Home > Blackout After Dark (Gansett Island #21)

Blackout After Dark (Gansett Island #21)
Author: Marie Force

Chapter 1



The invitation had arrived in that day’s mail—a casual housewarming at the new seaside home of Charlie and Sarah Grandchamp. “The gift of your friendship is the only one we need,” the invitation read. Linda McCarthy handed it to her husband, “Big Mac,” over dinner.

“I can’t wait to see the inside of that house,” Big Mac said. “It’s one of my favorites.”

The huge contemporary had one of the best views of the Atlantic on the island. Its six bedrooms and seven bathrooms would allow Sarah and Charlie to have their whole family in residence for a visit, should the opportunity arise. Sarah had told Linda that’d been one of their primary goals in looking for a home of their own—somewhere the entire family could be together.

“I’m looking forward to it as well.” Linda took a sip of the robust red wine her friend Carolina O’Grady had turned her on to during a recent get-together. “And may I add, no one in the entire world deserves happily ever after more than those two do.”

“I agree. Rumor has it he told her to pick any house on the island she wanted, and he’d find a way to get it for her.”

Linda fanned her face. “That’s so romantic. He wants her to have it all.”

“After the nightmare of her marriage to Mark Lawry, she deserves to have it all.”

“Indeed, as does he. And I love that the state is footing the bill for their dream house.”

Charlie had been granted a seven-million-dollar settlement from the state, half a million for each of the fourteen years he’d spent unjustly incarcerated. Their daughter-in-law Stephanie had worked tirelessly for all that time to try to free the stepfather who’d come to her aid and then been charged with the beating her late mother had actually inflicted.

Stephanie’s husband, their son Grant, had written a screenplay based on Charlie and Stephanie’s years’ long odyssey. The movie, called Indefatigable, had been shot in Los Angeles over the winter and would soon be screened for the Gansett Island community. “I can’t wait to see the film. Grant said it came together better than he could’ve dreamed.”

“Has Steph seen it yet?” Big Mac asked.

Linda shook her head. “Apparently, she’s trying to work up the courage to watch it. She says she lived it, and once was more than enough. But she wants to watch the film he worked so hard on, even if he’s told her he’d understand if she never does.”

“That’s a tough one,” Big Mac said. “I wouldn’t want anything to set her back to where she was when we first met her. She had the weight of the world on her shoulders.”

“I don’t think that would happen, but she definitely needs to prepare herself emotionally to watch her story unfold on the screen.”

“That’d be surreal—to see something you lived portrayed on film.”

“I can only imagine.”

“When is the Charlie and Sarah’s party?”

“Saturday night. They waited until Grant and Steph would be back from LA.”

“That’s the day the new lighthouse keepers arrive, a married couple this time.”

“You haven’t said much about them.”

Big Mac was president of the Gansett Island Town Council and had the inside scoop on everything that went on in their tiny corner of the world. He shrugged, fiddled with the stem on his wineglass and seemed sad for some reason.

“Did they send the usual letter to apply for the position?”

“They did.”

“God, I’ll never forget Jenny’s letter.”

Jenny Wilks had applied for the position nearly ten years after losing her fiancé in the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Her letter had been one of the most gut-wrenching things Linda had ever read. Since coming to Gansett, Jenny had become a close friend to the McCarthys and many others on the island. She’d also met and married Alex Martinez, and had a baby they’d named George, after Alex’s late father.

“The new people have an equally gut-wrenching story,” Big Mac said. “Like Jenny’s, almost too much to bear.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“I do, but I haven’t wanted to upset you.”

“That bad, huh?”

Grimacing, he nodded, got up from his seat, went into his office and returned with two pieces of paper he handed to her. And then he refilled both their glasses.

“I’m almost afraid to look.”

“It’s pretty rough. I’m not going to lie.”

Linda took another drink of wine to fortify herself before she began to read.

To the Gansett Island Town Council,

My name is Oliver Watkins. My wife, Dara, and I would like to apply for the lighthouse keeper position on your island, even though we have no experience with lighthouses. Do people with experience actually apply? The opportunity for a change of scenery would be extremely welcome to both of us. Just over a year ago, we lost our three-year-old son, Lewis, in an accident that has haunted us every day since as we both blame ourselves for a tragedy that no one could have prevented. But when these things happen, you find yourself reliving every minute, trying to find the moment when you could’ve changed the outcome.

We named Lewis for my hero, the late Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and Civil Rights leader. I worked as an intern in his office after college and met Dara at a party, when she was a law student at Howard.



Saddened by what she’d read so far, Linda took another sip of wine before diving back into the letter.

We were home on a regular Sunday. Lewis was napping in his room, and so was I, on the sofa while pretending to watch the Ravens game. Dara was on a conference call with work. She’d been crazy busy getting ready for a trial that was due to start in a few weeks. I woke out of a sound sleep when I heard our dog, Maisy, screaming. There’s no other word for the sound she made, and when I realized it was coming from outside, I was up and off the sofa before I was even fully awake. I couldn’t believe that the front door was standing open, but when I realized Lewis had let himself out of the house… My heart stopped. And then I saw why Maisy was screaming. Our baby had been hit by a car, and the driver was hysterical. The neighbors had come out, someone called EMS, but it was too late. We believe Lewis was killed on impact.



“Oh.” Linda dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. “Those poor, poor people.”

“I know. It’s so awful.”

Having to tell Dara what’d happened was the worst moment of my life. I’ll never forget the way she screamed and tried to get to him, but I wouldn’t let her. I didn’t want her to see what I had, things I’ll carry with me forever. The days and weeks that followed that awful day were simply horrible. In the year since we lost Lewis, our entire world has come unraveled. We’ve been unable to work, so we were forced to sell the home we’d once thought we’d own for the rest of our lives. Our marriage has suffered from an inability to share our mutual grief. She doesn’t want to talk about it, and I do. We both blame ourselves. Me for falling asleep and her for working on a day that she feels should’ve been devoted to family. Our guilt and grief have caused a rift between us that we aren’t sure we can overcome.

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