He opened his mouth, closed it. Drusilla's sloop. He'd forgotten it. Just, he remembered, as he'd forgotten he'd told Anna he'd pick up the mulch she wanted for a new flower bed. And the ride he'd promised Bram in his new car.
As his anger turned inward, he stalked out of the cargo doors.
"Pissant," Cam grumbled. "Needs a kick in the ass."
"Why don't you get off his back?"
Baffled, still steaming, Cam rounded on Phillip. "Well, fuck you. You're the one who just finished stomping on him."
"I've been as worried and annoyed as you have," he shot back. "But that's enough. He's old enough to come and go as he pleases. When you were his age, you were racing around Europe and getting your hand up as many skirts as you could manage."
"I never broke my word."
"No." Calmer now, Phillip looked out to where Seth stood on the end of the dock. "And from the look of him, he didn't intend to break his either. How long are you going to let him stand out there feeling like shit?"
"A week or two ought to be enough."
At Phillip's steady stare, Cam hissed out a breath, and felt most of the temper expel with it. "Damn it. I must be getting old. I hate that. I'll go deal with it."
Seth heard the footsteps on the dock. He turned. Braced. "Go ahead and take a shot. But you only get the first one free."
"Kid, I'll only need one."
"Christ, I'm sorry," Seth blurted out. "I'm sorry I let you down. I'll do whatever grunt work you need. I'll get the design finished today. I'll make it up to you."
"Oh hell." This time Cam raked his fingers through his hair. Who felt like shit now? he asked himself. "You didn't let me down. You worried me, you pissed me off, but you didn't let me down. Nobody expects you to give all your time to this place. Or to be at home every spare minute. Damn it, first Anna's nagging at me because you're home too much and she doesn't think it's good for you. Then she's ragging because you're not home at all. How the hell did I get caught in the middle?"
"Just lucky, I guess. I had some things I had to take care of. That's all. And I was working. I got caught up in it and forgot the rest. The family's not a convenience for me, Cam. You can't believe that. It's a miracle. If it wasn't for you—"
"Stop right there. This isn't about old business, it's about now."
"I wouldn't have a now without you."
"You wouldn't have one without Ray. None of us would. Leave it at that." He jammed his hands in his pockets, looked out over the water.
Jesus, he thought. It didn't matter how old a kid got. They were still yours.
"So, you're serious about the sexy florist?"
Unconsciously Seth mirrored Cam's stance, and now they looked over the water together. "It appears that way."
"Maybe now that you've scratched that itch we'll get some work out of you."
"I seem to have some energy to spare this morning," Seth replied.
"Yeah, it always worked that way for me, too. What kind of doughnuts did you pick up?"
They were okay, Seth thought. Somehow, no matter what went on, they came back to being okay. "Variety pack. I got dibs on the Bavarian cream."
"I'm a jelly man myself. Let's go before Phil finds them."
They started back in together, then Seth stopped short. "Zucchini football."
Color drained out of Cam's cheeks. "What the hell did you say?"
"The Bread Bowl. The zucchini bread. She baked bread and you guys used it as a football. She told me."
"When?" Shaken, Cam gripped Seth's shoulders. "When did you see her?"
"I don't know. I don't. I dreamed it. Felt like I dreamed it," he murmured. His stomach jittered, but it wasn't unease he felt. It was, he realized, a kind of joy.
He'd spoken with Stella, he thought. He had a grandmother who'd shared a story with him.
"That's right, isn't it?" That joy leaped out in his voice, filled his face. "And you—you tried to intercept a pass and got hit above the eye. Knocked you down, nearly out. That's right, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Cam had to steady himself. It was a good memory. There were so many good ones. "She came running out the back door, shouting at us just as I was making the jump. I turned, and bam. Fucking galaxy of stars. That bread was like a goddamn brick. She was a hell of a doctor, but she never could cook worth a damn."
"Yeah, she told me."
"So, she bent down, looked at my pupils or whatever, held up fingers for me to count. Said it was just as well I got beaned. Saved her the trouble. Then we all started laughing—me and Dad, Phil and Ethan. Bunch of lunatics. Mom stood there, staring at us, with her hands on her hips. I can still see it. See her."
He let out a long breath. "Then she went back in and got another loaf so we could keep playing. She tell you that part?"
"No." Seth laid a hand on Cam's shoulder as they turned toward the cargo doors. "I guess she wanted you to tell me."
* * *
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WHEN THE DOUGHNUTS were devoured, and Seth was hunkered down in a corner refining Ethan's basic design for Dru's sloop, Dru stepped outside her shop to snip off any faded blossoms in the whiskey barrel tub of verbena and heliotrope beside the front door.
The night's storm had cooled the air, swept away the dragging humidity and left the morning fresh and bell-clear.
The Bay was rich blue, still kicking a bit from the turbulence of the night. Boats were already rolling over it. The watermen in their workboats, the vacationers in their rented skiffs or motor-boats shared the waters. The summer people who moored their boats and stole time to use them were out early. Why waste a minute of a perfect day? Dru mused.
In a few months, she'd be able to spend a pretty morning working on rigging, washing down the deck, polishing the brightwork of her own boat. Owning a boat meant a great deal more than casting off, hoisting sails and riding the wind. It meant pouring time, money, energy
into maintenance. But that, she thought, was part of the pleasure. Or would be for her.
She liked to work. It had been one of the many small self-realizations that had come to her over the years. She liked working, producing and the satisfaction of standing back and seeing what she'd managed to do on her own.
She enjoyed the business end of running a business. The bookkeeping, the supplies, filling orders, calculating profit. It suited her sense of order just as the nature of her business suited her love of beauty for the sake of beauty.
The boat, when it was finished, would be her personal reward for making it all come together.
And Seth… She wasn't entirely sure what Seth was. The night she'd spent with him had been glorious. But like a boat, a relationship with him would never be all smooth sailing, and there was bound to be maintenance.
Just where would they be, she wondered, if the wind that had carried them to this point stalled on them? What would they do if they ran into a serious storm, or ran aground, or simply—as so many did—found the excitement draining from the ride?
And she wished she could do no more than enjoy the moment without looking ahead for problems.
He intrigued her and challenged her. He aroused her and amused her. He stirred up feelings in her no one had—not even, she was forced to admit, the man she'd nearly married.
She was drawn to his solid sense of self, his honesty and his ease. And she was fascinated by the hints of the turbulence and passions she saw bubbling just under the surface of that ease.
He was, she believed, the most compelling man she'd ever met. He made her happy. Now they were lovers, and she was already looking for the trouble ahead.
Because if you didn't look ahead, she reminded herself, you rammed straight into those problems and sank.
She carried the little shears back inside, into the storeroom, where she put it on its place on the shelf. She wished she could talk to someone, another woman, about the thrill and anxiety running so fast inside her. She wanted to be able to sit down with a friend and have a silly conversation where she could ramble on about everything she was feeling.
About how her heart started to flop around when he smiled at her. How it raced when he touched her. How scary and wonderful it was to be with someone who liked and accepted her for who she needed to be.
She wanted to tell someone that she was falling in love.
None of the women in her previous social circle would understand. Not the way she needed to be understood. They would be interested, certainly, even