Considering Kate Page 28

She knocked on her mother's office door, poked her head in.

Natasha was at her desk, her hair scooped up and the phone at her ear. She curved her finger in a come-ahead gesture. "Yes, thank you. I'll expect delivery next week." She tapped a few keys at her computer, hung up and sighed. "Perfect timing," she told Kate. "I need a cup of tea and a conversation that doesn't involve dolls."

"Happy to oblige. I'll even make the tea." Kate set the dinosaur on her mother's desk before turning to the teapot.

Natasha eyed the toy, then her daughter. "For


"Mmm. He has a school project. I figured this might earn him some extra points, and be fun."

"He's a delightful little boy."

"Yes, I think so." Kate poured the hot water into cups. "Brody's done a wonderful job with him—though he had terrific material to work with."

"Yes, I agree. Still, it's never easy to raise a child alone."

"I don't intend for him to finish the job alone." Kate set her mother's cup on the desk, sat down with her own. "I'm in love with Brody, Mama, and I'm going to marry him."

"Oh, Kate!" Tears flooded Natasha's eyes even as she leaped up to embrace her daughter. "This is wonderful. I'm so happy for you. For all of us. My baby's getting married." She crouched down to kiss both of Kate's cheeks. "You'll be the most beautiful bride. Have you set the date? We'll have so much planning to do. Wait until we tell your father."

"Wait, wait, wait." Laughing, Kate set her tea aside to grab Natasha's hand. "We haven't set a date, because I haven't convinced him to ask me yet."


"I'm certain a man like Brody—he's really a traditional guy under it all—wants to do the asking. All I have to do is give him a nudge to the next stage so he'll ask, then we can get on with it." As worry strangled the excitement, Natasha sat back on her heels. "Katie. Brody isn't a project that has stages."

"I didn't mean it exactly like that. But still, Mama, relationships have stages, don't they? And people in them work through those stages."

"Darling." Natasha straightened, sat on the corner of her desk. "I've always applauded your logic, your practicality and your sheer determination to earn a goal. But love, marriage, family—these things don't always run on logic. In fact, they rarely do."

"Mama, I love him," Katie said simply, and tears swam into her mother's eyes again.

"Yes, I know you do. I've seen it. And believe me, if you want him, I want him for you. But—

"I want to be Jack's mother." Now Kate's voice thickened. "I didn't know I'd want that so much. At first he was just a delightful little boy, as you said. I enjoyed him, but I enjoy children. Mama, I'm falling in love with him. I'm just falling head over heels for that little boy." Natasha picked up the dinosaur, smiled as she turned it in her hands. "I know what it is to fall in love with a child who didn't come from you. One who walks into your life already formed and makes such a difference in your life. I don't question that you would love him as your own, Katie."

"Then why are you worried?"

"Because you're my baby," Natasha said as she set the toy aside. "I don't want you to be hurt. You're ready to open your heart and your life. But that doesn't mean Brody is."

"He cares for me." She was sure of it. She couldn't be mistaken. But the worry niggled at her. "He's just cautious."

"He's a good man, and I have no doubt he cares for and about you. But, Katie, you don't say he loves you."

"I don't know if he does." Frustrated, Kate got to her feet. "Or if he loves me, if he knows it himself. That's why I'm trying to be patient. I'm trying to be practical. But, Mama, I ache."

"Baby." Murmuring, Natasha drew Kate into her arms, stroked her hair. "Love isn't tidy. It won't be, not even for you."

"I can be patient. For a little while," she added on a watery laugh. "I'm going to make it work." She closed her eyes tight. "I can make it work."

It was hard not to go over to the job site. She'd had to stop herself a half a dozen times from strolling over and seeing the progress. And seeing Brody. She made it easier on herself by spending part of the afternoon making and receiving calls in response to the ad she'd taken for her school. The Kimball School of Dance would open in April, and she already had six potential students. There was an interview scheduled for the following week for an article in the local paper. That, she was sure, would generate more interest, more calls, more students.

A few more weeks, she thought as she pulled up behind Brody's truck in his driveway, and a new phase of her professional life would begin. She didn't intend for the next phase of her personal life to lag far behind.

He came to the door in his bare feet and smelling of crayons. The fact that she could find that both sexy and endearing in a grown man showed her just how far gone she was already.

"Hi. Sorry to drop by unannounced, but I have something for Jack."

"No, that's okay." He wiped at the magic marker staining his fingertips. "We're just in the middle… In the kitchen," he said, gesturing. "But it isn't pretty."

"The process of school projects rarely is."

It surprised him that she'd remembered the project. Had he talked about it too much? Brody wondered as he followed her back to the kitchen. He was pretty sure he'd only mentioned it—maybe moaned a little—in passing.

She stepped into the kitchen ahead of him. Surveyed the scene.

Jack was kneeling on a chair at the kitchen table, hunkered over a sheet of poster board and busily applying his crayon to the inside of an outline that resembled a large pig—as seen by Salvador Dali. Several picture books on dinosaurs were open on the table, along with illustrations probably printed off the computer. There was a scatter of plastic and rubber toys as well, and a forest of crayons, markers, pencils.

A pair of work boots and a pair of child's sneakers were kicked into a corner. A large pitcher half full of some violently red liquid sat on the counter. As Jack's mouth was liberally stained the same color, Kate assumed it was a beverage and not paint.

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