by Dorien Kelly
A girl could cry for only so long, and it seemed that Kira’s personal limit was until the radio began to blare an old disco song about tough girls surviving. Even the most miserable, sniveling bout of exhausted self-pity couldn’t survive the feel-good power of Gloria Gaynor.
Kira ignored the sharp stinging of her skinned knees and elbows--victims of the fact that she couldn’t climb trees and negotiate roofs quite as well as she had at age fifteen. She slicked back her hair and joined in for the song’s last chorus. Then, after giving herself one last scrub with her sister-in-law Hallie’s marvelous lavender scented soap, she turned off the tub’s taps.
She dried her hair with a fluffy white towel after wrapping another around her body. Kira sighed at the soft comfort.
“Egyptian organic cotton...nothing better,” she said.
And she should know, since she’d sent Steve and Hallie a dozen of these buggers as a wedding gift. That she’d done it on her dad’s store account no longer sat very well. She shook off the guilt twinge. If something as simple as a mooched wedding gift was making her feel bad, she’d be flogging herself on Sandy Bend’s village green before her little visit was over.
Now that she was clean enough that she could tolerate being in her own skin, food was the next order of business. Her stomach’s grumbling had risen to an angry growl. She wasn’t sure what she’d find in the kitchen, but unless Hallie’s tastes had changed, Kira knew that survival was a good bet.
Mouth watering, she tightened her towel and made a beeline downstairs. She’d just crossed the hallway past the living room when a male voice said, “All cried out, huh?”
Kira screeched. The sound carried all the shrill terror of an ingénue in her first slasher film. No faceless bad guy approached, though. That might have been preferable as she had six-feet-four worth of Mitch Brewer ambling her way. At the sight, her intellect turned tail, leaving only instinct to do battle.
“But you’re not all screamed out, I guess,” he added.
Fight or flight response had kicked in, and Kira was coming down on the side of fight. “Are you out of your mind, creeping around and scaring me to death? I should call the police on you.” Which all sounded very good...until she realized that a man in blue already stood in front of her, and yes, he was in uniform. “Okay, forget the police, but you’d better give me a really good reason for being here.”
He smiled, and as always she was a sucker for it. What female wouldn’t be when looking up at dark skin, white teeth and matching dimples? Pity all that sex appeal was wasted on Mitch. “Funny, your highness,” he said. “I was going to ask you for the exact same thing.”
The real estate business had given Kira a certain relaxed glibness, but any talent she’d ever had at bald lies was damn rusty. Still, she gave it a try. “Not that you need to know, but Steve and Hallie said I could use the house while they’re gone.”
Mitch settled the knuckles of one hand against his lean hip and scratched at the back of his neck with the other hand. Kira could have recited in alphabetic order the names of her favorite designers--and there were many--in the interval before he spoke.
“Huh. Really?” he asked.
The Mitch Brewer she recalled was as sharp as they came, and Kira was in no mood for his clueless country cop gambit.
“Yes, they really said that.”
“Interesting. How about the use of Hallie’s clothes? Any offers there?”
She frowned, trying to get a sense of where he was heading, since Hallie was inches taller and probably still a clothing size smaller. “Why?”
“You’re a little underdressed,” he said, gesturing her way with a casual flick of his hand. “Now, don’t get me wrong, highness. I don’t mind at all, but I thought you might.”
Kira’s hands tightened over plush terrycloth. She glanced down in a last futile hope that he was jerking with her. But the nearly naked truth remained: She was wearing one lovely and expensive towel.
She looked back at Mitch. His blue-eyed gaze traveled a leisurely route from her head to the tips of her toes and then up again. She knew she should be angry, but more than anything she was aware.
Aware of the blood rushing just beneath skin growing more sensitive by the second.
Aware of the appreciation...and something more dangerous...in Mitch’s expression.
Then that damned smile of his returned, playing slowly across his face. Something about it--as though he held a secret that he had no intention of sharing--really frosted her.
“I’m going upstairs,” she said, letting a chill settle in her voice. “Unless you’re not through staring.”
“Oh, I’ve seen enough.”
Kira turned heel. “Then you can let yourself out.”
She was to the lower landing when she heard him say, “Actually, I’ll be right here when you’re done dressing, highness. We’re going to give Hallie and Steve a call.”
Kira stopped, shaken at the thought.
A call to Steve risked too much: her safety, her pride, and most of all, the potential deep pain of having her brother pitch her to the street. Considering all the grief she’d thrown his way, she could hardly blame him if she did.
She figured she had one shot left. She could derail Mitch Brewer. For the hardwired-to-flirt Kira of summers past, that would have been a no-brainer. After drawing a steadying breath, she turned to face the guy who’d always seen the worst of her and offered up some more.
“How about if I just take off this towel, instead?”
BACK TO TOP
BACK TO THE BOOKSHELF