He'd lived cheap and rough most of the time. When there'd been a choice between buying a meal or paint, he'd gone hungry.
He'd been hungry before. It had done him good, he hoped, to remember what it was like not to have someone making sure you were fed and safe and warm.
It was the Quinn in him, he supposed, that made him hell-bent to beat his own path.
He laid out his sketch pad, put away his charcoal, his pencils. He would spend time getting back to basics with his work before he picked up a brush again.
The walls of his room held some of his early drawings. Cam had taught him how to make the frames on an old miter box at the boatyard. Seth took one from the wall to study it. It showed promise, he thought, in the rough, undisciplined lines.
But more, much more, it showed the promise of a life.
He'd caught them well enough, he decided. Cam, with his thumbs tucked in his pockets, stance confrontational. Then Phillip, slick, edging toward an elegance that nearly disguised the street smarts. Ethan, patient, steady as a redwood in his work clothes.
He'd drawn himself with them. Seth at ten, he thought. Thin, narrow shoulders and big feet, with a lift to his chin to mask something more painful than fear.
Something that was hope.
A life moment, Seth thought now, captured with a graphite pencil. Drawing it, he'd begun to believe, in-the-gut believe, that he was one of them.
"You mess with one Quinn," he murmured as he hung the drawing on the wall again, "you mess with them all."
He turned, glanced at the suitcases and wondered if he could sweet-talk Anna into unpacking for him.
Not a chance.
He looked toward the doorway and brightened when he saw Kevin. If he had to fiddle with clothes, as least he'd have company. "Hey, Kev."
"So, you really hanging this time? For good?"
"Cool." Kevin sauntered in, plopped on the bed and propped his feet on one of the suitcases. "Mom's really jazzed about it. Around here, if Mom's happy, everybody's happy. She could be soft enough to let me use her car this weekend."
"Glad I can help." He shoved Kevin's feet off the suitcase, then unzipped it.
He had the look of his mother, Seth thought. Dark, curling hair, big Italian eyes. Seth imagined the girls were already tumbling for him like bowling pins.
"How's the play?"
"It rocks. Totally rocks. West Side Story. I'm Tony. When you're a Jet, man."
"You stay a Jet." Seth dumped shirts haphazardly in a drawer. "You get killed, right?"
"Yeah." Kevin clutched his heart, shuddered with his face filled with pain and rapture. Then slumped. "It's great, and before I do the death thing, we've got this kick-ass fight scene. Show's next week. You're gonna come, right?"
"Front row center, pal."
"Check out Lisa Maxdon, she plays Maria. Total babe. We've got a couple of love scenes together. We've been doing a lot of practicing," he added and winked.
"Anything for art."
"Yeah." Kevin scooted up a little. "Okay, so tell me about all the Euro chicks. Pretty hot, huh?"
"The only way to get burned. There was this girl in Rome. Anna-Theresa."
"A two-named girl." Kevin shook his fingers as if he'd gotten them too close to a flame. "Two-named girls are way sexy."
"Tell me. She worked in this little trattoria. And the way she served pasta al pomodoro was just amazing."
"So? Did you score?"
Seth sent Kevin a pitying look. "Please, who're you talking to here?" He dumped jeans in another drawer. "She had hair all the way down to her ass, and a very fine ass it was. Eyes like melted chocolate and a mouth that wouldn't quit."
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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