Savour the moment, p.26
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       Savour the Moment, p.26

         Part #3 of Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts
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  Del passed her an icy margarita. “As promised.”

  “Oh boy.” She took the first frosty sip. “It’s officially vacation.”

  “I staked out a bedroom. Do you want to see it?”

  “Absolutely. Del, this place is ... a lot more than I had in my head.”

  “In a good way?”

  “In an ‘I’m stupefied’ way.”

  She peered into rooms as they passed. Sunroom, what she supposed was a morning room, living room, powder rooms. Then up the bare wood steps to the second floor into a bedroom with a wall of windows facing the ocean. She instantly imagined herself lazily lounging in the iron bed with its open canopy and crisp white bedding. Gauzy curtains fluttered in the breeze in the doors he’d opened to the deck.

  “It’s beautiful. Just beautiful. And listen.” She closed her eyes and let the rolling whoosh of the ocean wash over her.

  “Check this out.”

  He gestured, and she walked into the bath.

  “Okay” She laid a hand on his arm, patted it several times. “Okay. I may live right here. I may never come out of this room.”

  The huge tub reigned in front of another wall of windows and on tiles the color of golden sand. Through clear glass she admired the shower with its multiple heads and body jets, its marble bench.

  “Steam shower,” he told her, and she nearly whimpered.

  Generous bowls the color and shape of scallop shells served as sinks. The wall at the foot of the tub boasted a little gas fireplace and a flat screen TV so her imagination shifted from lazy lounging in the bed to lazy lounging in bubbling water.

  Mirrored cabinets reflected the tile, the shine of the fixtures, the expanse of counters, the pretty watercolors arranged on the walls.

  “This bathroom’s bigger than my first apartment.”

  Mac rushed in, wild-eyed, arms waving. “The bathroom, the bathroom. It’s ... Wow, look at this one. Never mind. The bathroom!” she said again and rushed out as she’d rushed in.

  “I think you have a solid hit,” Laurel told Del.

  Within the hour, the grill smoked and the entire group gathered on the deck. Or Laurel assumed the entire group until she glanced around.

  “Where’s Parker?”

  “Taking a solo tour.” Emma sighed, sipped her slushy drink. “Making notes.”

  “I wouldn’t change a thing.” Behind her enormous sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat, Mac wiggled bare toes. “Not one thing. I wouldn’t move from this spot for the next two weeks except there are so many other incredibly cool spots I need to be lazy in.”

  “We need to check out the beach.” Jack took Emma’s hand to kiss.

  “We definitely do.”

  “It’s a great area for bird-watching,” Carter said. “I spotted a Cory’s Shearwater when I walked down earlier. And ...” He trailed off, flushed a little. “Geek alert.”

  “I like birds,” Emma said, and reached over to pat his hand. “I’m going to give you some help with dinner any minute now, Del.”

  “I’ve got it.” Laurel pushed herself up. “That way, one of the pair of you takes it next time we want dinner in. I’ll go throw something together to go with the steaks.”

  Besides, she wanted to play in the kitchen.

  Parker came in as Laurel tossed chunks of steamed new potatoes in butter, garlic, and dill.

  “Need a hand?”

  “Under control. Del must’ve hit a farmer’s market on the way in. Pretty smart of him.”

  “He’s pretty smart.” Parker did another scan as she spoke. “I’m already in love with this place.”

  “God, me, too. The views, the air, the sounds. And the house itself—it’s incredible. How much will you change?”

  “Not much. Tweak more than change.” She walked to a window. Voices and laughter floated in on the breeze. “That’s a good sound. I bet it’s beautiful here, even in the winter.”

  “You read my mind. I was thinking how we almost always have that slow period, a week or so after the holidays.”

  “Yeah, I had that thought. Maybe. Del looks so happy. Part of that’s you.”

  Laurel’s hands stilled. “Do you think?”

  “Yes, I do. And I’m standing here watching him man the grill while you put things together in here. It’s nice.” She glanced back. “It makes me happy, Laurel, the same way hearing the voices carry inside makes me happy.”

  “I feel the same way.”

  “Good. It’s good from someone who loves you both. So.” She turned back from the window. “Are we eating in or out?”

  “An evening like this? Out, definitely.”

  “I’ll start setting the table.”

  Later, they walked off the meal along the beach, wading in the surf, watching the lights of faraway ships that cruised through the night. As the air cooled, Laurel gave some thought to a long bath in the flicker of the fireplace.

  But the challenge went out; the game room called. The quiet flipped into the arcade cacophony of pings and whistles.

  Jack and Del battled in what looked like a pinball death match when she decided she had to throw in the towel. She left them to it to wander back to the bedroom, and indulged in that long soak. When she’d slipped on a nightshirt to step out on the deck, she realized she hadn’t looked at her watch in hours.

  Now that was vacation.

  “I wondered where you’d gone off to.”

  She glanced back at Del. “I have to get in some serious practice before I take on you or Jack. I had the most incredible bath, in firelight while I looked out at the ocean. I feel like the heroine of my own novel.”

  “If I’d known, I’d have taken one with you, and we’d have written a love scene.” He put his arms around her so her head rested on his shoulder. “Good day?”

  “Pretty much the best. This place, these views, this air, good friends.”

  “As soon as I saw it, I knew. This is what we need.”

  Not

  I need, she noted. Not Del. Del was wired for

  we.

  “I never asked Parker, but I always wondered why the two of you sold the house in East Hampton.”

  “We could never sell the house in Greenwich—our house. It’s home. But the other ... We both knew we could never unwind there or enjoy it. Remembering Mom and Dad at home, that’s ... important and there’s some comfort in it. But the place we had at the beach? We just couldn’t go there anymore. This place is new, and we’ll make other memories here.”

  “And you needed to wait to do it. A little time and space first.”

  “I guess we did. This is a good place, and it feels like the right time.”

  “She loves it already. I know that matters to you. She told me, but even if she hadn’t, I could see it. We all do. So thanks for finding the right place and the right time.”

  “You’re welcome.” He pressed his lips to the side of her neck. “You smell really good,” he murmured.

  “I feel really good, too.” She smiled when his hand stroked down her back. “See?” She tipped up her face, brushed her lips over his. “I think we should write that love scene.”

  “Good idea.”With a flourish, he swept her up into his arms. “I think we should open it like this.”

  “It’s a classic for a reason.”

  THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A MORE PERFECT SPOT AND A MORE PERFECT time and a more perfect mood, but Laurel couldn’t imagine it. Her stubborn internal clock woke her before dawn, but she snuggled into the luxury of knowing she didn’t have to roll out, but could stay just as she was, curled up with Del with the sound of the sea serenading.

  She drifted in and out for a time, and even that was perfect. As was the sunrise over the water to the east. She thought it spread its pinks and gold just for her as she stood on the deck with the filmy curtains fluttering behind her.

  Inspired, she tugged on a tank and shorts, then jogged down the outside steps. Parker stood at the base, in a tank and shorts, her deep brown hair caught back in a
long tail under a sassy white cap.

  “You’re up, too.”

  “Oh, yeah.”

  Laurel lifted her hands. “What’s wrong with us?”

  “Not a thing. Everyone else is sleeping through vacation. We’re wringing every drop out of it.”

  “Damn right. That beach calls for a run, as previously discussed.”

  “My thoughts exactly.”

  They warmed up on the walkway, then set off at an easy pace on the sand. They didn’t need to talk, but simply matched gaits, followed the shoreline with the surf foaming beside them.

  Birds took wing or strutted in the foam. Carter would likely know what they were, Laurel thought, but it was enough just to have them there, soaring, calling, pecking while the rising sun sparkled on the water.

  When they turned back, they kept up the same steady pace until the house came into view again. Laurel reached over to touch Parker’s arm as she slowed.

  “Just look at it. That’s where we’re going.”

  “Don’t hate me, but it makes me think, wow, what a fabulous place for casual beach weddings.”

  “I may have to hurt you.”

  “I can’t help it. It

  is a fabulous place.”

  “How many calls have you taken since we got here?”

  “Only two. Okay three, but all easily handled. And I got a sunrise run on the beach and am now seriously jonesing for coffee. In fact ... last one there makes it.”

  She took off in a sprint. Laurel was quick off the mark, but she already knew she’d be making the coffee. Parker ran like a damn cheetah.

  Once she made the deck, she leaned over, hands on knees to catch her breath. “I was going to make the coffee anyway.”

  “Uh-huh.”

  “I hate that you’re barely winded, but I’ll still make the coffee, and egg-white omelettes.”

  “Seriously?”

  “I’m in the mood.”

  The others wandered down, probably lured by the scent of coffee and the music Parker turned on low.

  Del leaned on the counter, shoving fingers through his sleep-tousled hair. “Why aren’t you still in bed with me?”

  “Because I’ve already had a three-mile run on the beach, and my first cup of coffee.” She handed him one. “Shortly I’m having breakfast, which you can benefit by as I’m feeling generous.”

  He gulped down coffee. “Okay,” he said and walked out onto the deck to flop into a chaise.

  Emma stopped slicing fruit to roll her eyes in a look that clearly said:

  men.

  “He gets away with it today because I’m in a very good mood.” She paused at the sound of an engine, shifted closer to the window. “Who could that be?”

  Outside, Parker set a pitcher of juice on the table then glanced down to see Malcolm Kavanaugh remove his helmet. He gave his hair a shake as he swung off the motorcycle. “Nice little place you’ve got here,” he called up to Del, then headed up the stairs. He shot Parker a quick grin. “How’s it going, Legs? Looks like I’m in time for breakfast.”

  He slid into the group, Laurel thought later. Parker might find him a little irritating, but he did slide in. By midmorning, they’d staked their territory on the beach with folding chairs, blankets, umbrellas, coolers. The air smelled of sea and sunscreen.

  She’d nearly dozed off over her book, when Del plucked her bodily out of her chair.

  “What? Cut it out.”

  “Time for a dip.”

  “If I want a dip, I’ll use the pool. Stop it!”

  “Can’t come to the seashore without getting in the sea.” He waded right in with her over his shoulder, then tossed her.

  She managed one short curse, then held her breath.

  The cool water closed over her head, and she felt sand swim in every-damn-where as she pushed herself up. When she blinked the salt water out of her eyes, she saw him standing about waist high and grinning.

  “Damn it, Del. It’s cold.”

  “Refreshing,” he corrected, and dived under an oncoming wave. She, of course, didn’t see it coming. Knocked down, breathless, carrying yet more sand, she started to push up again, as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

  “You’re so pushy, Brown.”

  “Got you in, didn’t I?”

  “I like to look at the ocean, swim in a pool.”

  “We don’t have an ocean at home,” he pointed out. “Here comes another one.”

  At least she was prepared this time, rolled with the wave—and had the satisfaction of shoving him under. He only surfaced laughing. Since she was wet, sandy, and covered with salt, she struck off to swim past the breakers. As her skin and muscles warmed, she had to admit Del had a point.

  They didn’t have an ocean at home.

  She dived under again, just for the pleasure of it. And once more, his hands closed around her waist.

  “That’s far enough out.”

  “Pushy,” she said again.

  “Maybe.” But he wrapped around her so they bobbed. She felt him take a few strong kicks to bring them closer to shore. What the hell, she decided, and, relaxing against him, let him do the work.

  She watched her friends, on shore and sea, listened to the sounds of voices, of surf, of music.

  “I could get myself back to the beach,” she told him. “Like I could’ve gotten myself in the water in the first place if I’d wanted to.”

  “Yeah, but then I couldn’t do this.” He shifted her, took her mouth as the water rocked them.

  Once again she was forced to admit he had a point.

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  SHE WANTED TO BAKE. MAYBE IT WAS THE LIGHT PITTER-PATTER of morning rain outside the windows that turned the beach into a pearly watercolor—or just several days running without doing much more in the kitchen than making coffee or nuking some popcorn.

  Laurel supposed it was the same as Parker sneaking off for a couple of hours every day to huddle over her laptop, or Mac with her camera. And hadn’t Emma hunted up a flower shop so she could buy armloads to arrange around the house?

  After a few days of sleeping in, lazing around, after the long walks and nightly game fests, she just wanted to get her hands in some dough.

  She’d already checked out the pantry, noting that Del knew her well enough to stock the basics, and with some surprise realized he paid enough attention to what she kept in her own pantry to shelve more specifics toward professional baking.

  But he didn’t know everything, she thought, because she was in the mood for pies.

  She made a mental list, knowing it depended on what she found once she got to the market.

  She left a note for Parker.

  Gone to market. Borrowed your car.

  L.

  And grabbing the keys and her purse, set out on what she thought of as a little adventure.

  IN THE GYM, PARKER WATCHED THE RAIN AS SHE FINISHED UP HER cardio session. She hadn’t turned on the news as was her habit—a concession to the holiday. Whatever was going on in the world just had to wait until she got back home.

  With the exception of her brides. But really, she thought, it hadn’t been too bad. A scatter of calls, a handful of problems and concerns she’d been able to handle long-distance.

  In fact, it was satisfying to know she could be away and still deal with what needed to be done.

  She smiled as she spotted Mac, her shock of red hair covered in a ball cap, her windbreaker a bright blue flash as she headed down to the rain-washed beach with her camera.

  They could get away from home, Parker thought, but not from what they were.

  She watched a moment longer, then walked over to switch the music to something less driving for the rest of her workout.

  It was such a treat to take as much time as she wanted, not to watch the clock, not to adjust her routine to meet an appointment or dig into a chore.

  She opted to make use of the barre, started off with some plies.

  When Mal walked in she had her foo
t on the barre and her nose to her knee.

  “Bendy,” he commented, then lifted his eyebrows when she stared at him. “Do you have a problem with me getting some time in?”

  “No, of course not.” It irritated her that she caught herself, too often, stiff and ungracious around him. So she made a deliberate effort to be friendly. “Help yourself. You can change the music if you want. It won’t bother me.” She refused to be bothered.

  He only shrugged, and headed over to the weights to set up for bench presses. “I didn’t know anyone else was up until I heard the long-hair.”

  “Mac’s already down at the beach with her camera.” No reason not to be civil, Parker told herself.

  “In the rain?”

  “We can’t seem to help ourselves.” She turned to face him with a smile—but mostly because she suspected he’d stare at her ass if she didn’t.

  “Whatever works for you. I’ve seen some of her shots. You ought to put some up around here.”

  It surprised her as she’d already planned to do so. “Yes, we should. So ...What do you press?”

  “I keep it about one-fifty.You’ve got good arms,” he said after one of his long surveys. “How about you?”

  “One-ten, maybe one-twenty if I’m in the mood for it.”

  “Not bad.”

  She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she stretched. There was no denying the man had arms on him. Muscles bunched but didn’t bulge as he lifted and lowered the weights. High on his sleek right biceps rode a tattoo in the shape of a Celtic manhood knot.

 
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