Heroes Are My Weakness(147)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips



In addition to working privately with troubled children, she conducted puppet-training seminars for doctors, nurses, teachers, and social workers. She’d never imagined loving her work so much. Her main challenge was balancing it all with the family that meant everything to her and the friends she cherished. Here on the island, she had time to do the things that sometimes slipped past her the rest of the year, like the tenth birthday party she’d thrown for Livia last week when Jaycie and her new family had visited from the mainland.

She turned her face into the sunlight. “It’s so nice just sitting here.”

“You work too hard,” he said, not for the first time.

“I’m not the only one.” It wasn’t entirely surprising that the Diggity Swift books had become so successful. Diggity’s adventures took his young teen readers to the edge of horror without pushing them into the pit. Annie loved that her goofy drawings inspired her husband and pleased his readers.

Charlie came barreling out of the house. Theo rose reluctantly, kissed Annie, grabbed one of the cranberry nut cookies from the container he’d found on the farmhouse doorstep that morning, gazed down at his sleeping daughter, then headed for the beach with his son. Annie drew her heels up onto the chair seat and hugged her knees.

In her old gothic paperbacks, the reader never got to see what happened to the hero and heroine when real life set in and they had to deal with all its messiness: household chores, children squabbling, head colds, and the challenges of dealing with extended family—his, not hers. Elliott had mellowed with age, but Cynthia was as pretentious as ever, and she drove Theo crazy. Annie was more tolerant because Cynthia was an astonishingly good grandmother—much better with children than with adults—and the kids loved her.

As for Annie’s family . . . Niven Garr’s widowed sister Sylvia, along with Niven’s longtime partner Benedict—or Grampa Bendy—as Charlie called him, would be arriving soon for their annual summer visit. At first, Sylvia and Benedict had been suspicious of Annie, but after a DNA test and some awkward early visits, they had become as close as if they’d always been part of each other’s lives.

Tonight, though, it would just be Theo and herself. Tomorrow they’d pack up the kids and drive to the other end of the island. She imagined them waving at the family from Providence who’d rented the schoolhouse cottage for the season, then heading up the badly rutted drive to the top of the cliff and the island’s best view.

The outbuildings of Harp House had been demolished long ago, the swimming pool filled in for safety. Only the vine-covered turret remained of what once had been. She and Theo would lie on a blanket sampling a good bottle of wine while Charlie ran free as only an island kid could. Eventually Theo would pick up their daughter, kiss the top of her head, and carry her to an old spruce stump. He’d crouch down, gather up the beach glass that was still scattered there, and whisper in her ear.

“Let’s build a fairy house.”

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