Considering Kate Page 31

He made tracks.

Brody picked up his drill again, passed it from hand to hand. "That was Jerry."

"Yes, I'm aware that was Jerry."

"Setting your cabinets today. I think you made the right choice with the natural cherry. We should have the bedroom closet framed in, and the drywall set with the first coat of mud by the end of the day."

"That's just dandy."

Her temper was a live thing, a nest of vipers curling and hissing in her gut. She had no intention of beating them back to keep them from sinking their fangs into Brody.

"So, we're not dating. We're just…" She came into the room on the pause. "Would that have been sleeping together? We're just sleeping together. Or do you have a simpler term for it?"

"Jerry put me on the spot."

"Really? Is that why you told him—so decisively—that you and I are 'sort of seeing each other'?

I didn't realize that defining our relationship was such a dilemma for you, or that whatever that relationship might be causes you such embarrassment with your friends."

"Just hold on." He set the drill down again with an impatient snap of metal on wood. "If you were going to eavesdrop on a conversation, you should have listened to the whole thing. Jerry wanted me to take his sister out, and I was explaining why that wasn't a good idea."

"I see." She imagined she could chew every nail in his pouch, then spit them into his eye. "First, I wasn't eavesdropping. This is my place and I have every right to come into any room in it. Whenever I like. Second, in your explanation of why going out with Jerry's sister isn't a good idea, did the wordno ever enter your head?''

"Yes. No," he corrected. "Because I wasn't paying—"

"Ah, there. You are capable of saying no. Let me tell you something, O'Connell." She punctuated the words by stabbing a finger into his chest. "I don't sleep around."

"Well, who the hell said you did?"

"When I'm with a man, I'm withthat man. Period. If he is unable or unwilling to agree to do the same, I expect him to be honest enough to say so."

"I haven't—"

"And,I am not an excuse to be pulled out of the bag when you're scrambling to avoid a favor for a friend. So don't think you canever use me that way, and with your pitiful, fumbling'sort ofs.' And since it appears we aren't dating, you're perfectly free to call Jerry's sister or anyone else."

"Damn it, which is it? Are you going to be pissed off because I brush Jerry off, or pissed off because I don't?"

Her hands curled into fists. Punching him, she decided, would only give him delusions of grandeur.

"Jerk." She bit the single word off, turned on her heel and, tossing something in Ukrainian over her shoulder, strode out of the room.

"Females," Brody muttered. He kicked his toolbox, and was only moderately satisfied by the clang. An hour later, the cabinets were in place and Brody was at work on the pantry. He'd already run through the scene with Kate a half a dozen times, but with each play, he'd remembered things he should have said. Short, pithy statements that would have turned the tide in his favor. And the first chance he got, he was going to burn her ears with them.

He was not going to grovel, he told himself as he nailed in the brackets for a shelf. He had nothing to apologize for. Women, he decided, were just one of the many reasons a man was better off going through his life solo.

If he was such a jerk, why'd she bother to spend any time with him in the first place?

He backed out of the closet, turned and nearly ran right into Spencer Kimball.

"Whatis it with people?" Brody demanded.

"Sorry. I didn't think you could hear me with all the noise."

"I'm going to post signs." Brody stalked over to select one of the shelves he'd precut and sealed. "No suits, no ties, no females."

Spencer's eyebrows lifted. In all the months he'd known Brody, this was the first time he'd heard him anything but calm. "I take it I'm not the first interruption of the day."

"Not by a long shot." Brody tested the shelf. It slid smoothly into its slot. At least something was going right today, he thought. "If this is about the kitchen design for your place, once you approve it, I'll order materials. We'll be able to start in a couple of weeks."

"Actually, I'm staying out of that one. Tash has gotten very territorial over this kitchen deal. I just came by to see the progress here. The considerable progress."

"Yeah, moving right the hell along." Brody snatched up another shelf, then stopped, let out a breath.

"Sorry. Bad day."

"Must be going around." And explained, Spencer decided, why his daughter was in a prickly mood.

"Kate's downstairs setting up her office."

"Oh." Brody carted his shelves into the pantry, began to set them. Very deliberately. "I didn't realize she was still here."

"Furniture she ordered just came in. I didn't get much of a welcome from her, either. So, putting the evidence together, I conclude the two of you had an argument."

"It's not an argument when somebody jumps down somebody else's throat for no good reason. It's an attack."

"Mmm-hmm. At the risk of poking my nose in, I can tell you the women in my family always have what they consider a good reason for jumping down a man's throat. Of course, whether or not it actually is a good reason is debatable."

"Which is why women are just too much damn trouble."

"Tough doing without them, though, isn't it?"

"I was getting along. Jack and I were doing just fine." Frustration pumped off him as he turned back to Spencer. "What is it with women anyway, that they have to complicate things, then make you feel like an idiot?"

"Son, generations of men have pondered that question. There's only one answer. Because." With a half laugh, Brody stepped back again, automatically eyeballing the shelves for level and fit. "I guess that's as good as it gets. Doesn't matter much at this point anyway. She dumped me."

"You don't strike me as a man who typically walks away from a problem."

"Nothing typical about your daughter." As soon as it was out, Brody winced. "Sorry."

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