Family court judge Olivia Lockhart has seen a lot of couples in her courtroom. Most divorce petitions are open-and-shut, but when Olivia meets a young couple whose grief appears to be overshadowing their love, she makes a controversial ruling that gets everyone in her close-knit hometown talking.
Olivia is no stranger to having family and friends weigh in on anything and everything. From her mother, to her best friend, to her daughter, navigating life and love in Cedar Cove has always taken a village. But when new-to-town newspaper editor Jack Griffin takes a personal interest in Olivia’s ruling—and in Olivia herself—she is surprised by just how welcome the attention is. Matters of the heart may be messy, and surprising, and more than a little complicated, but in Cedar Cove, they’re always unforgettable.
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About the Author
Hometown:Port Orchard, Washington
Date of Birth:October 22, 1948
Place of Birth:Yakima, Washington
Education:Graduated from high school in 1966; attended community college
Read an Excerpt
Cecilia Randall had heard of people who, if granted one wish, would choose to live their lives over again. Not her. She'd be perfectly content to blot just one twelve-month period from her twenty-two years.
The past twelve months.
Last January, shortly after New Year's, she'd met Ian Jacob Randall, a Navy man, a submariner. She'd fallen in love with him and done something completely irresponsibleshe'd gotten pregnant. Then she'd complicated the whole situation by marrying him.
That was mistake number three and from there, her errors in judgement had escalated. She hadn't been stupid so much as naïve and in love andworst of allromantic. The Navy, and life, had cured her of that fast enough.
Their baby girl had been born premature while Ian was at sea, and it became immediately apparent that she had a defective heart. By the time Ian returned home, Allison Marie had already been laid to rest. It was Cecilia who'd stood alone in the unrelenting rain of the Pacific Northwest while her baby's tiny casket was lowered into the cold, muddy earth. She'd been forced to make life-and-death decisions without the counsel of family or the comfort of her husband.
Her mother lived on the East coast and, because of a snowstorm, had been unable to fly into Washington State. Her father was as supportive as he knew how to bewhich was damn little. His idea of "being there for her" consisted of giving Cecilia a sympathy card and writing a few lines about how sorry he was for her loss. Cecilia had spent countless days and nights by their daughter's empty crib, alternately weeping and in shock. Other Navy wives had tried to console her, but Cecilia wasn't comfortable with strangers. She'd rejected their help and their friendship. And because she'd been in Cedar Cove for such a short time, she hadn't made any close friends in the community, either. As a result, she'd borne her grief alone.
When Ian did return, he'd blamed Navy procedures for his delay. He'd tried to explain, but by then Cecilia was tired of it all. Only one reality had any meaning: her daughter was dead. Her husband didn't know and couldn't possibly understand what she'd endured in his absence. Since he was on a nuclear submarine, all transmissions during his tour of duty were limited to fifty-word "family grams." Nothing could have been done, anyway; the submarine was below the polar ice cap at the time. She did write to tell him about Allison's birth and then her death. She'd written out her grief in these brief messages, not caring that they'd be closely scrutinized by Navy personnel. But Ian's commanding officer had seen fit to postpone relaying the information until the completion of the ten-week tour. I didn't know, Ian had repeatedly insisted. Surely she couldn't hold him responsible. But she did. Unfair though it might be, Cecilia couldn't forgive him.
Now all she wanted was out. Out of her marriage, out of this emotional morass of guilt and regret, just out. The simplest form of escape was to divorce Ian.
Sitting in the hallway near the courtroom, she felt more determined than ever to terminate her marriage. With one swift strike of a judge's gavel, she could put an end to the nightmare of the past year. Eventually she would forget she'd ever met Ian Randall.
Allan Harris, Cecilia's attorney, entered the foyer outside the Kitsap County courtroom. She watched as he glanced around until he saw her. He raised his hand in a brief greeting, then walked over to where she sat on the hard wooden bench and claimed the empty space beside her.
"Tell me again what's going to happen," she said, needing the assurance that her life would return to at least an approximation of what it had been a year ago.
Allan set his briefcase on his lap. "We wait until the docket is announced. The judge will ask if we're ready, I'll announce that we are, and we'll be given a number."
Cecilia nodded, feeling numb.
"We can be assigned any number between one and fifty," her attorney continued. "Then we wait our turn."
Cecilia nodded again, hoping she wouldn't be stuck in the courthouse all day. Bad enough that she had to be here; even worse that Ian's presence was also required. She hadn't seen him yet. Maybe he was meeting somewhere with his own attorney, discussing strategiesnot that she expected him to contest the divorce.
"There won't be a problem, will there?" Her palms were damp and cold sweat had broken out across her forehead. She wanted this to be over so she could get on with her life. She believed that couldn't happen until the divorce was filed. Only then would the pain start to go away.
"I can't see that there'll be any hang-ups, especially since you've agreed to divide all the debts." He frowned slightly. "Despite that prenuptial agreement you signed."
A flu-like feeling attacked Cecilia's stomach, and she clutched her purse tightly against her. Soon, she reminded herself, soon she could walk out these doors into a new life.
"It's a rather ... unusual agreement," Allan murmured.
In retrospect, the prenuptial agreement had been another in the list of mistakes she'd made in the past year, but according to her attorney one that could easily he rectified. Back when she'd signed it, their agreement had made perfect sense. In an effort to prove their sincerity, they'd come up with the idea that the spouse who wanted the divorce should pay not only the legal costs but all debts incurred during the marriage. It could be seen as either punitive or deterrent; in either case, it hadn't worked. And now it was just one more nuisance to be dealt with.
Cecilia blamed herself for insisting on something in writing. She'd wanted to be absolutely sure that Ian wasn't marrying her out of any sense of obligation. Yes, the pregnancy was unplanned, but she would've been perfectly content to raise her child by herself. She preferred that to being trapped in an unhappy marriageor trapping Ian in a relationship he didn't want. Ian, however, had been adamant. He'd sworn that he loved her, loved their unborn child and wanted to marry her.
As a ten-year-old, Cecilia's entire world had been torn apart when her parents divorced. She refused to do that to her own child. In her mind, marriage was forever, so she'd wanted them to be certain before making a lifetime commitment. How naïve, she thought now. How sentimental. How romantic.
Ian had said he wanted their marriage to be forever, too, but like so much else this past year, that had been an illusion. Cecilia had needed to believe him, believe in the power of love, believe it would protect her from this kind of heartache.
In the end, blinded by the prospect of a husband who seemed totally committed to her and by the hope of a happy-ever-after kind of life, Cecilia had acquiesced to the marriagewith one stipulation. The agreement.
Their marriage was supposed to last as long as they both lived, so they'd devised an agreement that would help them stay true to their vows. Or so they'd thought.... Before the ceremony they'd written the prenuptial contract themselves and had it notarized. She'd forgotten all about it until she'd made an appointment with Allan Harris and he'd asked if she'd signed any agreement prior to the wedding. It certainly wasn't the standard sort of document; nevertheless Allan felt they needed to have the court rescind it.
Her marriage shouldn't have ended like this, but after their baby died, everything had gone wrong. Whatever love had existed between them had been eroded by their loss. Babies weren't supposed to dieeven babies born
Excerpted from 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber. Copyright © 2001 by Debbie Macomber. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.