Sea swept, p.25

Sea Swept, page 25

 part  #1 of  Chesapeake Bay Saga Series

 



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  response, wriggled and spoke more firmly. "Cameron, wake up."

  He grunted, snuggled closer, and muttered something into her hair.

  She sighed and, deciding she had no choice, lifted the leg that was caught between his until her knee pressed firmly against his crotch. Then she gave it a quick nudge.

  That got his eyes open.

  "Whoa! What?"

  "Wake up."

  "I'm awake." And his just-open eyes were all but crossed. "Would you mind moving your…" When the pressure eased off, he let out the breath he'd been holding. "Thanks."

  "You've got to go." She was back to whispering. "You shouldn't have stayed in here all night."

  "Why not?" he whispered back. "It's my bed."

  "You know what I'm talking about," she hissed. "One of your brothers could get up any minute."

  He exerted himself to lift his head a couple of inches and peer at the clock on the opposite nightstand. "It's after seven. Ethan's already up, has probably emptied his first crab pot. And why are we whispering?"

  "Because you're not supposed to be here."

  "I live here." A sleepy smile moved over his face. "Damn, you're pretty when you're all rumpled and embarrassed. I guess I have to have you again."

  "Stop it." She nearly giggled, until his hand snuck around to cup her breast. "Not now."

  "We're here now, naked and everything. And you're all soft and warm." He nuzzled his way to her neck.

  "Don't you start."

  "Too late. I'm already into the first lap."

  And indeed when he shifted, she understood that the starting gun had already sounded. He was inside her in one easy move, and it was so smooth, so natural, so lovely, she could only sigh.

  "No moaning," he said with a chuckle at her ear. "You'll wake up my brothers."

  She snorted out a laugh and, caught between amusement and arousal, shoved and rolled until she straddled him. He looked sleepy, and dangerous, and exciting. A little breathless, she braced her hands on either side of his head. She bent down and sucked his bottom lip into her mouth.

  "Okay, smart guy, let's see who moans first."

  And arching back, she began to ride.

  Afterward, they decided it was a tie.

  she made him climb out the window, which he claimed was ridiculous. But it made her feel a little less decadent. The house was quiet when she came downstairs, freshly showered and comfortable in olive-drab cotton slacks and a camp shirt. Seth was still sleeping on the rug. Foolish stood guard on the floor.

  At the sight of Anna, the pup scrambled up, whining pitifully as he followed her into the kitchen. She assumed it was either an empty stomach or a full bladder. When she opened the back door, he shot out like a bullet and proved it was the latter by peeing copiously on an azalea just struggling into bloom.

  Birds were singing with full, joyful throats. Dew sparkled on the grass—and the grass needed mowing. There was still a light mist on the water, but it was burning off quickly, like blown smoke, and through it she could see little diamond sparks of sunlight on calm water.

  The air was fresh from the night's rain, and the leaves seemed greener, fuller than they had only a day before.

  She built a little fantasy that included steaming coffee and a walk down to the dock. By the time she'd taken the first step toward brewing the coffee, Cam came in through the hallway door.

  He hadn't shaved, she noted, and found that the stubble of beard suited her image of a lazy Sunday morning in the country. He lifted a brow.

  She got two mugs out of the cupboard, then lifted hers. "Good morning, Cameron."

  "Good morning, Anna." Deciding to play along, he walked over and gave her a chaste kiss. "How did you sleep?"

  "Very well, and you?"

  "Like a log." He wound a lock of her hair around his finger. "It wasn't too quiet for you?"

  "Quiet?"

  "City girl, country silence."

  "Oh. No, I liked it. In fact, I don't think I've ever slept better."

  They were grinning at each other when Seth stumbled in, rubbing his eyes. "Have we got anything to eat?"

  Cam kept his gaze locked on Anna's. "Phillip ran his mouth about making waffles. Go wake him up."

  "Waffles? Cool." He ran off, his bare feet slapping on the wood floor.

  "Phillip's not going to appreciate that," Anna commented.

  "He's the one who started the waffle rumor."

  "I could make them."

  "You made dinner. We take turns around here. To avoid chaos. And the shedding of blood." A loud and nasty thud sounded over their heads and made Cam grin. "Why don't we pour that coffee and take a walk out of the line of fire?"

  "I was thinking the same thing."

  On impulse, he grabbed a fishing pole. "Hold this." A hunt through the fridge netted him a small round of Phillip's Brie.

  "I thought we were having waffles."

  "We are. This is bait." He tucked the cheese in his pocket and picked up his coffee.

  "You use Brie for bait?"

  "You use what's handy. A fish is going to bite, it'll bite on damn near anything." He handed her a mug of coffee. "Let's see what we can catch."

  "I don't know how to fish," she said as they headed out.

  "Nothing to it. You drown a worm—or in this case some fancy cheese—and see what happens."

  "Then why do guys go off with all that expensive, complicated gear and those funny hats?"

  "Just trappings. We're not talking dry fly-fishing here. We're just dropping a line. If we can't pull up a couple of cats by the time Phillip's got waffles on the table, I've really lost my touch."

  "Cats?" For one stunning moment, she was absolutely horrified. "You don't use cats as bait."

  He blinked at her, saw that she was perfectly serious, then roared with laughter. "Sure we do. You catch 'em by the tail, skin their bellies, and drop them in." He took pity on her only because she went deathly pale. But it didn't stop him from laughing. "Catfish, honey. We're going to bring up some catfish before breakfast."

  "Very funny." She sniffed and started walking again. "Catfish are really ugly. I've seen pictures."

  "You're telling me you've never eaten catfish?"

  "Why in the world would I?" A little miffed, she sat on the side of the dock, feet dangling, and cupped her mug in both hands.

  "Fry them fresh and fry them right, and you've never tasted better. Toss in some hush puppies, a couple ears of sweet corn, and you've got yourself a feast."

  She eyed him as he settled beside her and began to bait his hook with Brie. His chin was stubbled, his hair untidy, his feet bare. "Fried catfish and hush puppies? This from the reckless Cameron Quinn, the man who races through the waters, roads, and the hearts of Europe. I don't think your little pastry from Rome would recognize you."

  He grimaced and dropped his line in the water. "We're not going to get into that again, are we?"

  "No." She laughed and leaned over to kiss his cheek. "I almost don't recognize you myself. But I kind of like it."

  He handed her the pole. "You don't exactly look like the sober and dedicated public servant yourself this morning, Miz Spinelli."

  "I take Sundays off. What do I do if I catch a fish?"

  "Reel it in."

  "How?"

  "We'll worry about that when it happens." He leaned over to pull up the crab pot tied to the near piling. The two annoyed-looking jimmies inside made him grin. "At least we won't starve tonight."

  The snapping claws had Anna lifting her feet slightly higher above the water. But she was content to sit there, sipping coffee, watching the morning bloom. When Mama Duck and her six fuzzy babies swam by, she had what Cam considered a typical city girl reaction.

  "Oh, look! Look, baby ducks. Aren't they cute?"

  "We get a nest down there in the bend near the edge of the woods most every year." And because she was looking so dreamy-eyed, he couldn't resist. "Makes for good hunting over the winter."

  "Hunting
what?" she murmured, charmed and already imagining what it would be like to hold one of those puffy ducklings in her hand. Then her eyes popped wide, horrified. "You shoot the little ducks?"

  "Well, they're bigger by then." He had never shot a duck or anything else in his life. "You can sit right here and drop a couple before breakfast."

  "You should be ashamed."

  "Your city's showing."

  "I'd call it my humanity. If they were my ducks, no one would shoot them." His quick grin had her narrowing her eyes. "You were just trying to get a rise out of me."

  "It worked. You look so cute when you're outraged." He kissed her cheek to mollify her. "My mother's heart was too soft to allow hunting. Fishing never bothered her. She said that was more of an even match. And she hated guns."

  "What was she like?"

  "She was… steady," he decided. "It was hard to rock her. Once you did, she had a kick-ass temper, but it was tough to get it going. She loved her work, loved the kids. She had a lot of soft spots. She'd cry at movies or over books, and she couldn't even watch when we cleaned fish. But when there was trouble, she was a rock."

  He'd taken Anna's hand without realizing it, lacing their fingers. "When I came here I was beat up pretty bad. She fixed me up. I kept thinking I'd take off as soon as I was steady on my feet again. I kept telling myself these people were a couple of assholes. I could rob them blind and take off anytime I wanted. I was going to Mexico."

  "But you didn't take off," Anna said quietly.

  "I fell in love with her. It was the day I got back from my first sail with Dad. This world had opened up for me. I was a little scared of it, but there it was. He went inside to grade some papers, I think. I was making bitching noises about having to wear that stupid life jacket, and just general bullshit. She took me by the hand and pulled me right into the water. She said then I'd better learn to swim. And she taught me. I fell in love with her about ten feet out from this dock. You couldn't have dragged me away from here."

  Moved, Anna lifted their joined hands to her cheek. "I wish I'd had the chance to meet her. To meet both of them."

  He shifted, suddenly realizing that he had told her a story he'd never shared with anyone. And he remembered the way he'd sat here the night before, talking to his father. "Do you, ah, believe that people come back?"

  "From?''

  "You know, ghosts, spirits, Twilight Zone stuff?"

  "I don't not believe it," she said after a moment. "After my mother died, there were times when I could smell her perfume. Just out of the blue, out of the air, this scent that was so… her. Maybe it was real, maybe it was my imagination, but it helped me. That's what counts, I suppose."

  "Yeah, but—

  "Oh!" She nearly dropped the pole when she felt the tug. "Something's on here! Take it!"

  "Uh-uh. You caught it." He decided the distraction was for the best. Another minute or two, he might have made a total fool of himself and told her everything. He reached over to steady the pole. "Reel it in some, then let it play out. That's it. No, don't jerk, just slow and steady."

  "It feels big." Her heart was thudding between her ears. "Really big."

  "They always do. You got it now, just keep bringing it in." He rose to get the net that always hung over the edge of the dock. "Bring her up, up and out."

  Anna leaned back, eyes half shut. They popped wide when the fish came flashing and wriggling out of the water and into the sunlight. "Oh, my God."

  "Don't drop the pole, for God's sake." Shaking with laughter, Cam gripped her shoulder before she could pitch herself into the water. Leaning forward, he netted the flopping catfish. "Nice one."

  "What do I do? What do I do now?"

  Expertly Cam freed fish from hook, then to her horror handed her the full net. "Hang on to it."

  "Don't leave me with this thing." She took one squinting look, saw whiskers and fishy eyes—and shut her own. "Cam, come back here and take this ugly thing."

  He set the widemouthed pail he'd just filled with water on the dock, took the net, and flopped the catch into it. "City girl."

  She let out a long breath of relief. "Maybe." She peeped into the pail. "Ugh. Throw it back. It's hideous."

  "Not on your life. It's a four-pounder easy."

  When she refused to take the pole a second time, he sacrificed the rest of his brother's Brie and settled down to catch the rest of that night's supper himself.

  the reception that her morning's work received from Seth changed her attitude. Impressing a small boy by catching an indisputably ugly and possibly gourmand fish was a new kind of triumph. By the time she was driving with Cam to the boatyard, she'd decided one of her next projects would be to read up on the art of fishing.

  "I think, with the proper bait, I could catch something much more attractive than a catfish."

  "Want to go dig up some night crawlers next weekend?"

  She tipped down her sunglasses. "Are those what they sound like?"

  "You bet."

  She tipped them back up. "I don't think so. I think I'd prefer using those pretty feathers and whatnot." She glanced at him again. "So, do you know your father's secret waffle recipe?''

  "Nope. He didn't trust me with it. He figured out pretty fast that I was a disaster in the kitchen."

  "What kind of bribe would work best on Phillip?"

  "You couldn't worm it out of him with a Hermes tie. It only gets passed down to a Quinn."

  They'd see about that, she decided, and tapped her fingers on her knee. She continued tapping them when he pulled into the lot beside the old brick building. She wasn't sure what reaction he expected from her. As far as she could see, there was little change here. The trash had been picked up, the broken windows replaced, but the building still looked ancient and deserted.

  "You cleaned up." It seemed like a safe response, and it appeared to satisfy him as they got out of opposite doors of the car.

  "The dock's going to need some work," he commented. "Phillip ought to be able to handle it." He took out keys, as shiny as the new lock on the front door. "I guess we need a sign or something," he said half to himself as he unlocked the dead bolts. When he opened the door, Anna caught the scent of sawdust, mustiness, and stale coffee. But the polite smile she'd fixed on her face widened in surprise as she stepped inside.

  He flicked on lights and made her blink. They were brilliant overhead, hanging from the rafters and unshaded. The newly repaired floor had been swept clean—or nearly so. Bare drywall angled out on the near side to form a partition. The stairs had been replaced, the banister of plain wood oiled. The loft overhead still looked dangerous, but she began to see the potential.

  She saw pulleys and wenches, enormous power tools with wicked teeth, a metal chest with many drawers that she assumed held baffling tools. New steel locks glinted on the wide doors leading to the dock.

  "This is wonderful, Cam. You do work fast."

  "Speed's my business." He said it lightly, but it pleased him to see that she was genuinely impressed.

  "You had to work like dogs to get this much done." Though she wanted to see everything, it was the huge platform in the center of the building that pulled her forward.

  Drawn on it in dark pencil or chalk were curves and lines and angles.

  "I don't understand this." Fascinated, she circled around it. "Is this supposed to be a boat?"

  "It is a boat. The boat. It's lofting. You draw the hull, full size. The mold section, transverse forms. Then you test them out by sketching in some longitudinal curves—like the sheer. Some of the waterlines."

  He was on his knees on the platform as he spoke, using his hands to show her. And still leaving her in the dark.

  But it didn't matter whether she understood the technique he described or not. She understood him. He might not realize it yet, but he had fallen in love with this place, and with the work he would do here.

  "We need to add the bow lines, and the diagonals. We may want to use this design again, and this is
the only way to reproduce it with real accuracy. It's a damn good design. I'm going to want to add in the structural details, full size. The more detail, the better."

  He looked up and saw her smiling at him, swinging her sunglasses by the earpiece. "Sorry. You don't know what the hell I'm talking about."

  "I think it's wonderful. I mean it. You're building more than boats here."

  Faintly embarrassed, he got to his feet. "Boats is the idea." He jumped nimbly off the platform. "Come take a look at these."

  He caught her hand, led her to the opposite walls. There were two framed sketches now, one of Ethan's beloved skipjack and the other of the boat yet to be built.

  "Seth did them." The pride in his voice was just there. He didn't even notice it. "He's the only one of us who can really draw worth a damn. Phil's adequate, but the kid is just great. He's doing Ethan's workboat next, then the sloop. I've got to get some pictures of a couple of boats I worked on so he can copy them. We'll hang them all in here—and add drawings of the others we build. Kind of like a gallery. A trademark."

  There were tears in her eyes when she turned and wrapped her arms around him. Her fierce grip surprised him, but he returned it.

  "More than boats," she murmured, then drew back to frame his face in her hands. "It's wonderful," she said again and pulled his mouth down to hers.

  The kiss swarmed through him, swamped him, staggered him. Everything about her, about them, spun around in his heart. Questions, dozens of them, buzzed like bees in his head. And the answer, the single answer to all of them, was nearly within his reach.

  He said her name, just once, then drew her unsteadily away. He had to look at her, really look, but nothing about him seemed quite on balance.

  "Anna," he said again. "Wait a minute."

  Before he could get a firm grip on the answer, before he could get his feet back under him again, the door creaked open, letting in sunlight.

  "Excuse me, folks," Mackensie said pleasantly. "I saw the car out front."

  Chapter Nineteen

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  cam's first reaction was pure annoyance. Something was happening here, something monumental, and he didn't want any interruptions.

  "We're not open for business, Mackensie." He kept his grip on Anna's arms firm and turned his back to the man he considered no more than a paper-pushing pest.

  "Didn't think you were." With his voice still mild and friendly, Mackensie wandered in. In his line of work he rarely received a warm welcome. "Door was
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