hypnotized. Was Quinn a man or an oversized leprechaun? His fist banged the arm of his chair.

“You’re talking about Daniel Stone! We call him the Professor. Comes back every year since his first summer in Pilgrim Cove. Now that was a story… Was it last year or the one before that, when he stayed at Sea View House? He’d lost his wife, ya see, and was in a grievous state.” Quinn’s head moved from side to side as he made sorrowful sounds. “I gave him the upstairs apartment, the Crow’s Nest. But waiting for him downstairs was Shelley Anderson and her two little tykes. Ahh. That was no ordinary summer, no sirree. And now they’re a family, everybody together.”

His index finger pointed directly at her. “Sea View House holds the magic.”

Magic? Baloney. She’d bet her last nickel the man could regale her with stories until the sun went down. She didn’t have time for stories.

“Very nice, Mr. Quinn. But what I need to know is whether you’ve got a cottage for me to rent this summer. Easy access would be needed.”

“True enough, lassie. But you did well coming up those steps. I watched from that window.” He pointed behind him.

Her body stiffened. “You spied on me?” She adjusted her angle slightly to peer over his shoulder. Sure enough, she saw a swath of Main Street through the glass. She looked at Quinn again and sighed. “Why am I not surprised? I bet you don’t miss much around here.”

“You’d win that bet, my girl. This town is special to me. And will be to you, too.”

“You mean you’ve got a place for rent? A house that will suit me?”

“Haven’t you been listening, lass?”

He posed the question with such wide-eyed innocence that her lips twitched. Between the irascible Bart Quinn and her own one-track mind, she was in no better position than Alice was in Wonderland. The twitch became a smile, then a giggle, and she found herself laughing aloud, as though she’d finally gotten the joke.

And then the tears fell.

She reached for the tissue box Quinn slid toward her and dabbed her eyes. Strange that she wasn’t embarrassed. “Well, that was a first.”

“The laughing?”

“No. The crying.”

The man seemed surprised.

“They have meds for the physical pain, Mr. Quinn. No tears there. As for the rest, well, as my mother taught me from the beginning: Life hurts. Deal with it.”

After studying her for a moment, Bart Quinn finally said, “Well, now, respecting all mothers, of course, I’ve got a different slant. I say, Grab the brass ring and enjoy the ride.” He rose from his seat, rummaged through a drawer, and soon dangled a set of keys. “Let’s go, my dear.”

“Go where?”

“Where else would I bring a friend of a friend of Daniel Stone’s than to Sea View House? Right beside the ocean, where you’ll hear the sound of the surf, the call of the gulls, and where you’ll find your own healing.”

#

Becca was about to tell him that her healing came from physical therapy, not from ocean waves, when two small tornadoes blew into the room. The first was blonde, her long hair woven into a French braid that probably started the day neatly plaited. The other whirlwind sported dark waves framing a sweet face. Cinderella and Snow White. Totally adorable.

“Guess what, Papa Bart!” said Cinderella. “No school till Tuesday ’cause of the holiday, so Sara can sleep over.” The child’s infectious grin coupled with her attitude easily confirmed her as a twig on Bart Quinn’s family tree.

Sara stepped forward. “If that’s okay,” she added quietly.

This girl’s entrance had been embellished by her friend. Sara seemed more reserved and sensitive. A classic dark-eyed beauty who’d mature into a stunning woman one day.

“Sara, my girl,” began Bart, “would you condemn me to a quiet house when we could be playing a hot game of…of”—Quinn glanced at Becca then back at the child—“Candy Land instead?”

A frown lined Sara’s brow. “Candy Land?” she asked, her voice laced with incredulity. “That’s for babies. Poker is more fun. Isn’t your penny jar still full?”

Quinn looked at the ceiling, then at the girls. “Ach. What will Ms. Rebecca think of us now? You’ve gotten us in trouble, you have.” He looked at Becca. Two other pairs of eyes followed suit. “Better a round of cards than leaving them to their little computer machines all night. Agree or not?”

Oh, she agreed. These children couldn’t appreciate their good luck. A loving grandfather, probably good parents, too. Even the quieter one knew she was welcome here in the middle of a business day. Secure, confident children. They’d have no idea how other kids lived. Kids who hoarded a penny. Kids with no dads or granddads. Kids with a mom who worked all the time. Kids like Becca.

She couldn’t have found better entertainment than Bart Quinn and the girls if she’d paid for a ticket of admission. But she hadn’t come to be entertained. She tapped her watch. “Your granddaughters are delightful,” she said. “But time is flying.” Bracing her hands on the arms of the chair, she stood, took a moment to find her balance, and reached for her cane. “I’m ready when you are.”

“I’ve been ready since the day I was born,” said Quinn. Turning toward the little blonde, he said, “Katie, love, tell your mom I’m away to…”

A pretty blonde woman, definitely Katie’s mom and definitely pregnant, walked into the room at a good clip, a leather tote bag on her arm.

“Wherever it is,” she said, “you’ll have to take the girls. I’m showing the Bascomb property on the bay, and then I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, which I must keep or feel Jason’s wrath.”

“If you don’t mind,” said Becca, “I’ll be waiting in my car—right out front.” She’d have considered another Realtor at this point if her curiosity about Sea View House hadn’t been piqued. Not to mention that low, low rent. And if she’d known another Realtor. The kids were cute, but really, was this any way to run a business?

As if she read her thoughts, the other woman smiled and extended her hand. “Hi there. I’m Lila Parker, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer around here. Where’s my granddad taking you today?”

Becca shook her hand, glad to see no sign of pity or sympathy. “He calls it Sea View House.”

Lila’s brows hit her hairline, her eyes widened to saucer size, but a small grin started to emerge, too. “Perfect. It’s a special place.” She cocked her head toward Bart. “He’s in charge of that property, never tells me about possible residents. It’s all hush-hush until it’s done.”

Becca didn’t care about mysteries, but walking was easier than standing, and she stepped toward the door. “I’ll let you know how special it is…if I ever get there.”

“I hear ya.” Bart and the girls followed her. Once outside, the man installed the kids into the backseat of his decade-old Lincoln Town Car and opened the front passenger door for Becca.

“Honestly, Mr. Quinn, it’s easier for me to drive. That is, to get into the car on the driver’s side. My right leg’s fine.”

“Then I’ll keep you in my mirror. We’ll take it slow so you can look around as we travel.”

Becca opened her door and threw her purse inside. She’d left the seat in the far back position she’d used to exit the car. Now she’d have enough room to manipulate her prosthetic left leg while getting in. She sat down facing the street, then turned and shifted her weight toward the front, her right leg going inside. She guided the left. The sequence made sense. Her physical therapy was paying off, and she’d be continuing it in Boston and at the medical clinic in Pilgrim Cove. If this house worked out. Or if Quinn had something else.

With a little luck, forethought, and care, she’d become the woman she once was. She’d become whole again. Or almost. Whole enough for a marathon? Whew. If only… She chased the thought away. More important on the survival scale was a job. As a respiratory therapist at Mass General, she’d needed strong legs to run around the halls, treating patients on every floor. She’d been building a career at the prestigious hospital, with two promotions behind her and supervisory responsibilities on her plate, too.

Now her small savings would trickle away in no time. There was a tiny chance, of course, that she’d receive some money from that charity fund set up after the marathon. But how much could that be? A few dollars? Even a few thousand wouldn’t make a real difference in the long run. She’d have to rely only on herself. Her finances were tighter than a balloon’s knot. A reality that tied her stomach into a dozen knots.

As promised, Quinn drove slowly, providing her with that opportunity to look around. From the man’s office on Main Street, she passed a bank, a barber shop, and the nautically designed Diner on the Dunes. She spotted Parker Plumbing and Hardware. The name seemed familiar. That Lila woman? Then she saw the beautiful greyhound—on a leash. She glanced up. At the other end of the leash stood a tall, built, nice-looking guy. Behind the pair was a pet store with a big sign in the window. Adoption Day. Whew! A greyhound. Talk about running…

She followed Bart left onto Outlook Drive and made another left onto Beach Street. He tooted his horn, pointed out the window, and eased into a driveway. Becca slowed down, scanned the street, and took her time before pulling in behind him.

She hadn’t known what to expect, but Sea View House was bigger than anything she’d imagined or could care for. Salt-box style. Weathered wood. A large sloping roof. Two stories with a third window above…maybe an attic. A white wooden fence surrounded the front yard on Beach Street.

Disappointment flooded her. What was the man thinking? She could never take care of a house like that. She hoped Quinn had another property to show her. Something small and easy. She rolled down her window and remained inside the car. With her first breath, she tasted the flavor of ocean and sea grass. She inhaled again, more deeply this time. No mistaking that definitive aroma existing only at the shore.

She looked again at the big house. A house right on the beach. Not that she’d swim… How could she? But she’d hear the waves. She’d see them, too. And that view…the pleasure of that view…that elusive horizon where ocean meets sky. Tempting. Oh, so tempting. So different from the confines of a hospital rehab wing, where she’d spent the last five weeks working to recover.

“Needing some assistance after all, lassie?” Quinn was at her car door.

“What else do you have to show me?”

And with that question, she’d reduced Bart Quinn to silence.

#

So what if she’d jumped to conclusions? The house was divided into two apartments, as Quinn had mentioned in his story of the professor. The Realtor had the first floor in mind for Becca. While Sara and Katie scurried ahead, Becca walked more slowly down the paved driveway to the back of the house. And came to an abrupt halt when she saw the ocean. The mighty Atlantic would be her closest neighbor. Not a rabbit hole, this time. Paradise.

She noted the spacious covered porch leading to a big, grassy backyard. The yard ran to a low cement wall placed at the sand line. Inserted into the wall were tall boards. Something she’d never seen before.

“We’ll remove those, of course,” said Bart, “now that summer’s here. But they’re handy protection for the house when winter winds blow the sand around.”

“Makes sense,” said Becca. “Not that I have any experience living at the beach.”

“Then you’re in for a treat this season. You’ll come to love our peninsula with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other. There’s always a breeze here. Know what I call this place?” His eyes gleamed, and he gestured widely to incorporate his world. “I call it our finger in the ocean.”

He made life in Pilgrim Cove sound like a fairy tale, but Becca held back. Despite an easy ferry commute north to Boston, this paradise posed other challenges. Walking on soft sand was just the beginning. But…with the shady back porch, she could simply step outdoors and feast her eyes on the entire breathtaking scene. The ever-changing sky. The moody ocean. And the busy beach. No more living cooped up in a city apartment three stories above the street. The place she shared with Josie had no elevator, and remaining there was not an option. Compromise. Life was now about compromise.

“We’ll have the porch furniture out here in a jiffy,” said Bart as he unlocked the door. “And anything else that needs to be done.”

Wide-planked oak floors ran throughout the house, chintz-covered couches and chairs, and in the kitchen, ample counter space. Three bedrooms. Three! Well, Josie and her boyfriend could visit—an easy enough trip from Boston. She hoped her mom would visit, too, maybe stay for a week or more, but she didn’t count on it. Angela had missed work after the marathon. She lived in the western part of the state near the Berkshires and had stayed in Becca’s apartment while Becca was in the hospital. She probably had no vacation days left and for sure would never sacrifice a day’s pay.

Becca shrugged. She was on her own in Pilgrim Cove. Deal with it.

“We’ll install the grab bars in the shower and anything else you think you’d need. Maybe a tall stool at the counter here? Easier to sit and stand again.” Quinn paced the kitchen, looking for possibilities. “Would that suit?”

Suit? Becca’s heartbeat quickened as she looked around. Outside, she’d have the sun, sea, porch, and a steady breeze. But inside this weathered ship, she’d be surrounded by sturdy walls, a cozy fireplace, and wide halls—with elbow room. No problem using a cane or wheelchair. Sea View House. An island of safety. And privacy. She’d get stronger here and return to normal. Oh, yeah. It would suit.

“How much, Mr. Quinn?”

He jumped back as if she’d slapped him. “How much, lassie? Why there’s no charge for Sea View House. Not for you. This beauty is let on a sliding scale, part of the William Adams Foundation, who was shirttail cousin to John Adams, himself, and wasn’t he the second president of the United States?”

The man spoke faster than she could hear, but she got the part about “no charge.” She didn’t buy it. Everything in life had a price. “Would you repeat that more slowly—about the rent?”

“No rent for you. The sliding scale, you see. By unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, of which I’m president.”

Unbelievable. “Just to be clear, Mr. Quinn. Are you saying that this beautiful house—at least the first floor—is rent-free for the entire summer?”

“The first floor is called the Captain’s Quarters, and that’s exactly what I said, Ms. Rebecca. Rent-free. The question is, what do you say?”

“I say, where do I sign?”

Quinn laughed his big laugh. “Not to worry. I’ll bring the papers around after you move in. I’ll also bring the Sea View House journal, where you’ll write your story.”

Ahh. She knew there had to be a catch. “I’m no writer. Besides, the bombing’s been in all the newspapers.”

“Grammar doesn’t count, girl! But stories do. It’s a record, you see, about finding the magic again. You’ll be able to catch up on all the folks who’ve stayed here before you. Like that professor you mentioned from Harvard who lived upstairs. Some other folks who’ve stayed here live in town now. In Pilgrim Cove. You’ll probably meet them soon.”

Not interested. Becca stared into the man’s eyes, her gaze demanding his undivided attention. “Let’s be perfectly clear, Mr. Quinn. My goal is to work hard and get strong enough to support myself later on—when I figure out how. I’ll write something for you, but I’m not here to make friends or socialize. I had plenty of company in town after…after the explosions. Lots of attention and therapy. Sometimes too much. They were wonderful. Terrific people. But sometimes the hospital and the rehab center seemed like a madhouse to me. Now I need to be independent. On my own. Do you understand?” She wouldn’t put it past him to send a few neighbors over just to stir things up.

“We’ll do all we can to help you,” said Bart. “Modifications and all. You’ll be able to move in tomorrow.”

Logistically perfect, but she sighed. He hadn’t acknowledged a word about her wanting to be left alone.

#

Friday night and child-free. Adam Fielding, DVM, locked the door to his veterinary clinic, his newest retired greyhound at his side, and wondered what to do with his unexpected leisure time. Evening was a killer. The loneliest time of the day, the time when memories of Eileen were the strongest. Her laughter…that dimple tucked beside her sweet mouth… He’d loved pressing kisses against it. He missed cuddling on the couch, playing with her dark, curly hair, wrapping the strands around his fingers. Sara had inherited that feature. He missed Eileen’s intelligence—her fast quips and thoughtful suggestions, a strong support for a debt-ridden young veterinarian just starting out. He yearned for his loving wife, his perfect wife. The perfect woman for him. He spoke to the grey.

“Neptune Park’s probably opened for the season, but I’ll save the carousel and Ferris wheel for Sara.”

Ginger whined in agreement. Adam leaned over and scratched behind her small, folded-back ears. “Of course, Katie will come along.” The intelligent dog, parti-colored with a white background and fawn patches, tilted her head, listening to Adam’s every word. After a month with him and Sara, the dog had adapted well to being a house pet and was ready to adopt out. But Sara had other ideas for the pretty canine.

“No, Daddy. Not this one. She’s special. I love her. Please…”

His daughter didn’t have to beg. He’d give her the moon if she asked for it. As for the greyhounds…they were all special, at least to him. Each one faced a huge adjustment after living in a kennel since birth and after a life at the track. As he’d done with others, Adam had taken Ginger home from the rescue center in Boston, helped her to adjust to family living—house, car, kids, stairs, bed—until she’d be ready for a permanent family.

He shrugged. So now they’d have another personal pet. No problem. Dogs and cats got along, and the mighty Butterscotch ruled his roost with confidence. Sara’s devotion to Ginger was odd, though. His daughter normally used her energy and wits finding good homes for abandoned pets. She knew they couldn’t keep every rescue brought into the clinic. It seemed, however, Sara and Ginger had an understanding. They were a twosome. From his observation, Sara’s love for the grey was being returned twice over.

Love. Easier between a dad and daughter or between a child and a puppy than between a man and a woman. He’d tried romance again after Eileen, a sensible relationship with Katie’s mom. But they’d called off the engagement after Jason Parker returned to Pilgrim Cove. With one glance at Jason’s love-stricken expression when he’d looked at Lila, Adam had recognized his own yearning for Eileen. He’d bowed out. Gracefully, too. And never looked back.

But their daughters remained inseparable—sisters of the heart. And now Jason and Lila were expecting a sibling for Katie. He wished them well. Sometimes, everything worked out, especially when no one harbored any grudges.

He meandered next door to the house he shared with his daughter and her changing menagerie. His stomach rumbled when he went inside, but he had no appetite for cooking or being alone. The Friday night Happy Hour and dinner at the Wayside Inn would suit. He’d probably run into a few friends or neighbors and have a congenial time. A perfect evening.

No more romantic involvements for him. He’d focus his energies on being the best dad a little girl could have. Between caring for Sara, running his animal hospital, and planning the addition of a greyhound rescue and fostering center, he’d hardly be lonely or bored.

The rescue expansion excited him. The start-up funding came from his own savings and a bit from the Boston Greyhound Foundation, where he volunteered his services. He was waiting for word about other funding, a big chunk, from a state-sponsored animal foundation. Life was good. Good enough, anyway.

After a quick shower, he slapped on some cologne, grabbed a clean jersey and jeans, and headed out.

#

Thirty minutes later, Adam stood at the bar, nursing a longneck with Rachel and Jack Levine. The couple had married recently and decided to live in Pilgrim Cove, Rachel’s hometown.

“I didn’t realize the Inn would be this crowded,” said Rachel. “We were trying to avoid the hordes at the Lobster Pot tonight.”

The Wayside Inn boasted a restaurant, bar, dance floor, spacious lobby, and guest rooms while somehow retaining the picturesque New England flavor at the same time.

“The summer season’s the money season,” Adam said.

“On a holiday weekend, every place is crowded,” said Jack. “We should’ve stayed home.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t,” said Adam. “My daughter’s with Katie, so I’m on my own.”

“Maybe not for long.” Rachel grinned and inclined her head toward two attractive brunettes several seats down the bar. “New in town. No gold bands. Let’s welcome them to Pilgrim Cove.” She shifted from her stool, starting to match action to her words.

“Whoa, Nelly! You’re not the welcoming committee.” Jack wrapped his arm around his wife, stopping her descent, and Adam breathed a sigh of relief. The man had his back, whether he realized it or not. Adam had no desire for small talk with strangers.

“Why not?” protested Rachel. “We’re in Pilgrim Cove, not Manhattan. It’s the start of summer, and everyone’s on vacation and in a good mood. In another month, I will be, too.”

“Some of us,” drawled Jack, “work twelve months a year. Like Adam and me.”

While the couple bantered, Adam glanced at the two women, who were now following a hostess toward a table. His brow narrowed. Something was off, and he continued to track their progress.

“The prettier one’s got trouble. Big trouble,” he muttered just as the woman turned toward him, head on an angle. She met his gaze, and her chin rose. Her brown eyes turned the shade of bitter cocoa, and as swiftly as she’d engaged him, she showed him her back.

Adam burned. Whether from embarrassment or anger, he couldn’t discern. He couldn’t think! The woman’s eyes were as dark as Eileen’s, her hair as chestnut brown and wavy as Sara’s…. He needed air.

#

“The last thing I expect or need is to be hit on. Did you see that guy?” Becca leaned across the table toward her cousin. “But I think I scared him off.”

“Sure, I saw him,” said Josie. “Hard to miss Tall, Hazel, and Handsome. Easy on the eyes. But he was all about you, cuz. That is so cool!”

Meeting a nice guy in a bar might have been cool in the old days—not that this guy seemed “nice” at all. He’d studied her like a specimen on a Petri dish, and she wouldn’t put up with that. If she ran into him again, she’d say so. But more important was the big picture. Today began her new tomorrow. The old days were gone.

“I don’t need anyone in my life, Josie. I’m not in the market for pity or being second best. I’d rather be alone.”

“Oh, please.” Josie waved away her protestations as if slapping a gnat.

“You’re only second best in your own mind. That guy was looking and looking hard.”

“Until he saw me walk.”

“You’re imagining things.”

But she hadn’t imagined that. He’d stared at her so hard she’d felt the burn. And then she’d met his gaze and given as good as she’d gotten. She’d be willing to bet her bottom dollar—which was about all she had—that the only looks she’d receive from now on were those of curiosity and pity. Her hands clenched into fists. Not for her! She’d deal with those men like she’d dealt with Tall, Hazel, and Handsome tonight. Just return their stares with one of her own.

#

As though Bart Quinn really was King of the Elves, the necessary modifications to her apartment started the very next day. Bart himself was overseeing the changes, the two children at his side. Furniture was moved, nonslip mats were placed under rugs, and grab bars were installed in the walk-in shower along with a plastic chair. Grab bars went on the wall by the tub, too.

These conveniences were essential. She had jotted notes to herself about the adjustments she’d need, but she wondered aloud how Bart Quinn had figured them out.

“Papa Bart knows everything,” said Katie with a hard shake of her head and satisfaction in her voice. “That’s what Grandma always says.”

Bart’s laughter had Becca joining in. “Not quite, lassie. But I like your version better. My daughters would say I just think I know everything.”

“There’s a difference,” said Becca, smiling as she glanced from Katie to her loyal shadow. Sara leaned against “Papa Bart” as though she belonged to him, also. Sensitive. Lonely. Something was going on inside the sweet girl. Becca looked away. Not her business.

“Bart’s friends are amazing, too,” Josie said as they watched the house fix-it operation progress. “All sharper than their age.”

“I agree,” said Becca. “The shoemaker had his elves, but we have the ROMEOs. And the name fits them. These Retired Old Men Eating Out have the energy of guys ten years their junior. You’d think they owned the town the way they talk about it.”

Rick O’Brien, retired police chief, had come to assure her that Sea View House had withstood many a hurricane and not to worry. He provided several flashlights and a supply of batteries. The electrician, Ralph Bigelow, had already guaranteed that her air conditioning wouldn’t let her down. She’d thanked him but really wanted a sea breeze! And then came Doc Rosen. Retired or not, the man had eyes that missed nothing. He could be an incredible ally.

“I know everyone at our community hospital,” he’d said, “including the physical therapists in Outpatient. You call me with any question that comes up.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I hope to lead a very quiet life here. No emergencies, please. And I’ll be taking most of my P.T. in Boston at the rehab center. I’m using the ferry service.” She grinned. “Who knew people commuted by ferry? It’ll be fun.” If she didn’t lose her balance when the boat rocked.

“Excellent! But my offer stands. If you need support in any way, you call us. My wife…my wife is a breast cancer survivor. We know about long-term treatment, timely treatment. We know personally how important it is to have people in your corner.”

She struggled to find words. She’d never known men like these. They didn’t know her but for two days, so why would they care so much? Her own dad…she’d barely known him. He’d died much too young, when she was only five years old. So what did she really know about dads and granddads? Not much.

Time to discover if these guys meant what they said. She walked through the center hall toward the bedrooms. “My first decision is about exercising. Dr. Rosen, which room would you choose as the best place for doing home therapy?”

“How wide is your mat and how wide are these beds?” asked the doctor. “The mat needs to be centered, not sticking out over the sides.” He peered into the first guest room.

“More company’s coming!” Josie’s voice rang through the house, a voice tinged with excitement.

“Knock, knock.” Another voice. This time mellow, deep, and definitely male.

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