Considering Kate Page 5

"Okay!" Jack wrapped his arms around his father's neck.

And Brody was home.

Chapter Two

"Nervous?" Spencer Kimball watched his daughter pour a cup of coffee. She looked flawless, he thought. Her mass of curling hair was tied neatly into a tail that streamed down her back. Her stone-gray jacket and trousers were trim and tailored in an understated chic he sometimes thought she'd been born with. Her face—Lord, she looked like her mother—was composed.

Yes, she looked flawless, and lovely. And grown up. Why was it so hard to see his babies grown?

"Why should I be nervous? More coffee?"

"Yeah, thanks. It's D-Day," he added when she topped off his cup. "Deed Day. In a couple hours, you'll be a property owner, with all the joys and frustrations that entails."

"I'm looking forward to it." She sat to nibble on the half bagel she'd toasted for breakfast. "I've thought it all through very carefully."

"You always do."

"Mmm. I know it's a risk using so much of my savings, and a good portion of my trust fund in this investment. But I'm financially sound and I know I can handle the projected expenses over the next five years."

He nodded, watching her face. "You have your mother's business sense."

"I like to think so. I also like to think I'll have your skill for teaching. After all, I'm an artist, who comes from two people who are artists. And the little bit of teaching I did in New York gave me a taste for it." She picked up the cream, added a little more to her coffee. "I'm establishing my business in my hometown, where I have solid contacts with the community."

"Absolutely true."

She set the bagel aside and picked up her coffee. "The Kimball name is respected here, and my name is respected in dance circles. I've studied dance for twenty years, sweated and ached my way through thousands of hours of instructions. I should have learned more than how to execute a cleantour jute."

"Without question."

She sighed. There was no fooling her father. He knew her inside and out. He was all that was solid, she thought, all that was steady. "Okay. You know how you get butterflies in your stomach?"


"Mine are frogs. Big, fat, hopping frogs. I wasn't this nervous before my first professional solo."

"Because you never doubted your talent. This is new ground, honey." He laid a hand over hers. "You're entitled to the frogs. Fact is, I'd worry about you if you didn't have the jumps."

"You're also worried I'm making a big mistake."

"No, not a mistake." He gave her hand a squeeze. "I've got some concerns—and a father's entitled to the jumps, too—that in a few months you might miss performing. Miss the company and the life you built. Part of me wishes you'd waited a bit longer before making such a big commitment. And the other part's just happy to have you home again."

"Well, tell your frogs to settle down. Once I make a commitment, I keep it."

"I know."

That was one of the things that concerned him, but he wasn't going to say that. She picked up her bagel again, grinning a little. She knew just how to distract him. "So, tell me about the plans to remodel the kitchen."

He winced, his handsome face looking pained. "I'm not getting into it." As he glanced around the room he raked a hand through his hair so the gold and silver of it tangled. "Your mother's got this bug over a full redo here. New this, new that, and Brody O'Connell's aiding and abetting. What's wrong with the kitchen?"

"Maybe it has something to do with the fact it hasn't been remodeled in twenty-odd years?"

"So what's your point?" Spencer gestured with his coffee cup. "It's great. It's perfectly comfortable. But then he had to go and show her sample books."

Her lips twitched at the betrayal in her father's voice, but she spoke with sober sympathy. "The dog."

"And they're talking about bow and bay windows. We've got a window." He gestured to the one over the sink. "It's fine. You can look through it all you want. I tell you, that boy has seduced my wife with promises of solid surface countertops and oak trim."

"Oak trim, hmm. Very sexy." Laughing, she propped an elbow on the table. "Tell me about O'Connell."

"He does good work. But that doesn't mean he should come tear up my kitchen."

"Has he lived in the area long?"

"Grew up not far from here. His father's Ace Plumbing. Brody left when he was about twenty. Went down to D.C. Worked construction."

All right, Kate thought. She'd have to pry if that was all she could shake loose. "I heard he has a little boy."

"Yeah, Jack. A real pistol. Brody's wife died several years ago. Cancer of some kind, I think. My impression is he wanted to raise his son closer to family. Been back about a year, I guess. He's established a nice business, with a reputation for quality work. He'll do a good job for you."

"If I decide to hire him."

She wondered what he looked like in a tool belt, then reminded herself that was not onlynot the kind of question a woman should ask her doting father, but also one that had nothing to do with establishing a business relationship. But she bet he looked just fine.

It was done. The frogs in her stomach were still pretty lively, but she was now the owner of a big, beautiful, dilapidated building in the pretty college town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. A building that was a short walk from the house where she'd grown up, from her mother's toy shop, from the university where her father taught.

She was surrounded by family, friends and neighbors.

Oh God.

Everyone knew her—and everyone would be watching to see if she pulled it off, stuck it out, or fell flat on her face. Why hadn't she opened her school in Utah or New Mexico or someplace she was anonymous, somewhere with no expectations hovering over her?

And that, she reminded herself, was just stupid. She was establishing her school here because it was home. Home, Kate thought, was exactly where she wanted to be.

There would be no falling, flat or otherwise, Kate promised herself as she parked her car. She would succeed because she would personally oversee every detail. She would take each upcoming step the way she'd taken all the others that had led here. Carefully, meticulously. And she would work like a Trojan to see it through.

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