He'd stayed late at the shipyard, sanding Lady Orion's hull and hoping Jake would turn up, resisting the urge to jump into his pickup and start cruising the streets. He might not have found the way to get to the kid yet, but he knew damned well that chasing after him like a nervous mother wouldn't do the job.
"What have we got?" he asked now, spotting the sheaf of papers in Lydia's free hand. "Thanks for getting these."
"It was a pain getting everyone to fill this out. What do you need all this information for?"
"Keeps the mailing list up to date," he said absently, sorting through the forms to check the out-of-towners. The first few he already knew. The pediatrician might have been a good resource if he weren't Tabby Jones, but Blake wasn't about to expose his kids to a negative bastard like Tabby.
Lydia grasped his arm and started pulling him toward the stairs. He could hear the sounds of Tony Dickson's guitar tuning up in the banquet room.
"A research chemist," he muttered, thinking of Jake's eyes. The kid had imagination, brains. Too damned many brains for the lifestyle he was falling into, but chemistry? No, too sterile.
"Mac," Lydia murmured, her breasts pressing against his arm. "Let's dance. Just you and I."
He felt a brief stirring in his loins, a memory of long-ago shared pleasures with Lydia.
"I'm not in much of a dancing mood, Lydia. Do you think there's any food left up there?"
He spotted a word written in smooth handwriting on the bottom line of the next form: ASTRONOMER.
Claire. A picture formed in his mind, big dreamy eyes staring up at him through impossibly thick glasses. He wondered if she'd been seeing stars all through high school, whether it was the heavens that had put that faraway look in her eyes and kept her from focusing on the world below.
He wondered if Jake had ever looked up, wondered how the kid would react to those big blue eyes behind the thick glasses. He shuffled the papers into a neat pile, folded them and stuffed them in his pocket.
It was an outside chance. Nothing else had worked, but who knew? He might hook the kid with astronomy.
"Right," he told Lydia, gaining distance by grasping her hand and placing it on his arm. "Let's check out the music."
"Hey, Mac!" someone shouted as he reached the top of the stairs. He waved, smiled, and walked on, looking for blond hair tied back, thick glasses. He couldn't see her, but she'd probably be standing off to the edge of the crowd, her nose in the book she would have snatched up in the library before coming in to dinner.
Fifteen years later, what would Claire Welland be wearing? Probably big glasses, a straight skirt, and a plain blouse covered by a loose sweater. Her head would be bowed over her books, and her eyes— Big, fathomless blue eyes. She would look up, eyes wide and startled, like a deer in headlights.
He shook himself free of the crazy spell. Untouchable Claire, whose eyes he'd never really forgotten. She would have fainted with horror if she'd had a clue what thoughts her eyes stirred in a wild teenage boy.
No one was dancing yet, but Tony's guitar was tuned and the warm up had turned into an old Bruce Springsteen tune. Mac saw Don Henley and stopped.
"Hey, Don. Any word on Jake's court date?"
"Check with me Monday. How're you doing with him?"
"Coming along," said Mac, hoping it was true. "Say hello to Wendy. I'll stop by your office Monday and we'll talk about Jake."
Lydia tugged on his arm and he knew she'd be hurt if he tried to shove her off onto Don. "Let's dance, Lydia, before the rest of the guys cut me out. Just let me get us some decent music."
He walked over to Tony, Lydia still clinging to his arm, and murmured a request.
"You got it, Mac." Tony signaled to the other guys in the group as he changed gears in mid-song.
Fast music, pulsing guitar, Lydia a blessed two feet away. He must be getting old, arranging to speed up the music so he could keep his distance, but it was better than hurting her feelings by refusing to dance.
Where the hell was Claire? He needed her for Jake, damn it. If she'd slipped out already, he'd have to figure out where she was staying. If he was lucky, she'd be right here at Manresa Castle. Certainly the quiet, old-fashioned walls would suit the studious bookworm she'd been in high school. As soon as the dance ended, he'd check with Jenny at the desk.
Lydia moved into his arms as the music shifted again. Over her head, Mac saw a woman outlined against the window casement, just a glimpse before a broad back blocked her from his sight.
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