Considering Kate Page 21

"It's not that simple. There's the whole baby-sitter deal. I don't know who I'd—" He turned, desperately relieved when the door jangled open.

"Dad!" And the man of the hour shot in like a bullet. "We saw your truck, so Mrs. Skully said we could stop. Hi, Kate." He dumped his Star Wars backpack on the floor, grinned. "Listen, it echoes. Hi, Kate!" She had to laugh, and even before Brody could, scooped Jack off his feet. "Hi, Handsome Jack. Ready to kiss me?"

"Nah." But it was obvious he was half hoping she'd kiss him again.

"That's a real problem with the men in your family." She put him on his feet as a woman, a boy and a girl came through the door. The woman blew spiky bangs out of her eyes.

"Brody, saw your truck. I thought I'd drop Jack off, save you a trip. Unless you want me to take him home awhile yet."

"No, this is great, thanks. Ah, Beth Skully, Kate Kimball."

"Kate and I sort of know each other. Rod, no running in here. You probably don't remember me," she continued without missing a beat. "My sister JoBeth was friends with your sister Freddie."

"JoBeth, of course. How is she?''

"She's great. She and her family live in Michigan. She's a nurse-practitioner. I hope you don't mind me dropping in with the troops this way. I've been wondering what you're doing in this old place."

"Mom." The little girl, blond and big-eyed tugged on sleeve.

"All right, Carrie, just a minute."

"I'll give you a tour," Kate offered. "If you can stand it."

"Actually, I'd love it, but we're still on the run. Having kids turns you into a bus driver. I guess you don't know, right yet, when you'll be opening your dance school?"

"I hope to start taking afternoon and evening students in April." She glanced down at Carrie, recognized the hope in those big eyes. "Are you interested in ballet, Carrie?"

"I want to be a ballerina."

"Ballerinas are sissies." Her brother sneered.

"Mom!" Carrie wailed.

"Rod, you just hush. I'm sorry about my little moron here, Kate."

"No, don't apologize. Sissies?" she said, turning to Rod, who looked pleased with himself.

"Yeah, uh-huh, 'cause they wear dopey clothes and go around like this." Rod boosted himself on tiptoe and took several small, rather mincing steps.

The result had his sister wailing for her mother yet again.

Before Beth could speak, Kate smiled and shook her head. "That's interesting. How many sissies do you know who can do this?"

Kate brought her leg up, braced a hand on her thigh and bringing her leg tight against the side of her body, pointed her toe at the ceiling.

Oh, my God, was the single thought that tumbled around in Brody's mind.

"Bet I can." Challenged, Rod grabbed his ankle, tried to pull his leg up, lost his balance and tumbled onto his butt.

"Rod, you'll snap yourself like a turkey wishbone," his mother warned, and with an arm around Carrie's shoulder smiled at Kate. "Doesn't that hurt?"

"Only if you think about it." She lowered her foot to the floor. "How old are you, Carrie?"

"I'm five. I can touch my toes."

Five, Kate thought. The bones were still soft. The body still able to learn to do the unnatural. "If you and your mama decide you should come to my school next spring, I'll teach you to dance. And you'll show your brother that ballet isn't for sissies."

She winked at Carrie, then let her body flow back into a smooth back-bend. She kicked her legs gracefully to the ceiling, held there a moment, then simply flowed upright again.

"Wow," Rod whispered to Jack. "She's cool."

Brody said nothing. Saliva had pooled in his mouth.

"Ballet is for athletes." Tossing back her hair, she angled her head at Rod. "A number of professional football players take rudimentary ballet, to help them move fast and smooth on the field."

"No way," Rod said.

"Way. Come with your sister a few times, Rod. I'll show you."

"Now, that's asking for a headache." With a laugh, Beth signaled her son. "Come on, trouble." Brody slapped himself out of a particularly detailed fantasy that involved that stupendously flexible body.

"Thanks for seeing to Jack, Beth."

"Oh, you know it's no bother. Happy to have old Jack anytime."

"Really?" Kate murmured, sending Brody a long look.

"Sure, he's…" Beth shifted her eyes between Brody and Kate, then bit down on a grin. Well, well, well. It was about damn time the man started looking past his nose. "He's a pure pleasure," Beth went on. "In fact, I was thinking about cooking up a big pot of spaghetti one night this week and seeing if Jack wanted to have dinner with Rod."

"Friday's a great night for spaghetti," Kate said sweetly. "Don't you think, Brody?"

"I don't know. I—"

"You know, Friday's just perfect." Thrilled to help Kate execute the squeeze play, Beth nudged her kids to the door. "We'll count on that then. Jack'll just come over after school, and stay for dinner. He and the kids can watch a video after. Maybe you should plan on him spending the night. That'll work out. Just send him to school Friday with a change of clothes. Nice to see you again, Kate."

"Very nice seeing you."

"I get to have a sleep-over at Rod's." Thrilled, Jack plopped down to do some somersaults. "Thanks, Dad."

"Yeah." Kate trailed a finger down Brody's chest, chuckled at his shell-shocked expression. "Thanks, Dad."

Chapter Six

Friday was not turning out to be a terrific cap to the work week. One of his men called in sick, felled by the flu that was gleefully making the rounds. Brody sent another man home at noon who was too sick to be out of bed much less swinging a hammer.

Since the other half of his four-man crew was finishing up a trim job across the river in Maryland, that left Brody to deal with the plumbing inspector, to hang the drywall for the partition between Kate's office and the school's kitchen, and to finish stripping the woodwork in those two areas. Most of all, and most stressful, was that it left him alone on the job with his father for the best part of the day.

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