Sea swept, p.21
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       Sea Swept, p.21

         Part #1 of Chesapeake Bay Saga series by Nora Roberts
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  She was helpless, staggered. The assault on her senses left her limbs shuddering and her heart hammering. She said his name, tried to, but it caught on a gasp as he spun her around. Her damp palms pressed to the wall.

  He tore at the button of her skirt. She felt it give way, shivering as the material slid over her hips and pooled at her feet. His hands were on her breasts, molding, sliding from satin to flesh and back again. Then he tore that as well, and she gloried in the sound of the delicate material rending.

  His teeth nipped into her shoulder. And his hands—oh, his hands were everywhere, driving her toward madness, then beyond. Rough palms against smooth skin, clever fingers pressing, sliding.

  The breath that had torn ragged through her lips began to slow. Pleasure was thick, and midnight dark. She felt herself slipping into some erotic half-world where there was only sensation.

  Slick, stunning, and sinful.

  The wall was smooth and cool; his hands were not. The contrasts were unbearably arousing.

  When he spun her around again, her eyes were dazzled by the sunlight. He was still fully dressed and she was naked. She found it exquisitely erotic, and could say nothing as he slowly lifted her arms above her head, bracketed her wrists with one hand.

  Watching her, he combed his hand roughly through her hair to scatter pins. "I want more." He could barely speak. "Tell me you want more."

  "Yes, I want more."

  He pressed his body to hers, soft cotton, rough denim against damp flesh. And the kiss he took from her left her mind spinning.

  Then his mouth went to work on her quivering body.

  He wanted all the tastes of her, the dark honey of her mouth, the damp silk of her breasts. There was the creamy taste of her belly, the polished satin of her thighs.

  Then the heat, the furnace flood of it as he licked his way between them.

  Everything. All, was all he could think. Then more.

  Her hands gripped his hair, pressing his face closer as she climbed to peak. It was her cry, the half scream, that broke the final link on his control. It had to be now.

  He freed himself, then pressed against her. "I need to fill you." He panted the words out. "I want you to watch me when I do."

  He drove into her where they stood, and their twin groans tangled in the air.

  Afterward, he carried her to bed, lay down beside her. She curled up against him like a child, a gesture he found surprisingly sweet. He watched her sleep, thirty minutes, then a hour. He couldn't stop touching her—a hand through her hair, fingertips over the bruise on her face, a stroke over the curve of her shoulder.

  Had he said he had something inside of him for her? He began to worry just what that something might be. He'd never felt compelled to stay with a woman after sex.

  Had never felt the need to just look at her while she slept, or to touch only for the sake of touching and not to arouse.

  He wondered what odd and slippery level they'd reached.

  Then she stirred, sighed, and her eyes fluttered open and focused on him. When she smiled, his heart quite simply turned over in his chest.

  "Hi. Did I fall asleep?"

  "Looked like it to me." He searched for some glib remark, something light and frivolous, but all he could find to say was her name. "Anna." And he lowered his mouth to hers. Tenderly, softly, lovingly.

  The sleep had cleared from her eyes when he drew away, but he couldn't read them. She breathed in once, slowly, then out again. "What was that?"

  "Damned if I know." Both of them eased back cautiously. "I think we'd better order that pizza."

  Relief and disappointment warred inside her. Anna put all her effort into supporting the relief. "Good idea. The number's right next to the kitchen phone. If you don't mind calling it in, I'd like to grab a quick shower, get some clothes on."

  "All right." With casual intimacy he stroked a hand over her hip. "What do you want on it?"

  "All I can get." She waited while he laughed and was pleased that he rolled out of bed first. She needed another minute.

  "I'll pour the wine."

  "Terrific." The minute she was alone, she turned her face into the pillow and let out a muffled scream of frustration. Steps back? she thought, furious with herself. Where did she get the idiotic idea she could take a few steps back? She was over her head in love with him.

  My fault, she reminded herself, my problem. Sitting up, she pressed a hand to her traitorous heart. And my little secret, she decided.

  she felt better when she was dressed and had a light shield of makeup in place. She'd given herself a good talking-to in the shower. Maybe she was in love with him. It didn't have to be a bad thing. People fell in and out of love all the time, and the wise ones, the steady ones, enjoyed the ride.

  She could be wise and steady.

  She certainly wasn't looking for happily ever after, a white knight, a Prince Charming. Anna had outgrown fairy tales long ago, and all of her innocence had cemented into reality on the side of a deserted road at the age of twelve.

  She'd learned to make herself happy because for too many years following the rape it had seemed she was helpless to do anything but make herself and everyone near her miserable.

  She'd survived the worst. There was no doubt she could survive a slightly dented heart.

  In any case, she'd never been in love before—she had skirted around it, breezed over it, wriggled under it, but had never before run headlong into it. It could be a marvelous adventure, certainly a learning experience.

  And any woman who found herself a lover like Cameron Quinn had plenty of blessings to count.

  So she was smiling when she came into the living room and found Cam, sipping wine, staring at the cover of her latest fashion magazine. He'd put music on. Eric Clapton was pleading with Laylah.

  When she came up behind him and pecked a kiss on the back of his neck, she didn't expect his jolt of surprise.

  It was guilt, plain and simple, and he hated it. He nearly bobbled the wine and had to fight to keep his face composed.

  The pouty face on the cover of the magazine in his hand was a certain long-stemmed French model named Martine.

  "Didn't mean to startle you." She raised an eyebrow as she looked at the magazine in his hands. "Absorbed with this summer's new pastels, were you?"

  "Just passing the time. Pizza should be along in a minute." He started to set the magazine down, wanted sincerely to bury it under the sofa cushions, but she was nipping it out of his hand.

  "I used to hate her."

  His throat was uncomfortably dry. "Huh?"

  "Well, not Martine the Magnificent exactly. Models like her. Slim and blond and perfect. I was always too round and too brunette. This," she added, giving her wet, curling hair a tug, "made me insane as a teenager. I tried everything imaginable to straighten it."

  "I love your hair." He wished she'd turn the damn magazine facedown. "You're twice as beautiful as she is. There's no comparison."

  Her smile came quick and warm around the edges. "That's very sweet."

  "I mean it." He said it almost desperately—but thought it best not to add that he'd seen both of them naked and knew what he was talking about.

  "Very sweet. Still, I wanted so badly to be slim and blond and hipless."

  "You're real." He couldn't stop himself. He took the magazine and tossed it over his shoulder. "She's not."

  "That's one way to put it." Enjoying herself, she cocked her head. "Seems to me you race-around-the-world types usually go for the supermodels—they look so good draped over a man's arm."

  "I barely know her."

  "Who?"

  Jesus, he was losing it. "Anybody. There's the pizza," he said with great relief. "Your wine's on the counter. I'll get the food."

  "Fine." Without a clue as to what was suddenly making him so edgy, she wandered to the kitchen for her drink.

  Cam saw that the magazine had fallen faceup so it appeared that Martine was aiming those killer blue eyes right at hi
m. It brought back the memory of a scored cheek and a spitting female. He cast a wary glance at Anna. It wasn't an experience he cared to repeat.

  As he paid the delivery boy, Anna took the wine out to her tiny balcony. "It's a nice evening. Let's eat out here."

  She had a couple of chairs and a small folding table set out. Pink geraniums and white impatiens sprang cheerfully out of clay pots.

  "If I ever manage to save enough for a house, I want a porch. A big one. Like you have." She went back in for plates and napkins. "And a garden. One of these days I'm going to learn something about flowers."

  "A house, garden, porches." More comfortable out in the air, he settled down. "I pictured you as a town girl."

  "I always have been. I'm not sure suburbia would suit me. Fences with neighbors just over them. Too much like apartment living, I'd think, without the privacy and convenience." She slid a loaded slice of pizza onto her plate. "But I'd like to give home owning a shot—somewhere in the country. Eventually. The problem is, I can't seem to stick to a budget."

  "You?" He helped himself. "Miz Spinelli seems so practical."

  "She tries. My grandparents were very frugal, had to be. I was raised to watch my pennies." She took a bite and drew in a deep, appreciative breath before speaking over a mouthful of cheese and sauce. "Mostly I watch them roll away."

  "What's your weakness?"

  "Primarily?" She sighed. "Clothes."

  He looked over his shoulder, through the door to her clothes, heaped in a tattered pile on the floor. "I think I owe you a blouse… and a skirt, not to mention the underwear."

  She laughed lustily. "I suppose you do." She stretched out, comfortable in pale-blue leggings and an oversized white T-shirt. "This was such a hideous day. I'm glad you came by and changed it."

  "Why don't you come home with me?"

  "What?"

  Where the hell had that come from? he wondered. The thought hadn't even been in his mind when the words popped out of his mouth. But it must have been, somewhere. "For the weekend," he added. "Spend this weekend at the house."

  She brought her pizza back to her lips, bit in carefully. "I don't think that would be wise. There's an impressionable young boy in your home."

  "He knows what the hell's going on," he began, then caught the look—the Miz Spinelli look—in her eye. "Okay, I'll sleep on the sofa downstairs. You can lock the bedroom door."

  Her lips quirked. "Where do you keep the key?"

  "This weekend I'll be keeping it in my pocket. But my point is," he continued when she laughed, "you can have the bedroom. On a professional level it'll give you some time with the kid. He's coming along, Anna. And I want to take you sailing."

  "I'll come over Saturday and we can go sailing."

  "Come Friday night." He took her hand, brought her knuckles to his lips. "Stay till Sunday."

  "I'll think about it," she murmured and drew her hand away. Romantic gestures were going to undo her. "And I think if you're going to have a houseguest, you should check with your brothers. They might not care to have a woman underfoot for a weekend."

  "They love women. Especially women who cook."

  "Ah, so now I'm supposed to cook."

  "Maybe just one little pot of linguini. Or a dish of lasagna."

  She smiled and took another slice of pizza. "I'll think about it," she said again. "Now tell me about Seth."

  "He made a couple of buddies today."

  "Really? Terrific."

  Her eyes lit with such pleasure and interest, he couldn't help himself. "Yeah, I had them all up on the roof, practiced catching them as they fell off."

  Her mouth fell open, then shut again on a scowl. "Very funny, Quinn."

  "Gotcha. A kid from Seth's class and his kid brother. I bought them for five bucks as slave labor. Then they wheedled an invite out to the house for dinner, so I stuck Ethan with them."

  She rolled her eyes. "You left Ethan alone with three young boys?"

  "He can handle it. I did for a couple of hours this afternoon." And, he recalled, it hadn't been so bad. "All he has to do is feed them and make sure they don't kill each other. Their mother's picking them up at seven-thirty. Sandy McLean—well, Sandy Miller now. I went to school with her."

  He shook his head, amazed and baffled. "Two kids and a minivan. Never would've figured that for Sandy."

  "People change," she murmured, surprised at how much she envied Sandy Miller and her minivan. "Or they weren't precisely what we imagined them to be in the first place."

  "I guess. Her kids are pistols."

  Because he said it with such easy good humor, she smiled again. "Well, now I see why you popped up at my office. You wanted to escape the madness."

  "Yeah, but mostly I just wanted to rip your clothes off." He took another slice himself. "I did both."

  And, he thought, as he sipped his wine and watched the sun go down with Anna beside him, he felt damn good about it.

  Chapter Sixteen

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  drawing wasn't ethan's strong point. With the other boats he'd built, he'd worked off very rough sketches and detailed measurements. For the first boat for this client, he'd fashioned a lofting platform and had found working from it was easier and more precise.

  The skiff he'd built and sold had been a basic model, with a few tweaks of his own added. He'd been able to see the completed project in his mind easily enough and had no trouble envisioning side or interior views.

  But he understood that the beginnings of a business required all the forms Phillip had told him to sign and needed something more formal, more professional. They would want to develop a reputation for skill and quality quickly if they expected to stay afloat.

  So he'd spent countless hours in the evenings at his desk struggling over the blueprints and drawings of their first job.

  When he unrolled his completed sketches on the kitchen table, he was both pleased and proud of his work. "This," he said, holding down the top corners, "is what I had in mind."

  Cam looked over Ethan's shoulder, sipped the beer he'd just opened, grunted. "I guess that's supposed to be a boat."

  Insulted but not particularly surprised by the comment, Ethan scowled. "I'd like to see you do better, Rembrandt."

  Cam shrugged, sat. Upon closer, more neutral study, he admitted he couldn't. But that didn't make the drawing of the sloop look any more like a boat. "I guess it doesn't matter much, as long as we don't show your art project to the client." He pushed the sketch aside and got down to the blueprints. Here, Ethan's thoughtful precision and patience showed through. "Okay, now we're talking. You want to go with smooth-lap construction."

  "It's expensive," Ethan began, "but it's got advantages. He'll have a strong, fast boat when we're finished."

  "I've been in on a few," Cam murmured. "You've got to be good at it."

  "We'll be good at it."

  Cam had to grin. "Yeah."

  "The thing is…" As a matter of pride, Ethan nudged the sketch of the completed boat back over. "It takes skill and precision to smooth-lap a boat. Anybody who knows boats recognizes that. This guy, he's a Sunday sailor, doesn't know more than basic port and starboard—he's just got money. But he hangs with people who know boats."

  "And so we use him to build a rep," Cam finished. "Good thinking." He studied the figures, the drawings, the views. It would be a honey, he mused. All they had to do was build it. "We could build a lift model."

  "We could."

  Building a lift model was an old and respected stage of boat building. Boards of equal thickness would be pegged together and shaped to the desired hull form. Then the model could be taken apart so that the shape of the mold frames could be determined. Then the builders would trace the shape of the planks, or lifts, in their proper relation to one another.

  "We could start the lofting," Cam mused.

  "I figured we could start work on that tonight and continue tomorrow."

  That meant drawing the full-sized shape of the
hull on a platform in the shop. It would be detailed, showing the mold sections—and those sections would be tested by drawing in the longitudinal curves, waterlines.

  "Yeah, why wait?" Cam glanced up as Seth wandered in to raid the refrigerator. "Though it would be better if we had somebody who could draw worth diddly," he said casually and pretended not to notice Seth's sudden interest.

  "As long as we have the measurements, and the work's first class, it doesn't matter." Defending his work, Ethan smoothed a hand over his rendition of the boat.

  "Just be nicer if we could show the client something jazzy." Cam lifted a shoulder. "Phillip would call it marketing."

  "I don't care what Phillip would call it." The stubborn line began to form between Ethan's eyebrows, a sure sign that he was about to dig in his heels. "The client's satisfied with my other work, and he's not going to be critiquing a drawing. He wants a damn boat, not a picture for his wall."

  "I was just thinking…" Cam let it hang as Ethan, obviously irritated, rose to get his own beer. "Lots of times in the boatyards I've known, people come around, hang out. They like to watch boats being built—especially the people who don't know squat about boat building but think they do. You could pick up customers that way."

  "So?" Ethan popped the top and drank. "I don't care if people want to watch us rabbeting laps." He did, of course, but he didn't expect it would come to that.

  "It'd be interesting, I was thinking, if we had good framed sketches on the walls. Boats we've built."

  "We haven't built any damn boats yet."

  "Your skipjack," Cam pointed out. "The workboat.

  The one you already did for our first client. And I put in a lot of time on a two-masted schooner up in Maine a few years ago, and a snazzy little skiff in Bristol."

  Ethan sipped again, considering. "Maybe it would look good, but I'm not voting to hire some artist to paint pictures. We've got an equipment list to work out, and Phil's got to finish fiddling with the contract for this boat."

  "Just a thought." Cam turned. Seth was still standing in front of the wide-open refrigerator. "Want a menu, kid?"

  Seth jolted, then grabbed the first thing that came to hand. The carton of blueberry yogurt wasn't what he'd had in mind for a snack, but he was too embarrassed to put it back. Stuck with what he considered Phillip's health crap, he got out a spoon.

  "I got stuff to do," he muttered and hurried out.

  "Ten bucks says he feeds that to the dog," Cam said lightly and wondered how long it would take Seth to start drawing boats.

  he had a detailed and somewhat romantic sketch of Ethan's skipjack done by morning. He didn't need Phillip's presence in the kitchen to remind him it was Friday. The day before freedom. Ethan was already gone, sailing out to check crab pots and rebait. Though Seth had tried to plot how to catch all three of them together, he simply hadn't been able to figure out how to delay Ethan's dawn departure. But two out of three, he thought as he passed the table where Cam was brooding silently over his morning coffee, wasn't bad.

  It took at least two cups of coffee before any man in the Quinn household
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