She couldn’t bring herself to say anything that would give Dylan a negative opinion of her mother.
“. . . was struggling so. It was very insensitive of me not to notice how difficult it was for her. I also believe that when she took out the loan and used her assets as collateral, she didn’t realize that my company was one of those assets.”
“What are you planning to do about it?” Dylan asked.
Now that she’d had some time to think about it, she had come up with several options. She didn’t discuss them but simply said, “I’ll make some changes and work it out. I’ve got about three weeks, and that’s plenty of time.”
Nate asked her a couple more questions and then thanked her for her help.
Dylan walked outside with him and stood in the drive talking for another ten minutes. Then he went to his rental car and got his bag out of the trunk. Kate held the door open as he carried it in.
“Where am I sleeping?” he asked. He locked the door behind him and headed to the stairs.
“Alone,” she answered.
“Okay, that’s it.”
He dropped his garment bag, grabbed her hand, and pulled her into the living room. He let go of her but was still able to back her into a corner by simply moving closer and closer.
“What’s going on with you? And don’t even try to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
The man could be intimidating when he wanted to be. He got that look in his eyes.
“It’s . . . difficult . . . after Boston,” she stammered.
“Why? Because you’re making me crazy.”
“Kate, start making sense. How am I making you crazy?”
“You’re here,” she whispered. “And you shouldn’t be. In Boston . . . the night you showed up to keep me company and I came on to you and pretty much pounced on you . . .”
One eyebrow shot up. “You pounced?”
“Lower your voice, please,” she whispered. “Pounced, seduced,” she said. “Call it what you want.” She tried to get around him to put some space between them, but he trapped her with his hands on either side of her. The message wasn’t subtle. She wasn’t going anywhere until she explained.
“You seduced me?”
“Yes, I did,” she said. “I deliberately went after you. I shouldn’t have, but I did.” She brushed her hair away from her face and looked into his eyes. He was so close she could feel his heat. She had the sudden, insane urge to kiss him again. Get over it, she told herself.
“Try to understand,” she said. “I had just gotten some awful news, and I felt like my world was crashing in on me. Then there was Jordan’s surgery . . . and I was so scared for her . . . and after . . .”
“I went a little nuts. You were there, and I . . . you know?”
“You seduced me?” He was trying not to smile.
“Yes, I did.” She couldn’t understand why he was having so much trouble comprehending what she was telling him. Had he already forgotten that night?
“I made the first move. I jumped your bones.”
“You’re telling me you had a lot to deal with, and you went crazy?”
Hadn’t she just said as much? “Yes.”
He wasn’t smiling now. “Guess I was damned lucky I’m the one who showed up at your door with the pizza. Tell me something. If Nick had knocked on your door, would you have jumped his bones?”
She shook her head. “No, of course not. He’s married. You’re not.”
His expression didn’t leave her guessing. He didn’t like what she was telling him. Tough, she thought. At least she was being honest.
“What happened was a mistake,” she continued, ignoring his frown. “I shouldn’t have . . .”
“Jumped my bones?”
She nodded. “That’s right.”
“I thought it was pretty great. Didn’t you?”
“Do you need a testimonial?” She was actually trying to lighten the mood with her question because he was frowning so intently, and she was surprised when he nodded.
“Yes, I guess I do.”
“It was wonderful, but . . .”
“Now you regret it?”
“Dylan, try to understand. I shouldn’t have come on to you the way I did. You’re my best friend’s brother. I’m going to be going back and forth to Boston quite a lot, and I don’t want it to be awkward when I see you again.”
“So what was your game plan?”
She pushed against his chest, hoping to get him to move back, but he wouldn’t budge. “Answer me,” he demanded.
“I had hoped that I could come home and . . .”
“Pretend it never happened?”
She smiled and looked relieved that he finally understood.
“You don’t do this a lot, do you?” he asked.
“Hit on men and take them to my bed? No, I don’t. I’m not very with it, am I? And you on the other hand probably can’t remember the number of women you’ve slept with. That’s why I thought you’d be . . . safe. You know—no promises, no regrets.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“I’ve upset you.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“I’m just trying to get this straight. It’s a little surprising, that’s all.”
“You thought that spending the night together and having passionate sex wouldn’t mean anything to me?” She opened her mouth to protest, but he shook his head. “As I was saying, you chose me, used me, and now you want me to move on without . . .”
“Any guilt or worries.”
He stepped back, smiled, and then laughed.
“Why are you so happy?” she asked.
“Pickle, you’re a dream come true.”
The letter arrived by special messenger at ten o’clock that evening. Everyone heard the doorbell ring, though they were each in different areas of the house.
Isabel was upstairs packing; Kiera was in the kitchen folding laundry, and Kate had spread the papers from the CPA firm on the coffee table to search for a copy of the loan agreement. Dylan had decided to do a home security check and was moving from room to room inspecting the doors and windows.
“I’ve got it,” Isabel shouted from the upstairs landing.
“No, you don’t,” Dylan replied in a no-nonsense tone of voice as he came from the back of the house. He went outside and pulled the door closed behind him. Isabel watched from the side window.
“Who’s at the door?” Kate asked.
“Some man with an envelope. Dylan just made him show him his driver’s license. That’s kind of odd, isn’t it?”
“It’s late,” Kate offered as an excuse.
“I think he’s scared of Dylan. If you could see his face . . .” She jumped back so Dylan wouldn’t know she’d been watching when he opened the door.
“One of you needs to sign for this.”
“Who would send something this late at night?” Isabel asked as Kate signed the form.
The envelope was marked URGENT. That can’t be good, Kate thought. She looked at the return address and wanted to groan. The envelope had come from a law firm, and that definitely couldn’t be good.
“Who’s it from?” Isabel asked.
“Smith and Wesson.”
“The gun company?”
“The law firm.”
Concerned that the letter was delivering more financial bad news, Isabel snatched the envelope out of Kate’s hand so that Dylan wouldn’t see it. “Why don’t we let Kiera open this,” she said as she quickly headed to the kitchen.
Kate didn’t follow her. If it was another unpleasant surprise, she didn’t want to be the one to break it to the others this time. She returned to her work in the living room. So far, she hadn’t found the loan agreement, nor had she found a ledger summarizing the account since Tucker Simmons, the CPA, had taken it over. She was just about to go through the stacks once again when Kiera interrupted her.
“Kate, you’ve got to read this.” She held up the letter. Her face was flushed.
Isabel followed close behind. “It’s not about the loan, is it?”
“No, no. This is from an attorney in Savannah representing Compton Thomas MacKenna.”
Isabel was trying to read the letter, but Kiera kept waving it around.
“Who’s Compton Thomas MacKenna?” Isabel asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe he was our father’s father or maybe an uncle. He could even be a cousin.”
Kiera stepped over a file box and sat down next to Kate. Isabel dropped down on her other side.
“Either read it to me or let me read it,” Isabel said. “The suspense is killing me.”
Kiera handed her the letter. She read it out loud and then said, “Isn’t this exciting? I wonder what this Compton Thomas MacKenna wants.”
“It appears he wants us to come to Savannah. It says he requests our presence,” Kiera answered.
“I’m not going,” Kate said.
“What do you mean you’re not going? Shouldn’t we at least think about it?” Isabel asked.
An argument ensued, and Dylan walked right into the middle of it. “Kate, the back door—”
“I mean I’m not going,” Kate said. “You two can do whatever you want, but I don’t want to have anything to do with those people. Our father’s family disowned him when he married Mother, and I have no interest in meeting any of them now.”
Isabel was becoming more and more frustrated. “But one of us has to go, and it should be you, Kate. Maybe this man wants to beg our forgiveness. He said the matter was of the utmost importance. It must be, because he wants us there tomorrow afternoon.”
“We’re supposed to drop everything and drive to Savannah with absolutely no notice? I don’t think so. I’m not going.”
“Going where?” Dylan asked.
No one answered him. The sisters were all talking at the same time. It was loud and chaotic, and very much like the home he grew up in, which was probably why he felt so comfortable. He leaned against the door frame, folded his arms, and simply waited for them to finish. Then he was going to give them hell for not locking their doors. Not only was the back door unlocked, but also the side door and the outside door leading to the garage. Damn, he thought, they ought to just put a sign out on the lawn, VICTIMS INSIDE.
Oh, yes, they were all going to catch hell no matter how long he had to stand there and wait.
Kiera yawned loudly. “I can’t go,” she said. “Isabel and I can’t take the time. We should have left here yesterday.”
“But we stayed because of you. You just had to go and get yourself blown up again,” Isabel said.
“Are you kidding me? I did not . . .”
Isabel looked at Kiera. “Couldn’t you drop me off at the dorm and backtrack to—”
She stopped when Kiera shook her head. “I don’t have the time. I have to get back. As it is, when we get to Winthrop, I’ll have only enough time to help you find your room and unload the car. Once I get back to my apartment, I’ll be working twenty-four-seven.”
“Do you see, Kate? You’re the only one of us who can go.”
“I’m not going,” she repeated for what she thought had to be the tenth time.
“You’re so stubborn,” Isabel muttered. She nudged Kiera’s foot as she walked past and said, “Make her go.”
Kiera laughed. “How do you suppose I could do that?”
Isabel noticed Dylan in the doorway and turned to him. “How about you? I’ll bet you could make her go.”
“No, he could not,” Kate said emphatically.
“Go where?” Dylan asked once again.
Isabel realized that Dylan didn’t know what they were talking about and hastened to tell him what the letter said and to catch him up on their family history. “We’ve never met any of our father’s side of the family,” she said. “And this is a wonderful opportunity to find out about them, which is why Kate has to go. We don’t even know how many uncles and aunts and cousins there are.”
“Why would I want to have anything to do with any of them? Not one relative even came to Dad’s or Mom’s funeral,” Kate argued.
“Sorry, Isabel, but I’m in Kate’s corner. If she doesn’t want to go, then she shouldn’t go,” Kiera said. “Except—”
Isabel interrupted. “This man . . . this Compton MacKenna . . . maybe he wants to give us something that belonged to our father. If you don’t go, we may never know what he wants to talk to us about.”
Kate ignored Isabel. “Except what?” she asked Kiera.
“None of them wanted anything to do with us . . . until now. Wouldn’t you like to know why? Besides . . . this would be a great opportunity to get some medical history. Certain diseases run in families,” she pointed out. “Don’t look at me that way. There could be heart disease and all sorts of genetic problems we’re unaware of.”
“How about I take one of those forms they make you fill out when you’re a new patient in a doctor’s office? Or maybe you could make up a list of questions for me to ask them. I could even check their teeth and report back if you want me to.”
“I’m serious, Kate. We don’t have any medical knowledge about our father’s side of the family. It would be good to know something, but if you don’t want to go, then don’t.”
Isabel was so frustrated with her sisters she threw her hands up and started to walk out of the room. Dylan stopped her.
“Go sit,” he said. “I want to talk to you.” He added, “Especially you.”
“Please think about it, Kate. This could fill in so many holes and answer so many questions about our family,” Kiera reasoned.
Kate let out an acquiescent sigh. “Oh, all right, I’ll go.”
“Good. That’s settled then,” Kiera said. “I’m going to bed.”