Sam studied Mac as he drank. "Is that personal or professional interest?"

"I guess you could say it's both. "

"Fair enough. I

like the way things are going. Can't say I mind keeping her guessing. She's a hell of a lot more complicated than she used to be, and it's interesting - more than I figured - getting to know all the twists and turns. "

Zack scratched his chin. "You're not going to start talking about mature relationships and exploring your inner couple or any of that shit, are you?"

"Shh. . . here they come. " Mac gestured toward the slash of headlights on the shell road. "Let's act like

we know what we're doing. "

Lucy, who'd been sprawled over the deck, leaped to attention and flew down the steps inches ahead of Mulder.

"Pretty women," Zack said. "A couple of good dogs and some steaks. Damn good deal. "

The steaks were charred, the potatoes slightly underdone, but appetites were keen enough. They ate on the deck, by the strong glow of candles and the backwash of light from the living room, where music pumped out of the stereo.

When Sam lifted a bottle of wine to fill Mia's nearly empty glass, she shook her head, laid her hand over the bowl. "No, I'm driving. And I need a clear mind for tomorrow. "

"I'll come by in the morning, give you a hand with the setup. "

"No need. Most of it's done, and we have plenty of time tomorrow. I already have thirty-eight pre-sold copies of the hardcover, with orders still coming in, and nearly that many of her backlist set aside. She's going to be very busy tomorrow. I imagine she'll . . . "

Mia trailed off as she caught the look on Nell's face. Her body tensed, and she rose half out of her chair.

"Nell. "

"The baby moved. " The expression of shock and astonishment turned to wonder. "I felt the baby. A fluttering inside me. " She laughed, pressed a hand to her belly. "So quick and strong. Zack. " She grabbed his hand, pressed it against her. "Our baby moved. "

"Do you need to lie down?"

"No. " She leaped up, tugged his hand. "I need to dance. "

"You need to dance. "

"Yes! Dance with me. " She threw her arms around his neck. "We'll dance with Jonah. "

"We don't know it's a boy. " Swamped with love, Zack wrapped his arms around her waist, drew her up to her toes and held tight. "Might just as easily be a girl. Then it's Rebecca. "

"Uh-oh. They're getting sappy. " Before it rubbed off, Ripley got up, pointed at Mac. "You're dancing. "

"Somebody's going to get hurt," Mac muttered.

Sam watched the entertainment for a moment, then laid a hand on Mia's. "We used to be good at this. "

"Hmmm?"

She was staring at Nell, her face wistful and so totally unguarded that seeing it was like a fist to his heart. Tears sparkled on her lashes. What he saw in them was love, and longing.

"Dancing. " Holding her hand, he stood. "We used to be good at it. Let's see if we still are. "

Following impulse, he pulled her down the steps to the bluff. Then he spun her out to arm's length, whipped her back.

Her arm hooked smoothly around his neck, her body fit to his.

"Oh, yeah. " He slid his hands down to her hips and began to sway with her. "We're still good. "

It had been a long time, but she hadn't forgotten his moves, his rhythm. And she remembered as well the sheer pleasure of moving with him to music. Giving herself to it, she kicked off her shoes. Sand flew under their feet as they turned, dipped, and spun.

Dancing had always been a kind of joyful and somehow innocent mating ritual between them. Bursts of energy. Co-ordination. Anticipation.

She stopped hearing the music with only her ears. She heard it in the quick pressure of his hand on her back, the grip of his fingers on hers, the whirl of her own body.

When he lifted her off her feet, she threw her head back and laughed. Then she linked her arms around his neck, for the first time in more than a decade, in an embrace that was sheer and simple affection. The applause and whistles exploding from the deck had her shifting her head, leaving her cheek resting against his temple as she caught her breath.

"Told you they were show-offs. " Ripley elbowed Mac, but she was grinning.

"Hey, we don't have to take this abuse. Come on!" Holding Mia's hand, Sam dashed down the beach steps so that Mia had to run to keep up.

"Slow down! You'll break our necks!"

"I'll catch you. " To prove it, he hauled her up, spun her in circles. "How about a swim?"

"No!"

"Okay, we'll dance instead. " He set her on her feet, pulling her close and tight against him. The slow, seductive strains of "Sea of Love" flowed into the air, over the beach.

"That's an old one," she remarked.

"Classic," he corrected. "Change of pace. "

He buried his face in her hair as they circled in the sand. Her heart was a steady beat against his. Their legs brushed as she rose on her toes, sliding with him until they formed one shadow in the moonlight. He remembered, so much, that the shapes and sounds of all the memories whispered and blurred in his brain. "Do they still have dances in the high school gym?"

"Yes. "

"Do kids still sneak outside to neck?"


Tags: Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island Romance
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