"Tired?"

She sighed once. "A little. It was quite a day. A fascinating one." Blew out a breath. "And a fattening one. I'm definitely going to make use of the hotel's health club in the morning. I enjoyed myself," she added as he parked near the lobby entrance. "Very much."

"Good. Then you'll be willing to do it again." He climbed out, skirted the hood, then took her hand as she stepped onto the curb.

"There's no need for you to take me up. I know the way."

"I'll take you up anyway."

"I'm not going to ask you to come in."

"I'm still going to walk you to your door, Sybill."

She let it go, crossing with him to the elevators, stepping inside with him when the doors opened. "So, you'll drive to Baltimore in the morning?" She pushed the button for her floor.

"Tonight. When things are fairly settled here, I drive back Sunday nights. There's rarely any traffic, and I can get an earlier start on Mondays."

"It can't be easy for you, the commute, the demands on your time, and the tug-of-war of responsibilities."

"A lot of things aren't easy. But they're worth working for." He caressed her hair. "I don't mind putting time and effort into something I enjoy."

"Well…" She cleared her throat and walked out of the elevator the minute the doors opened. "I appreciate the time and effort you put into today."

"I'll be back Thursday night. I want to see you."

She slipped her key card out of her purse. "I can't be sure right now what I'll be doing at the end of the week."

He simply framed her face with his hands, moved in and covered her mouth with his. The taste of her, he thought. He couldn't seem to get enough of the taste of her. "I want to see you," he murmured against her lips.

She'd always been so good at staying in control, at distancing herself from attempts at seduction, from resisting the persuasions of physical attractions. But with him, each time she could feel herself slipping a little farther, a little deeper.

"I'm not ready for this," she heard herself say.

"Neither am I." Still, he drew her closer, held her tighter and took the kiss toward desperation. "I want you. Maybe it's a good thing we both have a few days to think about what happens next."

She looked up at him, shaken, yearning, and just a little frightened of what was happening inside her. "Yes, I think it's a very good thing." She turned, had to use both hands to shove the key card into its slot. "Drive carefully." She stepped inside, closed the door quickly, then leaned back against it until she was certain her heart wasn't going to pump its way out of her chest.

It was insane, she thought, absolutely insane to get this involved this quickly. She was honest enough with herself, scientist enough not to skew the results with incorrect data, to admit that what was happening to her where Phillip Quinn was concerned had nothing whatsoever to do with Seth.

It should be stopped. She closed her eyes and felt the pressure of his mouth still vibrating on her lips. And she was afraid it couldn't be stopped.

Chapter Eight

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it was probably a chancy step to take. Sybill wondered if it could possibly be illegal. Loitering near St. Christopher's Middle School certainly made her feel like some sort of criminal, no matter how firmly she told herself she was doing nothing wrong.

She was simply walking on a public street in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn't as though she was stalking Seth, or planning to abduct him. She only wanted to talk to him, to see him alone for a little while.

She'd waited until the middle of the week, watching from a careful distance on Monday and Tuesday to gauge his routine, and the timing. Habitually, she now knew, the buses lumbered up to school several minutes before the doors opened and children began pouring out.

Elementary first, then middle, then the high school students.

That alone was a lesson in the process of childhood, she mused. The compact little bodies and fresh round faces of the elementary children, then the more gangling, somewhat awkward forms of those who hovered around puberty. And last, the astonishingly adult and more individual young people who strolled out of the high school.

It was a study in itself, she decided. From dangling shoelaces and gap-toothed smiles to cowlicks and ball jackets to baggy jeans and shining falls of hair.

Children had never been a part of her life, or her interests. She'd grown up in a world of adults and had been expected to acclimate, to conform. There had been no big yellow school buses, no wild rebel yells when bursting out of the school doors into freedom, no lingering in the parking lot with some leather-jacketed bad boy.

So she observed all those things here like an audience at a play and found the mix of drama and comedy both amusing a

nd informative.

When Seth hurried out, bumping bodies with the dark-haired boy she'd decided was his most usual companion, her pulse quickened. He whipped his ball cap out of his pocket and put it on his head the moment he was through the doors. A ritual, she thought, symbolizing the change of rules. The other boy fished in his pocket and pulled out a fistful of bubblegum. In seconds it was wadded into his mouth.

The noise level rose, making it impossible for her to hear their conversation, but it appeared to be animated and included a great deal of elbow jabbing and shoulder punching.

Typical male affection pattern, she concluded.

They turned their backs on the buses and began to walk down the sidewalk. Moments later, a smaller boy raced up to them. He bounced, Sybill noted, and seemed to have a great deal to say for himself.

She waited a moment longer, then casually took a path that would intersect with theirs.

"Shit, man, that geography test was nothing. A bozo could've aced it." Seth shrugged to distribute the weight of his backpack.

The other boy blew an impressive candy-pink bubble, popped it, then sucked it in. "I don't know what's the big damn deal about knowing all the states and capitals. It's not like I'm going to live in North Dakota."

"Seth, hello."

Sybill watched him stop, adjust his train of thought, and focus on her. "Oh, yeah, hi."

"I guess school's done for the day. You heading home?"

"The boatyard." There was that little dance on the nape of his neck again. It irritated him. "We got work."

"I'm going that way myself." She tried a smile on the other boys. "Hi, I'm Sybill."

"I'm Danny," the other boy told her. "That's Will."

"Nice to meet you."

"We had vegetable soup for lunch," Will informed everyone grandly. "And Lisa Harbough threw up all over. And Mr. Jim had to clean it up, and her mom came to get her, and we couldn't write our vocabulary words." He danced around Sybill as he relayed the information, then shot her an amazingly innocent, wonderfully bright smile that she was helpless to resist.

"I hope Lisa's feeling better soon."

"Once when I threw up I got to stay home and watch TV all day. Me and Danny live over there on Heron Lane. Where do you live?"

"I'm just visiting."

"My Uncle John and Aunt Margie moved to South Carolina and we got to visit them. They have two dogs and a baby named Mike. Do you have dogs and babies?"

"No… no, I don't."

"You can get them," he told her. "You can go right to the animal shelter and get a dog—that's what we did. And you can get married and make a baby so it lives in your stomach. There's nothing to it."

"Jeez, Will." Seth rolled his eyes, while Sybill only managed to blink.

"Well, I'm going to have dogs and babies when I grow up. As many as I want." He flashed that hundred-watt smile again, then raced away. " 'Bye."

"He's such a geek," Danny said with the shuddering disdain of older brother for younger. "See you, Seth." He bounded after Will, turned briefly to run backward and flipped a wave toward Sybill. " 'Bye."

"Will's not really a geek," Seth told Sybill. "He's just a kid, and he's got diarrhea of the mouth, but he's pretty cool."

"He's certainly friendly." She shifted her shoulder bag, smiled down at him. "Do you mind if I walk the rest of the way with you?"

"It's okay."

"I thought I heard you say something about a geography test."

"Yeah, we took one today. It was nothing."

"You like school?"

"It's there." He jerked his shoulder. "You gotta go."

"I always enjoyed it. Learning new things." She laughed lightly. "I suppose I


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