"Did you draw her naked?"
"I did about a dozen figure studies. She was a natural. Totally relaxed, completely uninhibited."
"Man, you're killing me."
"And she had the most amazing..." Seth paused, his hands up to chest level to demonstrate. "Personality," he said, dropping his hands. "Hi, Anna."
"Discussing art?" she said dryly. "It's so nice of you to share some of your cultural experiences with Kevin."
"Um. Well." The killing smile she was aiming in his direction had always made Seth's tongue wither. Instead of trying to use it, he fell back on an innocent grin.
"But tonight's session on art and culture is now over. Kevin, I believe you have homework."
"Right. I'll get right to it." Seeing his history assignment as an escape hatch, Kevin bolted.
Anna stepped into the room. "Do you think," she asked Seth pleasantly, "that the young woman in question would appreciate being whittled down to a pair of breasts?"
"Ah...I also mentioned her eyes. They were nearly as fabulous as yours."
Anna took a shirt out of the open drawer, folded it neatly. "Do you think that's going to work with me?"
"No. Begging might. Please don't hurt me. I just got home."
She took out another shirt, folded it. "Kevin's sixteen, and I'm perfectly aware his major interest at this time is naked breasts and his fervent desire to get his hands on as many as possible."
Seth winced. "Jeez, Anna."
"I am also aware," she continued without breaking stride, "that this predilectionwhile hopefully becoming more civilized and controlledremains deep-seated in the male species throughout its natural life."
"Hey, you want to see some of my landscape sketches from Tuscany?"
"I am surrounded by you." Sighing a little, she took out yet another shirt. "Outnumbered, and have been since I walked into this house. That doesn't mean I can't knock every one of your stupid heads together when necessary. Understood?"
"Good. Show me your landscapes."
Later, when the house was quiet and the moon rode over the water, she found Cam on the back porch. She stepped out, and into him.
He wrapped an arm around her, rubbing her shoulder against the night's chill. "Settle everyone down?"
"That's what I do. Chilly tonight." She glanced up at the sky, at the ice points of stars. "I hope it stays clear for Sunday." Then she simply turned her face into his chest. "Oh, Cam."
"I know." He stroked a hand over her hair, rubbed his cheek against it.
"To see him sitting at the kitchen table. Watching him wrestling with Jake and that idiot dog. Even hearing him talking about naked women with Kevin"
"What naked women?"
She laughed, shook back her hair as she looked at him. "No one you know. It's so good to have him home."
"I told you he'd come back. Quinns always come back to the roost."
"I guess you're right." She kissed him, one long, warm meeting of lips. "Why don't we go upstairs?" She slid her hands down, gave his butt a suggestive squeeze. "And I'll settle you down, too."
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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