Considering Kate Page 16

"Hi. I took a chance you'd be home. My mother sends this."

He found the small covered bowl thrust into his hands. "Your mother?"

"Yes. You hurt her feelings saying you were too busy to come by tomorrow."

"I didn't say I was too busy, I…" What the hell had he said? He'd made it up on the spot, and for the life of him couldn't remember.

"The black-eyed peas are for luck," Kate told him. "Mama really hopes you'll change your mind and stop by. There'll be plenty of kids for Jack to hang out with. Is he up? I'll say hi." She slipped past him into the house. He'd been too distracted to stop her. Or even try to. But he was already hurrying after her across the little foyer and into the big, messy living room where the TV blared. Mortified, he snatched up toys and debris in her wake.

"Oh, don't start that." She waved a hand impatiently. "I know what houses with children look like. I grew up in one. What a great tree!"

Arms full, he stared at it. He'd seen the one in her parents' living room. Beautiful ornaments, placed with care. His and Jack's looked like it had been decorated by drunk elves.

"We had one that looked like this. Freddie, Brand and I nagged Mama until she agreed to let us do the tree one year. We made a hell of a mess. It was great."

There was a fire snapping in the hearth so she walked over to warm her hands. She'd spent over an hour dressing, so that she could look completely casual. The deep purple sweater was lightly tucked into gray trousers. Tiny gold hoops glinted at her ears. She'd left her hair loose after a heated self-debate, so that it streamed down to her waist.

She imagined he'd taken less than ten minutes to look fabulous in his jeans and sweatshirt. "Terrific house," she commented. "Native stone, right? Such a quiet spot. Must be great for Jack, all this running room. You'll need to get him a dog."

"Yeah, he's made noises in that area." What the hell was he supposed to do? Now? With her? "Thank your mother for the peas."

"Thank her yourself." Kate turned, then spotted Jack facedown on the couch, one arm dangling.

"Conked out, did he?" she went to the boy, automatically lifting his arm back on the cushion, draping the ancient afghan over him. "Trying to stay awake till midnight?"


He looked baffled, Kate thought. Baffled, rumpled and mouthwatering standing there with her mother's bowl and Jack's toys piled in his arms. "I love this movie," she said easily, glancing at the TV. "Especially the part where they open up that doorway and it's full of alien eyeballs and tentacles. Why don't you offer me a drink? It's traditional."

"Beer's it."

"Oh, major calories. Okay, I'll live dangerously." She walked over, took her mother's bowl. "Where's the kitchen?"

"It's…" She was wearing perfume—something just sliding toward hot. The room had never experienced that sort of seductive female scent before. He glanced to the left, dropped a toy car on his foot.

"I'll find it. Want a refill?"

"No, I've got—" For God's sake, he thought, dumping the toys and going after her again. "Look, Kate, you caught me at a bad time."

"Boy, look at these ceilings. Have you been doing the rehab yourself?''

"When I have some spare time. Listen—"

He broke off, swore, when she strolled into the kitchen. "Wow." She scanned the room. Granite countertops, slate floor, oak cupboards and a charming little stone hearth. And every inch covered with dishes, pots, school papers, newspapers, discarded outerwear.

"Wow," she said again. "This took some real effort." She stepped over to the counter where what was left of the pizza had yet to be put away. Broke off a corner. Nibbled. "Good." The drunk elves, he thought, had nothing on the war-crazed monkeys that had invaded his kitchen. "It's usually not this bad."

"You had a party with your son. Stop apologizing. Beer in the fridge?"

"Yeah, yeah." Hell with it. "Why aren't you at a party?"

"I am. I just came late." She handed him the beer. "Open that for me, will you?" She sniffed the air while he twisted off the cap. "I smell popcorn."

"We pretty much finished that off."

"Well, that's what I get for being late." She leaned back against the counter, took a sip of beer. "Want to go sit on the couch, watch the rest of the movie and make out?''

"Yeah. No."

"No to which, the movie or the making-out?"

She was laughing at him. He wanted to be enraged. But was only aroused. "You keep getting in my way."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

With his eyes on hers, he closed the distance between them. Took the bottle from her hand, set it aside. New Year's Eve, he thought. Out with the old. In with the… who knew?

"Well." Pulses thrumming, she started to slide her hands up his chest, but he caught them in his.

"No. My turn."

He lowered his head, and his mouth began to whisper over hers.


"Oh God." It came out on a low moan as Brody stepped back.

Jack stood in the doorway, rubbing sleepy eyes. "What are you doing, Dad?"

"Nothing." And the doing of nothing with Kate was very likely to kill him.

"Actually your dad was going to kiss me."

"Kate." He said it in precisely the same tone he'd used when Jack said something unfortunate.

"Nah." Jack, in his oldest Power Ranger pajamas, studied them owlishly. His hair stood up in pale spikes, and his cheeks were still flushed from sleep. "Dad doesn't kiss girls."

"Really?" Before Brody could back too far away, Kate simply grabbed a hold of his shirt. "Why not?"

"Because they'regirls." To emphasize the point, Jack rolled his eyes. "Kissing girls is yuck."

"Oh, yeah." She bumped the father aside, crooked a finger to the son. "Come here, pal."

"How come?"

"So I can kiss you all over your face."

"Nuh-uh!" His eyes widened, and danced. "Yuck-o."

"Okay." She peeled off her coat, tossed it to Brody, then pushed up her sleeves. "That's it. You're doomed."

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