“I’m going to repay Granny once I get my trust fund.”

“What difference does it make? I didn’t buy the house. Nor could I. Not in several lifetimes. And you using your trust-fund money”—Harper didn’t miss the emphasis he placed on your—“to repay your grandmother won’t make Sea Breeze feel any more like mine. Like ours.”

“Don’t you like living here?”

“What’s not to like? Except, it feels like I’m living in your house. Because, frankly, it is.”

“I didn’t know that’s how you saw things.” The words slowly dropped into her brain like stones into a deep, empty well. She was silent a moment, then asked in a whisper, “Do you want to move? Is that what you want?”

“Frankly, as long as you’re asking, I have to say I wouldn’t mind it.”

Harper moved her head to look up at him. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Harper, look. It hasn’t been easy moving into this place, knowing it was paid for by you. It’s beyond anything I could afford. Hell, I’m not even paying rent.”

“That’s not true. You’re paying for all the maintenance and household bills. You buy the groceries. It’s an expensive house to maintain.”

“Well, I can afford those ancillary expenses,” he replied flippantly, “especially since I didn’t even have to buy you a ring.” He picked up her left hand and let his thumb run over the large mine-cut diamond on her ring finger. It had been a gift from Mamaw on her engagement, a ring that Harper had always loved. “Some would say your grandmothers have made my life very easy. I’m sure some think it in not the kindest way, either. But they’d be wrong. I feel like a freeloader.”

“Oh,” Harper said, crestfallen. She didn’t know his feelings about all this ran so strong. “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

“I didn’t want you to feel I wasn’t grateful or that I was being small-minded. It’s a great house. I just don’t feel like it’s our house.”

Harper slid down beside him on the bed and laid her head again on his shoulder. She didn’t want him to see the crushing disappointment on her face. “Maybe we should consider selling,” she said in a choked voice.

“Maybe we should.”

Harper swallowed hard, closing her eyes tight. She’d expected him to counter her offer, to tell her, No, of course not. This is our home. Or something along those lines. The thought of selling Sea Breeze, leaving this place she loved, filled her with despair. She moved from his shoulder to her side of the bed, her back to him.

There was no point in trying to deny her true feelings. “I love this house,” she said in a shaky voice. “This is more than just a place to live to me. It’s my touchstone. I have memories here. Family. I spent the past year tending the house and garden with thoughts that it would be our forever home. Where we’d raise this baby, and hopefully others. Where you and I would grow old together.”

For a long time Taylor did not say anything. Then he reached over to turn off his bedside light and settled on his back on his side of the bed.

“Let’s sleep on it,” Taylor said into the darkness. “This is a lot to think about. In the meantime, I’ll talk to Imogene about this whole prenup business.”

“No, I will.”

“No,” Taylor said in a voice that brooked no further discussion. “I will.”

Chapter Eighteen

What being a good parent is about—what being a spouse is about—is no longer thinking only of yourself or your self-interests.

The month of May had arrived as fast as sand through Carson’s fingers. With Dora’s stalwart support and unfailing advice, Carson and Harper had crossed off items on the to-do list one after the other. Carson was beginning to get into the flow of being a bride. She still hadn’t found her dress, but her goodie bags were done, her hairstyle set, and Blake’s ring was in the safe. She was sitting at her bedroom desk going through today’s mail. The RSVPs were beginning to roll in and most were acceptances—even a few she’d thought would be a no. Apparently Charleston was a destination people wanted to visit, on top of wanting to celebrate with the young couple.

Her phone rang. She reached out to grab it, eyes still on her acceptance list. “Hello?”

“Hello, is this Carson Muir?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Hi, Carson, this is Jennifer at the aquarium.”

“Oh!” Carson felt a flutter of excitement. She sat straighter, her attention focused. “Thank you so much for getting back in touch.”

“I’m sorry we kept you waiting. I’m calling you to tell you that after much discussion, we’ve decided to go in a different direction and we won’t be hiring a PR director at this time. You were one of the strongest candidates and we’d like to keep your résumé on file should something else open up. But for now, I’m very sorry that we don’t have a position to offer you.”

Carson listened in a daze as the flow of words floated in one ear and out the other. The only words she fully caught were I’m sorry. After that, nothing else mattered. She didn’t get the job.

After several more moments of platitudes, she and Jennifer bid each other a polite good-bye, and Carson dropped her phone on her bed. A moment later, she, too, fell on the bed and covered her face with her palms. She didn’t have a job. No job. She’d waited for several weeks for them to get back to her, fully expecting to be hired. Precious time that she didn’t have, with no other real prospects on the horizon. What was she going to do now?

Without pausing to think, Carson picked her phone back up and dialed the number she knew by heart.

After she hung up the phone, Carson spent an hour staring despondently at her bedroom ceiling, then rinsed her face with cold water and drove to Blake’s apartment on Sullivan’s Island. He was working on a report at home so she knew he’d be there. His apartment building was once a bachelor officer quarters, built around 1900 when the island had a large military presence. The old white wood building had since been converted to apartments. Typical of a wooden building near the ocean with a brick foundation, the exterior needed some work, but with its long porch and the ocean nearby, Blake was lucky to have his apartment, as these were some of the few for rent on the island.

Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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