Sea swept, p.16
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       Sea Swept, p.16
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         Part #1 of Chesapeake Bay Saga series by Nora Roberts

  "Because I said so.'' Oh, he hated falling back on something that lame, and that adult. "The hose is around back. God, I want a beer."

  But because he lacked the energy even for that, he dropped into the closest chair and stared glassy-eyed at nothing. If he had to face that mall again in this life, he promised himself, he would just shoot himself in the head and be done with it.

  "That was Anna," Phillip told him as he wandered back into the living room.

  "Anna? Saturday night." He couldn't stop the groan. "I need a transfusion."

  "She said to tell you she'd take care of dinner."

  "Good, fine. I've got to pull myself together. The kid's yours and Ethan's for tonight."

  "He's Ethan's," Phillip corrected. "I've got a date myself." But he sank into a chair and closed his eyes. "It's not even five o'clock and all I want to do is crawl into bed and oblivion. How do people do this?''

  "He's got enough clothes to last him a year. If we only have to do it once a year, how bad can it be?"

  Phillip opened one eye. "He's got spring and summer clothes. What happens when fall gets here? Sweaters, coats, boots. And he's bound to outgrow every damn thing we bought today."

  "We can't allow that to happen. There must be a pill or something we can give him. And maybe he's got a coat already."

  "He came pretty much with the clothes on his back. Dad didn't get a package deal this time either."

  "Okay, we'll think about that later. Lots later." Cam pressed his fingers to his eyes. "You saw the way Claremont looked at him, didn't you? That nasty little gleam in his beady little eyes."

  "I saw it. He'll talk, and he'll say what he wants to say. Nothing we can do about it."

  "You think the kid knows anything, one way or the other?"

  "I don't know what Seth knows. I can't get a handle on him. But I'm going to look into investigators on Monday. Check on tracking down the mother."

  "Asking for trouble."

  "We've already got trouble. The only way to deal with it is to gather information. If it turns out that Seth's a Quinn by blood, then we deal with that."

  "Dad wouldn't have hurt Mom that way. Marriage wasn't just a thing to them. It was the thing. And they were solid."

  "If he'd slipped, he'd have told her." That Phillip firmly believed. "And they'd have worked it out. That part of their lives wasn't our business, and it wouldn't be our business now but for Seth."

  "He wouldn't have slipped," Cam murmured, determined to believe it. "I'll tell you one thing I got from them. You get married, you make that promise, that's it. I figure that's why the three of us are still on the single side of life."

  "Maybe. But we can't ignore the talk, the suspicions. And if the insurance company balks on paying off Dad's policy, it's going to put all four of us in a bind. Especially since we just signed a lease for that hellhole."

  "We'll be okay. Luck's starting to move in our direction."

  "Oh?" Phil asked as Cam rose. "How do you figure that?"

  "Because I'm about to spend the evening with one of the sexiest women on the planet. And I intend to get very lucky." He glanced back as he started up the stairs. "Don't wait up, bro."

  When he stepped into his bedroom, Cam heard the commotion from the backyard. He walked to the window and looked down on Seth and the dogs. Simon was sitting stoically while Seth soaped him down. Foolish raced in mad circles, barking in excitement and terror at the hose that was pouring out water where it had been carelessly tossed on the grass.

  Of course, the kid was wearing his brand-new shoes, which were now soaking wet and muddy. He was laughing like a loon.

  He hadn't known the boy could laugh like that, Cam realized as he kept watching. He hadn't known he could look like that, unreservedly happy and young and silly.

  Simon stood up, gave a long, violent shake that sent water and soap flying. Backing up, Seth slipped in the wet grass and tumbled onto his back. He continued to howl with laughter as both dogs pounced on him. They wrestled over the water and mud and soap until the three of them were soaked and filthy.

  Upstairs Cam just stood watching with a mile-wide grin on his face.

  the image popped in his head when he headed down the hallway to Anna's apartment. He wanted to be able to tell her about it over dinner. He wanted to share it—and he thought it would certainly soften her every bit as much as a quiet meal in a candlelit restaurant.

  The roses he'd picked up on the way weren't going to hurt either. He sniffed them himself. If he was any judge of the female mind and heart, he'd bet his full stake that Anna Spinelli had a weak spot for yellow roses.

  Before he could knock on Anna's door, the door across the hall swung open. "Hello, there, you must be the new boyfriend."

  "Hi, Mrs. Hardelman. We met a few days ago."

  "No, we didn't. You met Sister."

  "Oh." He smiled cautiously. She looked exactly like the woman who had popped out of that door before, even down to the pink chenille robe. "Well… how's it going?"

  "You brought her flowers. She'll like that. My beaux used to bring me flowers, and my Henry, God rest his soul, brought me lilacs every May. You think lilacs next month, young man, if Anna lets you keep coming around. Most of them she scoots along, but maybe she'll keep you."

  "Yeah." He managed to smile even as his heart stopped at the words "keep you."

  "Maybe." On impulse he pulled one of the roses out and gave it to her with a neat little flourish.

  "Oh!" A girlish blush rose pink on her wrinkled face. "Oh, my goodness." Her eyes gleamed with pleasure as she sniffed it. "How lovely. How sweet. Why, if I were forty years younger, I'd fight Anna for you." She winked flirtatiously. "And I'd win."

  "No contest." He flashed her a return wink and a grin. "Ah, say hi to… Sister."

  "You have a nice time tonight. You go dancing," she added as she shut the door.

  "Good idea." And chuckling to himself, Cam knocked.

  When she answered, looking sexy enough to gobble up in three quick bites, he decided the dance should begin immediately. He snatched her up, whirled her around to the throbbing, elemental beat of classic Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Then he dipped her as she laughed and stumbled.

  "Well, hello." Enjoying the quick dizziness, she chuckled. "Let me up. You've got me off balance."

  "That's just where I want you. Off balance." He lowered his mouth to hers in a molten kiss that melted every bone in her body. With her head spinning, she clutched at his shoulders.

  "Door's still open," she managed and flailed out with a hand to slam it shut.

  "Good thinking." He brought her up slowly, inch by inch, his mouth still nibbling busily on hers. "Your neighbor said I should take you dancing."

  "Oh." She was surprised steam wasn't pumping out of her pores. "Is that what that was?"

  "That was just a sample." He caught her bottom lip between his teeth, tugged, released. "Wanna tango, Anna?"

  "I think we'd better sit this one out." But she pressed a hand to her heart to hold it in place as she eased out of his arms. "You brought me flowers." She buried her face in them as she took them from him. "Figured I was a sucker for rosebuds, did you?"


  "You're right." She laughed over the blooms. "I'll put them in water. You can pour us some wine. I've got it breathing on the counter. Glasses are right there."

  "Okay. I—" He looked over, saw a shiny pot steaming on the stove, a platter of antipasto on the counter. "What's all this?"

  "Dinner." She crouched down at a kitchen cupboard to locate a vase. "Didn't Phillip give you my message?"

  "I thought when you told him you'd take care of it, you meant you had someplace you wanted to go and you'd make the reservations." He plucked a stuffed mushroom off the platter, sampled it, and sighed in pure sensory delight. "I didn't think you'd be cooking for me."

  "I like to cook," she said easily as she filled a pale pink vase with water. "And I wanted to be alone with you."

bsp; He swallowed quickly. "Hard to argue with that. What are we having?''

  "Linguini, with the famous Spinelli family red sauce."

  She turned to take the glass of Merlot he'd poured for her. Her face was just a little flushed from the kitchen heat. The dress she'd chosen was the color of ripe peaches and molded her curves like a lover's hands. Her hair was down and curling madly, and her lips were painted nearly the same color as the wine she sipped.

  Cam decided if they were to have more than a three-second conversation before he grabbed her again, he'd better stay on the opposite side of the counter.

  "It smells incredible."

  "It tastes better."

  Her pulse was hammering everywhere at once. The way he'd looked at her, just that one long, intense, and measuring stare before he smiled, had brought out her need, a low and nagging ache of need, throbbing incessantly. On an impulse she reached back and turned the flame under the pot off. Keeping her eyes on Cam's, she walked around the counter.

  "So do I," she told him. She set her glass aside, then took his, placed it on the counter. She shook her hair back, tipped her face up to his, smiled slowly. "Try me."

  Chapter Twelve

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  his blood was already pounding, a hard, primal beat, as he took a step forward. He looked into her eyes, wanting to see every shift and flicker of emotion. "I'm going to want to do more than try. So be sure."

  Sometimes, she thought, you had to go with your instincts, with your cravings. At that moment hers, all of hers, centered on him. "You wouldn't be here tonight if I wasn't."

  With a slow curving of lips, she reached up and twined his hair around her finger. She could handle him. She was sure of it.

  He put his hands on her hips. This was no pencil-slim model with a body like a boy, but a woman. And he wanted her. He smiled back. He could handle her. He was sure of it. "You like to gamble, Anna?"

  "Now and then."

  "Let's roll the dice."

  He brought her against him in one hard jerk, one that made her breath catch and release an instant before his mouth was on hers. The kiss was quickly desperate, quickly ravenous, tongues tangling, teeth nipping. The little feral purrs that sounded in her throat went straight to his head like hot whiskey.

  She tugged his shirt free of his waistband, then her hands shot under. Flesh and muscle, she needed to feel it. With a hum of pleasure she kneaded and scraped and stroked until that flesh seemed to burn under her fingers, and those muscles hardened like iron.

  She wanted those muscles, that strength pitted against her own.

  He fumbled at the back of her dress, searching for a zipper, and she laughed breathlessly with her mouth at his throat. "It doesn't have a zipper." She closed her teeth over his jaw and didn't bother to be gentle. "You have to… peel it off."

  "Jesus." He tugged the snug, stretchy material off her shoulder and replaced it with teeth as the craving for the taste of flesh, her flesh, overwhelmed him.

  They circled like dancers, though their pace outdistanced the dreamy strains of the Chopin prelude that had replaced the Boss. He toed off his shoes. She rushed open the buttons of his shut. His head was swimming as they bumped into the bedroom door. She laughed again, but the sound slipped toward a moan when he yanked the dress down to her waist, when those eyes of smoked steel streaked down, when he lowered his head and began to devour the flesh above the black lace edge of her bra.

  His tongue slid under, teasing and tasting until her knees were loose and her head full of flashing lights and colors. She'd known he could do this to her, take her to that teetering edge of reason and insanity. She'd wanted him to. More, she'd wanted to take him there with her.

  The wanting was huge, ruthlessly keen, recklessly primitive. And for now, for both of them, it was all that mattered.

  Murmuring mindlessly, she dragged off his shirt and dug her nails into the hard ridge of his shoulders. His chest was broad and firm, the flesh hot and smooth under her roaming hands. There were scars, under the shoulder, along the ribs. The body, she thought, of a risk-taker, of a man who played to win.

  With a quick and expert flick of his fingers, he opened the front hook and let her breasts fill his greedy hands. She was magnificent. Golden skin and lush curves. He thought her body almost impossibly perfect. Yet it was erotically real, soft and firm and smooth and fragrant. He wanted to bury himself in her, but when she tugged at the button of his slacks, he shook his head.

  "Uh-uh. I want you in bed." He brought her hands up until they circled his neck, brought his mouth down until the kiss was savage and stunning. "I want you under me, over me, wrapped around me."

  She kicked off one shoe, balancing herself as they swayed toward the bed. "I want you inside me." Kicked off the other as they tumbled to the mattress.

  She rolled over him first, straddling him. The light was nearly gone. Only a pale wash from the setting sun slipped through the windows. Shadows shifted. Her lips were hungry, restless, racing over his face, his throat. Though she had wanted men before, now there was a ferocious and primal greed sweeping through her that she'd never experienced. She would take him, was all she could think, take what she wanted and ease this almost unbearable need.

  When she arched back and her upper body was silhouetted in that fragile light, the breath clogged in his lungs. He wanted with an urgency he couldn't remember feeling for anything or anyone else. The desire to take, to possess, to own, surged violently in his already raging blood.

  He reared up, gripping her hair in one hand, yanking her head back to expose that long column of throat to his mouth. He could have anything with her. Would have everything.

  He was rougher than he meant to be as he pushed her back on the bed. His breath was already heaving as he locked his hands with hers. Her eyes were dark and gleaming—the kind of eyes, he thought, for a man to drown in.

  Her hair a tangled mass of black silk against the deep bronze of the spread. The scent of her was more than a provocative invitation. It was a smoldering demand.

  Take me, it seemed to say. If you dare.

  "I could eat you alive," he murmured and once more crushed his mouth to hers.

  He held her down, knowing that if she wrestled free it would be over too soon. Fast, God, yes, he wanted fast, but he didn't want it to end. He thought he could live his life right here in this bed with Anna's quivering body under his.

  Her hands flexed under his, her body arched when he drew the tip of her breast into his mouth. He could feel her heartbeat stumble as he used teeth, tongue, lips to taste, to pleasure them both.

  When he'd filled himself on her, fed himself on her, he released her hands to touch, and be touched.

  They rolled over the bed, groping, tugging at the clothes that remained between them. Their breath was quick and labored, punctuated by half gasps and low moans that spoke of turbulent thrills and dark delights. Sensation slid over sensation, building trembling layers toward delirium. She shuddered under his hands, nearly wept, as each new lash of pleasure whipped through her, each sharp and separate.

  She fought to bring him the same barbed and edgy ache.

  His hand closed over her, and she was hot and wet and ready. Her body arched, her nails bit into his back as her system exploded to peak.

  Then they went mad.

  She would remember only a battle for more. And more. Still more. Wild animal sex, a craving to mate. Seeking hands slid off damp flesh, hungry mouth sought hungry mouth. She came again, and her cry of release was a half sob of both triumph and helplessness.

  The light was gone, but he could still see her. The glint of those dark eyes, the generous shape of that beautiful mouth. The blood roared in his head, in his heart, in his loins. He could think only now and drove himself hard and deep inside her.

  His vision grayed, his mind reeled. They remained poised for a shivering moment, joined, mated. He wasn't even aware that his hands sought hers, that their fingers locked into fists.

/>   Then they began to move, a race now full of speed and urgency. There was the good, healthy sound of damp flesh slapping against damp flesh. Their gazes met and held. He watched her eyes go blind and opaque as she crested, he heard the moan tear from her lips an instant before he closed his over hers to swallow the sound.

  Her hips pumped like pistons, urging him on, driving him closer to his own jagged brink. He hammered himself into her, holding onto the edge by his fingertips. Watching her, watching her while the need for release clawed viciously at his gut. Then her body went taut, a drawn bow of shock and pleasure.

  It was her scream he swallowed as he let himself fall.

  he couldn't possibly move. Cam was certain that if someone held a gun to his head at that moment, he would simply lie there and take the bullet. At least he'd die a satisfied man.

  He couldn't think of a better place to be than stretched out over Anna's curvy body, with his face buried in her hair. And if he stayed there long enough, he might get his second wind.

  The music had changed again. When his mind cleared enough for him to tune in to it, he recognized Paul Simon's clever twists of lyrics and melody. He nearly drifted off as he was invited to call the singer Al.

  "If you fall asleep on top of me, I'm going to have to hurt you."

  He drummed up the energy to smile. "I'm not going to sleep. I'm thinking about making love to you again."

  "Oh." She stroked her hands down his back to his hips. "Are you?"

  "Yeah. Just give me a couple of minutes."

  "I'd be glad to. If I could breathe."

  "Oh." Lazily he propped himself on his elbows and looked down at her. "Sorry."

  She only grinned. "No, you're not. You're smug. But so am I, so that's okay."

  "It was great sex."

  "It was great sex," she agreed. "Now I'm going to finish dinner. We'll need fuel if we're going to try that again."

  Both delighted and baffled, he shook his head. "You're a fascinating woman, Anna. No games, no pretenses. Looking the way you do, you could have men jumping through hoops."

  She gave him a little shove so she could wiggle free. "What makes you think I haven't? You're exactly where I wanted you, aren't you?" Smiling, she rose and walked naked to the closet.

  "That's a hell of a body you've got there, Miz Spinelli."

  She glanced over her shoulder as she wrapped herself in a short red robe. "Same to you, Quinn."

  She headed out to the kitchen, humming to herself as she turned the heat back on under the sauce, filled a pot with water for the pasta. Lord, it was lovely, she thought, to feel so loose, so limber, so liberated. However reckless it might be for her to take Cameron Quinn as a lover, the results were worth every risk.

  He'd made her aware of every inch of her body, and every inch of his. He made her feel painfully alive. And best of all, she mused as she took out the bread she wanted to toast lightly, he seemed to understand her.

  It was one thing to be wanted by a man, to be satisfied by a man. But it warmed her heart to be liked by the man who desired her.

  She turned and picked up her wine just as Cam came out of the bedroom. He'd pulled on his slacks but hadn't bothered to hook them. Anna sipped slowly while she studied him over the rim of her glass. Broad shoulders, hard chest, the waist that tapered to narrow hips and long legs. Oh, yes, he had a terrific body.

  And for now it was all hers.

  She lifted a pepper from the tray and held it up to his lips.

  "It's got bite," Cam said as the heat filled his mouth.

  "Um-hmm. I like… bite." She picked up his wine and handed it to him. "Hungry?"

  "As a matter of fact."

  "It won't be long." And because she recognized the look in his eye, she slipped around the counter to stir her sauce. "The water's nearly on the boil."

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