His Unexpected Family Grace Green Ëèòàãåíò HarperCollins EUR The secret fatherBrodie Spencer had loved Kendra since she was a teenager. Now she was a widow with a young daughter, and Brodie longed to help her make a happy family home. But Kendra couldn't risk letting this handsome, bighearted man get close to her….What if he knew Kendra had never really had a husband as she pretended? That an accident had stolen her memory, and Kendra didn't even know who little Megan's father was. Nor could she remember the one precious night of passion she'd shared with Brodie–nine months before Megan was born…. “Megan doesn’t remember her father.” (#u5a5f39ee-c9ea-5356-bde5-bb45851db688)About the Author (#ucbad7f27-df78-5d7c-b673-1a885a3b4412)Title Page (#ub28e35eb-ce4b-5e2c-9823-844c0ebae66c)Dedication (#u5733d7fe-5bf4-569c-a071-02ca066e6906)CHAPTER ONE (#u9e4e359b-6ea4-57bb-a30f-bd917bd27ccf)CHAPTER TWO (#uf0b4a3a9-a77f-5217-a31a-ef16a19b83e0)CHAPTER THREE (#ucde2c8ff-5e86-5749-a91d-6494ee73a595)CHAPTER FOUR (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER FIVE (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER SIX (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER SEVEN (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER EIGHT (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER NINE (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER TEN (#litres_trial_promo)CHAPTER ELEVEN (#litres_trial_promo)EPILOGUE (#litres_trial_promo)Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) “Megan doesn’t remember her father.” “What kind of man was he, Kendra?” Brodie quirked a questioning eyebrow. She rose to her feet. “You’re out of line, Brodie.” “What’s the big secret, Kendra? Why won’t you talk about him? What are you hiding? Tell me something about your husband...or I’ll start to believe you never had one!” Her face turned whiter than a snowdrop petal. And her eyes filled with dismay. “Dear God.” Shock had him reeling. It had all been a lie—she’d been living a lie! But why? Grace Green was born in Scotland and is a former teacher. In 1967 she and her marine-engineer husband, John, emigrated to Canada, where they raised their four children. Empty-nesters now, they are happily settled in west Vancouver in a house overlooking the ocean. Grace enjoys walking the sea wall, gardening, getting together with other writers...and watching her characters come to life, because she knows that, once they do, they will take over and write her stories for her. His Unexpected Family Grace Green www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk) FOR MY NIECE CAROLYN CHAPTER ONE “MOM, I want to go in by myself.” Megan Westmore’s dark eyes sparked with frustration. “I’ll be eight next month, for heaven’s sake—I’m not a baby!” “But Lakeview Elementary’s a new school for you and you’re four days late starting the term—” “Mom. I can handle it.” Megan pushed open the door of the white Honda and scrambled out. “We talked with my homeroom teacher Friday. I know where to go. OK?” Kendra Westmore looked at her daughter and marvelled, as she so often did, that she could actually be the mother of this child. Oh, they looked alike—they both had wheat-blonde hair and nut-brown eyes; fine bones and a petite build—but their personalities were poles apart. Megan was self-confident and fearless, while she, Kendra, was— “’Bye, Mom.” Megan hitched her backpack over her skinny shoulders. “See you at three-thirty.” She slammed the car door and took off into the playground. Without once looking back. Kendra sighed. She knew she was overprotective of her daughter but she couldn’t seem to break herself of the habit. Megan was all she had in the world. She didn’t know what she’d do if anything ever happened to her— The clangor of the school bell made her jump. Reluctantly, she put the car into drive. But as she moved forward a red pickup truck screeched by, swung in front of her, and pulled in close to the curb. She jammed on her brakes and barely missed crashing into the truck’s back bumper. Breathing deeply to calm herself, she waited for the driver to unload his passenger. A child jumped down from the cab, a little girl around Megan’s age, but more sturdily built and with a mop of black curls. She scooted away, calling back over her shoulder, “’Bye, Dad! Thanks for the drive! See ya!” The man tooted his horn in response and his truck moved forward, only to stop again sharply with a squeal of brakes. Kendra had started forward as he did and now she had to brake sharply, too. She felt a twinge of irritation as the driver jumped down from the truck. “Hey, Jodi!” he yelled. “Isn’t this Hot Dog Day?” “Yikes!” The girl spun round and sped back to him. He’d walked to the gates and Kendra drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as he whisked out his wallet and hastily handed over a bill. The child raced off again and in a moment had joined the lines filing into the school. Her father started back toward the truck. Kendra raked an impatient gaze over him. He was tall, with wavy black hair; deeply tanned and very attractive in an earthy sort of way. Sexy, with a lean muscular build that was shown off to perfection in narrow-fitting blue jeans and a snug black T-shirt. He chanced to glance her way and as their eyes met, he grinned, a slanting grin that revealed beautiful teeth, whiter than white. “Kids.” Twinkling eyes fixed on her, he slid his wallet back into his hip pocket. “You’ve gotta—” He broke off, his eyes widening, and stopped dead. He had recognized her... and at exactly the same second as she had recognized him. She swallowed, and stared back. The air between them seemed to shimmer, the way it always had when she’d looked at him in the past. It was odd and disturbing, and it was something she’d experienced with no other person. No other man. Only he hadn’t been a man then. He’d been a teenager. Bad and wild and from the wrong side of the tracks. “Not your kind of boy, missy!” But she hadn’t needed her grandfather to warn her of that. She’d been well aware of it. Of the differences between them. She wondered now what he was thinking. Were his thoughts paralleling hers? Probably. She’d never made any secret of her disdain for him. His smile was no longer lazy or friendly, but mocking. Yes, he remembered... “Well, now!” With the careless swagger that had been his trademark as a teenager, he moved over to her car. Her nerves seemed to jump as he planted a hand on the Honda’s roof and leaned down to her open window. “If it isn’t the snooty Westmore brat. Come home to claim her inheritance.” “Well, now, if it isn’t that no-good Spencer kid!” She tilted her chin up and looked straight into eyes that were blue-green and fringed with thick black lashes. “Would you mind moving your old beater, Brodie? I have things to do.” It was only nine o’clock but the September morning was already hot. Kendra became aware that perspiration was rolling down between her breasts, under her yellow tube top. “Guess you’ll be selling the family homestead and taking off again,” he drawled. “I heard you got hitched, a while back. Your hubby here in Lakeview with you?” His gaze dropped to her hands. Her fingers were gripped around the steering wheel. On the left hand, her gold ring glinted. It looked bare. She felt a twinge of unease. Perhaps she should have invested in an engagement ring before coming home; it would have been more...convincing. Not that she had to convince this man of anything! “Would you mind moving?” she said coolly. “As I said, I have things to—” “What’s your hurry? How about having a coffee with me, for old t—” She flicked the gear lever into reverse and after a hasty check in the rearview mirror, yanked the Honda back. She heard his startled “Whoa!” as he had to jump aside, and she felt a stab of satisfaction. Turn signal blinking, she swung out into the street. And then she drove off as fast as she could without actually breaking the speed limit... and without even peeking back once to see if he might be watching. But as she made her way home, following the Main Street that ran parallel to the lake, the chance meeting lingered in her mind like an unpleasant aftertaste. It was more than eight years since she’d left the small town of Lakeview in B.C.’s Interior, and in all that time she’d never once given Brodie Spencer a thought. Why should she? He’d never meant anything to her. His father, Danny, had been the Westmore gardener and because Brodie had helped Danny in the summer she’d seen him around the place. Other than that, because he’d been two years ahead of her in high school, their paths had rarely crossed. That had suited her just fine! And it would suit her just as fine, she decided grimly, if that state of affairs was to continue! The booming Lakeview Construction Company—consisting of offices, lumberyard, warehouses, and store—sprawled over several acres at the east end of Lakeview. Brodie drove directly there from the school. After parking his truck in the yard, he jumped down onto the sunbaked dirt and bounded up the wooden steps to the rear entrance. As he strode along the corridor, he heard voices coming from the office ahead. He recognized Mitzi’s breathy tones. When he neared the open door, he heard Pete talking. “...and she signed the contract Friday. It’s a big job, Mitzi.” “I’ll put Sam Fleet on it.” “Yeah, Sam can handle it—oh, hi, boss.” Pete, the company estimator, nodded to Brodie when he noticed him in the doorway. Mitzi’s bouffant bleached-blond hair swayed as she got to her feet. Stroking down the miniskirt of her white knit dress with its splashy pattern of crimson hearts, she said, “I’ll get your coffee, boss.” “Make it an iced tea, Mitzi. Thanks.” As his office manager teetered in her high-heeled sandals to the small lunchroom across the hall, Brodie ambled over to her desk. He picked up a sheaf of papers. “You were saying, Pete...about a big job?” “That’s it you’ve got there. For the Westmore place. Rosemount. It’s an enormous glitzy property at the west end of the lake, up on the hill. Fantastic view.” “I know it.” Brodie was aware that Pete had only been in town six months and didn’t know much of its history. “The old guy who owned it passed away recently. Edward Westmore. Made his money way back when, in the stock market. His son Kenneth and his daughter-in-law Sandra both died about twenty years ago. Their daughter—old Westmore’s granddaughter—is the one who has inherited the place. So...she’s signed up with us, has she?” “On the dotted line. She wants the kitchen gutted, modernized.” “Is she going to move in...or sell?” “She’s moving in. She wants commercial appliances in the kitchen, she’s planning on running Rosemount as a B and B.” As Brodie assimilated that, Pete went on. “She also wants the staircase torn down, and some airy open circular staircase put up in its place—” “She’s going to tear down that mahogany staircase?” Brodie rolled his eyes in disbelief. “The woman’s crazy! It’s a work of art! Good God, those spindles, that intricate carving—” “Yeah, I know. I tried to talk her out of it, but she sure put me in my place! She’d been sweet as pie till then, but sheesh! when I put my two cents in—” He slashed his index finger across his throat. Brodie shook his head. Unbelievable. “I heard Mitzi say she was going to put Sam on the job—” Mitzi came back into the office and handed him a glass of iced tea. “That’s right Oh, before I forget, boss—Hayley called. She wants you to bring home a half gallon of milk after work. You’re clean out and she won’t have time to stop in at the supermarket.” “Milk. OK.” “She said to be sure you got fat-free.” Brodie’s grin was self-deprecating. “Henpecked, that’s what I am! But hey, we all know who’s boss in my household!” He gulped down a few mouthfuls of his iced drink and set the glass on Pete’s desk. “So...Mitzi, about the Westmore job—have you mentioned it to Sam yet?” “No, not yet.” “Then don’t.” Brodie walked to the window and looked out. Even this early the yard was a hive of activity—customers walking among the rows of lumber, men hauling out supplies; trucks coming and going; women browsing in the garden furniture section, taking advantage of the end-of-season sale. He swatted the contract against his thigh. “I’m going to take this one on myself.” “Good luck!” Pete said. “You’ll have your hands full dealing with Mrs. Westmore.” “It’s not Mrs. Westmore.” Brodie’s response came absently. “She was a Westmore—I don’t know what her married name would be though.” “It’ll be on the contract.” Mitzi took the papers from Brodie and riffled through them till she found the signature she was looking for. “Kendra Westmore!” She made a face. “Well, I guess she never did change her name. Some women don’t. Me, I can’t think why. If you love a man, surely you’d want to bear his name...and have your kids bear his name. ’Course, the reason she and Edward Westmore fell out was because her grandfather disapproved of her intended—at least, that’s what folks around here said—and maybe she kept the family name thinking to appease the old man.” Mitzi turned to Pete. “Did you meet the husband?” “Nah, he wasn’t around.” “What about kids?” Mitzi asked. “Does she have kids? Did you see any when you were out there?” “She’s got a daughter,” Pete said. “Spit of herself.” “Well,” Mitzi said, “the kid must be pretty as they come. That Westmore girl might have been snooty as all get-out, but she surely was a beauty.” She still is, Brodie thought. She still is! And he couldn’t wait to see the look on her beautiful snooty face when he turned up at her front door tomorrow! “Megan, you didn’t eat your lunch!” Frowning, Kendra took the bulging brown paper bag from her daughter’s backpack. “I’ll eat it now, Mom.” Megan leaned forward in her chair and stuck out her hand as Kendra made to put the bag in the fridge. “I’m starving!” “Well no wonder, if you didn’t eat at noon!” Kendra slid the lunch bag across the kitchen table. “It was Hot Dog Day—the homeroom teacher forgot to tell you on Friday that I should bring money.” Megan opened the bag and took out a cheese-filled English muffin. “But my new friend had extra money—she was late this morning and was in a hurry and her dad gave her too much—so she paid for my hot dog and chocolate milk. She said I could pay for hers next time around.” At the words “new friend” Kendra had felt a swift kick of relief. She’d worried about Megan starting over again in a school where most eight-year olds would already have their own special buddies; it seemed she’d had no need to fret. But then at the words “she was late...and her Dad gave her too much,” her nerves prickled a warning. “So,” she said casually, “what’s your friend’s name?” “Jodi. She’s my age and she’s got black curly hair...” But Kendra was no longer listening. She didn’t have to. She knew the rest. Of all the luck, Megan had to link up with Brodie Spencer’s daughter! If she was anything like her father, she’d be bad news, and likely to lead Megan into all sorts of trouble— Oh, she was being ridiculous! This was only Megan’s first day at school. She would meet other girls, become friendly with other girls. More suitable girls. Water always found its own level. “I’ll give you money for her tomorrow,” she said. “But Mom—” “You know I don’t like you to borrow. But it was kind of this Jodi to help you out. However, you’ll pay her back in the morning and that’ll be the end of it. All right?” Megan shrugged. “OK.” She concentrated on eating her muffin. “But I hope I don’t hurt her feelings,” she mumbled. “She’s really nice. And she’s already asked me to come to her house on Saturday afternoon to play.” “You know you’re not allowed to make that kind of arrangement without discussing it with me first!” Her tone must have been unusually sharp because Megan’s head shot up, her brown eyes wide with astonishment. “I didn’t! But she’s got a brother and a sister and a dog and a swimming pool and her house seems like it’s just the funnest place to be!” Kendra sat down at the table. “Honey,” she said carefully, “don’t be in too much of a hurry to make a special friend. It’s a mistake lots of people make. Take your time, get to know everybody first. And then make up your mind who you like.” “When you were my age,” Megan challenged, “did your mother pick and choose your friends?” “I lost my parents when I was six. I’ve told you many times, sweetie, that my grandfather Westmore brought me up. And though he didn’t pick and choose my friends, he did try to make sure that my choices were...the right ones.” “Well, why don’t we have Jodi over here on Saturday? Then you can see for yourself if she’s a right choice!” Trapped. She felt trapped. Yet wasn’t what Megan was suggesting a sensible plan? How could she get out of it, without seeming totally unreasonable! “It’s just Monday,” she said. “Why don’t we wait till the end of the week, see how it goes? Perhaps you’ll meet someone else you’d rather invite here on Saturday.” “Sure.” Megan reached for the bottle of orange juice. “Let’s wait till Friday.” Kendra heaved a sigh of relief. But it was short-lived. “I can tell you now, though,” Megan said as she popped off the lid and stuck a straw into the bottle, “that I won’t be meeting anybody I’ll like better than Jodi Spencer!” The wall phone rang before Kendra could come up with a response. Pushing back her chair, she reached for the receiver. “Westmore residence.” “Good afternoon, Ms. Westmore. This is Mitzi, at Lakeview Construction. Someone will be coming out tomorrow morning to talk with you about your new kitchen. Will eight-thirty be too early?” “No, eight-thirty will be fine. Thanks.” She hung up. “Finished your snack?” she asked Megan. “Yes, I’m done.” “Let’s get our bikes then and cycle down to the school. I want to be sure we have your route all mapped out because I won’t be able to drive you in the morning. I have to be here, to talk to the workman from Lakeview Construction.” “Full fat!” The hem of Hayley Spencer’s shortie robe fluttered around her sun-browned thighs as she swirled around from the fridge, half-gallon milk jug held aloft. Rolling her eyes, she set the jug on the breakfast table. “I’m trying to lose weight and the man buys me full fat milk!” She lowered herself into her chair and pouring bran flakes into a blue-rimmed bowl, called after Brodie, who was headed for the door, “I told Ditsy Mitzi fat-free! Why don’t you fire the woman and hire somebody who can take a simple message!” Brodie paused in the doorway and looked round with an apologetic grin. “Mitzi did mention it... and you know damned well she’s not ditsy—she just looks ditsy! The fault is mine. I guess I had other things on my mind yesterday.” Like the Westmore woman! “It won’t happen again—” He stepped aside smartly as Jodi and her brother bowled by in tandem, Jodi in pretty pink dungarees and a candy-striped blouse, Jack in a grungy gray T-shirt and baggy shorts. The boy had combed his black hair in a middle part and plastered it to his skull with foul-smelling gunk. Brodie’s nostrils quivered, but he bit back a dry comment. He knew only too well how much Jack loathed his unruly curls. He had, too, when he’d been that age—too young to know that when he became a teenager, girls would find his hair irresistible! His lips twitched at the memory... “Morning, kids,” he said. “Morning, Dad.” Jodi threw him a cheery smile. “Yo.” Jack had already thrown himself onto a chair and was grabbing his favorite cereal packet. “How come you’re dressed so fine?” Jodi’s gaze flicked over him even as she reached for a bowl. “Aren’t you going in to the yard this morning?” “He’s going to the Westmore place.” Hayley’s lovely cornflower blue eyes had the same inquisitive glint as Jodi’s, but added to that was a speculative gleam as she looked at his emerald polo shirt and neatly pressed chinos. “If you’re going out there,” Jodi said, “will you do me a favor, Dad?” Brodie glanced at his watch. “Look, I’ve gotta run—” “There’s a new girl in my class. I forgot to tell you last night She’s Megan Westmore. She’s got no brothers or sisters so I asked her to come over on Saturday afternoon. She said she’d ask her mom. But you can ask her today!” Hayley frowned. “Jodi, you know Saturday afternoon is a family time for us.” “If you’ve already asked her,” Brodie said, “we’ll have to follow up on it.” Hayley’s slender shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Yes, I suppose...” But Brodie could feel her disapproval emanating from across the kitchen. He glanced at his watch. He should really be out of here! He strode to the table and leaning over Hayley, planted a quick kiss on the tip of her nose. “Don’t worry, Hayle, her mother probably won’t let her come.” As he left, he caught himself glancing around the kitchen—assessingly; something he hadn’t done in a very long time. The big square room was bright and cheerful and airy...and shabby. He’d always liked it that way...but this was undoubtedly a house where things were neglected. From the beginning, he’d wanted to hire a housekeeper, but Hayley wouldn’t hear of it. He’d given in, and had never regretted the decision. But minutes later, as he started his truck, he found himself wondering how the place would look to the snooty Ms. Westmore. And admitted it would come up short. The kitchen badly needed redecorating, as did the rest of the modest two-story house. What was that adage about the shoemaker’s kids having no shoes? It certainly fit in his case. But hell, his decision to keep things as they were hadn’t been grounded in laziness. It had been grounded in a desire to give the kids stability. To give them a sense that, although a lot of things had changed, their roots would never. Were they old enough now to accept change? They’d been through so much. But maybe it was time to throw them a challenge. Maybe, after he’d finished with the Westmore project, he’d tackle instituting some changes at home. Bit by bit. So the changes wouldn’t come all at once and be too distressing for them. Yeah, he decided as he followed the road that led out of town toward Rosemount, one step at a time. That was the answer. Kendra was out back, getting Megan’s bike from the shed, when she heard the roar of a truck coming up the drive at the front of the house. At the same time, Megan shot out through the kitchen door. She looked fresh and sweet in an ice-blue jumpsuit. “Got everything, honey?” Kendra asked. “Yes.” “And you know the way? Along the—” “Mom, we did that yesterday!” Impatiently, Megan grabbed the bike handles. “Thanks.” She jumped on the mountain bike and took off across the white gravel chips, her tires crunching. “’Bye, Mom! See you after school!” “’Bye, honey! Take care...” Kendra watched till her daughter disappeared around the corner of the house. Then she turned, letting her gaze sweep up over the enormous white mansion that had stood here, on top of the hill, for more than sixty years. The breeze riffled pleasantly through her hair and the sun kissed her cheeks. She smiled and tucked her hands into the pockets of her white shorts as she walked toward the open back door. She was glad to be home. More than glad: elated! When her grandfather had thrown her out eight years ago, she’d left her heart in Lakeview. Now she was back, she would never leave again. No matter what. She crossed the kitchen, walked along the corridor, and paused for a moment when she reached the foyer. Sunlight flooded down from the tall window in the stairwell, its mellow rays glowing on the Persian rug and parquet floor. Sunlight gleamed, too, on the polished mahogany furniture, and enriched the opulent color of the tapestries adorning the walls. The staircase itself was the hall’s focal point, its elegant lines and luxurious blue runner drawing the eye up to the landing. As a child she’d never been tempted to slide down the smooth banister...but Megan seemed to find it irresistible. Kendra was well aware that despite being cautioned several times to keep off it, the child still sailed recklessly, joyfully down it when her mother wasn’t around. An accident waiting to happen— The front doorbell clanged. Kendra turned and crossed the foyer, and as she did, she found herself wondering if it wouldn’t be better to postpone the kitchen project and deal with the staircase first. Yes, that’s what she would do. And as soon as it was replaced, she could stop worrying... Content with her decision, she opened the front door. And came face-to-face with a man she had hoped never to bump into again. He was dressed to kill and she could smell the faintest hint of a musky aftershave over the sweet scent of roses drifting from a nearby flower bed. “Brodie Spencer!” She rammed her hands on her hips and glared at him. ‘What on earth are you doing here!” CHAPTER TWO “A SIMPLE ‘Good morning,’” Brodie returned innocently, “would have sufficed!” His lips twitched as he saw her gaze become even more belligerent. Boy, she sure was something else when she got mad! Sparks exploded like fireworks in her brown eyes, and her breasts quivered! Yup, quivered. Under that cobalt blue tank top, they quivered. “I said—” her voice was icy “—what do you want?’ He cleared his throat and jerked his gaze back to her face. What did he want? Hell, she wouldn’t like his honest answer to that question. No, sirree! “Lakeview Construction at your service, ma’am.” She stared at him blankly for a full seven seconds... which gave him time to scrutinize her hair. It hung loose this morning, the heavy blunt-cut tips brushing her tanned shoulders, and each strand glistened as if it had been individually dipped in white gold. He felt a strong urge to reach out and run his fingers through— She made a sound that reminded him of a piglet’s snort. “You’re kidding,” she said scathingly. “Of course.” “No, ma’am. I am not.” He pressed his right hand flat against his heart. And noticed it was beating just a tad faster than usual. “I’m here to discuss your...kitchen. He saw the incredulity in her eyes. He showed her the work order. She scrutinised it but when she handed it back, her expression had become only marginally less hostile. “You’d better come inside.” She made no secret of her reluctance to invite him into the house. And she flounced away, leaving him to close the door behind him. The rich, it seemed, did not always have impeccable manners! She halted in the middle of the foyer and turned to him. She’d schooled her features into an emotionless mask. “There’s been a change in plan,” she said. “I want to postpone work on the kitchen and start with the staircase.” Brodie smelled coffee. He’d been in such an all-fired rush that morning he hadn’t taken time to have his usual caffeine fix. He sure could do with it now, to set him up before he got down to the nitty-gritty of telling his client she’d be a fool to tear down her magnificent antique mahogany staircase. “Let’s talk about that,” he said smoothly. “Over...a coffee, maybe?” He could feel her irritation coming at him in waves. But she said, albeit stiffly, “All right.” She took off along the corridor to the left of the foyer, and he followed like a sheep. Except that a sheep wouldn’t have ogled her derriere the way he was doing—well, how could he not? It was sexy as hell in those skimpy white shorts—and she still walked with that tantalizing little wiggle of her hips, the way she’d done when she was a teenager! “You can see,” she said as he entered the kitchen behind her, “why I want this room modernized.” He glanced around and murmured in agreement. The cupboards were faced with outdated Formica, the appliances were ancient and an unfashionable olive green, the linoleum so old the pattern was worn away in places, and the lighting fixtures pathetically inadequate. Yup, he thought, it would be a pleasure to gut this place out and start from scratch! He returned his attention to the woman walking to the countertop by the sink, and watched her reach up to a side cupboard for two mugs. She was in front of the window, and backlit against the brilliant sunshine. All he could see of her was her shape—her slim shoulders, her hand-span waist, her curvy hips. She had some gorgeous figure! “How do you like it?” Her voice came to him through a scarlet mist of lust. “Oh, I like it just fine!” he said. “I beg your pardon?” Her frosty tone jarred him out of his carnal fantasies. “Ah, the...er...coffee. Black‘l be just fine. Thank you, ma’am.” She didn’t invite him to sit, so he leaned back against the countertop, ankles casually crossed. She stood, like a robot, with her hands cupped around her mug, the steam rising so that her face seemed to shimmer. OK, he thought, time to get this over with. He leveled a steady look at her luminous brown eyes, with their luxuriant fringe of wheat-blond lashes. “Your husband,” he said. “Does he agree with you about tearing down the staircase?” He saw her fingers tighten around her mug. “I’m a widow, Mr. Spencer. Every decision I make is my own.” A widow. So the lovely little heiress hadn’t had it quite as easy as he’d thought. “Sorry to hear it.” And he was. Being a single parent was a tough row to hoe. “Must be lonely for you. How long is it since...” “Six years.” The answer came out as reluctantly as if he’d forced it at gunpoint! “And you’ve been living... where? Vancouver?” “Yes.” “Did you graduate...from U.B.C.?” “No. I wanted to stay home when Megan was a baby.” “You were fortunate to have that choice. And now...well, you still have that choice—to be a lady of leisure...as you pretty much would be, with Megan in school. But Pete tells me you’re planning to run this place as a B and B. Surprised the hell out of me—” “I’m not a parasite, Brodie.” Anger flared in her eyes. “I want the satisfaction of knowing that I’m earning the money my child and I will be living on. And while we’re on the subject of money, there’s something I’d like to clear up. Your daughter loaned Megan some money yesterday, for hot dogs. I’ve had a talk with Megan about this—she’s been brought up never to lend or borrow. I gave her money this morning to repay the loan—” “No problem.” He waved her words aside. “Glad Jodi could help.” “The point I’m making is that I don’t want it to happen again.” A vein pulsed at her temple. “In the future, if Megan doesn’t bring lunch money, she’ll have to go hungry.” Brodie got the distinct feeling that there was more to this than seemed on the surface. Like a dentist who suspects a tooth may not be as healthy as it looks, he decided to probe. “Jodi tells me she’s invited Megan to spend this Saturday afternoon with our family. I’m supposed to confirm that she can come.” “Megan mentioned something of the kind.” A pink flush colored her cheekbones. “I’ve told her we’ll discuss it on Friday. She’s only just started school here. I don’t want her to...rush...anything...” Her voice trailed away, but her chin came up in a stubborn tilt. There it was, then; a crack in the beautiful white enamel. And... something rotten underneath? “Ah,” he said. “In case a better offer comes up.” The flush in her cheeks deepened till her skin was as red as ripe raspberries. “That’s not what I said.” “No, that’s not what you said.” God, he could hardly believe it But he might have known. Despite being an adult now, the Westmore brat—the Westmore Widow!—was just as much a snob as she’d been at seventeen. No way was she going to allow her precious daughter to become friends with Brodie Spencer’s kid No way. It was Jodi he felt sorry for. She’d seemed very taken with this new girl. She was going to be mighty disappointed—and hurt—when she discovered that Megan Westmore was forbidden to play with her. Dammit, he detested snobbery! He slammed his mug down on the table. “Right!” he said. “We know where we both stand. So let’s not waste any more of each other’s time on it. Let’s get back to business! You want us to rip down that staircase? Fine, we’ll rip it down. The only problem is that the replacement you told my estimator you wanted—white-enameled wrought-iron—is back-ordered and won’t be available till late October. So in the meantime, we’ll do the kitchen. I’ll get a couple of men up here this afternoon and we’ll get the project under way. You realize you’ll be without a kitchen in the meantime?” “Yes.” The raspberry color had seeped from her face; now it looked pale as cream. “Megan and I will use the kitchenette in what used to be the servants’ quarters. You’ll just have to let me know when you’ll be shutting off the water, electricity, and so on, so I can work around it.” “You’ll need to choose new cupboards, appliances, floor covering, wall tiles, paint...” His gesture was wide. “Come down to the store sometime, just call first and set up an appointment and I’ll show you around. Give you advice.” He sensed her hackles rise when he mentioned giving her advice. “You do that, too?” she asked. “As well as the...donkey work?” The hands that had itched to reach out and touch her hair a few minutes ago now itched to reach out and wrap themselves around her pretty little throat. “Yes,” he said in a gritty voice. “As well as doing the donkey work I do, on occasion, dole out advice.” If he stayed, he knew he’d say, or do, something he’d regret, so he excused himself and made for the door. As he strode angrily out to the foyer, he knew exactly what she was thinking: Hell will freeze over, Brodie Spencer, before I ever seek advice from you! Dammit! he thought. She was the most infuriating woman he’d ever met...and the most arrogant. But he’d knock that arrogance out of her, one way or another, if it was the very last thing he ever did. Kendra managed to hold herself together till she heard the front door slam behind him. Then she sank down on the nearest chair, her mug still clutched in her hands. She realized she was shaking. Taking a long gulp of her coffee, she stared blindly into space and tried to sort out her thoughts. What was it about this man that disturbed her so deeply? Was it the physicality of him? The earthiness? The sexy aura he emanated? Or was it his mocking tone, the cocky arrogance he revealed in her presence? He never really did or said anything out of place...yet it was always there, under the surface. The... battle...between them. And somehow he always came out on top. This thing with the Saturday invitation. She was perfectly within her rights to turn it down, and she had no obligation to give a reason. Why then was she the one left feeling...guilty? Darn it! She put down her mug, shoved back her chair. She was not going to spend any more time with this man, she was not going to allow him in her house again. She wanted to live in Lakeview, and she wanted it to be a peaceful haven. She knew she could build a good life here, for herself and Megan. But Brodie Spencer was in the way! He needled, and he pushed buttons, and he made her downright... uncomfortable. And she wasn’t going to take it anymore! She lurched to her feet and crossed to the desk. She’d thought she’d placed her copy of the Lakeview Construction contract on top, but it wasn’t there! Where on earth had she put it? It took her several minutes to discover it had fallen to the floor, behind the desk. She set it on the table and ran a finger down the page till she found what she was looking for. Swinging around, she crossed to the wall phone and punched in the number. “Lakeview Construction,” came a breathy voice. “Mitzi speaking.” “Mitzi, this is Kendra Westmore—” “What’s wrong, Ms. Westmore? Didn’t Brodie turn up?” “Oh, yes, he turned up all right. The problem is—” “Problem? You have a problem?” “It’s not going to work out. He’s not going to work out. I mean...what I mean is, I can’t work with the man. I want someone else to be put in charge of the project.” “But Brodie’s—” “No ifs, ands, or buts. I want another—” She heard a kerfuffle at the other end of the line. Then she heard muffled voices. In the background. “Hello?” Exasperation made her voice shrill. “Hello? Mitzi? What’s going on?” “Hi.” Oh, she knew that voice. Brodie must have gone straight back to the office. Probably to complain about her attitude! Well, great. That worked both ways. He didn’t want her, she didn’t want him, either! “Let me talk to your boss,” she fairly hissed. “Now!” He chuckled, and anger spilled through her. “Brodie, I’m warning you—” “You want to talk to the boss?” “Finally you’ve got it!” “The boss of Lakeview Construction? The owner, manager, chairman, and president?” His words were threaded with laughter. “Yes!” she exploded. “You’re talkin’ to him!” All of a sudden she heard a grimness in his tone, a steely note that hadn’t been there before. “Brodie Spencer owns the company, lock, stock, and barrel. He’s the man who makes all the decisions, and he’s the man who’s going to head your project. We have a contract, you and I. A contract that’s iron-clad. You may not like it but you’re stuck with it. You may not like me—and it’s clear that you don’t—but you’re stuck with me, too. So you’d better get used to seeing me around, ma’am, because that’s the way it’s going to be!” Kendra spent the rest of the morning cleaning out the kitchen and carting everything from there to the kitchenette. It lay along the corridor from the kitchen, just beyond the mudroom and the swing door that separated the main part of the house from the servants’ quarters. The servants’ quarters hadn’t been used any time in Kendra’s memory. Her grandmother had apparently been ‘delicate,’ and had required live-in help; but after his wife’s death Edward Westmore had let the housekeeper go, along with the several housemaids. From then on, he’d depended on a local woman who came in daily to cook and clean. Molly Flynn was surly and unpleasant. Kendra had disliked her intensely, so when the woman phoned Rosemount the day after Edward Westmore’s funeral to say she wouldn’t be coming in anymore, Kendra had breathed a sigh of relief that she was spared the task of firing her. Now this morning, as she busied herself emptying the kitchen so the workmen could get started, she was alone. Alone in body, but not in mind, because as she worked, Brodie Spencer kept intruding on her thoughts, no matter how she tried to keep him at bay. And always the image was vivid: blue-green eyes glinting with mockery; sensual lips curled tauntingly; magnificent male body exuding arrogant challenge and blatant sexual charisma from every muscle, bone, and pore. Oh, how she hated the man! Shoving open the swing door with her hip, she marched into the kitchenette with the very last load, and thumped the tray of dishes down on the scrubbed pine table with such force that the delicate china plates trembled. There, that was it Finito. Now Lakeview Construction could get on with the job. Flinging open the window, she curled her hands around the edge of the sink and stared out over the gravelled parking area. Bad enough, she reflected irritably, that she was going to have to endure having Brodie Spencer in her home for the next few weeks; but that wasn’t the only thing gnawing away at her. The awkward situation with his daughter and Megan had been niggling at her, too. What if Friday rolled around and Megan hadn’t found another friend? What if she still wanted to spend Saturday afternoon with Jodi Spencer? Perhaps, though, after this morning’s confrontation, Brodie would be as much against the looming liaison as she was. Perhaps he’d try to steer Jodi away from Megan— And where would his wife fit into all of this? It suddenly struck Kendra that if Jodi and Megan were in the same grade at school, they must be approximately the same age. That meant that Brodie must have become a father when he was only nineteen. She frowned. He’d been a hellion in those days, ripping around on his motorbike—black leather jacket, wicked grin, the whole nine yards. The clichåd “bad boy,” always in some kind of trouble. And “bad boys” didn’t turn into family men at nineteen... Unless...yes, he probably got some girl pregnant Probably got himself trapped. Kendra felt a faint flicker of curiosity. What was she like, Brodie Spencer’s wife? And where did the family live? If Brodie owned Lakeview Construction, in all likelihood he’d have built himself a fancy new house. Possibly it was one of those modern mansions she’d seen north of Lakeview Road, as she’d driven into town ten days ago when she’d come home for her grandfather’s funeral... She sighed, and hugged her arms around herself. Her grandfather. She could still scarcely believe he was gone. And she could still scarcely believe he had left her everything. Not only Rosemount, but all his money. She’d assumed that when he had written her out of his life, he had written her out of his will, too. She had been mistaken. Once she’d gotten over her shock, she’d given in her notice at the small hotel where she worked as a chef; spent the next twenty-four hours disposing of her meager household possessions; and then had driven, with Megan, to Lakeview. She’d been glad to get out of the city. And filled with growing joy at the prospect of bringing Megan up in the town where she had herself grown up. She had always loved Lakeview. It had never occurred to her that once there, she’d find a fly in the ointment Brodie Spencer! And speak of pesky flies! she thought as a familiar red truck appeared around the side of the house and pulled up a few yards from the kitchen door. This one was back! As Brodie jumped down from the cab, a blue van came into sight and spun to a halt, its rear wheels scattering white gravel chips into the air. Two men emerged. Both wore checked shirts, heavy-duty jeans, workboots. Brodie himself had changed and looked more ruggedly sexy than ever in beat-up jeans, a sun-faded denim shirt, and heavy leather boots. The two men followed Brodie as he strode to the door. Squaring her shoulders, Kendra went to let them in. One day at a time, she told herself. Take it one day at a time. “What are you doing here, Mom?” Megan scowled as she walked her bike over to her mother. “I know my way home!” Kendra moved her own bike back to let some children scuffle past her through the school gates. “I just had to get out of the house! There’s such a racket, workmen tearing down cupboards and—” “Hey, Jodi,” Megan called. “Wait up!” Kendra suddenly noticed the Spencer child a few yards away on the sidewalk. She was wheeling her bike towards the road. The girl turned and shouted to Megan, “Can’t! I gotta go!” And with that, she threw herself onto her bike and pedaled away like mad along the street. Megan yelled after her, “But you said—” She broke off as she realized that Jodi was now too far away to hear. Pouting, Megan looked at her mother. “If you hadn’t turned up, Jodi was going to take me to the rec center. The dance teacher’s going to be signing up new members for beginners’ jazz, and I wanted to put my name down.” “Jazz? But what about your ballet? I thought—” “I can do both. Jodi’s in jazz and ballet and tap.” Megan’s determined tone made it quite clear to Kendra that keeping the two girls apart wasn’t going to be easy. “And don’t say we can’t afford it!” Megan’s cheeks had become flushed. “Maybe we couldn’t before, when we had to watch our pennies...but you hit the jackpot big-time when your granddaddy died and—” “Hit the jackpot?” Kendra stared at her daughter. “Big-time? When my granddaddy died? Young lady, if that’s the kind of talk you’re hearing from Jodi Spencer, you can forget about jazz lessons, and Saturday outings to the Spencer place—in fact, you can just forget having anything to do with that girl! And we’re going home. Right now!” Megan muttered something under her breath. “What did you say?” “It wasn’t Jodi. At least, she just told me what she heard...somebody else...saying.” And who might that somebody else have been? Kendra thought bitterly. There was only one answer to that. “Let’s go!” she snapped. Megan did get on her bike, and she did ride home with her mother. In body, if not in spirit. But as soon as they were inside, she headed for the stairs. “Where are you going?” Kendra asked. “Up to my room to do my homework.” “Don’t you want a snack?” “I’m not hungry.” “We’ll eat at five, then. In the kitchenette. I’ll call you once the men have gone home for the day.” Dam it, she thought as Megan took off up the stairs, the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her daughter. Sighing, she crossed the foyer and made for the servants’ quarters. She could hear, up ahead, the whine of a chainsaw. Bangs and crashes. Voices and loud music. Laughter. She was walking along the shadowy corridor past the kitchen when the door swung open and Brodie came out They collided with a thump and she was thrown wildly off balance. He lunged after her and grabbed her upper arms to pull her upright and steady her. She felt his fingers bruising her flesh, felt his warm breath on her cheeks. His hands smelled of fresh wood shavings and his body smelled of not-so-fresh sweat—a musky male odor that should have been repellent but instead was disturbing in a dark and primal way. “You OK?” he asked. “Yes.” Her voice was stiff. He released her. “Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.” “It was just as much my fault.” She made to move on. “Before you go—” “Yes?” “About Saturday.” She tensed. And waited. “How about if we include you in the invitation? That way you’ll get to see for yourself what we’re all about. The Spencer family, that is.” His eyes had a hard gleam. “Just because you and I can’t get along doesn’t mean our kids can’t be friends. And I believe it’s important that children be allowed to choose their own friends—unless there’s good reason to interfere.” She met his gaze stubbornly. “As I told you, Megan and I have agreed to wait till Friday before she decides.” “Meanwhile Jodi sits back and cools her heels?” “She’s perfectly at liberty to withdraw the invitation.” “Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you! But that’s not the way our family operates. The invitation stands.” Kendra shrugged. “Then we’ll just have to wait till Friday to find out what Megan decides.” “What Megan decides...or what her mother decides?” Irritably, she sidestepped him and walked away. His cynical laugh followed her to the kitchenette, and echoed in her head long after he and his men had left for the day. CHAPTER THREE BRODIE got home from work that afternoon around five-thirty. Jodi was sitting on the front step, and when he jumped down from the truck, she ran over to meet him. “Hi, Dad, I’ve been waiting for you.” She slipped her hand in his and they walked together to the picket gate that led to the back of the house. It snapped shut behind them as they stepped along the cement path. “Did you talk to Megan’s mom?” she asked eagerly. “About Saturday?” “Yeah,” he said, “I talked with her.” “And what did she say?” In the backyard, Hayley was climbing out of the pool. She was wearing a black bikini that showed off her summer tan. She scooped up a towel and, running it through her waist-length brown hair, walked over to join them. “Hi, Hayle,” he said. “How was your day?” “Busy...but OK.” She wrapped the towel casually around her hips. “Dinner’ll be ready in half an hour.” “Dad!” Jodi tugged the rolled-up sleeve of his denim shirt. “Is Megan coming on Saturday or what?” “We won’t know till Friday.” “Oh.” She wrinkled her nose. “That’s what Megan said. Her mom told her she had to not rush in and make best friends on her first day at school. I guess it makes sense.” But her sigh let him know how disappointed she was. “Fingers crossed,” he said. “And I invited her mom to come, too, so she can get to know us.” After a beat, Hayley asked, “What’s she like?” “Oh, she’s really neat!” Jodi said. “She enjoys most of the things I do—dancing, and math, and Barbies, and—” “I meant the mother.” Hayley slipped her feet into the floral thongs she’d left on the patio, and looked at Brodie. Sensing that Jodi had her ears perked, and that whatever he said would in all likelihood be repeated to Megan at the first opportunity, Brodie replied blandly, “She’s very pleasant.” And pigs can sing! “Is she pretty?” Hayley tugged open the screen door. “According to Mitzi,” he said evasively, “Kendra Westmore is drop-dead gorgeous.” “But what do you think?” Hayley held the door open and her cornflower blue eyes seemed to laser right into him. “Yeah.” He lifted his wide shoulders in a careless shrug. “The lady is indeed more than passably attractive.” “Mmm.” The cornflower blue eyes became thoughtful. But Hayley didn’t pursue the matter. Not then; and not over dinner. But later, as he was helping her with the washing up, she said in an offhand tone, “I hope the Westmore woman does decide to come over on Saturday.” She avoided his eyes as she handed him a pot to dry. “If Jodi and Megan are to become friends, then it would be a good thing to get to know the mother, too.” Brodie had never understood the working of Hayley’s mind. The female mind. What man ever did understand the workings of such an intricate mechanism! But he had the disturbing feeling that Hayley was up to something. He had no idea what it was; and he knew better than to ask. All would be revealed, he had no doubt, in the fullness of time. Next morning Kendra was out back, having just watched Megan cycle off to school, when Brodie’s truck rumbled around the corner. Though feeling defensive after their last encounter, she resisted the urge to scurry away. Instead she stood her ground, and slipping her hands into the pockets of her airy summer skirt, she waited for him to approach. He was wearing a black T-shirt and khaki shorts and heavy workboots that crunched on the gravel as he walked. The man, she reflected bleakly, was all tan and muscle and hard male arrogance. But she wasn’t the only one doing the looking. He was giving her a thorough once-over, his deliberate gaze taking in the sleek swing of her blond hair; the swell of her breasts under her tank top; and the slender length of her legs, revealed to him in all their shapely glory as a gust of wind plastered the full skirt to her thighs. She felt as exposed as if she’d been naked but she refused to adjust the thin fabric, knowing that if she did he would see her discomfiture...and gloat over it. She tilted her head regally. “Since you’re going to be in and out a lot you ought to have a key to the back door.” She drew the spare key from the pocket where she’d stored it. “That way, when I’m not around, you can come and go as you please.” “Thanks.” He took the key and shoved it into his hip pocket. “So...why so sour this beautiful morning? Bad hair day? No—” his gaze drifted over her hair “—can’t be that. No sirree.” The sudden heat in her cheeks wasn’t due to the sun. With fake pleasantry, she said, “Brodie, our relationship is a strictly business one. If you don’t want to be sued for sexual harassment, you’ll avoid making comments like that.” He raised his eyebrows. “Can’t a man pay a simple compliment these days without ending up in court?” “In a business situation,” she said in a supercilious tone, “personal comments are totally out of place.” “Mmm. Am I to understand then that if you and your daughter accept our family invitation on Saturday, I’ll be free to express my admiration for any part of your anatomy which attracts my attention?” Through gritted teeth, she muttered, “That’s not what I said!” “How about if we ever go out on a date, then? Just the two of us? Would it be OK then?” The man was married, for heaven’s sake, with children. But even if he’d been single and the most eligible bachelor in town, she wouldn’t have considered going out with him. He hadn’t changed one bit—he was still the same incorrigible flirt he’d been as a teenager! “Yes.” Her voice was honey-sweet. “It would be OK then. But since I shall never go out on a date with you, Brodie, the question doesn’t... nor ever will ... arise.” “Never say never.” “Oh, I can say it and with more conviction than I’ve ever said anything in my life. I shall never—read my lips, Mr. Spencer—never go out on a date with you.” She swirled away from him and made for the back door. But as she stalked into the house she heard him call after her in that mocking tone that had already become so familiar. “Famous last words, Ms. Westmore. Famous last words.” Kendra resolved to keep out of his way for the rest of the day, but their altercation had left her strangely restless and she itched to busy herself with something. In the end, she decided to work in the garden—the front garden, out of sight and sound of the kitchen. She was on her hands and knees, weeding a rose bed, when a mail van came up the drive. She leaned back on her heels as the driver jumped out—a man in his mid-twenties. He seemed vaguely familiar. “Hi!” He walked over to her and slipped a couple of fliers from his bag. “Long time no see, Kendra!” Blue Jamieson. She’d known him in high school—and she remembered what a struggle he’d had in school because he’d had a learning disability. She also remembered how immensely likable he’d been. She’d known his father, too. Ben Jamieson had been the Westmore family doctor. Kendra swallowed hard as she recalled the last time she’d sat in Dr. Jamieson’s office. Christmas Eve. Eight years past. It had been the worst day of her life. Bar none. “Well, hi yourself, Blue!” She scrambled to her feet and took the fliers. “Long time no see indeed!” “Doing your own gardening now, huh? The Kendra I knew wouldn’t have dirtied her pretty little hands!” His ingenuous smile took any sting out of his words. “What’s up? You on a budget?” She laughed. “No, no budget. I just haven’t hired a gardener yet, though my ad should be in the Lakeview Gazette today. Apparently my grandfather used a gardening company the past six years but I don’t want to go that route.” “Yeah, Mr. Westmore started using the gardening company after Danny Spencer died. What a tragedy that was—you’ve heard about it, of course.” “No. What happened?” “Danny’s son Jack and Jack’s wife Maureen drove the old guy down to Vancouver on his sixty-fifth birthday—for some special hockey game he wanted to see—” “I didn’t know Brodie had a brother.” “Oh, yeah. Jack was fifteen years older than Brodie, a real nice guy. Worked in the Royal Bank. Anyway, on the way back from Vancouver, they ran into a snowstorm and were involved in a big smash on the Coquihalla—some truck lost its brakes and rammed into Jack’s Pinto. They were all killed. Well, Danny hung on for a week or so, but...” Kendra felt goose bumps rise on her arms. “How awful.” “Folks say only one good thing came out of that accident It sure brought out the best in Brodie Spencer—” “Hey, Blue, you taking my name in vain?” They both turned and saw Brodie walking across the lawn, a mug in one hand. He was still yards away, and couldn’t have heard much more than just his name. Blue smoothed over what could have been an awkward moment by saying, “Just reminding Kendra of the old days, Brodie...when you were hell on wheels! You were the envy of all us guys when you bought your Harley-Davidson motorcycle.” “Kendra’s grandfather gave me the money for that bike!” Before Kendra could protest, he went on, dryly, “Of course, I had to work my butt off in his gardens for three summers to make it!” Blue laughed. “Yeah, you did that, Brodie. While the rest of us guys were goofing off at the lake and having fun. Well—” he turned “—I gotta go! Great seeing you, Kendra!” After he’d left, Brodie lingered. “Yes?” She rolled up the fliers Blue had given her, and curled a tight hand around them. “What do you want?” “Just taking my break, decided to get some air.” He raised his eyebrows. “Any objections to the hired hand coming around the front to drink his coffee?” “Why do you take such a perverse delight in needling me?” His laugh was without humor. “Delight? I take no delight in it!” “Then why do you do it, Brodie? What do you hope to achieve?” “I don’t really hope to achieve anything! But what I’d like to achieve is ... to find out what makes you tick!” “Why on earth would that interest you? Besides, I’m a very simple person. Easy to read, easy to understand. There’s no mystery about me, Brodie. I have no secrets.” Now there was a lie if ever there was one! And if Brodie Spencer were ever to discover her secret— Her heart shuddered. But he never would. She didn’t know it all herself! And that was a bitter irony. It was like a puzzle with all the pieces in place...except one. The biggest piece. The piece that was integral to solving the puzzle. But it had gotten torn in two. She had one half. And she didn’t know who had the other. It was a nightmare from which there was no awakening. A nightmare she’d lived with for more than eight years, and was probably doomed to live with forever— “Did Megan’s father understand you?” “What?” Brodie’s gaze had narrowed. “You say you’re easy to read. Did your husband understand you?” She suppressed a bark of hysterical laughter. Brodie’s expression would be a picture if she confessed the truth. The scandalous truth. “Yes,” she said. “He understood me perfectly.” Brodie was looking at her hands and she suddenly realized she was plucking at the fliers; ripping off scraps, letting them fall like confetti to the grass. How long had she been doing it? Jerking in a quick breath, she stilled her fingers. And hoped Brodie hadn’t guessed he’d hit a raw nerve. But perhaps he had, and perhaps he regretted it because when he spoke again it was in a neutral tone. “Look,” he said, “what I really came out for was—I need you to come along to the kitchen. We’ve hit a...snag.” “What kind of a snag?” “I’d like to show you.” They crossed the lawn together, their shadows mingling on the bright green grass. A bee buzzed around Brodie’s head, and he swatted it away. From the kitchen window came the beat of a stereo. When they reached the open door, Brodie stood back to let her enter first. Then he crossed to the ghetto blaster set on the wide windowsill above the sink, and switched it off. “Hey, you guys, take five.” The two men who had been busy yanking off wallboard dropped their tools and took off their dust masks. On their way out, the younger man paused in the doorway. “Hey, boss, almost forgot. Hayley called. She wants you to pick up bread and hamburger buns on your way home.” “Thanks, Sandy.” Brodie chuckled. “Hen—” “‘Henpecked, that’s what I am!’” the two workmen chanted together as if it was a story they’d heard many times before. And guffawing, they walked outside. Brodie chuckled. “No respect,” he said to Kendra. “I get no respect around here. One of these days...” Kendra forced a small laugh but her mind was not on what Brodie was saying, but on what Sandy had said. Hayley. The name didn’t ring a bell. She recalled no Hayley in high school. Where had Brodie met her, then? Had she been a summer visitor? One of those flashy city girls who came up to Lakeview for the holidays and dazzled the local boys at the Friday night dances? “Over here,” Brodie said. She walked over to join him. He was wielding a heavy screwdriver. “Watch this,” he said. He jabbed the screwdriver into one of the studs that had been revealed when the wallboard had been pulled off. The stud crumbled in a cloud of dust. “Dry rot,” he said. “Is it bad?” “It’s bad. I’ve checked and it’s spread all along this corner of the house. The kitchen, the mudroom, the kitchenette. We’re looking at major reconstruction here.” “Oh, that’s just great!” Kendra chewed her lip. “You’re going to be working in both kitchens?” “Yup.” She rubbed her hands down her arms, which suddenly felt chilly despite the warmth of the day. “How long will the job take?” “Could be several weeks all told.” “We should move out.” He leaned back against the sink. “Yeah, it would be easier all round. Usually is, when renovations are major.” She murmured a sound of frustration and said, almost to herself, “I hate to uproot Megan again... just when we’re getting settled.” “Yeah, it’s hard on kids. Moving. D’you want to put the job on hold till you find some place to stay?” “Yes, that would be best.” “Well, I guess we can knock off now,” he said. “But listen ... anything I can do to help out, just let me know.” Kendra wondered if she had ever met a more disconcerting man. A few minutes ago he’d been needling her, driving her crazy; now he was looking at her with concern in his eyes and offering her assistance. “Thanks,” she said. “That’s kind of you. But I’m sure I’ll manage. We’ll probably end up renting a housekeeping suite in one of the motels at the school end of town—” Êîíåö îçíàêîìèòåëüíîãî ôðàãìåíòà. Òåêñò ïðåäîñòàâëåí ÎÎÎ «ËèòÐåñ». Ïðî÷èòàéòå ýòó êíèãó öåëèêîì, êóïèâ ïîëíóþ ëåãàëüíóþ âåðñèþ (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39926338&lfrom=390579938) íà ËèòÐåñ. Áåçîïàñíî îïëàòèòü êíèãó ìîæíî áàíêîâñêîé êàðòîé Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, ñî ñ÷åòà ìîáèëüíîãî òåëåôîíà, ñ ïëàòåæíîãî òåðìèíàëà, â ñàëîíå ÌÒÑ èëè Ñâÿçíîé, ÷åðåç PayPal, WebMoney, ßíäåêñ.Äåíüãè, QIWI Êîøåëåê, áîíóñíûìè êàðòàìè èëè äðóãèì óäîáíûì Âàì ñïîñîáîì.