Considering Kate Page 40

"Sorry I'm late." Kate rushed in, gave Nick a quick peck on the cheek, then turned, bent and gave Brody a much longer kiss. "And sorry I couldn't pick you up. Davidov's having one of his moments. The man can drive you to drink. Nick, my hero, if you get me a glass of wine, I'll be your slave."

"Sounds like a deal."

"Tell Freddie I'll be back in after I catch my breath."

"Sit," he ordered, and nudged her into the chair he vacated. "Rest those million-dollar feet."

"You bet I will." She groaned, and leaned over to slip off her shoes as Nick left the room. Brody swore and was instantly on his knees in front of her, lifted her foot in his hand. "What the hell have you done?" Her feet were bandaged, and raw.

"I danced."

"Until your feet bleed?" he demanded.

"Why yes, when necessary. With Davidov, it's often necessary."

"He ought to be shot."

"Mmm." She leaned back, closed her eyes. "I considered it, a number of times over the last couple days. Ballet isn't for wimps, O'Connell. And aching, bleeding feet are part of the job description."

"That's ridiculous."

"That's the life." She leaned over again, kissed his forehead. "Don't worry. They heal."

"How the hell are you supposed to dance on these tomorrow night?"

"Magnificently," she told him, then let out a huge sigh of gratitude when Nick came back. "My prince. Brody thinks Davidov should be shot."

"So you've said, plenty." Nick glanced down at her feet, winced. "God, what a mess. Want some ice?"

"No, thanks. I'll baby them later."

"You're going to take care of them right now." To settle the matter, Brody got up, plucked her out of the chair and into his arms.

"Oh, really, Brody, get a grip."

"Just be quiet," he ordered and carried her out of the room. Nick tipped back his beer. "Man, he istoast. " He hurried off to find his wife and tell her.

"It was so romantic." Freddie's heart continued to sigh over it now, hours later, as she and Nick prepared for bed. "He just carried her right into the kitchen, with that wonderful scowl on his face, and demanded where he could find a basin and so on to soak Kate's poor feet."

"I told you." Absently Nick rapped a fist on the wall that adjoined their room with his son's. But he didn't really expect it to quiet the racket on the other side for long. "The man's a goner."

"And the way he looks at her—especially when he thinks no one, particularly Kate, is paying attention. Like he could just gobble her up in one big bite. It's great."

Nick stopped scratching his belly and frowned. "I look at you that way." Freddie sniffed and started to turn down the bed. "Yeah, right."

"Hey." He walked over, turned her around by the shoulder. "Right here," he instructed, pointing at his own face, then attempting a smoldering look. "See?"

She snorted. "Yeah, that's it all right. I am a puddle."

"Are you insinuating that I'm not romantic? Are you saying the hammer-swinger's got me beat in that department?"

Enjoying herself, Freddie rolled her eyes. "Please," she said and wandered over to the dresser to run a brush through her hair.

The next thing she knew she was being swept off her feet. Her surprised yelp was muffled against his very determined mouth. "You want romance, pal? Boy, are you going to get it." At the other end of the hall, as children finally fell into reluctant and exhausted sleep, Kate belted her robe. She'd put in several long, hard days—days that wore the body to a nub and left the mind fussy with fatigue.

But now, knowing Brody was just a few steps away, she was restless. And needy. She imagined he'd consider sneaking into her room rude. But that didn't mean she couldn't sneak into his. She slipped from her room, walked quietly down the hall to peek in on the children. Even the dog, she noted, was sprawled out limply. Satisfied, she eased out again, and made her way to Brody's door. No light shone under it. Well, if she had to wake him up, she had to wake him up. She opened it—a little creak of sound—and stepped in just as he turned from the window.

He'd been thinking of her—nothing new there, he admitted. And stood now, wearing only his jeans loosened at the waist. His mouth went dry as he saw her reach behind and flip the lock.

"Kate. The kids."

"Out for the count." She'd bought the robe only the day before, on an hour break. A ridiculous extravagance of peach-colored silk. But seeing the way his eyes darkened, hearing the way it whispered as she crossed the room, she considered it worth every penny.

"I just checked on them," she said, and ran her hands up his chest. "And if they wake up, one of the four of us will take care of it. Taking in the view?"

"It's pretty spectacular." He took her hands. "I was just thinking I'd never be able to sleep tonight, knowing you were so close, and not being able to touch you."

"Touch me now, and neither one of us will worry about sleep tonight." He wondered how he had ever considered resisting her. She was every fantasy, every dream, every wish. All silk and shadows. And she was real, as real as that warm yielding mouth, those long, sculpted arms.

With her, all the years of emptiness, all the lonely nights were locked away. He slipped the silk from her shoulders, and found only Kate beneath.

Curves and muscle, sighs and trembles. He slid into the bed with her, and into that intimate world they created together. Perfumed flesh, soft, stroking hands. She was a wonder to him, a smoky-eyed seductress who could beckon with a look. A strong-minded woman who refused to back down from a fight. An openhearted friend with strong shoulders and a steady hand.

He could no longer imagine what his life would be like if she stepped back out of it. Knowing it, finally admitting it to himself, he gathered her close, and just held.

"Brody?" Kate brushed her fingers through his hair. His arms had tightened around her so fiercely she wondered why she didn't simply snap in two. "What is it?"

"Nothing." He pressed his lips to the side of her neck and ordered himself not to think. For God's sake don't think now. "It's nothing. I want you. It's like starving the way I want you." His mouth took hers now. Hot, ravenous, burning away all thoughts, all reason. There was something different happening between them. Something more. But he was whipping her over the edge so fast, with a kind of quiet intensity that was kin to desperation. She could do nothing but feel, nothing but respond. Her heart, already lost to him, bounded like a deer. City lights glanced against the dark windows. The sounds of traffic hummed on the street below. Whatever life pulsed there meant nothing in this tangle of sheets and needs. She rose over him, slim and pale in the shadows. Her hair was a dark fall, tumbling down her back, then sliding forward to curtain them both as she leaned down to kiss him. The scent of it, of her, surrounded him. Drowned him.

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