The Twilight

The Twilight by Deidre Dalton is Book #7 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Shannon Larkin and Scott Page are happy in their long marriage, but a tragic loss forces her to delve into the past in order to face some ugly truths about her husband. Devastated, she retreats into her own solitary world. A stranger brings her out of self-imposed exile and shows her the beauty of unconditional love exists after all.

From Chapter Six

November 2002

Larkin City, Maine


THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S COTTAGE was one of Shannon's favorite spots on the Larkin estate. She found solace in the cottage, especially on the long porch overlooking the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The porch was accessible from the footpath as well as the master bedroom in the cottage, and it was here Shannon found herself with the picnic basket.

Leaving the basket on the table, she sat down on one of the chairs and started eating the chicken salad. She poured wine in a paper cup, and then continued to eat as she stared into the ocean.

The air was cool, but the sun was bright and the white sand on the beach was brilliant. The water was blue and clear, crashing on the rocks underneath the lighthouse and on the shore. So many times she and Scott sat on the porch, eating lunch, drinking wine and talking - or not. Sometimes they sat in silence, content in each other's company and happy to be alone together.

Shannon finished the chicken salad and poured herself more wine. She nibbled on a piece of provolone cheese, fighting the urge to have a cigarette. She knew there was a pack hidden in the desk in the cottage, but so far she resisted the temptation. Although she gave up smoking several years ago, she always craved a cigarette after eating.

There were times she thought about moving to the keeper's cottage permanently, but she was hampered by her desire to remain in the room she shared with Scott in the mansion. All of his clothes were still in the closet, his toiletries still on a shelf in their bathroom.

Scott had been reading Notes from Underground by Feodor Dostoyevsky when he died, and Shannon left the slim volume on his bedside table with the bookmark in the same place as he left it. His reading glasses lay atop the book, his thumbprint still visible on one of the lens.

She drained her wine and refilled the paper cup again. Despite her hurt and anger at realizing Scott wasn't the man she thought him to be, she was unable to do away with the little "shrines" she left scattered for him. Part of her still clung to the hope there was a reasonable explanation for the notes and letters from Andrea St. John, and that her lawsuit was nothing more than a money-grubbing scam. She didn't want to admit their happy life together was a lie, but in the next instant her brewing rage made her want to quit mourning him. At the moment, she was able to cope with his loss and apparent duplicity by blocking bits of reality and unpleasantness. She was holding onto her daily processes and common sense by a thin thread.

She was forced from her thoughts by the figure of a man coming down the beach toward her. He was walking from the direction of the Banshee Point dock a quarter mile away. She did not recognize him. She stood from her chair, shading her eyes with her hand as the man drew closer. He was short of stature and stocky, with a head full of thick dark hair. He wore a pair of khaki slacks and a bright windbreaker. She tensed, wondering who the man was and what he was doing on the private beach.

She stepped up to the railing of the porch. The man was now standing in front of her in the sand. "Excuse me," Shannon spoke up, a trifle irritated by the man's trespass. "Did you know this is a privately-owned beach?"

The man appeared abashed. "I'm sorry, Ma'am. I was sailing up the beach a ways, and I came too close to land. My boat is aground, and I'm afraid I haven't a clue where I am or what to do about it. I saw the lighthouse and hoped there might be someone here who could help me out of this mess or lend me a telephone so I can call for assistance."

Shannon stared at the stranger. He spoke with an English accent, looking at her with startling blue eyes. His nose was full and strong, and he had thinly-formed lips with a wide mouth and a slight paunch around the middle. His hair was a dark russet brown, short but thick, with hints of gray. She assumed he was middle-aged, but she wasn't sure.

"Are you a sailing novice?" she asked him.

The man blushed. "Sorry to say, yes I am. My boat is new, and this was my first trip out."

Shannon hid a smile as he continued to talk. "My name is Leonard Gunther. I just moved to Larkin City last month, where I teach at the university."

"I'm Shannon Page," she said politely. "Why don't you come up onto the porch, Leonard? I'll let you use my cell phone to call for help."

He looked relieved. "Thank you, Miss Page. And please call me Lee."

"It's Mrs. Page. And you're welcome."

Lee took the small path to the cottage and soon joined Shannon on the porch. She noticed his skin was beginning to show signs of sunburn, and his blue eyes were red-rimmed and crinkled at the corners.

She reached into the picnic basket and drew out her silver cellular telephone. She handed it to Lee.

He looked sheepish. "I'm sorry to impose, but do you have any idea who I should call for help with this sort of thing?"

She smiled. "Yes, I do. There's a place in town called Nautical Tows that specializes in retrieving beached vessels and the like, much like a car-towing service. You can dial information to get their number."

"Where am I?" Lee asked helplessly. "How do I give them directions?"

"Tell them you're on the beach at Banshee Point," she replied. "They'll find you. Believe it or not, yours is not the first boat to get stuck on this stretch of sand."

Lee began dialing, so Shannon returned to the table and sat down. She sipped her wine absently, half-listening to the stranger and watching the ocean waves.

Lee stared at Shannon as he made his telephone call. She was a beautiful woman, without question, but her beauty was unusual, almost with a savage element. She was obviously reserved, well-spoken and perturbed by his presence on the beach. He glanced down at the table, seeing the remnants of food and wine. He had interrupted her private lunch as well.

Lee returned the cell phone to Shannon. "Nautical Tows is running behind schedule today," he informed her. "They can't come out until six o'clock."

She took the telephone. "That's a shame," she sympathized. "If you'd like, I can get someone to drive you back into town, or you can wait at the house until the towing crew arrives."

Lee was puzzled. "Wait at the house? Isn't this your house?"

She paused as she took another sip of wine. "This is the old lighthouse keeper's cottage. No one really lives here anymore. My house is up on the hill. Would you like to go there now? Perhaps to freshen up?" She gestured to the bottle of wine. "Or would you like a drink?"

Lee laughed. "Yes to all."

She found another paper cup in the picnic basket and poured him some wine. He tasted it slowly at first, and then drank it down. "Very nice. Thank you, Mrs. Page. That was right on the spot."

"Please, call me Shannon," she said as she stood up. She placed her plate and cup into the basket. She glanced at Lee, noticing her was staring at her.

"Can I help you carry the basket?" he asked quickly.

"No thank you, I can manage."

"I appreciate your help," Lee said as they walked off the porch and onto the footpath. "I apologize for interrupting your day, but you surely saved mine."

"No problem," she murmured.

As they made their way along the path, she became curious. "Tell me, what are you teaching at LCU?"

"English," Lee responded. "I also teach an elective course on creative writing. Before coming here, I taught at Oxford, and most recently New York University."

"What brings you to Larkin?"

"I vacationed at The Byre several times with my wife over the last decade," he admitted. "When she died I lost interest in vacations, but I remembered Larkin. It's a remarkable place, quite beautiful. I grew tired of New York and had no desire to return to England, so when a teaching position became available at LCU, I applied for the job."

"I'm sorry to hear about your wife."

"Thank you. May I ask how long you've lived in Larkin? What are the winters like around here?"

Shannon had to laugh at his questions, failing to catch herself. She hadn't laughed in such a long time, and the sound was strange to her ears.

"What's so funny?" Lee asked.

"The irony of your questions," she explained. "I've lived in Larkin my entire life. Winters can be rough, but I love the season. I'm sure you'll manage just fine." She asked another question of her own: "Do you have a house in town?"

"At the moment, I'm renting an apartment at the Ivy Gardens."

"I know the place," she said. "It's one of the nicest apartment buildings in Larkin." Unknown to Lee, Shannon owned Ivy Gardens. Technically, she was his landlord but she wasn't about to tell him that.

"Do you work in town?" he wanted to know.

"No, I work from home."

"Oh? What do you do?"

"Various and sundry," Shannon replied.

At that moment they came to the crest of the footpath, atop Banshee Point. The mansion was now in full view.

"God Almighty," Lee exclaimed. "Is that your house?"

"The estate belongs to my family," Shannon said, enjoying his reaction to the mansion.  It was rare to meet someone in Larkin City who didn't already know about the Larkin family, who didn't recognize them on sight and knew their history, their wealth and their place in Larkin City's social sphere.

"Wait a minute," Lee said. "I've heard a bit of history about this place from my students, and from a waitress working at Bruno's Café. You said your name is Shannon Page. How are you related to the Larkin's?"

"Page is my husband's name. My birth name is Shannon Larkin."

Lee reddened. "I'm sorry to appear so ill-informed. Being new here, I had no idea."

"I'm sure you'll hear more about us the longer you live in Larkin City," she said lightly. "We're favorites with the gossip-mongers. Whatever the case, don't believe everything you hear."



THE TWILIGHT ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

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