The Legacy of Sunset Cove Book 3

By Melody Carlson

In the summer of 1917, US troops join the allied forces in the Great War. Back in Sunset Cove, Oregon, other battles wage. Anna McDowell continues to fight old fashioned stereotypes as she runs a newspaper committed to truth. Despite opposition, she’s determined to expose ongoing rum-running and prohibition lawlessness.

Chapter 1

May 1917

Anna could tell by Jim’s expression that the news was not good. But it was the end of the day and the end of the week, and tomorrow’s newspaper had already been finished. The clanking of metal told her the press was just starting.

“What is it?” She set her hat on her desk and braced herself for whatever it was her managing editor had to say. Hopefully not another tragedy for the Allied troops battling tyranny in Europe. Not when it already sounded nearly hopeless over there.

Jim glumly shook his head, fingering the strip of paper that must’ve just come over the telegraph. “Well, as you know, the Nivelle Offensive failed.”

“Yes, a huge loss for France and Britain. But that’s not news, Jim.”

“And you know how Robert Nivelle raised Allied hopes, predicting such a brilliant victory.” His tone was sullen. “Pride before the fall.”

Anna was well aware of the recent French and British bloodbath. “I suppose American troops will be needed more than ever now.” She sighed to consider all the young men about to ship overseas. Even their office boy Willy had just signed up.

“Thanks to Nivelle.” Jim frowned. “What a mess.”

“War is a mess. But we covered Nivelle’s story last week.” She reached for her hat again.

“The news is that he’s been replaced by Pétain. But the bigger news is that battlefield statistics have been released.” Jim waved the strip of paper. “An effort to prove that Nivelle was inept and deserved to be removed. The count’s not fully in, but it’s been leaked that France suffered more than a hundred-fifty thousand casualties.”

“One-hundred-fifty thousand soldiers injured?” Anna gasped.

“And as many as thirty thousand dead.”

“Oh, my.” She sank back into her chair. “I can’t even grasp that number. It’s obscene.”

“And that was only the French statistics. The Brits aren’t talking.”

“What about the Germans?” she asked in a flat tone. “What kind of losses do you suppose they suffered?”

“Hard to say. Kaiser Wilhelm isn’t exactly communicating with the US.”

She rolled her eyes. “Who would trust him anyway?”

“Anyway, I thought you should know about this. If you like, I’ll stop the press and run this story.”

She pursed her lips, considering those huge numbers blown up across the front page of Saturday’s paper. As editor in chief, it was her decision. But Sunset Cove was a small town, and lately the war news had been so very grim. “Do you think it’s really necessary for tomorrow’s paper? It’s not that I want to keep our readers in the dark, but those numbers are so disturbing. And, really, it’s just one piece of a much greater picture. I can understand the French wanting this information released—it gives them good reason to can Nivelle. But I think we should save it until our next edition. Maybe more information will be available by then and make for a bigger story.”

“Good point.” Jim looked relieved.

“And then I can do an op-ed on it as well.”

He brightened. “Great. I guess we can call it a day then.”

She stood, putting on her hat. “And the good people of Sunset Cove won’t be slammed with another hard-hitting war headline with their Saturday morning coffee. It’s like a small reprieve.”

“I like how you think, boss.”

She glanced at the clock. “I’m sure you’re relieved not to work late. Especially since I know you’re going to the dance tonight.” Anna’s daughter Katy had already mentioned that Jim was escorting her to the Spring Fling. Even though Anna was aware of Jim’s interest in her daughter, she was still getting used to the idea.

“But I wouldn’t use a silly dance as an excuse to shirk my responsibilities here at the paper.”

“Nor would I.” She walked with him through the newspaper office, which, besides the noisy pressroom, was mostly vacant. “As it turns out, I have plans for tonight as well.”

“The dance?” he asked.

“Perhaps.” She smiled coyly.

“Oh…?” His brows lifted with typical reporter curiosity, but Anna didn’t offer any more information. Jim might have a nose for news, but he didn’t need to know everything about her and her family. Not yet, anyway. It was one thing for Jim to take Katy to a dance, but Anna felt certain her daughter wasn’t taking his attentions too seriously. And that was just fine with Anna.

Because Katy had a bright future ahead. At seventeen, she’d attained her high school diploma and, though not yet eighteen, she was part-owner and head designer of Kathleen’s Dress Shop. As Anna walked home, she felt grateful her daughter was independent and strong-willed. Jim was a good man, but Katy was a modern young woman with a mind of her own.

Before going into the house, Anna paused in front of the tall stone mansion that overlooked the sea. The historic McDowell house had been her home as a child and then, after twenty years of absence, had become her home again. She could hardly believe that nearly a year had passed since she and Katy had left Portland to move back here. Did she regret giving up her job as the first female editor at the Oregonian? Not a bit.

Anna went inside, stopping by Mac’s sitting room like she usually did after work. Even though Mac wasn’t fully recovered from last spring’s stroke and was still coping with a paralyzed arm and clumsy leg, his speech had improved greatly.

“Good afternoon, Anna.” His pale blue eyes lit up. “I just asked Bernice to bring some tea. Care to join me?”

“I’d love to.” Anna removed her hat and jacket, laying them on a side chair.

“Get the paper finished?” he asked with his usual interest.

“In the hands of the pressmen.” She smiled. Poor Mac. It had been hard on him to let her take over his newspaper. For that reason, she tried to include him in the daily goings on…and to ask his advice. So she explained about Nivelle’s dismissal and the French army’s dismaying statistics.

He slowly shook his head. “That’s too bad. But France was right to get rid of Nivelle. Bad for morale.”

“The news only just came. So I decided to hold off on the story until next week. Hopefully, we’ll get more information by then.”

He rubbed his chin with a creased brow. “Well, I suppose that’s a good call.”

“Hello, Anna.” Bernice set down the tea things. “I just made the shortbread this afternoon. And that’s my huckleberry jam.”

“Thank you.” Anna watched Bernice fill a teacup. “Looks delicious.”

“I brought in enough for Katy too. In case she joins you. And since no one’s home for dinner tonight, Mickey and I plan to enjoy a nice quiet evening to ourselves.”

“Not going to the Spring Fling?” Anna teased.

Bernice chuckled as she straightened her apron. “All I want is to put my feet up, and I expect Mickey will be sound asleep before eight.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Mac told her. “If Lucille hadn’t talked me into going, I’d do the same.” Anna winked at Bernice. They both got a kick out of the way Mac and his previously estranged wife got along so congenially these days. Handy since Lucille now lived only two doors down.

“Well, I hope you all have a good time.” Bernice looked at Mac. “And Mickey’ll be along around six to help you into your evening duds.”

After Bernice left, Anna turned to Mac with concern. “Do you think Bernice is working too hard?” she asked quietly. “I know she’s older than you are. Mickey is too. Do you ever wonder if they’re getting too old? Should you consider letting them retire?”

Mac frowned. “I guess I never gave it much thought.”

“It would be different if they were only caring for you. But with Katy and me…and the additional social activities we all enjoy, well, I sometimes worry the workload might be too much for them. But every time I offer to help with housekeeping, Bernice practically throws a fit.”

“Well, she’s always saying she likes to stay busy.” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t be too concerned.”

“Hello in the house,” Katy called out.

“In here,” Anna replied. “Tea and fresh shortbread.”

“Lovely.” Katy entered the room, greeting them with her usual flair. Her shell-pink layered satin skirt rustled as she unpinned her oversized hat, laying it on Anna’s things before she took the chair next to Mac. “I’m famished.”

“Here you go.” Anna handed her a fresh cup of tea.

“What a day.” For the next few minutes, Katy amused them both with the latest comings and goings at Kathleen’s Dress Shop. She always made it sound so exciting and dramatic, but Katy was like that about everything.

“Such an interesting place to work.” Anna sipped her tea. “Far more entertaining than the newspaper office.”

“Hmm?” Mac’s brow creased.

“Well, we certainly get more than our fair share of tittle-tattle.” Katy giggled. “If we wanted, I suppose we could publish our own newspaper.”

“Or at least a gossip column,” Anna teased.

“Speaking of columns.” Mac pointed to Katy. “Did you finish your fashion column for tomorrow’s edition?”

“Of course. I turned it in to Jim days ago.” Katy set her teacup in the saucer and stood. “And now, if you’ll both excuse me, I need to get ready for tonight’s festivities.”

Mac glanced up at his mantle clock. “It takes you more than two hours?”

“Grandmother left the shop at two o’clock so she could take four hours!” Katy glanced at Anna. “And you should come up and try on that new dress I brought home for you, to make sure it fits right. Although I’m fairly certain it’s perfect.”

“Three generations of McDowell women.” Mac smiled with pride. “You’ll all be the belles of the ball.”

“Come on, Mother.” Katy reached for Anna’s hand. “I have something special to show you upstairs.”

Anna excused herself and followed Katy up to her room. “I received a letter from Portland this morning,” Katy said mysteriously.

“From one of your old school friends?”

“From Sarah.” Katy extracted a small white envelope from her soft leather handbag, holding it up like a prize.

“Sarah? Do you mean Sarah Rose?” Anna looked at the letter with interest. She hadn’t heard from their old friend and housekeeper in several years—not since Katy was old enough to be left home unsupervised.

“That’s right.” Katy removed two neatly folded pages.

“I can’t believe it.” Anna peered down at the letter, recognizing the neat penmanship and remembering how Sarah’s mother had been a teacher before they’d moved from Connecticut. “I haven’t seen our Sarah in ages.”

“It’s been nearly seven years,” Katy said. “I remember because I’d just turned eleven when she married Abe. And I was so upset about her leaving us.”

“How is she?”

 “Unfortunately, she’s not doing very well.” Katy handed over the letter. “See for yourself while I run my bath.”

Concerned for her old friend, Anna began to read.

Dear sweet Katy,

Thank you for the birthday package you sent me care of the Portland Hotel. It took two months to reach me because Abe no longer works at the hotel, but a neighbor woman got it to me. The scarf is very beautiful. I think of you whenever I wear it.

Abe left the hotel last winter to work in the shipyard. Not long afterward, he met his fate in a terrible accident. I am now a widow. I wish I had better news to share, but times are hard.

I am happy to hear of your new dress shop, Katy. You were always a good seamstress. I wish I could find a good job like I had at the hotel, but jobs here are scarce as hen’s teeth. Newcomers keep coming. They take our jobs and push us from our homes. I now rent a room from a family, but each month it’s harder to pay my share.

Portland is not the same as when my parents brought me here as a child. There is hardness and hatred all around. Sometimes I wish I could join Abe and my parents and my baby too. But the Good Lord knows best. I can only trust Him. Please give your sweet mother my love. She is a good woman, and you are too.

Warmest regards,

Sarah Rose Lewis

Anna slid the sad little letter back into the envelope and sighed. “Poor dear Sarah Rose. I wonder if there’s some way we could help.”

“I agree, Mother. I read her letter this morning, and my heart’s been aching for her all day long. Think of it—Sarah Rose was part of our family… From as early as I can remember, she took really good care of me and helped us around the house. Right up until she married Abe.”

“I just assumed life would go well for her.” Anna handed back the letter. “And to think she’s lost a baby too.”

“What do you think she means about hardness and hatred everywhere?” Katy set the letter on her bureau.

“I’m afraid it has to do with the color of her skin, Katy. Just a year ago, while working at the Oregonian, I covered some stories regarding the numerous immigrants flocking to Portland. Despite the fact that many colored families had been there for decades, the immigrants started to displace them from jobs and homes and neighborhoods. I was concerned then, and I’m afraid it’s grown worse thanks to the European war. Unfortunately, the immigrants from solely Caucasian countries might be unfamiliar with people of African descent…and perhaps feel superior.” Anna knew this was an understatement.

“I remember being out with Sarah Rose, going to the market or the park…and occasionally someone would treat Sarah Rose like she was inferior.” Katy headed back to the bathroom. “But I just thought they were stupid.”

“Yes, but stupidity…or ignorance…can be dangerous when it evolves into prejudice.”

“Do you think that’s why Abe left the hotel, Mother? Because he was colored and a white immigrant took his job?”

“It’s possible…but we don’t know this.”

“Maybe that’s why Sarah can’t find work now.”

Anna simply nodded, following Katy to the bathroom as she turned off the bathtub tap. “It’s all very sad.”

“And unfair. Sarah is a darling. She’s like family. And that makes me even more certain that I’ve done the right thing.”

“The right thing?” Anna unbuttoned the back of Katy’s dress.

“I sent Sarah a telegram.”

“A telegram?”

“Yes. This afternoon.” Katy turned to face her. “I invited Sarah to come work for me in the dress shop. She is an excellent seamstress, and I’ve needed more help ever since Ellen ran off to get married—which from what I hear isn’t working out so well. Anyway, I offered Sarah a job and a train ticket and a place to live.”

Anna didn’t know what to say, but she suspected her horrified expression said it all. Naturally, Katy had no idea what she’d done by inviting Sarah Rose to come live and work in Sunset Cove. How could she understand? Katy had known Sarah since infancy, and she’d accepted her without the slightest concern over the color of her skin. For that matter, Anna had as well. She loved Sarah Rose and wanted nothing but the best for her. But Anna also knew Oregon’s history, especially in small isolated towns like Sunset Cove. And as much as she loved her home state, she did not love its history when it came to fair treatment of all races.

Chapter 2

“Wasn’t that the right thing to do, Mother?” Katy demanded as she dumped a generous portion of bath salts into the steaming tub. “Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbors? And Sarah is much more than a mere neighbor.” She set the jar down so hard, Anna thought it might break. “Sarah is like family!”

“You don’t understand me, Katy. And I’m afraid you didn’t think this through. Your telegram put Sarah in a very precarious—”

“Sarah was like a second mother to me. She taught me to sew and took care of me while you were at work. And I never mentioned this before, but I was pretty brokenhearted when she left us to marry Abe. Oh, I tried to act happy for her sake, but I felt like I lost part of my family.” Katy peeled off her dress, handing it to Anna with a hopeful smile. “But now we can have her back with us. That is, if Sarah says yes—and I just know she will.”

Anna took in a deep breath. “I sincerely hope she says no.”

“Mother!” Katy glared at her. “How dare you say that about our Sarah Rose? I thought you loved her.”

“I do love her, Katy. That’s exactly why I said that.” Anna carried the dress into Katy’s bedroom, laying it over a chair with a long sigh. How to make Katy see this from all sides? When she returned to the bathroom, Katy was in the tub—and it looked like they were both steaming.

“This probably isn’t the time for a history lesson. But I suspect what I need to explain to you was not taught in your school.”

“Well, I’m not going anywhere. Why don’t you give me a quick lesson?”

Anna knew that Katy was seriously aggravated at her and might argue over every point but decided to take advantage of her captive pupil anyway. She pulled a straight-backed chair next to the tub. “I’m not going to go into all the dark details of Oregon’s history. But take my word for it, when it comes to fair treatment of anyone who is not white, our laws have been very backward and discriminatory. More so than most of country. And, unfortunately, our laws are still backward.”

Anna quickly relayed facts about Oregon’s exclusion laws in regard to other races, explaining how although slavery was illegal before the Civil War, it was also illegal for colored people to live in their state. “A colored person could be severely whipped if they didn’t leave.” Anna cringed. “These were things I read up on while working for the Oregonian,” she explained, “in order to write some pieces for the paper.”

“But that was then, Mother. This is the twentieth century. Times are changing. People are modern. You’re talking about old history.”

“Some of those old laws are still on the books, Katy. And some people would still adhere to them if given the chance. The trouble with history is that it sometimes repeats itself.” Anna explained about how people of color were still discriminated against in Portland. “Not only in housing and jobs but in theaters and restaurants and churches and—”

“But think about it, Mother. I remember going to visit Sarah in the Albina District—you know, after she was married. She and Abe lived in a sweet little house. And they seemed so happy. And Sarah and I took a walk and all their neighbors seemed happy. And they had businesses and several churches nearby. It was all quite nice.”

“And did you notice that everyone living in Albina was colored?”

Katy shrugged, reaching for the soap.

“And you read what Sarah wrote about the newcomers…and hatred.”

“Yes, yes, but I do not see what any of this has to do with Sarah coming to Sunset Cove.” Katy turned to scowl at her mother. “It feels like you don’t want her here. Is it because you’re embarrassed by her race?”

“No. It’s because I’m worried about her. If Sarah comes here, she will be the only colored person in town. And I don’t like to prejudge people here in Sunset Cove, but we’ve known some pretty bad apples this past year. Think about how Clint Collins or Cal Snyder may treat someone like Sarah.”

“But those thugs are long gone, Mother.”

“Don’t be so sure of that.” Anna didn’t want to worry Katy, but at the same time she didn’t want her daughter to go around with a false sense of security. According to Chief Rollins, rum-running was still alive and well along the Oregon coast. Some boats came up from California, and some came down from Canada. “Collins and Snyder may appear to be gone. But there’s still a criminal element in these parts. I don’t care to name names but don’t assume that our town is squeaky clean now.”

“Are you suggesting Sarah would be in danger in Sunset Cove?”

“I don’t know for sure.”

“Because we can protect her.” Katy dredged a washcloth out of the water. “We’d keep her safe. And she sounds so unhappy in Portland. If what you’re saying about immigrants treating colored people so badly is true, how could it be safe for Sarah to remain there?”

“I honestly don’t know the answers, Katy. But at least Sarah would have her community in Portland. She wouldn’t be the only person of color in an all-white town.”

“Then perhaps we should ask Sarah Rose to bring a whole bunch of her friends with her.” Katy threw the washcloth into the tub, causing a splash that made Anna jump.

“That’s an interesting idea.” Anna stood, shaking the water droplets from her skirt. “And, personally, I wouldn’t mind a bit. But based on what I know about Oregon history and Oregon law…it could create some serious problems for Sarah and her friends if they did come.”

“Well, I think it’s high time that Oregon laws and Oregon history change for the better.” Katy reached for a towel. “Women got the vote here, and the power of females at the polls brought prohibition. That was a big change. And I’ll bet women voters will change those stupid old discrimination laws too.”

“I sincerely hope that’s true, Katy. And maybe it’s up to you and the next generation to ensure that it happens. But it may not be easy.” She handed Katy her bathrobe.

“Didn’t you always tell me that most good things don’t come easily?” Katy pulled on her robe, cinching it around her waist.

Anna leaned over to kiss Katy’s flushed cheek. “And that is what I love about you, darling daughter. You can come across as flibbertigibbet clothes-horse, but underneath all that style and fashion, you’re an intelligent woman who’s passionately determined to make this world a better place. Thank you.”

Katy pointed to Anna. “And to make this world a better place, I must insist you go clean yourself up and don your new evening dress. We don’t want our dear Dr. Dan to arrive only to discover you’re not ready.”

Anna checked her watch. “Yes, you’re right. We will continue this conversation later.”

But as she hurried to her room, Anna still felt concerned. What if poor Sarah didn’t understand? What if she accepted Katy’s offer and came to Sunset Cove with high hopes only to learn it was a mistake?

As Anna prepared for the evening, she ran this dilemma round and round through her mind. Finally, she decided that, at the very least, Sarah would enjoy a train ride to the Oregon coast. She would be reunited with her old friends and have a nice holiday. And then Anna would explain the challenges in their small town and offer to send her back to Portland with enough money to help sustain her until she found some sort of work or a gainfully employed husband. Certainly, Anna wished they lived in a different world, more like the one Katy was imagining. But reality could be cold and harsh sometimes. And history did not change itself overnight.

“Well, look at you.” Katy came into Anna’s room, nodding with approval. “The dress is perfect.”

“Are you sure this shade of turquoise isn’t too vivid for a woman my age?” Anna studied her reflection in the mirror.

“Look how it matches your eyes and makes your skin tone glow.” Katy began to brush, curl, and pin Anna’s auburn curls on top of her head. “And I’ve seen women twenty years older than you wearing this same color. But I must say, it looks much better on you.”

Katy fussed a bit more with Anna, but the sound of male voices downstairs reminded them that it was seven. “I hope the buffet dinner is good tonight.” Katy did a final check of her own image, smiling when the layers of soft pink fabric swirled as she swung around. “Because I plan to dance the night away, but I don’t want to perish from hunger. I want to eat first.”

Anna chuckled. “I’ll just warn everyone to make way for you at the buffet table,” she teased. “Step aside, people, Katy McDowell is starving!”

“Mother.” Katy wrinkled her nose. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Katy slowly led the way downstairs. As usual, Anna marveled at her graceful and composed daughter. Where did she get that from? Well, other than her grandmother Lucille. In many ways, they were like two peas in a pod. And yet, they were different too.

“Louise and Mac already left,” Jim informed them. “Meanwhile, my chariot awaits.”

“Why don’t you go on ahead without us?” Daniel sent Jim a tired smile. “I want a chance to speak to Anna for a moment.”

Katy’s brows arched with interest at this, but fortunately she didn’t say anything as Jim helped her with her wrap. “See you later,” she called as Jim escorted her out the front door.

“I’m glad we don’t have to hurry,” Anna told Daniel. “I feel like I’ve been hurrying all day.”

“I was hoping we could talk,” he said solemnly.

“Sure.” She nodded nervously. “Of course.” She pointed him toward the living room, and soon they were seated on the settee. She waited for him to begin. Judging by his expression, whatever it was he had to say was not good. Perhaps he’d been rethinking spending time with her like they’d been doing the past few weeks. Maybe he’d decided to take the chief of staff position in that Boston hospital after all. Whatever it was, she wished he’d get on with it.

“I had a busy day too,” he began slowly. “And a disappointing one.”

“I’m sorry,” she said gently. “May I ask what happened?”

“Do you remember how I told you about the young man I treated earlier this week?”

“Oh, yes. The fellow on the dairy farm. Wasn’t his name Caleb? Katy said he was a classmate and that they took their diploma test together. She said he’s very nice and she planned to pray for his quick recovery. Were you able to save his leg?” She suspected that based on his expression, he wasn’t.

“Caleb is dead.” Daniel leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, dejected.

“Dead?”

“The boy wasn’t even eighteen. His parents are devastated.” Daniel looked down at his hands. “Their only son. He’d gotten his diploma and quit school to help them run the dairy farm. And now he’s gone.”

“Oh, Daniel.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry.”

He glumly shook his head. “I told his parents that Caleb needed to be in a hospital to receive proper care. I explained how serious it was and how the infection had already set in before I was called. But his mother assured me she could clean the wound and re-bandage it daily.”

“Yes, I remember you saying that. And you even sent your nurse to help her with it for the first day.”

“My nurse.” He looked up at her with angry eyes. “I’ve discovered that Norma’s so-called nursing training was a correspondence first aid class. And she never even took a test.”

“Oh.” Anna didn’t want to admit that she’d never liked Norma…didn’t trust her.

“I fired her about an hour ago.”

“Was it her fault Caleb died?”

“No, I must take that responsibility. But I did learn she did a poor job of helping Caleb’s mother. Norma made it seem that the daily cleaning of the wound and applying a new bandage was unnecessary.”

“Oh, dear.”

“You don’t have any medical training, Anna, but I know you’d make a far better nurse than Norma. I remember how you helped me when Jim was hurt.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “But like I said, I can’t blame this all on Norma.”

“And you can’t blame it all on yourself either, Daniel.”

“It’s just so frustrating…and sad.”

“I’m sure it is.” She sighed. “And I can completely understand how you may prefer not to go to the dance tonight.”

“Thank you. I’m not in a celebratory mood.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Not exactly.” He sighed. “Although I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

“Well, Bernice and Mickey have the night off, but I’m sure I can rustle us up some leftovers.” She stood.

“That’d be good. Mind if I join you?”

“Of course not.” Anna led the way, turning on the lights in the kitchen. Then, realizing that Katy would throw a fit if she ruined this pretty dress, she put one of Bernice’s old aprons over it. As she foraged through the icebox, Daniel sat at the worn kitchen table without saying anything. So Anna went into reporter mode and proceeded to gently probe him with some questions. But his answers were brief and flat—and not very revealing.

“How do you feel about beef stew?” Anna decided to change topics. “We had it last night and it was delicious, but it’s even better on the second day.”

His countenance brightened a bit. “My mom used to make a tasty stew. Sounds good to me.”

As she poured the stew into a cast iron pot, Daniel seemed to open up. But as she began to slice the hearty rye bread that Bernice had baked yesterday, it became clear that Daniel was severely questioning himself, having second thoughts about a lot of things. He seemed to be shaken to the core over the young farm boy.

“I can understand how Caleb’s death is very upsetting.” She set out the butter and huckleberry jam. “Especially since it’s so fresh in your mind. But if you give yourself some time to—”

“Time?” His tone grew sharper. “How much time do I give it, Anna? Will time improve the conditions here? Will time improve my practice? Do you know that I will turn forty in a few weeks? Forty! That means my professional career is half over—”

“Maybe the best is yet to come,” she said meekly.

“I don’t think so.” He softened. “I don’t like complaining like this, but it’s as if my life is off track. As if I took the wrong turn at some junction.”

Anna knew his story of losing his wife in childbirth…his discouragement in medicine…and how he’d transplanted his life from the East Coast to the West in an effort to find purpose and a fresh start. “I’ve felt like that before,” she said quietly, turning from the stove to gaze at him. Dismayed to see he appeared even more downhearted than earlier, she didn’t know what to say. He was obviously questioning everything, perhaps even her. And, really, other than a few random kisses, it wasn’t as if they’d made any real commitments…except in her heart, which now ached for him.

“Maybe my father was right. Maybe Sunset Cove really is too remote.”

“You mean this backwater, one-horse town,” she supplied, remembering how the senior Dr. Hollister had disdained their small community.

“I don’t really feel like that, Anna, but perhaps Sunset Cove doesn’t need a doctor like me.”

“You mean we only need a country bumpkin doctor.” She tried to keep the cynicism out of her voice but knew she’d failed.

“I’m not trying to criticize this town. You know how much I love Sunset Cove.” His expression was genuine. “It’s just that my medical training was meant for, well, something more…”

“Something like a large, well-equipped Boston hospital with a professional medical staff and other physicians who—”

“Yes,” he said suddenly. “Maybe that’s where I really belong.”

“But consider the people you’ve helped right here, Daniel. The lives you’ve saved. Think about Mac and his stroke. And how you helped Jim when he was shot.” She began to list others, including the survivors from the recent explosion at Charlie’s Chowder House. “Where would they be without you?”

“It’s true that I was able to help them. But don’t forget that many of those burn victims had to be shipped out for better medical care.” He pounded a fist onto the old pine table. “Because I was unable to properly deal with them in my limited facilities here.” He looked into her eyes. “Am I a fool for trying to establish a practice here, Anna? Especially when I could be chief of staff in one of the premiere hospitals in the country. Perhaps the world. Have I been blind?”

“I…I don’t know.” She smelled something burning and turned back to the stove. “Oh, drat!”

“What’s wrong? Did you burn yourself?” He rushed over to see.

“No. I scorched the stew.” She started to move the heavy pot, but Daniel intervened, doing it for her.

He peeked into the pot. “Well, there’s plenty stew on top that looks just fine. We’ll eat that.” He took the ladle from her and started to fill the bowls she’d set out.

“Do you mind eating in the kitchen, or should I set up the dining room?”

“It’s cozier in here.” He handed her a bowl.

“Yes, I think so too.” She moved the teakettle onto the hot part of the stove to have for later, and before long they were seated across from each other at the old work table. But now she didn’t feel hungry…and didn’t particularly want to talk.

“Shall I ask the blessing?” Daniel said quietly.

“Yes, thanks,” she murmured. But as he prayed, all she could think was that she was losing him. Daniel wanted out of Sunset Cove and there was nothing she could do—or would do—to stop him. And, really, why shouldn’t he return to Boston and take his place as chief of staff? Wasn’t that exactly what his father wanted? What a wonderful opportunity that would be for Daniel to become the very best in his field. Perhaps he would be instrumental in the future of medicine. If she really did love him—and she knew that she did—she wouldn’t stand in his way.

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