Considering Kate Page 32

"I took that as a compliment. My impression is the two of you bruised each other's feelings, maybe each other's pride. An insider tip? Kate's usual response to bruised feelings or pride is temper, followed by ice."

Brody dug out the hooks to be used in the pantry. He should leave that job for a laborer, he thought. But he needed to do something simple with his hands.

"She made herself pretty clear. She called me a jerk—then something in Russian. Ukrainian. Whatever."

"She spit at you in Ukrainian?" Spence struggled to conceal his amusement. "She'd have to have been pretty worked up for that."

Brody's eyes narrowed as he hefted his screwdriver. "I don't know what it meant, but I didn't like the sound of it."

"It might have been something about you roasting on a spit over Hell fire. Her mother likes to use that one. Brody, do you have feelings for my daughter?" Brody's palms went instantly damp. "Mr. Kimball—"

"Spence. I know it's not a simple question, or an easy one. But I'd like an answer."

"Would you mind stepping away from the toolbox first? There are a lot of sharp implements in there." Spencer slid his hands into his pockets. "You have my word I won't challenge you to a duel with screwdrivers."

"Okay. I have feelings for Kate. They're kind of murky and unsettled, but I have them. I didn't intend to get involved with her. I'm not in a position to."

"Can I ask why?"

"That's pretty obvious—I'm a single father. I'm putting together a decent life for my son, but it's nothing like what Kate's used to, or what she can have." Spencer rocked back on his heels. "They gave you a bad time, didn't they?"

"Excuse me?"

"Unlike some families, ours can be nosy, interfering, protective and irritating. But you'll also find we respect and support each other's choices and feelings. Brody, it's a mistake to judge one situation by the dynamics of another." Spencer paused for a moment, then continued, "But putting that aside for the moment, since you care about Kate, let me give you some unsolicited advice. Whether you want to take it or not is up to you. Deal with the problem. Deal with her. If you didn't matter to her, she'd have ended things gently, or worse, politely."

Deciding he'd given Brody enough to think about, Spencer turned to take a survey of the total construction chaos of the kitchen. "So this is what I've got to look forward to." He shot Brody a miserable look. "And you think you have problems."

When Spencer left him alone, Brody stood, tapping the screwdriver on his palm. The man was advising him to fight with his daughter. What kind of a screwy family was that?

His own parents never fought. Of course, that was because his father set the rules, and those rules were followed. Or at least it seemed that way.

He'd never fought with Connie. Not really. They'd had some disagreements, sure, but they'd just worked through them, or talked them out. Or ignored them, Brody admitted. Ignored them, he thought, because they'd both been cut off, isolated, and they only had each other to rely on. Temper had never gotten him anywhere but in trouble. With his father, in school, in the early days on the job. He'd learned to rein it in, to use his head instead of his gut. Most of the time, he admitted, thinking about his last altercation with his father.

Still, maybe it was a mistake to compare what had been with what was. One thing was certain, he wasn't going to get rid of this nasty sensation in his gut until he spoke his mind. He checked his men first, ran over some minor adjustments and the basic plan for the following day. It was nearly time to knock off, so he cut them loose. He didn't want an audience. Kate hit the nail squarely on the head and bared her teeth in satisfaction. Brody O'Connell, the pig, wasn't the only one who could use a hammer.

She'd spent the last two hours meticulously setting up her office. Everything would be perfect when she was finished. She wouldn't settle for anything less.

Her desk was precisely where she wanted it, and its drawers already organized with the brochures she'd designed and ordered, her letterhead, the application forms for students. Her filing cabinet was the same golden oak. In time, she expected the folders inside to be full. She'd found the rug at an antique sale, and its faded pattern of cabbage roses set off the pale green walls, picked up the tone in the fabric of the accent chairs that now faced her desk. Just because it was an office didn't mean it couldn't have style.

She hung yet another of the framed black-and-white photos she'd chosen. Stood back and nodded with approval. Dancers at thebarre, in rehearsal, onstage, backstage. Young students at recitals, lacing on toe shoes.

Sweating, sparkling, limp from exertion or flying. All the aspects of a dancer's world. They would remind her, on a daily basis, what she had done. And what she was doing.

She picked up another nail, set it neatly on her mark, slammed it. And what she wasn't doing, she thought, rapping it a second time, was wasting her time on Brody O'Connell. The bastard. Let him cozy up to Tiffany. Oh, she remembered Tiffany Skully. The busty bleached blonde had been a year ahead of her in high school. Lots of giggling. Lots of lipstick. Well, let the jerk take her out. What did she care?

She was done with him.

"If you'd told me you were going to cover the entire space with pictures," Brody commented, "I wouldn't have worked so hard on finishing the drywall. Nobody'd know the difference." She jammed the photograph in place, picked up another nail. "One assumes you have a certain pride in your work, whether or not it can be admired. And since I paid for the wall, I'll do whatever the hell I like with it."

"Yeah, you want to riddle them with nail holes, it's your choice." The pictures looked great—not that he was going to say so. Not just the arrangement of them, which was cohesive without being rigid, but the theme.

He could see her in several of them, as a child, a young girl, a woman. One of her sitting cross-legged on the floor, pounding shoes with a hammer, made him want to grin.

Instead he waved a finger toward it, casually. "I thought you were supposed to dance with those."

"For your information toe shoes need to be broken in. That's one method of doing so. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get my office finished. I have appointments here tomorrow afternoon."

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