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Ana considered making two trips, gauged the distance and decided that if she balanced the load carefully she could make it in one.
She stacked, juggled and adjusted, then just managed to shut her trunk with an elbow. She made it across the parking lot and down half a block before she began berating herself.
Why did she always do this? she asked herself. Two comfortable trips were better than one difficult one. It wasn't that the boxes were so heavy—though they were. It was simply that they were awkward and the sidewalk was jammed. And her hair was blowing in her eyes. With a quick, agile dance, she managed, barely, to avoid a collision with a couple of teenage tourists in a surrey.
"Want some help?"
Annoyed with herself and irresponsible drivers, she turned around. There was Boone, looking particularly wonderful in baggy cotton slacks and shirt. Riding atop his shoulders, Jessie was laughing and clapping her hands.
"We had a ride on the carousel and had ice cream and we saw you."
"Looks like you're still overloading," Boone commented.
"They're not heavy."
He patted Jessie's leg and, following the signal, she began to slide down his back. "We'll give you a hand."
"That's all right." She knew it was foolish to reject help when she needed it, but she had managed quite successfully to avoid Boone for the better part of a week. And had managed—almost as successfully—to avoid thinking about him. Wondering about him. "I don't want to take you out of your way."
"We're not going any way in particular, are we, Jessie?"
"Uh-uh. We're just wandering today. It's our day off."
Ana couldn't prevent the smile, any more than she could prevent the wariness from creeping into her eyes when she looked back at Boone. He was certainly looking at her, she realized, in that disconcertingly thorough way of his. The smile creeping around his mouth had less to do with humor than it did with challenge.
"I don't have to go far," she began, grabbing at a package that was beginning to slide. "I can just—"
"Fine." Overriding her objections, Boone shifted boxes from her arms to his. His eyes stayed on hers. "What are neighbors for?"
"I can carry one." Eager to help, Jessie bounced in her sneakers. "I can."
"Thank you." Ana handed Jessie the lightest box. "I'm going a couple of blocks down to my cousin's shop."
"Has she had her babies?" Jessie asked as they started to walk.
"No, not yet."
"I asked Daddy how come she got to have two in there, and he said sometimes there's twice the love."
How could anyone possibly have a defense against a man like this? Ana wondered. Her eyes were warm when they met his. "Yes, sometimes there is. You always seem to have the right answer," she murmured to Boone.
"Not always." He wasn't certain if he was relieved or annoyed that his hands were full of boxes. If they'd been free, he would have been compelled to touch her. "You just try for the best one at the time. Where have you been hiding, Anastasia?''
"Hiding?" The warmth fled from her eyes.
"I haven't seen you out in your yard in days. You didn't strike me as the type to scare that easily."
Because Jessie was skipping just ahead of them, she bit off a more acid response. "I don't know what you mean. I had work. Quite a bit of it, as a matter of fact." She nodded toward the boxes. "You're carrying some of it now."
"Is that so? Then I'm glad I didn't resort to knocking on your door and pretending I needed to borrow a cup of sugar. I nearly did, but it seemed so obvious."
She slanted him a look. "I appreciate your restraint."
"And so you should."
She merely tossed her hair out of her eyes and called to Jessie. "We'll go down this way, so we can go in the back. Saturdays are usually busy," she explained to Boone. "I don't like going through the shop and distracting the customers."
"What does she sell, anyway?"
"Oh." Ana smiled again. "This and that. I think you'd find her wares particularly interesting. Here we go." She gestured to a little flagstone stoop flanked by pots of bloodred geraniums. "Can you get the door, Jessie?"
"Okay." Anxious as ever to see what was on the other side, Jessie shoved it open, then let out a squeal. "Oh, look. Daddy, look!" Jessie set her package aside on the first available space and made a dive for the big white cat grooming herself on the table.
"Jessica!" Boone's voice was short and firm, stopping his daughter in midstride. "What have I told you about going up to strange animals?"
"But, Daddy, he's so pretty."
"She," Ana corrected as she laid her boxes on the counter. "And your father's quite right. Not all animals like little girls."
Jessie's fingers itched to stroke the thick white fur. "Does she?"
"Sometimes Luna doesn't like anyone." With a laugh, Ana scratched the cat between the ears. "But if you're very polite, and pet her when she gives the royal consent, you'll get along well enough." Ana gave Boone a reassuring smile. "Luna won't scratch her. When she's had enough, she'll just stalk off."
But apparently Luna was in the mood for attention. Walking to the end of the table, she rubbed her head against the hand Jessie had held out. "She likes me!" The smile nearly split her face in two. "See, Daddy, she likes me."
"Yes, I see."
"Morgana usually keeps cold drinks back here." Ana opened the small refrigerator. "Would you like something?"
"Sure." He really wasn't thirsty, but the offer made it easy to linger. He leaned back against the counter of the kitchenette while Ana got out glasses. "The shop through there?"
When he gestured at a door, Ana nodded. "Yes. And through there's the storeroom. A great deal of what Morgana sells is one-of-a-kind, so she doesn't keep a large supply of inventory."
He reached over Ana's shoulder to finger the thin leaves of a rosemary plant on the windowsill. "She into this kind of thing, too?"
Ana tried to ignore the fact that his body was brushing hers. She could smell the sea on him, and imagined he and Jessie had gone down to feed the gulls. "What kind of thing?"