Sweet boy, she thought. She wondered if he tried to call her himself from his own dock, despite insisting otherwise. Yes, of course he did. Maybe once. Naughty boy, she realized with a hidden smile.

“I can’t do it. I promised I wouldn’t and it was a very big promise. If I love Delphine—if you love her—we will let her be wild. We both remember what happened to her when we did call and she came.”

Guilt clouded the boy’s expression as he nodded solemnly.

She heard the heavy footfalls reverberate on the wooden dock and looked up to see Blake walking toward them. Over his jeans Blake wore his navy peacoat. His hands were deep in his pockets, and a day-old scruff of beard lined his jaw. He took her breath away.

“We didn’t call Delphine,” Nate shouted out almost defensively. “We kept our promise!”

“Good decision,” Blake called out as he approached. He came up to her side and delivered a kiss that spoke clearly of his gratitude for her decision. “I’m marrying a good woman, do you know that?”

Nate said, “Of course she knows that. She’s the woman.”

“Right again.” Blake slipped his arm around Carson as naturally as breathing and turned to Nate. “Do you ever see Delphine?”

“Yes, sir.”

“She look good?”

“Yes.”

“I’m glad you think so. Because I have some news. She’s pregnant.”

“What!” Carson felt the news like a bolt of lightning. “Pregnant? How?”

Blake chuckled. “Oh, the usual way.”

Carson slapped his coat. “Silly, I mean how far along is she? How do you know?”

“One look at her and you can tell. She’s wide and full. I’d say she’s due in a month or so. Dolphins give birth every month of the year, but around here a larger number of them give birth in the spring.”

Carson did the calculations in her head. “So she got pregnant last spring?”

“Yes.”

Carson held Blake’s gaze. “Through all that pain and trauma, she kept the baby.”

A shadow of pain flashed in Blake’s eyes. He squeezed her shoulders, and in that moment they shared the grief of their lost baby. Carson had found out she was pregnant the previous summer, and just as she and Blake were becoming used to the idea, she’d had a miscarriage that had ultimately broken the couple up until they realized they couldn’t live without each other. In enduring the unendurable pain and coming out of it together, they’d formed their unbreakable bond.

Carson’s smile trembled. “I’m glad. She’s so strong.”

“Like you.”

His concern touched her, and she smiled weakly to tell him that she was all right. “Blake, I need something to do to connect me with her. Something helpful. What can I do?”

Blake’s eyes sparked as he released her and turned to face her. “That’s what I came out to tell you. I just got a text from Ethan at the South Carolina Aquarium. You remember him?”

“Of course. Your cousin. Married to Toy.”

“Right. He told me that they’re looking for another person for the aquarium’s PR team. They were really impressed by you and he thought you should apply.”

“If they were so impressed, why didn’t they hire me last year?”

“They had specific needs at that time. Now they’re expanding.”

Carson looked at Blake with suspicion. “Did you set this up?”

“No,” he said sincerely. “I wish I had that kind of clout. I put the word out that you were looking for a job and I just got the text. Here, look.” Blake pulled his phone from his pocket and showed her the message.

Carson had spent the previous summer waitressing at a local pub and, after getting fired, searching for a job. Waitress, secretary, temp . . . It was ignominious to be impoverished and living with her grandmother. She would have returned to LA except she couldn’t afford to leave. On the flip side, she was able to mend wounds that had festered for too many years and build bonds with her family. When she was offered the stills photography job, she swore she’d never be stuck in that limbo again. This job could be perfect for her. Her work as a stills photographer was to take the vitally important photographs of film sets or studio shoots that were used to create the press and publicity for feature films. If the shots were good and used well, they could significantly contribute to a film’s box office and international sales success.

“I’ll reach out and set up an appointment today.” She could feel her blood racing with hope.

Nate reached over to tap Blake’s sleeve. “What about me? What can I do to help?”

Blake slid his hands into his pockets and looked at the boy staring up at him, his eyes wide with hope. Carson held her breath. The history of the boy and the dolphin went deep. Carson and Nate both needed to feel the connection in an appropriate way.

Blake studied the boy awhile, deep in thought. Then his long face relaxed and his eyes brightened. “Of course. I should’ve thought of it sooner.”

“What?” Nate said eagerly.

“You’re young so you’ll need a sponsor. Someone to work with you.” He looked meaningfully at Carson.

She immediately understood that this was an adult job, and that if Nate was going to do it, she would have to do it right along with him. Carson nodded in acquiescence.

Blake looked again at Nate. “You and Carson can work together. I’ll hook you up with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. You’ll be the point team along these beaches for any strandings of cetaceans. That means those that wash up ashore. The network will call Carson when they get notification that an animal has washed up on the beach. She has to be the one to go check it out, okay? Nate, you can go with her if you’re not in school. But you can’t touch anything, got it? Your job is just to check it out and report back to us. Then you basically hang around to keep curiosity seekers away until someone from NOAA gets there. It could be a short while or an hour, depending on where the team is. Interested?”

“Yes,” Nate replied with alacrity.

Carson put the brakes on. “When you’re not going to school,” she reminded him. She looked at Blake. “Sure, we’ll do it.” She gestured with her finger. “It’s you and me, Nate.” She crossed her fingers. “Together.”


Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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