dangling, to take out a cigar. "It's your turn. Looks like he took us in the same order he took us in."

"Symmetry," Cam decided, dropping down beside Ethan. "He'd have liked the symmetry of it. I talked to him the first time the day I met Anna." He thought back to it, the way he'd seen her cross the back lawn with that knockout face and that ugly suit. "I guess that's a kind of symmetry, too."

The chill was still dancing, tapping fast now, up and down Phillip's spine. "What do you mean, talked to him'?"

"Had a conversation." Cam plucked the cigar out of Ethan's mouth and helped himself to a puff. "Of course, I figured I'd cracked." He glanced up, smiled. "You figure you've cracked, Phil?"

"No. I've just been working too hard."

"Shit, drawing pictures, coming up with jingles. Big deal."

"Kiss ass." But with a sigh, he sat on the dock. "Are the two of you trying to tell me you've talked to Dad? The one who died in March? The one we buried a few miles from here?"

In an easy gesture Cam passed Phillip the cigar. "You trying to tell us you haven't?"

"I don't believe in that sort of thing."

"Doesn't much matter what you believe when it happens," Ethan pointed out and took back his cigar. "Last time I saw him was the night I asked Grace to marry me. He had a bag of peanuts."

"Christ Jesus," Phillip murmured.

"I could smell them, the same way I can smell this cigar smoke, the water, Cam's leather jacket."

"When people die, that's it. They don't come back." Phillip paused a moment, waiting until the cigar came back down the line to him. "Did you—touch him?"

Cam angled his head. "Did you?"

"He was solid. He couldn't be."

"It's either that," Ethan pointed out, "or we're all crazy."

"We barely had time to say good-bye, and no time to understand." Cam let out a breath. His grief had eased and softened. "He bought us each a little more time. That's what I think."

"He and Mom bought us all time when they made us Quinns." He couldn't think about it, Phillip decided. Not now, at any rate. "It must have ripped him when he found out he had a daughter he'd never known."

"He'd have wanted to help her, save her," Ethan murmured.

"He'd have seen it was too late for her. But not for Seth," Cam concluded. "So he'd have done whatever he could do to save Seth."

"His grandson." Phillip watched an egret soar, then slide silently into the dark. And he was no longer cold. "He'd have seen himself in the eyes, but he would've wanted answers. I've been thinking about that. The logical step would have been for him to try to locate Gloria's mother, have her confirm it."

"It would have taken time." Cam considered it. "She's married, she's living in Europe, and from what Sybill said, she wasn't interested in contacting him."

"And he ran out of time," Phillip concluded. "But now we know. And now, we make it stick."

she hadn't meant to sleep. Sybill indulged in a long, hot shower, then wrapped herself in a robe with the intention of adding to her notes. She ordered herself to drum up the courage to call her mother, to speak her mind and demand a written corroboration of her own notarized statement.

She did neither. Instead she fell face down on the bed, closed her eyes, and escaped.

The knocking at the door pulled her out of sleep into groggy. She stumbled out of bed, fumbled for the light switch. With her mind still fuzzy, she walked through the parlor and barely had the presence of mind to check the peephole.

She let out a self-directed annoyed sigh as she flipped off the locks.

Phillip took one look at her tousled hair, sleepy eyes, and practical navy terry robe, and smiled. "Well, I did tell you not to dress up."

"I'm sorry. I fell asleep." Distracted, she pushed at her hair. She hated being mussed, particularly when he looked so fresh and alert. And gorgeous.

"If you're tired, I'll take a rain check."

"No, I… if I sleep any more now I'll end up wide awake at three A.M. I hate hotel rooms at three A.M." She stepped back to let him in. "I'll just get dressed."

"Stay comfortable," he suggested, and used his free hand to cup the nape of her neck and bring her forward for a casual kiss. "I've already seen you naked. And a very appealing sight it was."

It appeared, she decided, that her dignity was still just out of reach. "I'm not going to claim that was a mistake."

"Good." He set the wine he carried on her coffee table.

"But," she said, with what she considered admirable patience, "neither was it wise. We're both sensible people."

"Speak for yourself, doc. I stop feeling sensible every time I get a whiff of you. What is that you wear?"

She leaned back when he leaned in to sniff at her. "Phillip."

"Sybill." And he laughed. "How about if I attempt to be civilized and not cart you off to bed until you're a little more awake?"

"I appreciate your restraint," she said tightly.

"And so you should. Hungry?"

"What is this almost pathological need of yours to feed me?"

"You're the analyst," he told her with a shrug. "I've got the wine. You got some glasses?"

She might have sighed, but it wouldn't have been constructive. She did want to talk to him, to put their relationship on an even footing again. To ask his advice. And, she hoped, to enlist his help in persuading Seth to accept her friendship.

She took the two short, thick glasses the hotel provided, lifting her eyebrow when Phillip sneered at them. He had a damn sexy sneer.

"They're an insult to this very delightful wine," he said, as he opened the bottle with the stainless-steel corkscrew he'd brought with him. "But if they're the best you can offer we'll just have to make do."

"I forgot to pack my Waterford."

"Next time." He poured the pretty straw-colored wine into the glasses, handed her one. "To beginnings, middles, and endings. We seem to be at all three."

"Which means?"

"The charade's ended, the teamwork is established, and we've just become lovers. I'm happy with all three aspects of our very interesting relationship."

"Teamwork?" She picked the aspect that didn't shame her or make her nervous.

"Seth's a Quinn. With your help we'll make that legal and permanent, and soon."

She stared down into her wine. "It's important to you that he have your name."

"His grandfather's name," Phillip corrected. "And it can't be nearly as important to me as it is to Seth."

"Yes, you're right. I saw his face when I told him. He looked almost awed. Professor Quinn must have been an extraordinary man."

"My parents were special. They had the kind of marriage you rarely see. A true partnership, based on trust, respect, love, passion. It hasn't been easy wondering if my father broke that trust."

"You were afraid that he had cheated on your mother with Gloria, fathered a child with her." Sybill sat down. "It was hideous of her to plant that seed."

"It was also hell living with the seeds in me that I couldn't quite stomp out. Resentment for Seth. Was he my father's son?

His true son, while I was just one of the substitutes? I knew better," he added as he sat beside her. "In my heart. But it's one of those mind games that nag at you at three A.M."

If nothing else, she realized, she'd eased his mind on that one point. But it wasn't enough. "I'm going to ask my mother to corroborate my statement in writing. I don't know that she will. I doubt that she will," Sybill admitted. "But I'll ask, I'll try."

"Teamwork, see." He took her hand in his, nuzzling it, which had her turning her head to study him warily.

"Your jaw's bruised."

"Yeah." He grimaced, wiggled it. "Cam still has a damn sneaky left."

"He hit you?"

The absolute shock in her voice made him laugh. Obviously the good doctor didn't come from a world where fists flew. "I was going to hit him first, but he beat me to it. Which means I owe him one. I'd have paid him back then and there, but Et

han got me in a choke hold."

"Oh, God." Swamped with distress, she got to her feet. "This was about us. About what happened today on the boat. It should never have happened. I knew it would cause trouble between you and your family."

"Yes," he said evenly, "it was about us. And we worked it out. Sybill, my brothers and I have been pounding on each other as long as we've been brothers. It's a Quinn family tradition. Like my father's waffle recipe."

Distress continued to ripple through her. But confusion ran with it. Fists and waffles? she wondered, pulling a hand through her disordered hair. "You fight with them, physically?"

"Sure."


Tags: Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga Romance
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