Boat restorer Marcus Quinn is not going to sleep with the infamous Eden Ross. As soon as he discovers the poor little rich girl stowaway, he knows he should throw her overboard. Instead he tries his best to ignore her topless sunbathing and blatant teasing. But when that fails, what else can he do but give her exactly what she's asking for—frenzied, brain-numbing sex? And a little bit more
With her sex video scandal about to hit the tabloids, Eden Ross just wants to hide out on her daddy's boat for a while. Then she finds mouthwatering Marcus Quinn working onboard, and she can't deny herself a little fun. After all, if Marcus thinks she is some serial sexpot out to use him for his body, how can it hurt to prove him right?
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"DO YOU EVER WONDER whether they're worth it? Women, I mean."
Marcus Quinn glanced up from the bucket of varnish he was stirring to see a gloomy expression cloud his brother Ian's face. "I don't know," he replied with a slight shrug.
"I guess I can't imagine what it would be like without them," Ian said. "They're nice to look at and they smell good. And sex...well, sex wouldn't be the same without them." He sank back into the battered couch, staring at his beer bottle as he scraped at the label with his thumb-nail. "It just seems like it never gets anywhere. I remember the first girl I kissed like it was yesterday. And since then my life has gone straight to hell. You can't do with 'em and you can't do without 'em."
A chuckle echoed in the stillness of the boathouse, and they both looked over at Declan, who sat amidst the awls and chisels on Marcus's workbench, his legs dangling. "I remember that day. You looked like you were about to lose your lunch all over her shoes."
"You weren't even there," Ian challenged.
"I was," Dec replied. "Me and my mates used to watch you guys all the time. We were trying to pick up tips. The older lads were so smooth with the ladies. Except you, of course."
"Hell, you get French kissed when you're twelve years old and see if you can handle the shock," Ian snapped back.
Dec jumped down from the workbench and tossed his empty beer bottle in the rubbish, then strolled to the small refrigerator in the corner to fetch another. "She was a flah little scrubber all right," he said, thickening the Irish accent that still colored the Quinn brothers' voices. "By the time Alicia Dooley got around to you, she'd already kissed half the boys in your form at school. She even let a boy feel her up for a bag of crisps and a candy bar."
Ian's eyes narrowed. "You didn't."
Dec twisted the cap from the beer and took a long swig. "I was supposed to refuse? She was thirteen. And she had the nicest knobs at St. Clement's. I'd have been off my nut not to take advantage of a deal like that. Besides, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about."
Ian turned to Marcus, sending him an inquiring look, but Marcus shook his head. "Don't look at me."
"By the time Marky was old enough to have those thoughts, Alicia had got herself knocked up by Jimmy Farley and closed up her little schoolyard enterprise," Dec explained.
A comfortable silence descended over the boathouse. The Friday-night ritual between Marcus and Ian and Declan had begun. Usually they'd meet for a few beers, sometimes at a pub, sometimes at Ian's place in town and sometimes in the old boathouse at their father's boatyard. They'd catch up with the week's events, the talk centering on work or sports. But occasionally they talked about women.
Marcus grabbed the bucket of varnish and climbed the ladder he'd propped up against his newest project, a twenty-one-foot wooden-hulled sloop that had been commissioned by a Newport billionaire for his son's sixteenth birthday. He'd been designing and building boats for three years now, working out of the old boathouse and living upstairs in a loft that was half studio and half apartment.
"Considering the number of women we've collectively been with, I wouldn't be surprised if we'd shared a few others," Declan murmured.
"There's a code among brothers," Ian countered. "You just don't mess with your brothers' girls, current or ex."
"You're right," Dec said. He crossed the room and held out his hand to Ian. "Sorry, bro. Won't happen again. You've got my word."
Marcus smiled to himself. The three Quinn brothers had formed an unshakable bond at an early age. After their mother's illness had been diagnosed and they'd been shipped off to Ireland to live with their grandmother, they'd learned to depend upon each other. From the moment they'd arrived in Dublin, they'd been outsiders, wary Americans forced to live in a culture whose rules they didn't understand.
And after they'd returned from Ireland, they'd become known as "those" Quinn boys, with their odd Irish accents and their independent ways, young men who could string curse words together like seasoned sailors and beat the stuffing out of men twice their size in a fistfight.
Ian had been eighteen when they'd returned and had immediately enrolled in college, anxious to get a start on his adult life. When he was accepted into the Providence Police Academy, he'd continued his education at night, graduating with a degree in criminal justice. Two years ago, he'd left the Providence PD and taken the job as police chief of their hometown, Bonnett Harbor, a picturesque Rhode Island village on the western shore of Narragansett Bay.
A year younger than Ian, Declan returned in time for his senior year in high school, bringing his grades up so he could apply to MIT. Four years of college, a knack for electronics and a stint with naval intelligence had paved the way for a job in corporate security. Declan's security consulting firm was the favorite among corporate bigwigs and multimillionaires along the East Coast.
Marcus had made the most difficult transition. He'd spent the majority of his childhood on Irish soil, away from his parents from age five to fourteen. He'd come back to a country that was as foreign to him as Ireland had been nine years before. School had been hell, and he'd avoided it whenever possible, retreating into solitude and avoiding close friendships. His brothers had been his only friends.
But his talent in art, especially carving and sculpture, had set him on an odd career path—first art school and then a few years working as a wood-carver with a boat-design firm in Boston. He'd been recruited as an instructor at a small school for boat restoration in Massachusetts. Now he ran his own show, doing commissioned wood carvings and building pretty wooden sloops based on vintage designs.
"Maybe we should take a break," Dec suggested, flopping down next to Ian on the sofa and kicking his heels up on the battered crate that served as a coffee table.
Marcus glanced up from the cockpit combing he'd been varnishing. "I'm the only one doing any work here, unless you call drinking my beer and eating my food 'work."
Dec grabbed the can of peanuts from Ian. "I was talking about women. We should take a break from women. You know, step back and try to gain a little perspective. We can't see the feckin' forest for the trees."
"What are you saying?" Ian asked.
"He's saying, in order to understand women, we should give up women," Marcus translated.
Giving up women would be impossible for Ian. He lived on his charm, able to navigate the most difficult situations with ease. While Marcus had few friends, Ian knew everyone and they loved him. Dec, on the other hand, was more focused. He was the thinker in the family, the one guy who was driven by the need to succeed. Any challenge, whether it was in his professional or personal life, was met with unrelenting resolve.
"We should study them," Declan suggested. "We're three relatively clever guys. If we put our heads together, we should be able to figure women out. But you can't figure them out while you're sleeping with them, I know that. I've been sleeping with them for years and I'm no better off than I was the night I first did it."
Ian nodded. "The more women I know, the less I understand them."
Marcus rested his arms across the top of the ladder. "Maybe they're not the problem. Maybe we are."
"Speak for yourself," Dec said. "I know what the hell I'm doing in the sack. No one's ever complained."
Marcus shook his head. "I mean with...relationships. Isn't that what you're talking about?"
"And what the hell would I do with a relationship?" Dec asked. "I don't have time for that."
Marcus chuckled. "I rest my case."
"He's right," Ian said. "We want what everyone else wants. To get married. Start a life. Have a family. Look at our cousins, Uncle Seamus's boys. There are six of them and they're all married now."
"So we've got issues," Dec said defensively.
Ian straightened, as if offended by the comment.
"What issues? If I had issues, I'd know about it."
"Not necessarily," Dec continued. "I once dated this psychology grad student, and after she heard about our childhood, she said it wasn't any surprise that I had an attachment disorder. She was right, because after I listened to a few more hours of her psychobabble, I detached her from my life."
"You have this disorder?" Ian said.
Marcus climbed down the ladder as he spoke. "We all probably do. You gotta admit, after we were separated from the family, the only people we really trusted were each other."
"What about our cousins?" Ian asked. "They had the same start in life as we did, their da off working the Mighty Quinn and their ma disappearing on them. Did they have this disorder?"
Marcus shrugged. "Maybe. But they obviously overcame it since they're all married now."
"Where did you hear about this disorder?" Ian asked Marcus.
Marcus set the bucket of varnish on the workbench and searched for the turpentine to clean the brush. He shrugged. "Sometimes I watch Dr. Phil while I'm eating lunch."
He dropped the brush into a can of paint thinner then fetched a beer for himself. After sprawling himself in a ragged easy chair across from the sofa, he took a long drink of the cold beer.
"The way I see it, women are like peanuts," Ian declared, breaking the silence.
Dec laughed. "All right, ya daft wanker, I'll bite. How are women like peanuts?"
He held up the jar, then tipped some peanuts into his hand and popped them into his mouth. "The first handful is great," he said as he chewed. "The best thing you ever tasted. But then you keep eating them and eating them and they don't taste that special. After all, they are just peanuts, right? But then, you don't have them for a week or two and they're good again."
"And by not having them, you understand the nuts? You gain insight into their behavior?" Declan asked.
"It's not the best metaphor," Marcus said, jumping into his role as peacemaker between his two older brothers.
"How did we even get on the subject of women?" Ian asked.
Dec grabbed the peanuts and poured a measure into his hand. "Women spend most of their time together talking about men. If we spent more time talking about them, even objectively observing them, we'd be better off. And in order to do that, we need to stop sleeping with them. And stop socializing with them. Everything, full stop."
"No women? For how long?" The scowl on Ian's face was enough to tell that he wasn't in favor of the plan.
"As long as it takes," Dec said.
"My social life is crap anyway," Ian finally replied.
"Since I moved back to Bonnett Harbor, I can't sneeze without half the town knitting me a bleedin' afghan. If I started dating, there'd be all sorts of gossip."
Dec looked over at Marcus. "What about you?"
"He barely dates as it is," Ian said. "This shouldn't be any problem for Marky."
"I date," Marcus said. "I just don't talk about it with you tossers."
"It shouldn't be a problem for him," Dec said. "He's stuck out in Newport on a boat for the rest of the summer."
"Just you and your tools?" Ian asked.
Marcus nodded. "Dec got me a job with Trevor Ross." Dec held up his hands. "I got you in the door. You got the job."
Dec had provided security at a number of Ross's corporate events and parties and also advised his corporate office on a variety of matters. A passing conversation about Ross's sailing yacht and Marcus's talents had landed Marcus a new commission and a potential business partner with limitless capital. "After I showed him my work, we got to talking, and he's interested in bankrolling the expansion of my business. I've got to find a bigger place, where I can build bigger boats. Maybe hire some new workers. Ross could throw a lot of business my way."
"What's his boat like?" Ian asked.
A grin curled the corners of Marcus's mouth. "You should see her. She's a beauty. Built in 1923. Eighty-foot wood ketch. It's all set up so you can sail it with a crew of two. He had the cabin completely refurbished but he wants more detailing, so I'm adding some vintage carvings and I'm replicating the original figurehead. I plan to live on the boat while I work. He's got it anchored off his place on Price's Neck. I start the day after I put this one in the water," Marcus said, nodding toward the wooden sloop sitting in the timber cradle.
Ian chuckled, shaking his head. "Now the man has something to say. Sometimes, Marky, I think you prefer boats to women."