Considering Kate Page 18

They were loud, beautiful, boisterous, full of questions, stories and arguments. The house had been so full of people, food, drink, music, that although he'd ended staying until nearly eight, he'd had no more than a few snatches of conversation with Kate.

He'd been dragged off to the building, grilled over his plans—and he wasn't dim enough to have been fooled that the grilling had been exclusively on rehab.

Kate's family had been sizing him up. Connie's had done the same, he remembered. Certainly not with this good humor or affection or, well, sheer amusement, Brody decided. But the bottom line was identical.

Was this guy good enough for their princess? In Connie's case the answer had been an unqualified no. The resentment on both sides had tainted everything that had happened afterward with shadows. His impression was the Stanislaski verdict was still pending. Nothing he'd done to tactfully demonstrate he wasn't looking to sweep the ballerina off her toe shoes had stopped them from cornering him—goodnaturedly. Asking questions—politely. Or giving him the old once-over—without the least bit of subtlety.

It was more than enough to make a man glad he was single, and intended to stay that way. Now the party was over. The holidays were, thank the Lord, behind him. He could get back to work, remembering that Kate Kimball was a client. And not a lover.

He spent a week tearing out, cleaning out, prepping walls, checking pipes. She never came by.

Every day when he arrived on the site, he imagined she'd stroll down at some point and check the progress. Every evening when he loaded his tools back into his truck he wondered what she was up to. Obviously she was busy, had other things to deal with. Didn't care as much as she'd indicated about the job. Very obviously, she wasn't as interested in him as she'd pretended to be. Which was why he'd been very smart to avoid getting tangled up with some sort of fling with her. She was probably staying out half the night living it up, and spending the other half with some slick New Yorker. He wouldn't be surprised at all. Not one bit. He wouldn't be surprised if she was already making plans to sell the property and shake the small town dust off her dancing shoes. But he was surprised to find himself striding up the steps to her front door and banging on it. He paced the porch. She was the one who'd wanted to nail down every detail, wasn't she? He strode back to the door, banged again. The least she could do was maintain some pretense of interest in the project for a lousy week.

He zigzagged back and forth across the porch again. What the hell was he doing? This was stupid. It was none of his business what she did or how she did it, as long as she paid the freight. He drew a deep breath, let it out slowly and had nearly calmed himself down when the door opened. There she was, looking all heavy-eyed and sleepy, her face flushed, her hair just a little tumbled. Like a woman who'd just slid herself out of bed, and had plans to slide right back in again. Damn it.


"Yeah. Sorry to wake you up. After all it's only four in the afternoon." Her brain was too fuzzy to register the insult, so she gave him a sleepy smile. "It's all right. If I go down for more than an hour in the afternoon, I don't sleep well at night. Come on in. I need coffee." Assuming he'd follow, she turned and walked back toward the kitchen. She heard the door slam, but since it often did in this house, she didn't think anything of it. "I just got in a couple of hours ago." She started a fresh pot, willed it to hurry. To stretch out fatigued muscles, she automatically moved into the first position. "How are things going on my job?"

"Your interest in stuff always blow hot and cold?"

"Hmm? What?" Third position, rise to toes. Get coffee mugs from cupboard.

"You haven't been to the site in a week."

"I was out of town. You take it black, right? A little emergency in New York." Instantly his annoyance shifted into concern. "Your family?"

"Oh, no. They're fine." She arched her back, twisted a little, winced. "Can you… I've got this spot right back…"

She curved her arm over her back, trying to reach a sore muscle between her shoulder blades. "Just press in there with your thumb for a minute. A little lower," she said when he complied. "Oh. Mmm, that's it. Harder." She let out a low, throaty groan, tipped her head back, closed her eyes. "Oh, yes. Yes. Don't stop."

"The hell with this." Viciously aroused, he spun her around, slammed her back against the counter and crushed his mouth to hers.

Heat flashed through her logy system, lights slashed through her sleep-dulled brain. Her lips parted on a gasp of surprise, and he took the kiss deep. Took her deep before she could find her balance. She lifted her hands, a helpless flutter, as she tried to catch up.

She was trapped between his body and the counter, two unyielding surfaces. All the fatigue, the vague aches, burned away in the sudden fireball of sensation.

Frustration, need, temper, lust. They'd all been bottled up inside him since the first moment he'd seen her. Now that the cork was popped, the passion poured out. He took what he hadn't allowed himself to want, ravaging her mouth to feed the hunger.

And when she gripped his shoulders and began to tremble, he took more. They were both breathless when he tore his mouth from hers. For a long moment they stayed as they were, staring at each other, with his hands fisted in her hair, and her fingers digging into his shoulders. Then their mouths were locked again, a reckless war of lips and tongues and teeth. Her hands tugged at his shirt, his rushed under her sweater. Groping, gasping, they struggled to find more. His back rapped against the refrigerator; her teeth scraped along his neck. He circled around until they bumped the kitchen table. He molded her hips, was about to lift them onto that hard, flat surface.

"Katie, is that fresh coffee I…" Spencer Kimball stopped short in the doorway, slapped hard in the heart by the sight of his baby girl wrapped like a vine around his carpenter. They broke apart, with the guilty jerk of a child caught with its hand in the cookie jar. For an awkward, endless five seconds no one spoke nor moved.

"I, ah…" Dear God, was all Spencer could think. "I need to…hmm. In the music room." He backed out, walked quickly away.

Brody dragged his hands through his hair, fisted them there. "Oh, God. Get me a gun. I'd like to shoot myself now and get it over with."

"We don't have one." She gripped the back of a ladder-back chair. The room was still spinning. "It's all right. My father knows I kiss men on occasion."

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