*.* Beach House near Nice*.*

Irina gently brushed her hand through the soft curls of her sleeping son. The rocking motion of the chair, and the quiet lapping of the waves on the beach below had finally worked their magic. Not sure how he would handle the shock of a surprise visit from his sisters, she and Jack agreed it would be best to tell JD before their arrival. Irina had managed to keep him distracted for most of the morning, but naptime had proved more difficult. The excited little boy had resisted sleep, until Irina, in her frustration, had finally carried him to one of the rocking chairs occupying the verandah that encompassed the back of the house.

Once certain that he was fully asleep, she moved him to the small office on the first floor where they had set up a cot and cradle for nap time. Irina eased him onto the bed, careful not to wake him. He curved softly into the pillow, drifting more deeply into sleep. When she was confident he wouldn't wake up, she went back to the verandah and curled up with a new thriller she had been dying to read. Up until then, it had been far too hectic to get any reading done.

JD's third birthday was a week away, and Irina had wanted to have her family all together to celebrate. The only problem was neither Sydney or Nadia were aware they even had a younger brother. It wasn't the type of news that was easily shared in a telephone conversation. When she mentioned her wish to Jack, he had agreed and began working on a plan. With transportation help from her sister, they were soon heading to a private community along the Mediterranean coast of France. The house itself was situated on an inlet that only had two other homes hugging the shoreline.

She had been the one to suggest the beach house. She had purchased it nearly twenty years ago, just after a big score. It wasn't under her real name. A trust account had been set up to pay the taxes and upkeep. There was no paper trail to tie the house to her, which made it a safe refuge for her many times over the years. Until two weeks ago, no one, not even her sister knew of its existence. The owners of the other two houses were equally reclusive, and they all had happily ignored each other.

They had been in the house for almost a week, after a stopover in Nice to pick up the crib and cradle for Isabelle, and the cot for JD. Jack had also decided to pick up a few clothing items, since his current wardrobe was limited to the articles Irina had purchased while he was recovering from his surgery.

She checked her watch, noting that Jack had another hour on the road. He had left early that morning to rendezvous with their daughters and called her once they were safely on the way. All was proceeding according to plan. Of course, Jack still had to tell Sydney and Nadia they had a brother. Irina grinned, wishing she could be a fly on the wall for that conversation. They had tossed for who would be the one to tell them. Jack had 'won'. He'd been very stoic about it, but she knew he was nervous. Jack, the man who could face death-defying situations with nerves of steel, had always been vulnerable where Sydney was concerned. She looked at her watch again. There was still plenty of time before their arrival. Relaxing back into the rocker, she began to read.