His daughter needs her mother. And Gavin Gray will do anything for Tory--even reunite with the woman who abandoned them. That's the only reason they've moved to Squam Lake, his ex-wife's last known address. Now it's a waiting game.
That game has suddenly gotten more complicated. Because of Allison Bennett, the next-door neighbor he never expected to fall in love with. Just as their future looks promising, his ex-wife returns with a past that haunts them all.
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from The Dad Next Door by Elias Dafoe
The empty seats in his station wagon haunted Gavin Gray as he drove up to the biggest house on the crescent. He stopped the car and gazed through the windshield at the classic Cape Cod colonial. The house looked a little tired. Welcome to the club. But it had good bones. Cindy Buchanan, his real-estate agent, beckoned to him from the door.
"You have to see this one. It's a real family home."
Cindy was a friendly, plump woman in her midfifties. She'd been showing Gavin houses all day, her patience never wavering. He was sure she'd have felt terrible if she knew how much pain her cheerful words had just brought him.
A family home.
He turned around to face what was left of his family--one little girl strapped into a booster chair in the middle of the backseat. "Tory? Want to see another house?"
Predictably, his daughter offered no opinion, but she scrambled out willingly and held his hand as he led her up the sidewalk to the welcoming front porch.
"It has a huge pie-shaped yard. And it's the only house on this road that backs onto the lake." Seeing his concerned frown in reaction to her comment, Cindy added quickly, "But there's a fence, so it's perfectly safe."
He walked through the rooms, hardly noticing the details. But then he stopped cold at the sight of the view from the kitchen windows. It was fabulous.
On Golden Pond had been filmed at Squam Lake and the town had never forgotten its moment of cinematic glory. Gavin had seen signs on the main road guiding tourists to the actual sites used in the movie.
"The house does need a little work." Cindy ran a hand over a crack in the kitchen wall. "It's changed owners several times in the past few years. You should have seen it when Old Man McLaughlin was still alive."
He couldn't have heard that correctly. "Did you say McLaughlin?"
"That's right. It was just Adele and her daughter living here in the end. And when Marianne left home..."
He felt as if he'd been submerged in ice water. He couldn't breathe. Was his heart still beating? "Marianne McLaughlin used to live here?"
"Yes. Do you know her?"
How many times had he asked himself that question? The ultimate answer being that he couldn't have. But he wasn't about to share that insight with Cindy Buchanan.
He looked around with sharpened interest, trying to picture the beautiful, remote woman in this place. "I used to, but I haven't seen her in about six years."
His breathing returned to normal as he contemplated the significance of what he'd just learned. Could it possibly be this easy? "Do you know where Marianne's living now?"
"Afraid not. She came back once, to bury her mother in the family plot. I haven't heard anything about her since then. But maybe someone in town has. How did you say you know her?"
He hadn't. And he wouldn't. "We were friends."
"Quite the beautiful girl."
True enough. Where looks were concerned, Marianne could not be beat.
Tory came round the corner then, moving so quietly that Cindy didn't even notice her. His daughter had been wandering upstairs, checking out the bedrooms, but Gavin knew that if he asked her whether she liked what she'd seen, Tory wouldn't have anything to say. Even when Samantha was alive she'd been reluctant to express an opinion, relying on her twin to do it for her.
He decided to try anyway. "So, what do you think?"
Cindy turned in time to see Tory shrug. The real-estate agent's thin eyebrows rose in surprise. "Speaking of the devil, your daughter looks remarkably like..."
"I think I've seen enough." He wasn't interested in taking the conversation in that direction. Besides, he really had seen enough. The house was in need of work, but it was on a quiet street and the link to Marianne was a coincidence that couldn't be ignored.
"I'd like to make an offer."
Cindy Buchanan looked surprised but pleased.
ON ALLISON BENNETT'S thirtieth birthday she found a special delivery package on her front porch. It wasn't a birthday gift, though. The return address was from Abby's Print Shop in North Conway.
Darn. The wedding invitations. She'd meant to cancel the order, but there'd been a lot of cancellations to take care of in the past two weeks and she'd dropped the ball on this one.
Breaking off an engagement six weeks before the wedding was a pain in the butt.
Since there was no sending them back at this point, she ripped open the box and pulled out one of the printed cards. They were lovely.... Buff card stock, silver print, very elegant. Avoiding a loose board she'd been meaning to fix, Allison sat on the front porch step to take a closer look.
Allison Moore Bennett and Tyler Paul Jenkins cordially request your presence...
She remembered the afternoon that she and Tyler had ordered these. They'd argued over the wording. Tyler had wanted traditional invitations, while she'd been in favor of something more casual. She read through the rest of it.