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BOOK: Damon, Lee
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She bent over, flipping her hair forward to get it thoroughly wet, and reached for the bottle of shampoo. The sting of soap in her left eye finally succeeded in diverting her thoughts from O'Mara for a while. Moving back from the stream of water, she squeezed the excess water from her hair and stretched a long arm through the shower curtains, groping for a towel to wrap around her head. She rinsed the last of the shampoo suds from her arms and reached for the taps.

As soon as she turned off the shower, she could hear the deep rumble of male voices, the frequent roar of Ez's laughter and the lighter sound of Midge's delightful giggle. Strange, she thought, Ez doesn't particularly like giggly women, but he sure gets a gleam in his eye when he listens to Midge.
That
giggle doesn't seem to turn him off a bit. In fact... The thought trailed off as she finished drying her legs, tossed the towel onto the hamper and reached for a comb.

"Damn this hair," she muttered, trying to untangle the wet snarls. "I've a good mind to thin out a pound of it and get a butch!"

The scowl faded and a smile lit her face at the sound of another bellow of laughter. Poor Midge, if he can rattle the window in here with the door closed, she must be practically knocked off her feet. Lord, the look on Ez's face when O'Mara turned around and he realized who it was. And, then, when he saw Gus! Wish I'd thought to take down the camera.

She plugged in the powerful blow-dryer and, brush in one hand, began the fifteen-minute chore of getting her thick hair dry. Faintly, she heard a higher male laugh and realized that

Gus and Hero must have returned. She smiled, remembering the instant rapport between boy and dog. Webs, she thought, beautiful silvery webs, and he's weaving them all around me. Twelve years of nothing, and then in a few hours he's fuzzing my mind with teasing little kisses, feather touches, sexy looks and his sneaky ESP, to say nothing of knocking me silly with understanding and compassion. And if that wasn't enough, he's got to bring in an utterly irresistible mini-O'Mara on me!

She put the hair-dryer away and donned her caftan, wincing as a loud thud shook the floor and wondering who was demonstrating what. The blast of sound hit her as she stepped out into the hall. Good grief, she thought, it sounds like a convention out there. How can two men make so much noise? She shut her bedroom door, muting the racket somewhat, and started getting dressed.

Clad in flowered bikini briefs and a matching lightweight bra, she sat on the bed to smooth on patterned knee-high nylons. She was barely aware of what she was putting on; her mind was back to worrying about what O'Mara's presence was going to mean in her plans. Right from the beginning, when she was fifteen, he'd understood her better than she understood herself. He'd always been able to bring her around to his way of thinking. Never pushing or being domineering, just looking at her with those damned
knowing
eyes and that
amused
little smile. He didn't even have to say it out loud, it was there in his expression: "Come along, Kitt, you know you want to do it my way." And she did. Even that last summer when she had finally started to gain confidence in being a young woman, she still followed where he led, letting him set the pace and rarely arguing with him.

Not that we never disagreed, she thought with a laugh. Oh, did we have some lovely discussions. At least, we called them discussions. But, somehow, when it came to a real argument, I never seemed to win. Hmmm, that's not an encouraging thought if I really want to keep him from taking over my life. Which I don't. I'd love to have him and Gus in my life, but... no, it's impossible. It's just too late.

She knotted the gold cord around her waist and stood back to look in the long pier glass. Dark green wide-wale cord jeans fit snugly on her long legs. The shape of her body was blurred by the pale green, hip-length cotton smock. With its high neck and long, full sleeves, it effectively hid any sign of bare skin. The addition of the belt kept the peasant-style top from being completely shapeless.

Turning sideways, she tugged, tucked and pulled at the top until it bloused enough to hide all sign of her breasts. She wasn't thinking about anyone in particular at that moment. It was an almost automatic procedure that she went through whenever she dressed. She was just turning to go to the closet for her shoes when there was a tentative knock on the door and Gus's voice called, "Kitt?"

"Come on in. I'm dressed."

He pushed open the door and took a couple of steps into the room. "Ez wants to know if you've fallen asleep. I don't know how you could with all the noise he and Dad are making. Boy, this is a weird room. Don't you have any windows?"

"Of course. Just open those louvered doors," Kitt said.

"Hey, wow, what a window! How many plants have you got? It looks like a jungle. What's that thing with the huge red flowers?"

"A giant amaryllis. Isn't it beautiful? I've got three more, and you can have one if you want. They're easy to care for, and they blossom a couple of times a year at least. I'll write down the instructions for you before you go tonight."

"Gee, great! You're sure it's okay?"

"Sure. Do you like plants?" Kitt was somewhat bemused by the turn of the conversation. She'd never known a young boy who was interested in growing plants.

"Yeah, I do, but I don't know much about taking care of them. Dad isn't into plants, and Andy only keeps geraniums."

Kitt was on one knee in the closet, looking for her clogs, and her voice was muffled as she asked, "Who's Andy?"

"She's our housekeeper, but she's really like a grandmother to me. She's been with us since I was a baby." He wandered over to the closet. It was double-width, with folding doors that matched those across the window. Only one section of the doors was open, and Kitt was leaning to poke through the boxes piled on the floor of the closed side. "What are you looking for? Want me to open this door?" Gus offered. "You could see better."

"Oh, men, you're so practical," Kitt grumbled. "I'm trying to find my clogs—you know what they are, don't you? Okay, Mr. Efficiency," she laughed, "open that door and give me a hand. The ones I want are green leather and have open toes."

Gus dropped to his hands and knees and started opening boxes. "These aren't all shoes, Kitt. Why do you keep spices in your closet? Andy keeps hers in the kitchen."

"Ho, is this where they've been? I've hunted for them all week. You can put them outside, little wise guy, I keep mine in the kitchen, too." She glanced around at a scrabbling sound and exclaimed, "Hero! Out! We don't need your help."

"What on earth are you two doing? Digging for treasure?" Ez's deep voice startled them, and they both jumped. "Come on, Kitt, you and Gus can play later. The rest of us are hungry. The charcoal is just right for the steaks, but Midge doesn't know what you want to put in the salad."

"Coming. Just a minute. We're trying to find my shoes. Oh, those are the ones, Gus! Now just push all this stuff in—not the spices—and close the doors. Hero, will you get out of there? Go on, Ez, we're right behind you."

They were still sitting at the table two hours later. It had not been an elaborate, multi-course meal, but the steady talk and laughter had drawn it out. So far, most of the talking had been done by O'Mara, as he answered the dozens of questions thrown at him by Kitt and Ez. He had refused earlier to tell Ez anything about the past twelve years of his life, saying that it was all so boring he only wanted to go through it once and would wait for Kitt to join them. So he and Ez had spent an uproarious hour before dinner reminiscing about their summers on the Cape, with Midge and Gus a fascinated audience.

Once they were all seated at the table, though, the questions had come thick and fast.

"Okay, come clean, O'Mara. What happened to you?" Ez asked. "We wrote a few letters back and forth, but then, after a while, we never heard from you again. Kitt wrote asking if you were all right, and it was returned marked 'addressee unknown.' Where did you disappear to?"

"All I can tell you, even now, is that a few months after I started that job in Washington, I had a very good offer to go to work for a government agency. I can't tell you the name.

Most of the work was overseas, and one of the reasons I got the job was that I didn't have any family. No ties. No distractions."

"Sounds like you were some kind of a spy. Was that it?" Kitt asked.

"Something like that. They didn't like us to send or receive mail while we were training, and then I went on an assignment to.... Well, it doesn't matter. But it was almost a year before I got back."

"Was it dangerous?" asked Kitt, her eyes widening in sudden concern. "Oh, I suppose that's a dumb question. It must have been."

"Sometimes. I've got a couple of scars here and there, but nothing serious. I was lucky—I always managed to get out of the tight spots relatively whole."

Ez laughed and said, "I'll bet luck didn't have much to do with it. You always were tough as rawhide, and moved faster than anyone expected from a man your size."

"It helped. On the other hand, I made a rather large target."

"Ugh! Sounds awful when you put it that way," Kitt exclaimed. "What happened when you got back?"

"A couple of weeks in the hospital, and then a few weeks of leave. I met Laura, Gus's mother, then. I was staying at a rest house the agency owned down on Cape Hatteras, and she was visiting nearby. When my leave was over, I went back overseas on another assignment."

"Did you get married then?" As she asked the question, Kitt glanced at Gus, wondering if this talk about the mother he'd never known was bothering him. He was unconcernedly working his way through his second helping of salad.

O'Mara leaned back, sipping his wine. "No, not until I returned a few months later. My boss wasn't too happy with me, but he cooled off when I promised to take one more assignment out of the country. After that, I could transfer to an onshore job and stay put for a while."

Gus chimed in, "Dad was in... Oh, I'm not supposed to say... He was away when I was born. That's how come I've got this yuck name. If he'd been there, I'd have a lot better one."

"You know it." His father grinned.

Kitt smiled at the boy sitting across the corner of the table from her. "Oh, I don't know. I kind of like 'Gus.' It fits you. Besides, it could have been worse, Algernon or Bartholomew or Fotheringale," she slanted a sly look at Ez and added, "or Ezekiel."

Ez laughed and threw a cherry tomato at her. "You should talk. 'Kittredge' isn't exactly a typical girl's name." He turned back to O'Mara. "When did you start writing? What made you think of it?"

"It just sort of happened. The agency work was getting to me, and I had Gus to take care of. I wanted to spend more time with him as he got older, and writing was something I could do at home. Guess he was around three when I started the first book. Since I'd been up to my ears in political intrigue for five years, it seemed a natural choice for a plot."

"Political intrigue may have been a natural," Kitt said, "but your plots are anything but. Why didn't we ever realize what a devious mind you have? Positively Machiavellian."

"You weren't supposed to know," O'Mara said chidingly. "What's the point of being devious if everyone knows you are? It loses its effectiveness." He locked eyes with Kitt, staring at her intently, and said softly, "Be warned."

She looked puzzled and asked, "About what?"

"My devious mind." He laughed at her bewilderment and changed the subject quickly. "To finish this off—so we can get to what you two have been up to—after the second book did so well and the movie sale did even better, I decided to get back to New England. I always intended to live here eventually, and the time was right. I had enough money to afford the kind of privacy and the kind of place I wanted. It took a few months, but I finally found the house at Crest Rock, and we moved here a couple of years ago."

Kitt's dining arrangements consisted of an eight-foot antique harvest table with an equally long church bench on each side and a captain's chair at either end. She was sitting at one end, with Midge and Ez on the bench to her left and Gus and O'Mara sharing the one on the right.

Tiny Midge looked about ten years old beside Ez's bulk, and she almost sounded it as she cried, "Oh, but what about all those super places you go to and the movies you made? I read all about those. You were right there when they were filming, and what about that actress—" She broke off with a guilty look at Kitt.

Ez shouted with laughter. O'Mara smiled at her rather paternally. Gus looked from one to the other, puzzled, and Kitt blushed. She could have kicked herself.

"Put your foot in it that time, Thumbelina," Ez gasped.

"I'll tell you stories of my wild and wicked adventures another day," O'Mara said, "but right now I want to find out what the terrible twins have been up to."

Kitt grinned, her eyes gleaming with anticipation. "Has Ez told you yet what he does?"

O'Mara shook his head, watching her expectantly.

"Wait for this," Kitt cautioned gleefully. "Would you believe a professor of medieval history?"

There was a moment of stunned silence while O'Mara stared at Ez in blank shock. Then his mouth curved in a slow, wide smile and he said wonderingly, "Only you would carry a joke that far. You look like you should be wrestling bears or leaping tall buildings, so naturally you've become a college professor. I'll bet you're having a terrific time romping through life, chortling over the stunned reactions when you tell people what you do. Ezekiel, you fraud, you should have been
in
medieval history!" A dreamy expression came over his face as he gazed at the ceiling and said, "I can see you now, clanking around in full armor, trying to find a horse big enough to hold you and a hundred pounds of tin, while the fair young maidens—"

He broke off as everyone erupted in gales of laughter. When it quieted somewhat, O'Mara grinned at Ez and said, "You can fill me in on the details later. I'm having too much fun right now making up my own story." He turned toward Kitt, and with an odd note in his voice asked, "What about you, Kitt? What have you been doing with yourself all these years?"

BOOK: Damon, Lee
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