“Dora’s cottage?” Imogene tried to sit up but slumped back against the chair. “Devlin never mentioned anything about it being Dora’s cottage. Why would he be selling his girlfriend’s house?”
“Well, it has to be. They’re having a squabble about it. Oh, Imogene, you take the cake. You know Dora’s as poor as a church mouse. She can’t buy that place but she loves it. And you, richer than Croesus. Isn’t it just like you to spark another fire?”
“If you hit me with one more colloquialism”—Imogene’s eyes flamed—“I’m . . . I’m going to slap you from here to Sunday!”
Marietta caught her breath, then tilted her head, recognizing what Imogene had said as yet another southern expression. Imogene’s eyes were bright with amusement. Once again, they burst out laughing. Marietta hadn’t laughed so hard since the last time they’d had a good drink together the previous summer.
“I could really get to like you, you old hag,” Imogene said.
“Ditto, you crone.”
They rocked a bit, wiping their eyes, then sat listening to the blessed peace now that Taylor had stopped hammering.
“Marietta, of course I wouldn’t interfere between Devlin and Dora. Do you think I’m that dodgy? But you’re right.” Imogene sounded down in the mouth. “I do seem to be a source of squabbles, as you call them, among the young lovers. Truly, dear friend, I don’t mean to be a bother to you or anyone. And I’m a good loser.” She looked fondly at the cottage. “I’ll stay for the wedding, then say my farewells.”
“Where will you go?”
“I don’t know,” Imogene replied honestly. “Georgiana’s I suppose.”
Marietta suppressed a shudder. She couldn’t imagine a worse fate for anyone.
The hammering commenced again, more vigorous than ever.
Imogene tilted her head to listen. She turned to Marietta and smiled like a Cheshire cat. “You don’t suppose he’s building a mother-in-law suite?”
Across the driveway in the main house, Carson was sitting at her desk wearing thick earphones as she worked, not for music but to mute the sound of Taylor’s incessant hammering. On the computer was the long list she and Blake had compiled of nonprofits and companies with possible jobs for her. Over the past four days Carson had gone out on two in-person interviews and talked on the phone to another two groups that had responded favorably to their query blitz. This morning she’d had a second interview with Charleston Waterkeepers. They’d e-mailed her that they would call before the end of the working day. Blake had been right when he’d told her she’d find the company in sync with all she’d hoped to work on with water quality. The people were smart, informed, aggressive, hardworking, and friendly. This small group believed they could make a difference.
Carson saw rather than heard her phone light up with an incoming call, and she quickly took off the earphones and pressed accept, feeling a churning in her stomach. “Carson Muir.”
“Hi, Carson, it’s Cyrus from Charleston Waterkeepers.”
“Yes, hello, Cyrus. I was expecting your call.”
“I have to say, you’ve really impressed all of us.”
“Thank you. The feeling is mutual.”
“We followed up on your résumé and the recommendations were glowing. There was one from Jason Kowalski. Between you and me, I was wired to get his e-mail. I’m a big fan of his movies. Thought you’d like to know what he wrote. After he sang your praises, he said . . .” Cyrus paused, then read, “?‘I don’t want you to offer Carson a job because I’m hoping to hire her myself. But that said, you should fight for her. She’s worth it.’?”
Carson clutched her phone tighter, stunned by the generous praise.
“You’ve got the credentials. But more than that we all thought you were a great fit. Your enthusiasm, your personal story. We’re a small group. Like a family. And we all agreed you’d be a great addition. I hope you’ll join us.”
Carson sat still as a stone, dazed. “You’re offering me the job?”
Cyrus laughed. “Yes, Carson. We’re offering you the job.”
Carson couldn’t talk to anyone quite yet. Not even Blake. She had to hold this news close, to slowly digest it before she could share it. She slipped out of her dress and into yoga pants and a fleece jacket. The soft fabric felt like a security blanket around her. She tucked her hands into her pockets and walked out the back door to the dock. Dusk was just setting in, lending a lavender cast to sky that was reflected in the water. It was a mystical time, those fleetingly brief moments before day ended and night began.
She sat looking at the racing water below the dock, struggling to find the words she’d need to tell Blake of her decision. To thank him. He’d never lost hope. He’d worked tirelessly by her side, leaving no stone unturned. His faith in her—in the two of them working together—had convinced her they needed to be together. More than she needed any job. She would stay in the lowcountry and marry her lowcountry boy. Her mind was at last in sync with her heart.
From below the dock came the unmistakable sound of air pushing out from a blowhole. Startled, Carson gripped the dock railing and bent over to see Delphine swimming below. There was no question it was her. Even in the lavender light, the sorry scars were visible.
Carson hurried to the lower floating dock. Delphine spotted her and immediately brought her large gray head out from the dark water, revealing her limpid dark eyes. Her mouth was open, revealing rows of pointed teeth. Carson stood at the edge of the dock, close to Delphine, staring down at her. But she didn’t speak. Did not call out her name.
Delphine tilted on her side and swam leisurely alongside the dock, exposing her belly. Carson chuckled to herself, amazed at how bloated Delphine had become. Blake had confirmed that the neonate Carson had been called to on the shore last week was, in fact, not Delphine’s baby, and Carson was thrilled to see that Delphine looked happy and pregnant as ever. She was likely to give birth soon, which was a risky business in the wild. There were sharks, for one thing, and other threats. Carson wished she could be there for the birth, to witness and to support her friend.
But Carson knew there was one way she could help Delphine. As with her decision with Blake, her heart was in sync with her mind. With a final look at Delphine’s beguiling face, Carson turned and, without a word, walked away.