Chapter Eleven

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Gwen stood at the end of the bed and watched the sleeping boy. With his eyes closed, he was the spitting image of Nolan. She had come to love him as she did her own grandchildren. Though she hated to wake him, she knew the payoff would be well-worth his protest. A tiny foot peeked out from beneath the linens and she gave it a gentle tickle.

"Joss..." She spoke his name softly. "It's morning. Time to wake up."

The small foot made a hasty retreat beneath the covers and he turned away from her. She continued to poke and shake, and he continued to protest with an assortment of noises, clearly expressing his displeasure. She knew she'd have to try a different approach.

"Okay, I'll leave you alone. I guess you'll just have to find out about your surprise later." She turned and made her way back to the door of his room.

"What surprise?" He sat up, rubbing his eyes.

"Nevermind. I know you're tired and not ready to get up. Forget I even mentioned it." She bit back a grin.

"Tell me!" He squealed with a smile.

"No, no, you'd rather sleep the day away. It's fine."

"Please, Gwen?!" He begged.

"If you really want to know, throw on your swim trunks and meet me downstairs." She closed the door behind her, suppressing a giggle.

Nolan was waiting in the kitchen, apron around his midsection and a large spatula in one hand.

"Morning, Big Guy." He smiled warmly at his son.

"Where's the surprise?"

"Surprise? What surprise?"

"Gwen said there was a surprise." He quickly scanned the area.

"I think Gwen's messing with you, Joss. I am making pancakes though. Maybe that's what she meant."

The boy flopped down on a chair at the breakfast table and sighed heavily. "I thought it was a real surprise."

"Well, I think I saw something that might interest you down on the beach this morning."

"What?" The boy perked up a bit.

"I'm not sure. Maybe you should go check it out."

"By myself?" The boy questioned suspiciously.

"Why not? You're old enough. I mean, you did just have a birthday, didn't you?"

The boy smiled widely and took off like a shot, out past the pool and down the path toward the beach. As soon as his bare feet hit the sand he saw his surprise, sitting on a blanket beneath a large umbrella.

"Marigold!" He yelled with delight as he ran into her waiting arms.

*****

They spent the entire day in the warm sunshine, just the three of them enjoying each other's company. To any passer-by they appeared to be the perfect family. Nolan was attentive to both and Mary Grace seemed to anticipate their every need. At seven o'clock, Joss ran out of gas and crashed on her favorite chaise on the veranda. Mary Grace sat on a chair across from him, watching the waves in the distance. She was contemplating a nice long shower when Nolan appeared, bottle of something in his grasp.

"I called ahead and made reservations for a sunset. Shall we?"

Mary Grace eyed the little boy. She opened her mouth to speak, but he lovingly cut her off.

"He's fine. Gwen's pouring herself a glass and then she'll be right out." Nolan smiled as he covered his son with a beach towel.

They shed their shoes at the end of the path and walked down toward the water. There wasn't a soul in sight. The waves had turned slightly chilly and she shivered when they ran across her feet. The next moment she felt the warmth of his arm around her shoulder. It was the first time all day he'd touched her. After the kiss that had happened the night before, they'd both steered clear of any overtly physical activity. Yet she wondered if that moment had made its way to forefront of his mind as many times as it had hers. It had taken hours for her to fall asleep as she remembered the feel of his lips on hers for the first time in twenty plus years.

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