New Winslow S7E21

Olivia was opening the Limerick when the raspy ringing of the back bell jolted her. She’d been here alone for about ten minutes by this point, watching blankly as the coffee carafe filled. Andrew was still asleep upstairs, and she hadn’t seen Noah at all since last night when he’d gone to bed early.

She went to the back door and pushed it open to see Isabel Rivera’s truck backed up in its now-usual spot. Isabel herself was in the back, a baseball cap replacing her beanie as the weather warmed up. She grinned at Olivia. “I was so glad to hear from you!” she said as she pushed the dolly containing their pallet out onto the ramp. “I know you told me there were some family issues, how are you doing?”

She sounded like she actually cared. “Better,” Olivia said, stepping aside to let her through. “Yeah, things are much better now.”


She smiled and Olivia knew she was blushing yet again as she took the clipboard and did a quick count. Everything was there, so she signed off reluctantly, knowing this was going to be the highlight of the day and wondering what that said about her.

“Do you want a coffee?” she asked. “I just have the drip coffee on right now though, not the espresso. Though I could turn on the espresso machine if you wanted a…”

“I’d love a coffee,” Isabel said, interrupting what Olivia knew was going to become a ramble that would involve her offering everything up to and including whatever Andrew had in his fridge upstairs. “Thanks.”

“Of course.”

She led Isabel back behind the counter where the coffee was finishing brewing and got a couple paper cups. “Room?” she asked.

“Black is fine.”

She filled the cups and handed one to Isabel. “Thanks,” Isabel said. “What do I owe you?”

Olivia scoffed, and Isabel laughed. Then she smiled at Olivia again, a warmer, more intimate smile than Olivia had seen yet. “I’m glad you’re alright,” she said.

She knew nothing about this woman. They’d spent a collective hour together and Olivia had a terrible habit of falling for people at work. But all she wanted was to keep Isabel here a little longer, knowing full well it wasn’t going to happen because Isabel had her own job and other clients to attend to.

“You aren’t based in New Winslow, are you?” Olivia asked as they walked toward the back door.

“No, Barre,” Isabel said.

“And you’re willing to work here?”

Isabel nodded. “I know,” she said. “But I inherited the business from my father and he saw a solid market opportunity in New Winslow. I think the reward outweighed the risk in his mind, but at least he was always the one who delivered here. He never sent any of his employees to do it for him.”

“Yeah, anyone who’d send their employees here without warning them would earn a special hell.”

“I should go,” Isabel said as they lingered by the open door. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”

“I’ll be here.”

Isabel looked like she wanted to say something else, but then just nodded and went out the door, letting it close behind her. Olivia let out a breath and went back to her own coffee, her heart lighter than it had been in days.


It wasn’t that Roman didn’t love talking to Celine on the phone, he’d just much rather have her with him. But they weren’t going to keep forcing the kids to cram into Roman’s room at the Countess and they definitely weren’t going to leave Jamie overnight with two toddlers. So Roman communicated with his wife by phone more often than not lately. Right now he had the phone on speaker as he straightened up his work area, getting ready to tackle House of Pizza’s daily paperwork, a task that wouldn’t take him more than three hours, leaving the rest of the day yawning open.

“Busy day today,” Celine was saying, and he could picture her combing out her long blonde hair in their bedroom as she spoke. “Aidan and Abby both have physicals with Dr. Degas this afternoon, so I’ll be bringing them there. Reggie has a huge school project to work on, so she can’t babysit tonight, so I’ll have them while Tatiana takes the shop for the night. But they’re going to have to come with me to go grocery shopping.”

“I’ll take them,” Roman said immediately. “You’re going to Athol Market Basket, aren’t you?”

There was a pause on the other end. “Wow,” Celine said. “I…That didn’t occur to me.”

“That’s not insulting at all,” Roman muttered before he’d thought it through.

“I’m sorry,” Celine said. “I just…”

“I should go back,” Roman said. “I mean it. Babe, you’re overrun with the store and the kids and I’m sitting here with my thumb up my ass.”

“No,” Celine said. “You’re not coming back until this is done. Look, I can’t force you to, but this is serious, Roman.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Roman snapped. “I was there for twenty years. I missed the births of all of our kids and the fact that I couldn’t be there with you…”

He trailed off, trying not to let things get out of hand. He didn’t want to fight with Celine, especially when she had so many things to do with and without the kids that day.

They were both silent for a moment and Roman looked down at his laptop and notebooks lying open on the small table. Outside, the weather was gorgeous, lazy clouds drifting past in the blue morning sky.

“What do you want, Roman?” Celine asked. “If you come back here, you might never leave again. And I know you don’t want that. Please, please don’t come back.”

“You’re doing too much though,” Roman argued. “I can’t just sit here and fiddle with the numbers while you’re raising our kids and running our business.”

“And I can’t watch you throw away your chance to have a life outside of New Winslow,” Celine said. “I’ll be more thoughtful about it, we can figure out how to have you do more with the kids or the shop from there.”

“I miss you.”

He was mad at Celine, so why had he just blurted that out like a sad five-year-old?

“I miss you too,” she said.

“I want more time with you.”

“Not here.”

“Yes there, but I won’t do it yet,” he promised. “I…we need time together. Not just to split up the work or talk business. We need to talk about that, yeah. But we need time for us.”

“Let’s talk about splitting things tonight. And we’ll see if Reggie can take the kids on Friday night,” Celine said. “We’ll go on a date. No work talk allowed.”

That was exactly what he’d been hoping she’d say. “I’ll call her,” he said, before she could say she was going to do it. “And I’ll meet you at the line to pick up the kids today. I’ll bring them swimming, it’s getting warm enough. Jamie will be jealous he’s stuck in math class.”

“Somehow I doubt it,” Celine said. “You’re sure?”


“Right, sorry,” Celine said. “I’ll meet you there at four. I love you.”

“Love you.”

They hung up and Roman sighed, looking back out the window. Where had all those clouds come from so suddenly?

Oh well, at least he had a date this Friday. And he was going to actually feel like a dad and husband again.




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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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