“But how will you live?” Isabel asked. “You don’t have a car.”
“I’ll rent a car. Since mine was totaled, the insurance company will be sending me a check.”
“You won’t be getting much for that old pile of junk,” Isabel remarked.
“Could the bank put a hold on the money in the accounts?” Kiera asked.
Kate shook her head. “The bank can’t touch the money until the loan is due.”
“But that’s less than a month away,” Isabel said.
Kate got up from the table and went to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. It was a luxury she would soon be doing without. Nothing wrong with plain old tap water, she thought.
She reached for three bottles, handed one to each of her sisters, and said, “When I first opened all of those bills and notices and read the letter from the bank explaining that our mother had signed away everything, including my company, I can tell you, I was extremely upset.”
Isabel dropped her head and Kate hurried to add, “You have to stop trying to understand or defend Mom. You said it yourself. She did the best she could.”
“Then why did you go and bring it all up again?”
“I’m trying to explain. I was stunned and furious, and I certainly wasn’t thinking straight. Now, however, I’m back in control.” She circled the table and sat down. “No one’s going to take my company away from me.”
“How was Mom able to use your company as collateral?”
“She was an equal partner. I set it up that way because at first I was underage and it turned out to be convenient when I was in Boston. She had the authority to sign checks and act on my behalf.”
“But how are you going to stop the bank from taking your company?” Isabel asked.
“I’ll work something out with the department store, maybe give them a bigger percentage for a lump sum up front. Don’t worry.”
“But if that doesn’t work?”
“I’ll follow Isabel’s advice. I’ll take in renters.” She smiled as she added, “Maybe the men will pay more if I throw in a little something extra.”
Kiera laughed. The doorbell rang, interrupting the discussion. Isabel jumped up and headed for the door. “Maybe this is our first renter,” she called out, laughing now.
Kate glanced at Kiera as she stood. “You think that could be Reece?”
“No,” she said. “He’s gone to Europe. He left a message for Isabel that he was leaving, and he hoped she’d think about their future together while he was gone.”
Kate replied. “Oh dear. Well, at least he’s away from Silver Springs.”
“Kate, your first renter is here,” Isabel called out from the hallway.
“What in heaven’s name . . .” Kate whispered.
Both she and Kiera stood just as Isabel, grinning from ear to ear, walked into the kitchen. Dylan Buchanan was right behind her.
Kate was so astonished to see him she fell into the chair. Isabel introduced him to Kiera, who was moving forward to shake his hand. Kate couldn’t find her voice to say hello. Or good-bye.
“We’ve heard so much about you,” Kiera said. “It’s nice to finally meet you. It wasn’t possible for us to go to Kate and Jordan’s graduation. Were all the Buchanans there?”
He nodded and smiled. “There are a lot of us. We probably would have overwhelmed you.”
He deliberately ignored Kate as he carried on a pleasant conversation with her sisters, answering questions about Nathan’s Bay and Boston.
Kate was still reeling from the surprise. All she could do was stare at him and hope she wasn’t blushing. Her face felt warm, though. Was blushing a telltale sign of guilt? But what did she have to feel guilty about? As if she didn’t know. How about having hot, amazing sex all night long with her best friend’s brother. Yep, that would do it, all right.
Oh my, he looked good. But untouchable, she told herself, even as she was remembering how warm and hard his body had been pressed against hers. Enough. He was untouchable, she repeated. The one-night-only special was over and done with, and the sooner she got him out of her house the better for her peace of mind.
Could a man grow taller in just a couple of days’ time? No, he just seemed taller because he towered over Isabel. When Kate was finally able to stop gawking at him, she noticed that both of her sisters were pretty impressed with him, too.
Isabel looked starstruck, and Kiera couldn’t stop smiling; however, she was a bit more astute than Isabel. She kept looking back and forth from Dylan to Kate. She knew something was going on, but Kate didn’t think she had figured out what just yet.
Isabel was telling Dylan something he found amusing. That lopsided grin of his was outrageously adorable.
Kate finally shook herself from her stupor and stood. “Why are you here?”
When he looked at her, she wished he hadn’t. The smile was gone. She couldn’t define the exact look on his face, but she would have to say it was somewhere between aloof and homicidal.
“Kate, where are your manners?” Isabel asked, shocked by her sister’s surly tone.
Kate circled the table and offered him her hand. “It’s lovely to see you again.” Her speech took on a pronounced southern accent, but then it always did get thicker when she was nervous. She couldn’t help that any more than she could help his effect on her.
He glanced down but didn’t shake her hand.
Okay, she’d tried the southern lady approach. Time to get rude again.
“I repeat, why are you here?”
“Kate, what’s wrong with you?” Isabel asked. She sounded appalled. “You’re being terribly impolite.” Turning to Dylan, she asked, “May I offer you something cold to drink? How about some iced tea or perhaps a soda?”
“No thanks,” he said.
“Why don’t we all go into the living room? That would be so much more comfortable,” Kiera suggested as she hurriedly gathered the bills into a stack and set them aside.
Dylan wasn’t paying any attention to Kiera or Isabel. He was staring at Kate. He knew he’d shaken her when he’d walked into the kitchen, and it was just fine with him if she felt uncomfortable. She deserved at least that for leaving Boston and not telling him.
As if she could read his mind, she said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming here?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”
“Leaving where?” Isabel asked.
“Never mind,” Kate said.
She folded her arms and frowned at Dylan as she took a step toward him. “I spoke to Jordan just a couple of hours ago, and she’s doing fine, so I know you aren’t here because of her. Did she know you were coming? No, she couldn’t have. She would have told me.”
“Actually, she sent me,” he said with a shrug.
She took another step closer. “No,” she said suspiciously.
“Yes, she did,” he insisted.
“Then you’ll be staying with us?” Isabel asked eagerly. “I’m afraid Kiera and I will be leaving tomorrow, but I’m sure Kate would love to have the company,” she continued, casting a warning glance at Kate to cooperate and be hospitable.
“I’m not going to be staying with you, though I appreciate the offer. This is a quick trip. After I talk to Kate, I’m going to check into a hotel. I’ll probably be in town only one night.”
“You must stay with us,” she insisted. “We have the room.”
“If he wants to stay in a hotel, we should let him,” Kate said with a scowl in Isabel’s direction.
“You’ll stay for dinner?” Isabel asked. When she smiled, the dimple in her cheek was prominent.
Kate had the sudden desire to stuff a dish towel into Isabel’s mouth. “I don’t think Dylan—”
“I’d love to stay.” He wasn’t sure if he agreed because he was hungry or because he knew it would irritate Kate.
“You’ll have a taste of southern hospitality,” Isabel promised.
“Sounds good,” he said.
His cell phone rang. He smiled when he saw who was calling, said, “Excuse me a minute,” and walked out of the kitchen as he answered.
Kate waited until he was out of earshot and turned to Isabel. “Will you stop flirting with him? I don’t want him to stay for dinner. I want him to go back to Boston.”
“But I want him to stay,” Isabel argued.
“What’s going on with you?” Kiera asked. “From the moment Dylan walked in you’ve been acting so strange.”
“Rude,” Isabel offered.
“Nothing is going on with me,” Kate explained. “I’m just stressed. That’s all. I just need a good night’s sleep.”
“Do you know what I think?” Isabel asked.
Neither Kate nor Kiera seemed interested in hearing what she had to say.
“Isabel, go set the table,” Kiera said. “Dinner’s almost ready.”
Isabel didn’t protest. Kiera waited until she’d gone into the dining room and whispered, “Something is going on. And don’t tell me it’s my imagination. I can see the sparks between you two, and the way you look at him and the way he looks at you . . .”
“He looks at every woman the same way. He’s got a real fan club back in Boston.”
Kiera was trying to signal Kate to be quiet because Dylan was standing in the doorway again, but Kate was looking the other way and didn’t notice.
“Women seem to love him,” she said.
He leaned against the door frame. “And I love women. No secret about that.” His tone was neither boastful nor apologetic. He was simply stating a fact.
Not the least bit embarrassed, she turned toward him. “Yes, you do,” she agreed. “May I have a word in private?”
“Sure thing, Pickle.”
“Will you stop calling me that!” she demanded in frustration.
“Would you like something to drink before you have your private word with my sister?” Kiera asked. She pointed her paring knife at Kate as she continued. “You might want to fortify yourself. Kate isn’t in the best of moods. She isn’t always like this. She can be nice when she tries. When you get to know her better, I’m sure you’ll learn to appreciate her as much as we do.”
He smiled. He looked at Kate when he said, “Oh, I don’t think I can know her any better than I already do.” He was happy to see that Kate looked like she wanted to punch him. “Why do you think I call her pickle? She’s sweet one minute, sour the next.”
Feeling the tension that was crackling between Kate and Dylan, Kiera said, “I think we’ll leave you two so you can talk.”
When Isabel walked into the kitchen, Kiera turned her in the opposite direction and gave her a gentle shove back into the hallway.
They were gone before Kate could stop them. She spun around and frowned up at Dylan. “Okay, so why are you really here?”
“Jordan seems to think you’re in some kind of danger.”
“I’m not in any danger. I’ve just had a little bad luck lately. Jordan’s worrying over nothing.”
“She said you were in an explosion. Why did you tell me the bruises were from a fall?”
“They were,” she said. “I just didn’t mention I fell when a bomb exploded.”
“Why didn’t you mention it?”
“You didn’t ask.”
His expression grew darker. “And somebody tried to run you down in a parking lot?”
“That’s true, but it was just a teenager acting crazy.”
He noticed the fresh bruises on her forehead and moved closer. Lifting the strands of hair covering the marks, he said, “These weren’t there before, were they? These look new.”
“They are new,” she replied as she backed away from him.
“Did you fall again?”
“No,” she answered. “I was just coincidentally in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens,” she insisted. “Nothing for you or Jordan to be worried about. There’s a perfectly good explanation for all of it.”
Dylan turned a kitchen chair toward him and straddled it, resting his arms across the back. “Okay then. Start explaining. Why don’t you begin by telling me about this explosion,” he said.
“Which one?” she asked.
“You’re telling me there was more than one explosion?” Dylan looked incredulous.
Kate slowly nodded. “That’s what I’m telling you. Jordan didn’t mention . . .”
“No, she didn’t.”
“They’re not related,” she explained. “One was a bomb and the other was a gas leak. They weren’t even in the same city,” she added. “So you see? Nothing to worry about.”
“Start at the beginning.”
She groaned. “All of it?”
“All of it.”
The set of his jaw told her he wasn’t going to let it go until she gave him a quick summation, and so she went through her ordeals from start to finish.
“Okay,” he said. “Let me see if I’ve got the sequence. Explosion in Charleston, hospital, Boston, attempted hit and run in the Charleston airport parking lot, another explosion in Silver Springs, hospital again, and home.”
“Don’t forget Reece. He was a trauma, too,” Kiera said. She was waiting in the doorway for Dylan to finish his rundown.
“He was more of a challenge than a trauma,” Kate said. She then related what had happened when Reece had shown up at the door.
“Why didn’t you call the police?” Dylan asked.
“What could the police have done? He didn’t threaten me or Isabel or Kiera,” she said. “And you can’t arrest someone for being obnoxious or sinister.”
“Did he touch you?” Dylan quietly asked.
She shook her head but immediately contradicted herself when she said, “He might have tried to push me out of the way so he could come inside. He was convinced Isabel was hiding somewhere in the house.”
“Touching you in any way is enough to get the police involved,” Dylan said.
“She did think about calling them,” Isabel blurted out. She had been listening from across the room. “After she told Kiera and me what happened, she said there was still time for her to call the police and make a complaint, but . . .”