Fool for Love

By: Marie Force

The McCarthys of Gansett Island: Book 2





Chapter 1




The phone call Joe Cantrell had waited half his life to receive came in around nine on an otherwise average Tuesday evening. He'd put in a twelve-hour day on the ferries, done four round-trips to the island, and had just sat down to eat when his cell phone rang. Since he'd been in a foul mood all day, tortured by images of Janey in Boston with her fiancé, he'd almost ignored the call. Thank God he grabbed it on the last ring before voicemail picked up.

"Joe."

One word set his heart to racing. He'd know that voice anywhere. "Janey? Why are you calling me when you're visiting David?" He kept his tone light, but just saying the guy's name made Joe sick. He couldn't stand the way David went weeks, sometimes months, without so much as a visit to his fiancée. Sometimes Joe wished he didn't have front-row access to who came and went from the island. Some things he was better off not knowing.

He'd seen her earlier in the day, skipping onto the ferry on her way to surprise her doctor-in-training for their anniversary. Thirteen years together. Lucky thirteen, she'd joked. Joe had found nothing funny about it.

"I need…"

Was she crying? "Janey, honey. What do you need?"

"You."

Joe almost swallowed his tongue. How long had he fantasized about hearing those very words from her? Forever, or so it seemed. "What's wrong?"

"My car broke down on 95, just south of Foxboro."

Why was she south of Boston when she'd gone to visit David for a few days? "Where's David?"

"I'm calling you, Joe. Can you come?" More sniffling. "What was I thinking? It's too far—"

He was already leaving a cloud of dust behind his red pickup as he peeled out of the driveway. "Don't be ridiculous. I'll be there in less than an hour." Under normal circumstances, it would take much longer to reach her, but these were anything but normal circumstances. Something had happened. Something bad. If the bad thing was between her and David, then all of Joe's dreams had finally come true. But hers had been crushed. He had to remember that. No matter what this night might bring, he couldn't forget that she'd been with David for almost as long as Joe had harbored a secret, burning love for his best friend's little sister.

On the way, he tried to keep her talking and his heart from leaping out of his chest. "You want to tell me about it?"

"No."

"You aren't hurt or anything, are you?"

"Not physically."

Oh, man. What the hell happened? Joe was dying to know, but he didn't ask again. He drove as fast as he dared and was stymied half an hour later by traffic in Providence.

"Are you still there?" she asked in a small voice. Janey McCarthy, his Janey, didn't have a small voice.

"I'm here, honey. I'm coming. Hang in there."

More sniffling.

Jesus H. Christ. Why the hell wasn't anything moving? Even knowing it wouldn't do an ounce of good, Joe laid on the horn. That earned him a raised middle finger from the guy in front of him. As his desperation to get to her inched into the red zone, he wished he could call Mac and get his take on things, but until he knew more about what had happened, he didn't think Janey would appreciate him cueing in her older brother that something was wrong.

As if she had read his mind, Janey said, "Don't tell Mac."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Traffic inched along, and Joe was certain his blood pressure had to be approaching stroke level.

Twenty minutes later, he flew across the border into Massachusetts. "Here I come."

"Good."

When he finally reached her location, Joe wanted to die when he saw her sitting in the front seat of her old blue Honda Civic, hunched over the wheel. Janey didn't hunch. She barreled through life with exuberance and optimism that brightened every room she entered.

He had to drive past her to the next exit, where he endured two of the longest red lights of his life before he was able to merge onto the southbound ramp. By the time he came to a stop behind Janey's car, his hands were sweaty, his heart was racing and he realized he had absolutely no idea what to say to her. Women in crisis were hardly his forte. He took a deep breath and got out of the truck.

She didn't seem to know he was there until he opened the door and squatted down.

Turning to him, her ravaged face was like a knife to his heart.

Tears pooled in her pale blue eyes. "Joe."

"What happened, honey?"

"He was… He…"

Joe reached up to caress her soft blonde hair. "Take a deep breath."

She gulped in air as a sob hiccupped through her. "He was with someone else. In our bed. In the bed I helped him buy. The bed he was going to bring with him when he moved home to the island to marry me."

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