Sea Swept, page 22part #1 of Chesapeake Bay Saga Series
communicated with more than grunts. Seth was already used to that, so he said nothing as he set down his backpack. He had his sketchbook, with his finger wedged between the pages. He dropped it on the table as if it didn't matter to him in the least, then, with his heart skipping, rummaged through the cupboards for cereal.
Cam saw the sketch immediately. Smiling into his coffee, he said nothing. He was considering the toast he'd managed to burn when Seth came to the table with a box and a bowl. "That damn toaster's defective."
"You turned it up to high again," Phillip told him and finished beating his egg-white-and-chive omelet.
"I don't think so. How many eggs are you scrambling there?"
"I'm not scrambling any." Phillip slid the eggs into the omelet pan he'd brought from his own kitchen. "Make your own."
Jeez, was the guy blind or what? Seth wondered. He poured milk on his cereal and gently nudged the sketchbook an inch closer to Cam.
"It wouldn't kill you to add a couple more while you're doing it." Cam broke off a piece of the charcoaled toast. He had almost learned to like it that way. "I made the coffee."
"The sludge," Phillip corrected. "Let's not get delusions of grandeur."
Cam sighed lustily, then rose to get a bowl. He picked up the cereal box that sat beside Seth's open sketchbook. He could all but hear the boy grind his teeth as he sat back down and poured. "Probably going to have company this weekend."
Phillip concentrated on browning the omelet to perfection. "Who?"
"Anna." Cam slopped milk into his bowl. "I'm going to take her sailing, and I think I've got her talked into cooking dinner."
All the guy could think about was girls and filling his gut, Seth decided in disgust. He used his elbow to shove the sketch pad closer. Cam never glanced up from his cereal bowl.
When he saw Phillip slide the omelet from pan to plate, he judged it time to make his move. Seth's face was a study in agonized fury. "What's this?" Cam said absently, cocking his head to view the sketch that was by now all but under his nose.
Seth nearly rolled his eyes. It was about damn time, "Nothing," he muttered, and gleefully kept eating.
"Looks like Ethan's boat." Cam picked up his coffee, glanced at Phillip. "Doesn't it?"
Phillip stood, sampling the first bite of his breakfast, approving it. "Yeah. It's a good drawing." Curious, he looked at Seth. "You do it?"
"I was just fooling around." The flush of pride was creeping up his neck and leaving his stomach jittery.
"I work with guys who can't draw this well." Phillip gave Seth an absent pat on the shoulder. "Nice work."
"No big deal," Seth said with a shrug as the thrill burst through him.
"Funny, Ethan and I were just talking about using sketches of boats in the boatyard. You know, Phil, like advertising our work."
Phillip settled down to his eggs, but lifted a brow in both surprise and approval. "You thought of that? Color me amazed. Good idea." He studied the sketch more closely as he worked it through. "Frame it rough, keep the edges of the sketch raw. It should look working-man, not fancy."
Cam made a sound in his throat, as if he were mulling it over. "One sketch won't make much of a statement." He frowned at Seth. "I guess you couldn't do a few more, like of Ethan's workboat? Or if I got some pictures of a couple of the boats I've worked on?"
"I dunno." Seth fought to keep the excitement out of his voice. He nearly succeeded in keeping his eyes bored when they met Cam's, but little lights of pleasure danced in them. "Maybe."
It didn't take Phillip long to clue in. Catching the drift, he reached for his coffee and nodded. "Could make a nice statement. Clients who came in would see different boats we've done. It'd be good to have a drawing of the one you're starting on."
Cam snorted. "Ethan's got a pathetic sketch. Looks like a kindergarten project. Don't know what can be done about it." Then he looked at Seth, narrowed his eyes. "Maybe you can take a look at it."
Seth felt laughter bubble up in his throat and gamely swallowed it. "I suppose."
"Great. You got about ninety seconds to make the bus, kid, or you're walking to school."
"Shit." Seth scrambled up, grabbed his backpack, and took off in a flurry of pounding sneakers.
When the front door slammed, Phillip sat back. "Nice work, Cam."
"I have my moments."
"Every now and again. How'd you know the kid could draw?''
"He gave Anna a picture he'd done of the pup."
"Hmm. So what's the deal with her?"
"Deal?" Cam went back to his pitiful toast and tried not to envy Phillip his eggs.
"Spending the weekend, sailing, cooking dinner. Haven't seen you sniffing around any other woman since she came on the scene." Phillip grinned into his coffee. "Sounds serious. Almost… domestic."
"Get a grip." Cam's stomach took an uncomfortable little lurch. "We're just enjoying each other."
"I don't know. She looks like the picket-fence type to me."
Cam snorted. "Career woman. She's smart, she's ambitious, and she's not looking for complications." She wanted a house in the country, Cam remembered, near the water, with a yard where she could plant flowers.
"Women always look for complications," Phillip said positively. "Better watch your step."
"I know where I'm going, and how to get there."
"That's what they all say."
anna was doing her best not to look for, or find, complications. It was one of the reasons she'd decided against seeing Cameron on Friday night. She made work her excuse and compromised by telling him she'd be at his house bright and early Saturday morning for a sail. When he wheedled, she weakened and promised to make lasagna.
The part of her that gained so much pleasure from watching others eat what she'd prepared herself came from her grandmother. Anna believed that was something to be proud of.
Though she didn't commit to spending the night, they both realized it was understood.
She took the evening for herself, changing out of her suit and into baggy sweats. She put some of her favorite music on, nestling Billie Holiday between Verdi and Cream. She poured a glass of good red wine and watched the sun set.
It was time, she knew, long past time, to do some clear thinking, some objective analyzing. She'd known Cameron Quinn only a matter of weeks, yet she'd allowed herself to become more involved with him than with any other man who'd touched her life.
This level of involvement hadn't been in her plans. She usually planned so well. Steps she took, both professionally and personally, were always carefully thought out. She knew that was a protective action, one she had decided upon coolly and at an early age. If she thought about where each step was leading or could lead, held back on impulse, and depended on intellect, it was much harder to make a mistake.
She felt she'd made too many mistakes years before. If she had continued along the path she blindly raced down after losing her innocence and her mother, she would have been doomed.
She'd had to learn not to blame herself for the things she had done during that dark part of her life, not to wallow in guilt for the hurt she'd caused the people who loved her. Guilt was a negative emotion. Anna preferred positive actions, results, direction.
What she had chosen and accomplished had been for her grandparents, for her mother, and for that terrified child curled on the side of a dark road.
It had taken time, a long healing time, before it came to her that while she'd lost her mother, her grandparents had lost their only child. A daughter they loved. Despite their grief, they opened their home to Anna; despite her destructive actions, their hearts never faltered.
Eventually she learned to accept the loss, the horrors she'd experienced. More, she learned to accept that everything she had done for the two years following that night was the result of a wounded soul. She was fortunate to have people love her enough to help her heal.
When she found her way again, she promised herself that she would never be reckless agai
Impulse was saved for foolish things. Spending sprees, long, fast drives to nowhere. It had become so important to her that she remain basically practical, motivated, and rational that she had buried that reckless bent of her heart. Now, she thought, it was that same heart that had led her to this.
Loving Cameron Quinn was ridiculously reckless. And she knew it was going to cost her.
But her emotions were her own responsibility, she decided. That was something she had learned the hard way. She would handle them, and she would survive them.
But it was just so odd, she admitted, and leaned against the open patio door to catch the early-evening breeze. She'd always believed that if she ever experienced love, she would be aware of every stage of it. She'd hoped to enjoy it—the gradual slide she'd imagined, the mutual awareness of deepening feelings.
But there had been no gradual slide, no gentle fall with Cam. It was one fast, hard tumble. One moment, she felt attraction, interest, enjoyment. Then it seemed she no more than blinked before she was headlong in love.
She imagined it would scare him to death—as he was racing for the hills. The image made her laugh a little. They were well matched there, she decided. She would like to do some fast running in the opposite direction herself. She'd been prepared for an affair but far from ready for a love affair.
So analyze, she ordered herself. What was it about him that made the difference? His looks? On a little hum of pleasure, she closed her eyes. There was little doubt that's what had gained her attention initially. What woman wouldn't look twice, then look again at those dangerous, dark looks? The restless steel-colored eyes, the firm mouth that was equally appealing in a grin or a snarl. His body was the perfect female fantasy of tough muscle, rough hands, and lean lines.
Naturally she'd been attracted. And his quick mind had intrigued her. So had his arrogance, she admitted—though it was a lowering thought. But it was his heart that had changed everything. Oh, she hadn't expected that generous heart—recklessly generous. He had so much to give and was so unaware of it.
He thought himself selfish, hard-bitten, even cold. And she imagined he could be. But where it counted most, he was warm and giving. She didn't think he was fully aware of how much he was offering Seth or how their relationship was changing.
She sincerely doubted he fully understood that he loved the boy. And Anna realized it was that blind spot in Cam to his own goodness that had undone her.
She supposed, when it came down to it, falling in love with him had actually been sensible.
Staying in love with him would be disastrous. She would have to work on that.
The phone rang, distracting her. Carrying her wine, she walked back in and picked up the portable on the coffee table. "Hello."
"Miz Spinelli. Working?"
She couldn't stop the smile. "Working something out, yes." An aria soared out of her stereo as she sat down, propped her feet on the coffee table. "You?"
"Ethan and I have a little something we'll fiddle with tonight yet. Then I'm not even going to think about work until Monday."
He had a portable phone himself and had wandered outside, where he might find some privacy. It was Seth's turn to do the dinner dishes, and he heard another plate hit the floor with a crash. "They're calling for fair weather tomorrow."
"Are they? That's handy."
"You could still drive up tonight."
It was tempting, but she'd already given in to too many impulses where he was concerned. "I'll be there early enough in the morning."
"I don't suppose you have a bikini. A red one."
She tucked her tongue in her cheek. "No, I don't… mine's blue."
He waited a beat. "Don't forget to pack."
"If I pack—if I stay—I keep the key to the bedroom door."
"You're so strict." He watched an egret sail over the water and into a nest atop a marker. Making for home, he thought, settling in.
"Just cautious, Quinn. And very smart. How's the building coming?"
"Along," he murmured. He liked hearing her voice, feeling the moist air move, watching the evening slide gentle as a kiss over water and trees. "I'll show you when you're here."
He wanted to show her Seth's sketch. He'd framed it himself that afternoon and wanted to share it with… someone who mattered. "We'll probably get started on the first boat next week."
"Really? That quick?"
"Why wait? It's time to put our money down and see how the dice fall. I've been feeling lucky lately." From the house behind him he heard the puppy bark madly, followed by Simon's deeper tones. Then Phillip's voice, raised in a half shout, half laugh and echoed by the rarely heard sound of Seth's giggle.
It made him turn, stare at the house. The back door opened, and the two canine forms bulleted out, tumbling over each other as they reached the steps. And there, framed in the doorway with the kitchen light washing through, was the boy, grinning.
Whatever pulled at Cam's heart pulled hard. For a moment, just one wild moment, he thought he heard the creak of the porch rocker and his father's low chuckle.
"Jesus, it's weird," he murmured.
The connection began to waver and crackle as he walked. "What?"
"Everything." He found himself gripping the phone tighter, yearning for her with a wild, almost desperate desire. "You should be here. I miss you."
"I can't hear you."
He realized he'd been stepping away from the house, a kind of knee-jerk denial of the sensation of being drawn in.
Coming home. Settling in.
With a shake of his head, he walked back until the connection cleared, and thanked God for the vagaries of technology. "I said… what are you wearing?"
She laughed softly, looked down at her baggy, practical sweats. "Why, nothing much," she purred, and both of them fell into the ease of phone flirting with various sensations of relief.
a short time later, Cam set the phone on the porch steps and wandered down to the dock. Water lapped gently against the hull of the boat. Night birds were stirring, and the deep two-toned call of an owl in the woods beyond led the chorus. The sea was ink-dark under the fragile light of a thumbnail moon.
There was work to do. He knew Ethan would be waiting for him. But he needed to sit there by the water for a moment. To sit in the quiet while stars winked on and the owl called endlessly, patiently, for its mate.
He didn't jump when he saw the movement beside him. He was getting used to it. He couldn't count the times he'd sat on this same dock under this same sky with his father. It occurred to him that it was probably a little different to sit here with his father's ghost, but what the hell. Nothing about his life was the same as it once had been.
"I knew you were here," Cam said quietly.
"I like to keep an eye on things." Ray, dressed in fisherman's pants and a short-sleeved sweatshirt that Cam remembered had once been bright blue, dangled a line in the water. "Been a while since I did any night fishing."
Cameron decided that if Ray pulled up a wriggling catfish, it would most likely send him over the thin edge of sanity. "How close an eye?" he asked, thinking of Anna and just what the two of them did in the dark.
Ray chuckled. "I always respected my boys' privacy, Cam. Don't you worry about that. She sure is a looker," he said lightly. "She tries to cover it up when she's working, but a man with a good eye can see through it. You always had a good eye for the ladies."
"How about you?" Cam hated himself for asking. It was such a peaceful night, such a perfect one. But he never knew how long these visitations—hallucinations, whatever they were—would last. He had to ask. "How was your eye for the ladies, Dad?"
"Sharp enough—landed on your mother, didn't it?" And Ray sighed. "I never touched another woman after I made my vows to Stella, Cam. I looked, I appreciated, I enjoyed, but I never touched."
"You have to tell me about Seth."
"I can't. It's not the way it has to be. You did a good thing by the boy, making him a part of the
"You know what I miss, Cam? The silliest things. Watching the three of you argue over something. There were times when your mother and I thought you'd bicker us crazy, but I miss that now. And early-morning fishing when the sun just starts to burn off the mist over the water. I miss teaching. I miss seeing that look on a student's face when something you say, just one thing, clicks and opens the mind. I miss pretty girls in summer dresses and lying in bed at three o'clock in the morning listening to rain on the roof."
Then he turned his head and smiled. His eyes were as bright and brilliantly blue as the sweatshirt had once been. "You should appreciate those things while you have them, but you never do. Not all the way. Too busy living. Now and again, you should try to stop to appreciate the little things. They'll build up if you do."
"I've got a little more on my mind than rain on the roof right now."
"I know. You've got a mess on your hands, but you're sorting it. You've still got to figure out what you want, and what you need, and what's inside you. You've got more in there than you think."
"I want answers. I need answers."
"You'll find them," Ray said complacently. "When you slow down."
"Tell me this. Do Ethan and Phillip know you're… here?"
"They will." Ray smiled again. "When it's time for it. It should be a nice day for sailing tomorrow. Enjoy the little things," he said and faded away.
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he was watching for her. Cam figured it was just one more first in his life. He'd never watched and waited for a woman that he could recall. Even as a teenager, they had come to him. Calling on the phone, wandering by the house, loitering near his locker at school. He supposed he'd gotten used to it. Spoiled by it.
He had never faced the typical male terror of asking for that first date. He'd been asked out when he was fifteen by the luscious Allyson Brentt. An older woman of sixteen. She even picked him up at his front door in her daddy's '72 Chevy Impala. He wasn't sure how he felt about being driven around by a girl. Until Allyson had parked on Blue Crab Drive and suggested they make use of the backseat.
He didn't mind that a bit.
Losing his virginity to pretty, fast-handed Allyson at fifteen was a sweaty and delightful experience. And Cam had never looked back.
He liked women, liked everything about them—even the annoying parts. It was what made them female, and he figured men got the best part of the deal. They got to look, they got to touch and smell. And unless they were complete morons, they could usually wriggle out of those soft arms and move on to the next ones without too much trouble.
He'd never been a moron.
But he watched for Anna, and waited for her. And wondered what it was about her that made him not quite so anxious to wriggle.
Maybe it was the lack of pressure, he mused as he wandered away from the dock toward the side of the house to listen for her car. Again. It could be the very lack of any expectations. She was joyfully sexual, and she didn't seem to expect a lot of romantic trappings. She'd come from a painful childhood, yet she'd gotten past the damage and made herself into something strong and whole.
He admired that.
The way she could, and did, play up or play down her looks fascinated him. That duality kept him wondering who she would be. And yet both parts of her fit so smoothly together, a man could barely see the seam.
The more he thought about her, the more he wanted her.
"What're you doing?"
He nearly jumped out of his skin when Seth came up behind him. He'd been
NORA ROBERTS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Vision in WhiteThe Next AlwaysBorn in FireDance Upon the AirJewels of the SunThe WitnessKey of LightBlue Dahlia
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