The pencil squirted out of Seth's fingers. No dream this time, he thought in a kind of breathless wonder. He was sitting in the warm, dappled shade, surrounded by people and noise. And talking to a ghost. "I wasn't sure you were speaking to me."

"Nearly made a mess of it, and that ticked me off. But you figured things out in the end."

She was wearing the old khaki hat, a red shirt and baggy blue shorts. Without any real thought, Seth picked up the pencil, turned the page in his book and began to draw her as she looked, sitting contentedly in the shade.

"Part of me was always scared of her, no matter what. But that's gone now."

"Good. Stay that way, because she'll always cause trouble. My God, look at Crawford. How'd he get so old? Time just goes by, no matter what the hell you do. Some things you let go. Some things are worth repeating. Like this party, year after year after year."

He continued to sketch, but his throat had tightened. "You're not coming back again, are you?"

"No, honey. I'm not coming back again."

She touched him, and he would never forget the sensation of her hand on his knee. "Time to look forward, Seth. You don't want to ever forget what's behind you, but you've got to look ahead. Look at my boys." She let out a long sigh as she gazed over at Cam, and Ethan, and Phillip. "All grown up, with families of their own. I'm glad I told them that I loved them, that I was proud of them, while I was still breathing."

She smiled now, patted Seth's knee. "Glad I got a chance to tell you I love you. And I'm proud of you."

"Grandma—"

"Make a good life for yourself or I'm going to be ticked off at you again. Here comes your girl," she said, and was gone.

His heart wrenched in his chest. And Dru sat down beside him. "Want company?" she asked.

"As long as it's you."

"So many people." She leaned back on her elbows. "It makes me think Saint Chris must look like a ghost town right now."

"Just about everyone swings by, at least for a while. It whittles down by nightfall, and the rest of us stay here and watch the fireworks."

Some things you let go, he remembered. Some are worth repeating.

"I love you, Drusilla. Just thought that was worth repeating."

She angled her head, studied the odd little smile on his face. "You can repeat it whenever you like. And if you come home with me afterward, we can make our own fireworks."

"That's a date."

She sat up again, examined his drawing. "That's wonderful. Such a strong face—and a friendly one." She glanced around for the model. "Where is she? I don't remember seeing her."

"She's not here anymore." He took a last look at the sketch, then gently closed the book. "Wanna go for a swim?"

"It's hot enough, but I didn't think to bring a suit."

"Really?" Grinning, he stood up, pulled her to her feet. "But you can swim, right?"

"Of course I can swim." As soon as the words were out, she recognized the gleam in his eye. "Don't even think about it."

"Too late." He scooped her up.

"Don't—" She wiggled, shoved, then began to panic as he jogged toward the dock. "This isn't funny."

"It will be. Don't forget to hold your breath."

He ran straight down the dock and off the end.

"IT'S A OUINN THING," Anna said as she handed Dru a dry shirt. "I can't explain it. They're always doing that."

"I lost a shoe."

"They'll probably find it."

Dru sat on the bed. "Men are so strange."

"We just have to remember that in some areas, they're really just five years old. These sandals ought to fit you well enough." She offered them.

"Thanks. Oh, they're fabulous."

"I love shoes. I lust for shoes."

"With me it's earrings. I have no power against them."

"I like you very much."

Dru stopped admiring the sandals and looked up. "Thank you. I like you very much, too."

"It's a bonus. I would have made room for any woman Seth loved. All of us would. So you're a very nice bonus. I wanted to tell you."

"I… I don't have experience with families like yours."

"Who does?" With a laugh, Anna sat on the bed beside her.

"Mine isn't generous. I'm going to try to talk to my parents again. Seeing what Seth's been through, what he faced down last night, made me realize I have to try. But whatever understanding we reach, we'll never be like yours. They won't welcome him the way you're welcoming me."

"Don't be so sure." She wrapped an arm around Dru's shoulders. "He has a way of winning people over."

"Certainly worked with me. I love him." She pressed a hand to her stomach. "It's terrifying how much."

"I know the feeling. It'll be dark soon." Anna gave Dru a quick squeeze. "Let's go get a glass of wine and get a good spot to watch the show."

When she stepped outside, Seth met her with one very soggy canvas slide and a sheepish grin. "Found it."

She snatched it, set it beside the back door where she'd put its mate. "You're a baboon."

"Mrs. Monroe brought homemade peach ice cream." He brought his hand out, with a double-scoop cone in it, from behind his back.

"Hmm." She sniffed, but she took the cone.

"Want to sit on the grass with me and watch fireworks?"

She took a long lick. "Maybe."

"Gonna let me kiss you when nobody's looking?"

"Maybe."

"Gonna share that ice cream?"

"Absolutely not."

WHILE SETH was trying to cadge his share of a peach ice cream cone, and excited children were bouncing in anticipation of that first explosion of light and color in the night sky, Gloria DeLauter pulled into the parking lot of Boats by Quinn.

She jerked to a halt and sat stewing in the messy juices of her fury laced with a pint of gin.

They'd pay. All of them would pay. Bastards. Thought they could scare her off, gang up on her the way they had and go back to their stupid house and laugh about it.

They'd see who laughed when she was finished with them.

They owed her. She beat the heel of her hand on the steering wheel as rage choked her.

She was going to make that son of a bitch she'd given birth to sorry. She'd make all of them sorry.

She shoved out of the car, stumbling as the gin spun in her head. She weaved her way to the trunk. God! She loved being high. People who went through life sober and straight were the assholes. World was fucking full of assholes, she thought as she stabbed her key at the trunk lock.

You need to get into a program, Gloria.

That's what they told her. Her worthless mother, her spineless stepfather, her tight-assed sister. The sainted sucker Ray Quinn had tried that with her, too.

It was all bullshit.

On the fourth try, she managed to get the key in the lock. She lifted the trunk, then hooted with delight as she dragged out the two cans of gasoline.

"We're gonna have some motherfucking fireworks, all right."

She stumbled again, stepped right out of one of her shoes but was too drunk to notice. Limping now, she carted the cans to the door, then straightened up, caught her breath.

It took her a while to uncap the first can, and as she fought with it she cursed the gawky kid at the gas station who'd filled them for her.

Just another asshole in a world of assholes.

But her good humor returned when she splashed gasoline on the doors and the sharp, dangerous smell of it stung the air.

"Stick your wood boats up your ass. Fucking Quinns."

She splashed it on the brick, on glass, on the pretty barberry bushes Anna had planted along the foundation. When one can was empty, she started on the second.

It was a thrill to heave it, still half full, through the front window. She danced in the dark to the sound of breaking glass.

Then she hobbled back to the trunk and retrieved the two bottles she'd filled with gas earlier and plugged with rags. "Moloto

v cocktail." She giggled, swayed. "I got a double for you bastards."


Tags: Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga Romance
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