A Cedar Cove Christmas
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“Should we confront the Rhodes family first thing?” Mel asked.
“Damn straight. They need to know what he’s done.”
Ned cleared his throat. “Don’t you think we should find Mary Jo first?”
Linc nodded slowly. “Yeah, I suppose we should.”
They rode in silence for several minutes.
“Hey.” Ned leaned forward and thrust his face between the two of them.
“What now?” Linc said, frustrated by the heavy traffic, which was guaranteed to get even worse once they hit Tacoma.
“How did Mary Jo get to Cedar Cove?” Mel asked.
“Good question.” Linc hadn’t stopped to consider her means of transportation. Mary Jo had a driver’s license but didn’t need a vehicle of her own, living in the city as they did. Each of the brothers owned a car and she could borrow any one of them whenever she wanted.
Ned sat back and studied the map again and after a few minutes announced, “Cedar Cove is on the Kitsap Peninsula.”
“So?” Mel muttered sarcastically. The traffic was apparently making him cranky, too.
“So she took the ferry over.”
That explained it. “Which ferry?” Linc asked.
“She probably caught the one from downtown Seattle to Bremerton.”
“Or she might have gotten a ride,” Mel said.
“Who from?” Ned asked.
“She wouldn’t bother a friend on Christmas Eve.” Ned seemed confident of that.
“Why not?” Mel demanded.
“Mary Jo isn’t the type to call someone at the last minute and ask that kind of favor,” Ned told them. “Not even Chloe or Casey—especially on Christmas Eve.”
Linc agreed with his brother.
They drove in silence for another fifteen minutes before anyone spoke.
“Do you think she’s okay?” Ned asked tentatively.
“Sure she is. She’s a Wyse, isn’t she? We’re made of stern stuff.”
“I mean physically,” Ned clarified. “Last night she seemed so…” He didn’t finish the sentence.
“Seemed what?” Linc prompted.
Ned shrugged. “Ready.”
“For what?” Mel asked.
Mel could be obtuse, which was only one of his character flaws, in Linc’s opinion. He was also argumentative.
“To have the baby, of course,” Linc explained, casting his brother a dirty look.
“Hey, there’s no reason to talk to me like that,” Mel said. He shifted his weight and stared out the side window. “I’ve never been around a pregnant woman before. Besides, what makes you such experts on pregnancy and birth?”
“I read a book,” Ned told them.
“No way.” Linc could hardly believe it.
“I did,” Ned insisted. “I figured one of us should. For Mary Jo’s sake.”
“So one book makes you an expert,” Mel teased.
“It makes me smarter than you, anyway.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Mel argued.
“Quit it, you two.” Linc spent half his life settling squabbles between his brothers. “You.” He gestured over his shoulder. “Call her cell.”
Ned did, using his own. “Went right into voice mail,” he said. “Must be off.”
“Leave her a message, then.” Linc wondered if he had to spell everything out for them.
“Okay. Who knows if she’ll get it, though.”
After that they drove in blessed silence for maybe five minutes.
“Hey, I just thought of something.” Mel groaned in frustration. “If Mary Jo took the ferry, shouldn’t we have done the same thing?”
Good point—except it was too late now. They were caught in the notorious Seattle traffic, going nowhere fast.
Mary Jo hated the idea of returning to Seattle having failed in her attempt to find either David or his family. He wasn’t in Cedar Cove the way he’d promised; not only that, his parents weren’t here, either. Ben and Charlotte Rhodes would show up the next afternoon or evening, but in the meantime…
The thought of her brothers approaching the elderly couple, shocking them with the news and their outrageous demands, made the blood rush to her face. Her situation was uncomfortable enough without her brothers riding to the rescue like the superheroes they weren’t.
The fact that Mary Jo had left on Christmas Eve was only going to rile them even more. Linc, Mel and Ned were probably home from the garage by now. Or maybe they’d skipped work when they found her note on the coffeemaker and immediately set out in search of her. Maybe they were already driving up and down the streets of Cedar Cove….
Looking around, Mary Jo could see that the library was about to close. People were putting on coats and checking out their books. She wondered how an hour had disappeared so quickly. Now what? There wasn’t a single vacant room in the entire vicinity, which meant the only thing to do was thank Grace Harding for her help and quietly leave.
She waited until the librarian stepped out of her office. The least she could do was let Grace know how much she appreciated her kindness. As she approached, Mary Jo rose from her chair.
All of a sudden the room started to sway. She’d been dizzy before but never anything like this. Her head swam, and for an instant she seemed about to faint. Blindly Mary Jo reached out, hoping to catch herself before she fell.
“Mary Jo!” Grace gasped and rushed to her side.
If the other woman hadn’t caught her when she did, Mary Jo was convinced she would’ve collapsed right onto the floor.
Slowly, Grace eased her into the chair. “Laurie!” she shouted, “call 9-1-1.”
“Please…no,” Mary Jo protested. “I’m fine. Really, I am.”
“No, you’re not.”
A moment later, the assistant behind the front counter hurried over to join Grace and Mary Jo. “The fire department’s on the way.”
Mortified beyond words, Mary Jo leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Needless to say, she’d become the library’s main attraction, of far greater interest than any of the Christmas displays. Everyone was staring at her.
“Here, drink this,” Grace said.
Mary Jo opened her eyes to find someone holding out a glass of water—again. Her mouth had gone completely dry and she accepted it gratefully. Sirens could be heard roaring toward the library, and Mary Jo would’ve given anything to simply disappear.
A few minutes later, two firefighters entered the library, carrying their emergency medical equipment. Instantly one of the men moved toward her and knelt down.
“Hi, there.” The firefighter’s voice was calm.
“Hi,” Mary Jo returned weakly.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I just got a bit light-headed. I wish you hadn’t been called. I’m perfectly okay.”
He ignored her comment. “You stood up?”
She nodded. “The room began to sway and I thought I was going to faint.”
“I think she did faint,” Grace added, kneeling down next to the firefighter. “I somehow got her back into the chair. Otherwise I’m sure she would’ve crumpled to the floor.”
The firefighter kept his gaze on Mary Jo. He had kind eyes and, despite everything, she noticed that he was attractive in a craggy, very masculine way. He was about her age, she decided, maybe a few years older.
“My name’s Mack McAfee,” he said. “And that guy—” he pointed to the other firefighter“—is Brandon Hutton.”
“I’m Mary Jo Wyse.”
Mack smiled, maintaining eye contact. “When’s your baby due?”
“In about two weeks then.”
“Have you had any other spells like this?”
Mary Jo was reluctant to confess that she had. After a moment she nodded.
She sighed. “Yes…”
“That’s not uncommon, you know. Your body’s under a lot of strain because of the baby. Have you been experiencing any additional stress?”
She bit her lip. “A little.”
“I’m new to town. I guess that’s why I haven’t seen you around,” Mack said. He opened a response kit he’d brought into the library.
“Mary Jo lives in Seattle,” Grace said, now standing behind Mack as the other firefighter hovered close by.
“Do you have relatives in the area?” he asked next.
“No…” She shook her head, figuring she might as well admit the truth. “I was hoping to see the father of my baby…only he isn’t here.”
“No…I understood his family was from Cedar Cove, but apparently they’re out of town, too.”
“Ben and Charlotte Rhodes,” Grace murmured.
Mack twisted around to look up at Grace. “The judge’s mother, right? And her husband. Retired Navy.”
“David Rhodes is the baby’s father,” Mary Jo said.
“We’re not…together anymore.” David had told her one too many lies. She knew intuitively that he’d have no desire to be part of the baby’s life.
Mack didn’t speak as he took out the blood pressure cuff and wrapped it around her upper arm. “How are you feeling now?” he asked.
“You mean other than mortified?”
He grinned up at her. “Other than that.”
“Better,” she said.
“Good.” He took her blood pressure, a look of concentration on his face.
“How high is it?” Grace asked, sounding worried.
“Not bad,” Mack told them both. “It’s slightly elevated.” He turned back to Mary Jo. “It would probably be best if you relaxed for the rest of the day. It wouldn’t hurt to stay off your feet, either. Don’t do anything strenuous.”
“Perhaps she should see a physician?” Grace said. “I’d be happy to take her to the clinic.”
“No, that isn’t necessary!” Mary Jo objected. “I’m so sorry to cause all this fuss. I feel fine.”
Mack met her gaze and seemed to read the distress in her eyes. “As long as you rest and stay calm, I don’t think you need to see a doctor.”
“Thank you,” she breathed.
Although the library was closing, the doors suddenly opened and a tall, regal woman walked in. She was bundled up in a wool coat with a red knit scarf around her neck and a matching knit cap and gloves.
“Olivia,” Grace said. “What are you doing here?”
“Why’s the aid car out front?” the other woman asked. Her gaze immediately rested on Mary Jo. A stricken look came over her. “Are you in labor?”
“No, no, I’m just…a little light-headed,” Mary Jo assured her.
The woman smiled. “I already know who this must be. Mary Jo. Are you all right?”