She laughed, shook back her hair as she looked at him. "No one you know. It's so good to have him home."

"I told you he'd come back. Quinns always come back to the roost."

"I guess you're right." She kissed him, one long, warm meeting of lips. "Why don't we go upstairs?" She slid her hands down, gave his butt a suggestive squeeze. "And I'll settle you down, too."

* * *

Chapter Two

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RISE AND SHINE, PAL. This ain't no flophouse."

The voice, and the gleeful sadism behind it, had Seth groaning. He flopped onto his stomach, dragged the pillow over his head. "Go away. Go far, far away."

"If you think you're going to spend your days around here sleeping till the crack of noon, think again." With relish, Cam yanked the pillow away. "Up."

Seth opened one eye, rolled it until he focused on the bedside clock. It wasn't yet seven. He turned his face back into the mattress and mumbled a rude suggestion in Italian.

"If you think I've lived with Spinelli all these years and don't know that means 'kiss my ass,' you're stupid as well as lazy."

To solve the problem, Cam ripped the sheets away, snagged Seth's ankles and dragged him to the floor.

"Shit. Shit!" Naked, his elbow singing where it had cracked the table, Seth glared up at his persecutor. "What the hell's with you? This is my room, my bed, and I'm trying to sleep in it."

"Put some clothes on. I've got something for you to do out back."

"Goddamn it, you could give a guy twenty-four hours before you start on him."

"Kid, I started on you when you were ten, and I'm not close to being finished. I've got work, so let's get moving."

"Cam." Anna strode to the doorway, hands on hips. "I told you to wake him up, not knock him down."

"Jesus." Mortified, Seth tore the sheet out of Cam's hands and clutched it around his waist. "Jesus, Anna, I'm naked here."

"Then get dressed," she suggested, and walked away. "Out back," Cam told him as he strode from the room. "Five minutes."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Some things never changed, Seth thought as he yanked on jeans. He could be sixty living in this house, and Cam would still roust him out of bed like he was twelve.

He snagged what was left of a University of Maryland sweatshirt and dragged it over his head as he stalked from the room.

If there wasn't coffee, hot and fresh, somebody was going to get their ass seriously kicked.

"Mom! I can't find my shoes!"

Seth glanced toward Jake's room as he headed for the stairs. "They're down here," Anna called back. "In the middle of my kitchen floor, where they don't belong."

"Not those shoes. Jeez, Mom. The other shoes."

"Try looking up your butt," came the carefully modulated suggestion from Kevin's room. "Your head's already up there."

"No problem finding your butt," was the hissed response. "Since you wear it right on your shoulders."

Such familiar family dynamics would have made Seth smileā€”if it hadn't been shy of seven A.M. If his elbow hadn't been throbbing like a bitch. If he had had a hit of caffeine.

"Neither one of you could find your butts with your own hands," he grumbled as he sulked down the steps.

"What the hell's up with Cam?" he demanded of Anna when he stalked into the kitchen. "Is there any coffee? Why does everybody wake up yelling around here?"

"Cam needs to see you outside. Yes, there's a half pot left, and everyone wakes up yelling because it's how we like to greet the day." She poured coffee into a thick white mug. "You're on your own for breakfast. I have an early meeting. Don't pout, Seth. I'll bring home ice cream."

The day began to look marginally brighter. "Rocky Road?"

"Rocky Road. Jake! Get these shoes out of my kitchen before I feed them to the dog. Go outside, Seth, or you'll spoil Cam's sunny mood."

"Yeah, he looked real chipper when he yanked me out of bed." Stewing over it, Seth walked out the kitchen door.

There they were, almost as Seth had drawn them so many years before. Cam, thumbs in pockets, Phillip, slicked up in a suit, Ethan, with a faded gimme cap over his windblown hair.

Seth swallowed coffee, and the heart that had lodged in his throat. "This is what you dragged me out of bed for?"

"Same smart mouth." Phillip caught him in a hug. His eyes, nearly the same tawny gold as his hair, skimmed over Seth's ragged shirt and jeans. "Christ, kid, didn't I teach you anything?" With a shake of his head, he fingered the dull-gray sleeve. "Italy was obviously wasted on you."

"They're just clothes, Phil. You put them on so you don't get cold or arrested."

With a pained wince, Phillip stepped back. "Where did I go wrong?"

"Looks okay to me. Still a little scrawny. What's this?" Ethan tugged on Seth's hair. "Long as a girl's."

"He had it in a pretty little ponytail last night," Cam told him. "He looked real sweet."

"Up yours," Seth said, laughing.

"We'll get you a nice pink ribbon," Ethan said with a chuckle and grabbed Seth in a bear hug.

Phillip nipped the mug out of Seth's hand, took a sip. "We figured we'd come by and get a look at you before Sunday."

"It's good to see you. Really good to see you." Seth flicked a glance at Cam. "You could've said everyone was here instead of dumping me out of bed."

"More fun that way. Well." Cam rocked back on his heels. "Well," Phillip agreed, and set the mug on the porch rail. "Well." Ethan gave Seth's hair another tug. Then got an iron grip on his arm. "What?"

Cam only grinned and locked a hold on his other arm. Seth didn't need the gleam in their eyes to understand. "Come on. You're kidding, right?"

"It's got to be done." Before Seth could begin to struggle,

Phillip scooped his legs out from under him. "It's not like you've got to worry about getting that snazzy outfit wet."

"Cut it out." Seth bucked, tried to kick as he was carried off the porch. "I mean it. That water's fucking cold."

"Probably sink like a stone," Ethan said mildly as they muscled Seth toward the dock. "Looks like living in Europe turned him into a wimp."

"Wimp, my ass." He fought against their hold, fought not to laugh. "Takes three of you to take me out. Bunch of feeble old men," he snarled. With grips, he thought, like steel.

That had Phillip's brow quirking. "How far do you think we can throw him?"

"Let's find out. One," Cam announced as they stood swinging him between them on the dock.

"I'll kill you." Swearing, laughing, Seth wiggled like a fish.

"Two," Phillip said with a grin. "Better save your breath, kid."

"Three. Welcome home, Seth," Ethan said as the three of them hurled him in the air.

He was right. The water was freezing. It stole the breath he hadn't bothered to save, chilled him right down to the bone. When he surfaced, spitting it out, shoving at his hair, he heard his brothers howling with delight, saw them ranged together on the dock with the early sun showering down and the old white house behind them.

I'm Seth Quinn, he thought. And I'm home.

THE EARLY-MORNING DIP went a long way toward purging any jet lag. Since he was up, Seth decided he might as well get things done. He drove back to Baltimore, turned in the rental, and after some wheeling and dealing at a dealership, drove toward the Shore the proud owner of a muscular Jaguar convertible in saber silver.

He knew it shouted: Officer, may I have a speeding ticket please! But he couldn't resist.

Selling his art was a two-edged sword. It sliced at his heart each time he parted with a painting. But he was selling very well and might as well reap some of the benefits.

His brothers, he thought smugly, were going to be green when they got a load of his new ride.

He cut back on his speed as he cruised into St. Chris. The little water town with its busy docks and quiet streets was another painting to him, one he'd re-created countless times, from countless angles.

Market Street with its shops and restaurants ran parallel to the dock, where crab pickers still set up tables on weekends to perform for the tourists. Watermen like Ethan would bring the day's catch there.

The town spread back with its old Victorian houses, its salt-boxes and clapboards shaded by leafy trees. Lawns would be tidy. Neat, quaint, historic drew in the tourists, who would browse in the shops, eat in the restaurants, cozy up in one of the B and B's for a relaxing weekend at the shore.


Tags: Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga Romance
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