Just as she had herself convinced she could do the job without incident, the boat tilted. She muffled a scream and nearly whipped the wheel in the opposite direction of the tilt, but Cam's hands closed over hers again and held it steady.
"We're going over!"
"Nan. We're heeled in nicely. More speed."
Her heart stayed in her throat. "You left me at the wheel."
"Sails needed trimming. The kid knows how to work the sheets. Ethan's taught him a lot, and he catches on quick. He's a damn good sailor."
"But you left me at the wheel," she repeated.
"You did fine." He brushed an absent kiss on the top of her head. "That's Tangier Island up ahead. We'll go around it, then head north. There's some quiet spots on the Little Choptank. We'll hit there about lunchtime."
They didn't appear to be capsizing, she thought with a steadying breath. And since she hadn't run them aground, she relaxed enough to lean back against him.
She planted her feet apart, as Cam did, and let her body balance with the motion of the boat. Her newest ambition was to have a little sloop, skiff, whatever it was called, when she finally got that house on the water.
She would have the Quinn brothers build it for her, she decided, dreaming. "If I had a boat, I'd do this every chance I got."
"We'll have to teach you the basics. Before long we'll have you trapezing."
"What? Swinging from the mast in a spangled leotard?"
The image had its appeal. "Not quite. You use a rig—a trapeze—and you hang out over the water."
"Well, I like it," he said with a laugh. "It's for speed, balancing power."
"Hanging out over the water," she mused, glancing to port. "I might like it too."
he let her work the jib, under Seth's watchful eye. She liked the feel of the line in her hand and knowing she was in charge—more or less—of the billowing white sheet. They rounded the little sandy spit of Tangier Island, and she was treated to the quick maneuvering of tacking, jibbing, the teamwork necessary to maintain speed while changing course.
Cam had stripped down to denim cutoffs, and his skin gleamed with sun and sweat and water. If her hands ached a little from the unfamiliar work, she didn't complain. Instead she got a foolish thrill when Cam told her she was a pretty good crew.
They had lunch on Hudson Creek off the Little Chop-tank River, near a broken-down wharf with only the birds and the lap of water for company. The sun was bright in a clear blue sky, and the temperature had soared into the eighties to give a hint of the summer that was still weeks away.
To the accompaniment of music on the radio, they took a cooling swim. Foolish paddled joyfully while Seth dived beneath the mirrorlike surface and swam like a wild dolphin.
"He's having the time of his life," Anna murmured. A layer of the sulky, defiant, angry boy she'd first interviewed was being washed away. She wondered if he knew it.
"Then I guess I can't be too annoyed that you insisted on his coming along."
She smiled. She'd bundled her hair on top of her head in a vain attempt to keep it dry. With the way Seth and the puppy were splashing, nothing was dry. "You don't really mind. And you'd never have had that smooth of a sail without him on board."
"True enough, but there's something to be said for a rough sail." He parted the water in front of him, then slid his arms around her.
Anna gripped his shoulders in automatic defense. "No dunking."
"Would I do anything that predictable?" His eyes were smoky with laughter. "Especially when this is more fun." He tilted his head and kissed her.
Their lips were wet and slippery, and Anna's pulse thrummed at the sensation of his mouth sliding over hers, then capturing, then taking. The cool water seemed to grow warmer as their legs tangled. She was weightless, sighing as she floated into the kiss.
Then she was underwater.
She surfaced sputtering, shaking wet hair out of her eyes. The first thing she heard was Seth's laughter. The first thing she saw was Cam's grin.
"It was irresistible," he claimed, then swallowed water himself as she flipped onto her stomach and kicked it into his face.
"You're next," she warned Seth, who was so stunned at the idea of an adult playing with him that she caught him easily and wrestled him under.
He struggled, spat out water, swallowed more when he laughed. "Hey, I didn't do anything."
"You laughed. Besides, as I see it, you guys work as a team. It was probably your idea."
"No way." He wiggled free, then got the bright idea to dive and pull her under the surface by the ankle.
It was a pitched battle, and when they were exhausted, they agreed to call it a draw. It was only then that they noticed Cam was no longer in the water but sitting comfortably on the side of the boat eating a sandwich.
"What are you doing up there?" Anna called out while she pushed her sopping-wet hair back.
"Watching the show." He washed the ham and cheese down with Pepsi. "A couple of goons."
"Goons?" She slid her eyes toward Seth, and in tacit agreement the foes became a unit. "I only see one goon around here, how about you?"
"Just one," he agreed as they swam slowly toward the boat.
Any idiot could have seen what they had in mind. Cam nearly lifted his legs out of reach, then he decided what the hell and let them pull him back into the water with an impressive splash.
It would be hours before it occurred to Seth that Anna and Cam had both had their hands on him. And he hadn't been scared at all.
after the boat was docked, the sails dropped, the decks swabbed, Anna rolled up her metaphorical sleeves and got to work in the kitchen. It was her mission to give the Quinn men a meal they wouldn't soon forget. She might have been a novice sailor, but here she was an expert.
"It smells like glory," Phillip told her when he wandered in.
"It'll taste better." She built the
layers of her lasagna with an artist's flair. "Old family recipe."
"They're the best," he agreed. "We've got my father's secret waffle batter recipe. I'll have to whip you up some in the morning."
"I'd like that." She glanced up to smile at him and noted what she thought was worry in his eyes. "Everything all right?"
"Sure. Just some leftover tangles from work." It had nothing to do with work, but with the latest report from the private investigator he'd hired. Seth's mother had been spotted in Norfolk—and that was entirely too close. "Need any help in here?"
"Everything's under control." She finished off her casserole with a thin layer of mozzarella before popping it in the oven. "You might want to try the wine."
Absently Phillip picked up the bottle breathing on the counter. And instantly his interest was piqued. "Nebbiolo, the best of the Italian reds."
"I think so, and I can promise my lasagna's a match for it."
Phillip grinned as he poured two glasses. His eyes were a golden brown that for some reason made Anna think of archangels. "Anna, my love, why don't you toss Cam over and run away with me?"
"Because I'd hunt you both down and kill you," Cam stated as he stepped into the kitchen. "Back off from my woman, bro, before I hurt you." Though it was said lightly, Cam wasn't entirely sure he was joking. And he wasn't entirely pleased to feel the hot little spurt of jealousy.
He wasn't the jealous type.
"He doesn't know a Barolo from a Chianti," Phillip told her as he got down another glass. "You're better off with me."
"Goodness," she said in a passable imitation of their below-the-Mason-Dixon-line drawl, "I just love being fought over by strong men. And here comes one more," she added as Ethan stepped through the back door. "You want to duel for me too, Ethan?"
He blinked and scratched his head. Women confused him, but he was pretty sure there was a joke coming on. "Did you make whatever's cooking in there?"
"With my own little hands," she assured him.
"I'll go get my gun."
When she laughed, he shot her a quick smile, then ducked out of the room to shower off the day's work.
"Jesus, Ethan nearly flirted with a woman." Amazed, Phillip lifted his glass in a toast. "We're going to have to keep you around, Anna."
"If someone will set the table while I put the salad together, I might hang around long enough to let you sample my cannoli."
Cam and Phillip eyed each other. "Whose turn is it?" Cam demanded.
"Not mine. It must be yours."
"No way. I did it yesterday." They studied each other another moment, then both turned to the door and yelled for Seth.
Anna only shook her head. Younger brothers, she supposed, were meant to be abused in such matters.
She knew the meal was a success when Seth gobbled up a third helping. He'd lost that alley-cat boniness, she noted. And the pallor. Perhaps his eyes were still occasionally wary, peeking out under his lashes as if searching for the blow that he'd learned too young to expect. But more often, Anna thought, there was humor in his eyes. He was a bright boy who was discovering how to be amused