Where There's HopeBy: Marianne Rice
A Well Paired Novel
THE DOOR TO THE HAPPY Clam Family Restaurant blew open, bringing in a gust of cold air and a ghost from Hope Windward’s haunted past.
The afternoon sun reflected off the ocean, and the way it shone through the glass in the door as it swung closed nearly blinded her, but not so much that she couldn’t make out his face. He had the same dark hair, only cropped shorter than he used to wear. The same dark eyes stared at her, only aged and harder around the edges. It couldn’t be, though. Justin had been dead. Dead for nearly thirteen years.
Confusion and suspicion swirled in her belly, working its way up her throat, nearly choking her with fright.
No, not him.
Hope almost dropped the glass she was filling and stepped back from behind the bar, shaking her head in disbelief. She couldn’t believe he had the gall to show his face.
“Get the hell out of my restaurant!” She pointed angrily at him. “Now!”
He didn’t move. His tall frame had filled out since the last time she’d seen him—or rather the last time she saw his picture in the paper, handcuffed and leaving the courtroom.
“Hope?” Ty, her best friend for over a decade, came up behind her and rested a supporting hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Tell this asshole to get out of my restaurant,” she growled between gritted teeth. The cold air that came in with him wasn’t doing anything to cool down her temper. If he didn’t leave soon, she worried she would do something to seriously harm her reputation. She couldn’t risk that he would try to stick around, though. He couldn’t come here now and just upend her life, and Delaney was her life. If he came anywhere near her daughter...
“Cam? What’s going on?” Ty asked him.
Hope whipped her head around and glared at her best friend. “Cam? You know him?” Ty stood in front of her, blocking her view of him.
“Yeah. He’s a good guy.”
Hope snorted. “He has you fooled. I don’t want him in my restaurant. Get him out of here. Out of my life.”
“It’s okay,” Cameron Smithfield, the convicted felon, finally said. “I didn’t know she would be working today. I’ll go.”
“I own this place. I work every day.” Which was mostly true. Except Mondays. She shouldn’t have been there because she usually didn’t work Mondays, but Mia had a dentist appointment. Hope had only come in to cover until she came back, which should be any minute now.
Creepy tingles escalated up her spine. She folded her arms across her chest to hide any signs of nerves. How did Cameron know her work schedule, and how the hell did he know Ty? The latter would be easier to ask.
“Do you even know who he is?” she growled at Ty.
“Yeah. Cam’s been working down at CC’s Boatyard for a few months. Best mechanic Dwayne has ever seen, or so he says.”
“Months?” The breakfast burrito she had for lunch hours ago threatened to make its appearance again. She pushed past Ty and rounded the bar to face Cameron, poking him in the chest and pushing him back toward the door. “You’ve been out of jail for months and have been lurking around my home? Does your parole officer know about this?”
“Jail? Parole?” Ty stepped in between them, his wide frame blocking Hope’s view, which was probably a good thing.
If she looked at Cameron’s innocent-looking face one more time, she’d be tempted to punch him in the throat.
She couldn’t see him but heard him let out a loud sigh. “Yeah. I’ll go.”
“Listen, Cam. Hope and the folks in Crystal Cove are good people. If there’s trouble following you, or if you bring trouble into our town, your ass will be mine. Got it?”
Hope took comfort in Ty’s warning words. When she heard the door open, felt the familiar ocean air, and heard the bell signaling his departure, she relaxed her tense shoulders.
Ty turned around and took her hands in his. “You gonna tell me what that was all about?”
Hope pulled away from him and returned to her spot behind the bar. She dumped the half-filled beer in the sink and filled the glass again, sliding it across the counter. “Sorry ‘bout that, Willie. Beer’s on me.”
“No problem, girlie. That new boy bothering you?” Willie was a staple around Crystal Cove. He was a retired lobsterman who made the best fried haddock in town. Hope had been trying to get the recipe out of him for a year, but he kept it close to his heart. At least he only cooked for locals out of his hole in the wall on the other side of the wharf. If the tourists got a hold of his haddock, they’d never eat at the Happy Clam again.