Hearts Desires

Hearts Desires by Deidre Dalton is Book #6 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Shannon's son Jamie Page begins to understand his lifelong yearnings but fears his family will never accept them. His first love affair with a nefarious character nearly costs his life, but brings to light his hidden desires. Happiness continues to elude the family, as if a dark shadow of evil has settled over the family estate.

From Chapter Nine

July 1997

Larkin City, Maine


BROSE AND BRIDGET CELEBRATED their first year as a couple by sneaking away for a private weekend in Spruce Head, Maine. They chose a charming bed-and-breakfast on Clark Island called the Craignair Inn, where they enjoyed the tranquility of the seaside paradise. They could have just as easily stayed home and taken a room at the Amber Whale to celebrate, but both of them were anxious to get away from the proximity of work, family and friends for a few days.

Their private room was in the Vestry area of the Craignair Inn, which overlooked the ocean and Clark Island. The bed-and-breakfast was built nearly seventy years ago to house quarrymen and stonemasons who worked nearby.

On Sunday morning Brose and Bridget walked hand-in-hand along the causeway that extended across the water to Clark Island. The cobbled granite steps led to an old quarry, which first became a hub of activity in 1870. The hollow was now a saltwater swimming hole, deserted when the couple stopped to have a look. Earlier, they read in Craignair's brochure that granite from Clark Island was used to build Central Park bridges and gate houses, the Brooklyn Battery tunnel, the Standard Oil Building in New York, and the Library of Congress in Washington.

As they walked back toward the bed-and-breakfast, Brose and Bridget were lost in their own thoughts. They were leaving that afternoon to return to Larkin City, and both were a bit melancholy about departing. They had enjoyed their stay on Clark Island immensely, and were already planning a return trip over the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

"If I didn't love Larkin City so much I'd consider living here," Brose said.

Bridget flashed him a smile. "Yes, but what would you do? Clark Island is lovely, but there are no jobs to speak of anymore. However, it's a great place to take a vacation."

He winked at her. "You forget, I don't need to work. I could retire tomorrow and not have to worry about money."

"That's not your style," she countered. "You'd go crazy with nothing to do, and you love the estate too much to leave it."

"All true," he admitted. "I'll probably die sitting upright on the lawnmower when I'm ninety years old." He glanced at her. "What about you?"

"If Dana will have me, I'll still be the menu planner at Harbor View Catering when I'm old and decrepit."

"Oh, she'll have you. I think it's safe to say she finds you indispensable at this point."

"No one is indispensable," Bridget insisted. "I'm grateful for the opportunities Dana has given me, and I don't intend on taking them for granted."

"No regrets about leaving your old job behind, then?"

She shook her head. "Not now, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first. I had no complaints in working for the city. They did well by me, and I made a lot of friends on the crew. It was difficult to walk in last April to give my notice, but the guys made it easy for me. They were actually happy for me, you know? Starting a new job is always scary, but it helped that I had six months as a part-time runner-up."

They reached the sidewalk incline that led to the Craignair Inn. "Are you ready for some lunch?" Brose asked her. "One last meal before we head for home?"

"I'm starving," she admitted. "This time I want to try their spinach salad. They use raspberry vinaigrette, and layer the leaves with cranberries, feta cheese and toasted pecans."

"Are you planning to add it to the HVC menu?"

Her eyes twinkled. "One never knows."

Brose ordered smoked haddock chowder after they sat at a table. As they nibbled on the crab cake appetizers, Brose casually took a ring box from his pants pocket. Bridget froze. She watched him open the box and set it in front of her. She looked to his face and saw his wide smile.

"What's this for?" she asked dumbly.

"To mark our one-year anniversary," he reminded her. "I know you're not one to wear much jewelry, but the ring is simple and very much to your taste."

She stared down at the ring in the box. It was made of white gold, with a small cluster of seven diamonds in the middle. The band was thin, and twined where the diamonds met.

"Oh Brose," she breathed. "It's beautiful." She reached into the box and slipped the band on her right-hand ring finger. "It's simple, and it's gorgeous. Thank you." She leaned across the table and kissed him. She settled back to look at the ring with a smile, but then her face fell. "Oh my God, I didn't get you anything."

"I didn't expect anything," he assured her. "Hell, just coming to Clark Island was enough of a gift for me. Our weekend couldn't be more perfect."

She twirled the slim band on her finger. "What kind of ring is this? I mean, what does it signify?"

He grinned. "Don't worry, it doesn't mean you're enslaved to me forever. It's just a promise ring." He paused to take a spoonful of chowder. "I bought the ring at Azoulay Gems in Larkin. Since David Azoulay is now our illustrious mayor, his daughters Rachel and Deborah run the family jewelry store. They told me a promise ring is a symbol of a promise made between two people, and is given for both romantic and platonic reasons."

She glanced at him. "And what promise are we making today?"

He reached across the table and took her hand. "I know neither one of us is big on flowery phrases," he said quietly, watching her reaction. "We both avoid commitment conversations like the plague. That's okay, I'm comfortable with that. I just want you to know how much you mean to me, Bridget. I'm not interested in having anyone else on my arm, if you know what I mean." He shrugged. "I suppose the promise ring signifies our exclusivity as a couple. Fidelity, monogamy, whatever you want to call it. I've felt that way from the get-go with you, but it took me this long to figure out how to express it properly."

She was touched by his words, knowing how difficult it was for him to talk about his feelings of love. She felt much the same way, happy in their relationship as it was. She feared talk of marriage would spoil their nearly perfect union. She was grateful he hadn't asked her to marry him because she knew she would have turned him down. Maybe someday in the future they would both be ready for marriage and children, but now was not the time.

"I'm perfectly agreeable to monogamy," she replied strongly. "I have no intention of sharing you with anyone else." She held up her hand to display the ring on her finger. "If anyone tries to come between us, I'll flash this in their face and tell them to blow."

He grinned. "Perfect."

JACK SANSOVINO SAID GOODBYE to his old apartment on High Street without regret. He had spent the last seven months making amends to Jamie in the best way he knew how, mainly by playing at humbleness and treating the fruit basket with kid gloves. As a reward, Jamie asked him to become his roommate at the A-frame cottage. He was certain the request came only after Jamie jumped through several hoops for his family and nimbly avoided the true nature of their relationship.

Jamie came to High Street to help Jack pack his belongings, which didn't amount to much.

"It's a good thing you have decent furniture and dishes," Jack teased Jamie. "Otherwise, we'd be screwed."

Jamie laughed. "All the furniture and dishes at the cottage belong to my parents."

"Speaking of you parents, how did you get them to agree to me moving in?" Jack asked, taking the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity.

"I spoke a few white lies," Jamie admitted. "I told them I wanted a roommate plain and simple, to alleviate the boredom and to share with the utilities, and that I thought you'd be the best candidate. They already know you personally, so it really wasn't a big deal to talk them into it."

"What did your father say?"

"He was all for it. Dad has always thought I was a bit of a loner, unable or unwilling to make friends outside of the family. He worried I wasn't socially adept, frankly, not suspecting for a minute that his only son is gay." He paused. "Actually, Dad thinks you're a good influence on me. He says you've drawn me out of my shell."

"What about your mother?" Jack pressed.

"I've never sat down with Mum and told her I'm gay," Jamie replied. "But she knows. My mother is scarily intuitive and she understands me more than anyone else, aside from Angie. She's also very non-judgmental, so I've never feared her reaction to my choice of lifestyle."

Jack stacked boxes near the doorway to the apartment. "So this is as good as it gets," he said with a grin. "Whether you family knows it or not, I'm a bona fide member of the Larkin clan. Albeit, through the back door."

Jamie looked momentarily puzzled by yet another of Jack's skewed euphemisms, but then he smiled in return. "I suppose you're right. Same-sex marriage isn't recognized in Maine, so we could always jet over to Denmark and do the deed."

"Gay marriage is legal in Denmark?" Jack asked in amazement.

Jamie nodded. "Believe it or not, I keep track of the issue. Denmark became the first country to recognize same-sex marriage in 1989, although the unions are technically known as registered partnerships."

"Imagine that. Do you want to move to Denmark?"

"Not this week," Jamie retorted good-naturedly. "We've got to get you moved into the cottage first."

"Yeah, but what about later?" Jack continued. "What if we take a trip to Denmark in the near future? We could get hitched and no one would know once we got back home. We'd be married, but you'd still be saving face with your father and I'd be able to keep my family at bay."

Jamie regarded Jack quietly for a moment, and then spoke: "Are you asking me?"

"Asking you what?"

"Are you asking me to marry you in Denmark?"

Jack hesitated for a brief second. Then he shrugged. "Sure. Why not?" At the same time, he thought to himself: "What does it matter if we tie the knot in Denmark? No one will legally recognize the union stateside, so what's the harm? Then again, being married to a rich fruit might come in handy someday." Aloud, he said: "I love you, Jamie. I'll do whatever makes you happy."

Jamie stared at Jack. "I love you too, but I don't think marriage is in the cards for us at the moment. I'd rather just take one day at a time."

Jack nodded. "Marriage is just a piece of paper, anyway. We don't need it to define how we feel about each other."

Jamie seemed pleased. "I'm glad you see it that way." He gestured to the boxes by the door. "Are we ready to take those down to my truck?"

"More than ready," Jack declared. "Let's get this show on the road."

SHANNON WATCHED JAMIE AND Jack as they hauled boxes into the A-frame cottage. From her position on the widow's walk of the mansion, she had a clear view of their activity. The sun was bright in the sky, and it was a hot summer's day. When it looked as though they were almost finished, she was going to take cold beer and sandwiches to her son and his new roommate.

Jamie was happy, the happiest she had seen him in a long while. In her mind, the jury was still out on Jack Sansovino. She liked him well enough, but was still reserving final judgment on his character. The telephone call she'd received from Tom Cimarelli last year had also given her some pause. Tom was wary of Jack and his motives, so he discreetly had the man's background investigated.

Tom informed Shannon that while Jack lived in New York several years ago, he had a problem with gambling and at one time owed a great deal of money to a group of loan sharks. Apparently the matter was eventually resolved, and seemed to be the only secret blight on Jack's character.

She thanked Tom for the information, but kept their telephone call to herself. It wouldn't do to tell Scott because he would wonder why Tom investigated Jack's background in the first place. Shannon tucked away the revealing tidbits for future reference if need be, but she saw no reason to tell her husband or the rest of the family. It would be akin to violating Jamie's privacy.

"There you are," she heard Scott's voice. "I had a feeling you'd be up here today."

He joined her at the high stone-edge of the widow's walk. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head, following her gaze to the cottage. "How's the move going?"

"Jack really doesn't have much," Shannon replied. "They seem to be hauling a lot of boxes, but very little furniture."

"You'd think with Jack being a professional chef, he'd have more to show for it."

"He's living the bachelor life," she told him, her eyes twinkling. "Don't you remember your single days before you met me?"

He grinned. "My single days are a vague and unpleasant memory, thanks to you."

"I thought you might say that," she replied smugly. She gestured toward the cottage. "It's a good thing the A-frame is furnished, isn't it?"

Scott chuckled. "It will make it easier for Jamie and Jack to live the bachelor life in style."

She paused briefly, looking at her husband. "So you like Jack, then?"

"What's not to like?" Scott responded. "He has a stable career, and he seems to be a decent guy. It's always been difficult for Jamie to make friends with men, although he seems to have a gaggle of female pals. It probably harkens back to when he was bullied in school. Thankfully he had Brose to protect him in those days, but Jamie has needed to expand his social horizons and make friends outside the family for a long time. Jack seems to be a positive influence on him, and I think having him as a roommate will only help Jamie come out of his shell." He winked. "Besides, Jack is Italian. Need I say more?"

"Our children and their Italian friends," Shannon smiled. "First there was Angie and Tom, and now Jamie and his buddy Jack."

"Our kids know quality when they see it," Scott quipped.

"Don't forget you're only half-Italian on your mother's side," she reminded him.

"That's the half that counts," he insisted.

She kissed him. "I'm going down to the cottage with beer and sandwiches for the boys. Do you want to come along?"

He arched one eyebrow. "What kind of sandwiches?"

"I used one of Claude Mondoux's old recipes," she confessed. "Ham sandwiches on Irish soda bread with mustard."

"You can count me in," he said with delight, grabbing her hand. "Come on, kitten. Let's go take lunch to our son and his new roomie."



HEARTS DESIRES ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

"Hearts Desires" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Hearts Desires" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.