"I'll sit, but I'd rather you caught me up. How the hell is everyone? What're they doing? You first."
"All right." She finished opening the bottle, got out two glasses. "I'm doing more administrative work these days than casework. Social work involves a lot of paperwork, but it's not as satisfying. Between that and having two teenagers in the house, there's no time to be bored. The boat business is thriving."
She sat, passed Seth his glass. "Aubrey's working there."
"No kidding?" The thought of her, the girl who was more sister to him than any blood kin, made him smile. "How's she doing?"
"Terrific. She's beautiful, smart, stubborn and, according to Cam, a genius with wood. I think Grace was a little disappointed when Aubrey didn't want to pursue dancing, but it's hard to argue when you see your child so happy. And Grace and Ethan's Emily followed in her mother's toe shoes."
"She still heading to New York end of August?"
"A chance to dance with the American Ballet Company doesn't come along every day. She's grabbing it, and she swears she'll be principal before she's twenty. Deke's his father's sonquiet, clever and happiest when he's out on the water. Sweetie, do you want a snack?"
"No." He reached out, laid a hand over hers. "Keep going."
"Okay, then. Phillip remains the business's marketing and promotion guru. I don't think any of us, including Phil, ever thought he'd leave the ad firm in Baltimore, give up urban living and dig down in Saint Chris. But it's been, what, fourteen years, so I don't suppose we can call it a whim. Of course he and Sybill keep the apartment in New York. She's working on a new book."
"Yeah, I talked to her." He rubbed the dog's head with his foot. "Something about the evolution of community in cyberspace. She's something. How are the kids?"
"Insane, as any self-respecting teenager should be. Bram was madly in love with a girl named Cloe last week. That could be over by now. Fiona's interests are torn between boys and shopping. But, well, she's fourteen, so that's natural."
"Fourteen. Jesus. She hadn't had her tenth birthday when I left for Europe. Even seeing them on and off over the last few years, it doesn't seem...it doesn't seem possible that Kevin's driving, and Aub's building boats. Bram's sniffing after girls. I remember" He cut himself off, shook his head.
"I remember when Grace was pregnant with Emily. It was the first time I was around someone who was having a babywell, someone who wanted to. It seems like five minutes ago, and now Emily's going to New York. How can eighteen years go by, Anna, and you not look any older?"
"Oh, I've missed you." She laughed and squeezed his hand.
"I've missed you, too. All of you."
"We'll fix that. We'll round everybody up and have a big, noisy Quinn welcome-home on Sunday. How does that sound?"
"About as perfect as it gets."
The dog yipped, then scrambled out from under the table to run toward the front door.
"Cameron," Anna said. "Go on out and meet him."
He walked through the house, as he had so often. Opened the screen door, as he had so often. And looked at the man standing on the front lawn, playing tug-of-war with the dog over a hunk of rope.
He was still tall, still built like a sprinter. There were glints of silver in his hair now. He had the sleeves of his work shirt rolled up to the elbows, and his jeans were white at the stress points. He wore sunglasses and badly beaten Nikes.
At fifty, Cameron Quinn still looked like a badass.
In lieu of greeting, Seth let the screen door slam behind him. Cameron glanced over, and the only sign of surprise was his fingers sliding off the rope.
Copyright Nora Roberts 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Putnam. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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