A thousand words passed between them without a sound. A million feelings, and countless memories. Saying nothing, Seth came down the steps as Cameron crossed the lawn. Then they stood, face-to-face.
"I hope that piece of shit in the driveway's a rental," Cameron began.
"Yeah, it is. Best I could do on short notice. Figured I'd turn it in tomorrow, then use the 'Vette for a while."
Cameron's smile was sharp as a blade. "In your dreams, pal. In your wildest dreams."
"No point in it sitting there going to waste."
"Less of one to let some half-assed painter with delusions of grandeur behind its classic wheel."
"Hey, you're the one who taught me to drive."
"Tried to. A ninety-year-old woman with a broken arm could handle a five-speed better than you." He jerked his head toward Seth's rental. "That embarrassment in my driveway doesn't inspire the confidence in me that you've improved in that area."
Smug now, Seth rocked back on his heels. "Test-drove a Maserati a couple of months ago."
Cam's eyebrows winged up. "Get out of here."
"Had her up to a hundred and ten. Scared the living shit out of me."
Cam laughed, gave Seth an affectionate punch on the arm. Then he sighed. "Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch," he said again as he dragged Seth into a fierce hug. "Why the hell didn't you let us know you were coming home?"
"It was sort of spur-of-the-moment," Seth began. "I wanted to be here. I just needed to be here."
"Okay. Anna burning up the phone lines letting everybody know we're serving fatted calf?"
"Probably. She said we'd have the calf on Sunday."
"That'll work. You settled in yet?"
"No. I got stuff in the car."
"Don't call that butt-ugly thing a car. Let's get your gear."
"Cam." Seth reached out, touched Cam's arm. "I want to come home. Not just for a few days or a couple weeks. I want to stay. Can I stay?"
Cam drew off his sunglasses, and his eyes, smoke-gray, met Seth's. "What the hell's the matter with you that you think you have to ask? You trying to piss me off?"
"I never had to try, nobody does with you. Anyway, I'll pull my weight."
"You always pulled your weight. And we missed seeing your ugly face around here."
And that, Seth thought as they walked to the car, was all the welcome he needed from Cameron Quinn.
They'd kept his room. It had changed over the years, different paint for the walls, a new rug for the floor. But the bed was the same one he'd slept in, dreamed in, waked in.
The same bed he'd sneaked Foolish into when he'd been a child.
And the one he'd sneaked Alice Albert into when he'd thought he was a man.
He figured Cam knew about Foolish, and had often wondered if he'd known about Alice.
He tossed his suitcase carelessly on the bed and laid his battered paint kitone Sybill had given him for his eleventh birthdayon the worktable Ethan had built.
He'd need to find studio space, he thought. Eventually. As long as the weather held, he could work outdoors. He preferred that anyway. But he'd need somewhere to store his canvases, his equipment. Maybe there was room in the old barn of a boatyard, but that wouldn't suit on a permanent basis.
And he meant to make this permanent.
He'd had enough of traveling for now, enough of living among strangers to last him a lifetime.
He'd needed to go, to stand on his own. He'd needed to learn. And God, he'd needed to paint.
So he'd studied in Florence, and worked in Paris. He'd wandered the hills of Ireland and Scotland and had stood on the cliffs in Cornwall.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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