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Authors: Donna Kauffman

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BOOK: Bad Boys In Kilts
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“No one is asking you. And you can forget I ever mentioned anything. If you want to go on standing there and watching from the sidelines while that Yank snatches what you want right directly from under your nose, without even so much as making an effort after it, well, then I suppose you deserve the heartache you claim to be havin’. I’ll leave you to explain in your prayers to your sainted mum, why you’re content to let her see her one and only not so much as lift a finger to go after what she wants.”
“Don’t play Mum into this to distract me from my topic,” Kat said, partly to tweak him and partly because his words now were having a far bigger impact on her than his loving defense of her had earlier.
“I’ll stoop to whatever means necessary,” her father said, wholly unrepentant. “How do you think we Hendersons come to still be here, three hundred and a quarter years after first setting foot into Glenbuie?”
Kat mouthed the words with him, so often had she heard them, then leaned over and bussed him loudly on his still-red cheek. “I’m going to head down to Plough’s for some sandwiches. You want your regular?”
“When don’t I?” he said gruffly, but then he tugged at one of her braided ponytails. “Bring me an extra orange cream while you’re at it.”
“When haven’t I?” she shot back, glad they were back on even footing once again. She loved her father dearly, didn’t know what she’d do without him, but he knew her all too well. And she knew she’d chew over his comments far longer than she’d chew on one of Plough’s hard rolls. Which was saying something.
She went into the small washroom in the back and scrubbed at her hands, her thoughts already running back over their conversation as she let herself out of the side door of their corner shop a moment later ... only to bang directly into the subject of that conversation himself.
Chapter 2
B
rodie grabbed Kat by her shoulders to keep them both from going down on the cobblestones. “Have to love a woman on a mission,” he told her with a laugh, as she tugged free from his grasp.
“Aye. Going to Plough’s.”
He stepped aside and waved his arm in a courtly fashion. “Never stand between a woman and food, I always say.”
“And you always say the sweetest things,” she retorted, batting her eyelashes in a cynical fashion before pushing past him.
She took two strides before he snagged one of her braids and tugged on it, making her turn back. “What’s wrong with you? A little engine trouble?”
She glared at him before flipping the braid over her shoulder, pointedly out of his reach. “You might say that.”
Now he frowned. Had he missed something here? “Am I in trouble? You’re not still fashed because Pitts beat you at darts the other night? Everyone has an off night—I told you that. And I know he’s been a bit of a sod, gloatin’ as he does. But I still say if you’d just listened to me, and balanced the weight further back on the—”
She shrugged out of his grasp. “It was a game. I’m over it. Besides, we both know I can get back what’s mine the next time he gets paid. Now, if you don’t mind—”
She went to push past him, and again he tugged her back, knowing it would just rile her further and fine with that. Seeing as he had no idea what he’d done to earn her ire in the first place, he was willing to risk a little wrath to find out what was going on.
She glared straight through him as she blew the hair off her forehead with a little huff. Most women staring down thirty would look silly in braids, he found himself thinking. Not Kat. They looked as normal on her as did the grease-stained dungarees she wore. He couldn’t remember a time when they hadn’t, and he’d known her since they were both six years old and in primary school together.
Might be it was the freckles sprinkled across her nose, the very same ones that had been there more than two decades ago. Or that fringe of blond wisps across her forehead that was forever needing trimmed, always tickling her eyebrows and making her chuff them away. Always defiant, his Kat. It was her never-say-die attitude that had drawn them together that long-ago fall day when they’d partnered up in Miss McKee’s P1 class, knowing they’d met a like soul from the moment they spied the mischievous twinkle in each other’s eyes.
But this chuff, while definitely defiant, seemed a bit different. It was a loaded chuff if ever he’d heard one. And he’d heard one or two in his day.
“I do mind,” he said mildly. “I mind that you’re snarling at me like a rabid fox, and I’ve yet to discover my crime. Don’t I deserve to at least know what I’ve done to put you in such high dander?”
She cocked her head. “You’re in the doghouse with at least three-quarters of the women in your acquaintance at any given moment in time, and you seem to suffer through that without much remorse. Why should one more or less matter to you?”
Brodie frowned. He knew Kat Henderson better than he knew pretty much anyone, save his own brothers. Sure, the two of them bickered on occasion, but there was always an affectionate edge. Today she was all prickly female and there didn’t seem to be anything affectionate or familial about it. On someone else, he’d blame the monthlies, but not on Kat. She was too ornery to put up with something as lowering and generic as
PM
S.
“Alastair doing okay?” It was the only other thing he could think of that would put her in this kind of mood. He’d only just walked past the open bay door to their motor repair shop and had seen the old man’s legs sticking out from under Hinky’s ancient Cooper, heard him cursing up a storm. All perfectly normal, or so he’d thought. “You two argue about something?”
She planted her hands on her hips, eyes narrowed. “What makes you think that? He’s been nothing but wonderful to me.”
Brodie realized he’d somehow managed to cross into that netherworld of a woman’s logic in which he had no prayer of exiting unscathed. Better to cut his losses now. It was a small village. If it was anything important, he’d hear about it at the pub over ales. Or Kat would eventually tell him herself. They weren’t cut out to keep secrets from each other. Not important ones, anyway.
He lifted his hands, backed up a step. “Fine, fine. Sorry I asked. Ye seemed a wee bit on edge and I was only wantin’ to help out if I could.”
“Because that’s you, Brodie, helpful to a fault.” She jerked her chin toward the opposite corner of the town square. “Is that what you were doing in Maude’s earlier? Helping out?”
Now he was frowning. “What in the world are you talking about?”
“I don’t see any packages in your hands, so I’m supposing you weren’t in there shopping. Or maybe you were, but it wasn’t the kind of purchase that gets rung up at the register, if you catch my meaning.”
Now he cocked his head. She did look a little pale. Save the twin spots of heat on her cheeks. “How long has it been since you’ve eaten? Did you skip breakfast again?”
She threw up her hands. “Fine. Dodge the question.”
He hadn’t even heard a question.
“I don’t have time to stand here playing silly games,” she went on. “Games are supposed to involve darts or a pool cue. Life, on the other hand, is serious business, Brodie. You can’t just play at it.”
“At the risk of angering you further, I respectfully say I have no idea what you’re talking about. I went to Maude’s because Daisy stopped by the pub when I was out yesterday, looking for me.”

Daisy
is it now? And I bet she did,” Kat muttered.
“Huh?” Brodie shook his head. “Did something happen between you two? You want to fill me in? Because I have no idea—”
“This isn’t about what’s going on between the Yank and
me
,” she retorted, giving him a pointed look that only perplexed him further.
Brodie’s patience finally grew thin. Women. He’d never been one to lump Kat Henderson into that confusing and oftentimes frustrating category. Not that she wasn’t a woman, but she was different. A straight shooter who told it like it was and didn’t mess with his head on a regular basis. He could always count on Kat. He always knew where he stood with her.
Except for right now.
At the moment, where he stood appeared to be atop a very high cliff. And he was much closer to the crumbling edge than he’d like to be. All he wanted to know was how the hell he’d gotten there in the first place. He planted his hands on his hips. “Why don’t you tell me what is going on, then? I’d at least like to know what I’ve done to piss off her royal highness here before she lops off my head.”
“Men,” Kat fumed. “Everything has to be a game with you. A contest. With rules. And some kind of scoring system. And a clear winner in the end. So fine.”
She surprised him then by smiling. And it was something to behold, but not for a good reason. It was almost ... feral. She moved closer and he had to fight the urge to retreat a step.
“Let’s say, then, that this is like a rousing good game of darts.” She poked him in the chest, right in the heart.
“This what? What this?” He was completely flummoxed. Not that it mattered, apparently, as she went right on without so much as pausing.
“The rules of play are, she who hits the bull’s-eye and sticks there for good wins the prize.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her what that prize might be, but at the moment, he honestly wasn’t sure he wanted to know. There was something ... different in the way she was looking at him now. As if she hadn’t eaten in a very long time—which he still suspected might be the problem here—and he was a perfect steak. It just didn’t make any sense.
“And just like in darts, there can only be one clear winner.”
“Kat, I have no earthly idea what you’re referring to. Is this still about Pitts and the dart game?”
She shook her head. “Don’t be daft. I have no interest in Pitts other than taking his money. My money, as it were. I’m talking about the game of life. And I’m finally realizing that I can’t win if I don’t play. So I’m in.” She poked him in the chest. “And you know me, Brodie, when I enter a contest, I play to win. Take no prisoners.”
Come to think of it, she did look a bit on the bloodthirsty side at that moment. Brodie was torn between laughing off this whole strange mood of hers ... and covering his bits and pieces. Ultimately, there were times when retreat was the better part of valor, and he was beginning to suspect now was one of them. “Fine, fine. Pretend I never asked.”
“Oh, no. I’m all done pretending.” She patted the spot she’d poked a moment ago, her smile still a bit on the edgy side. “So there you have it,” she announced, sounding both relieved and, if he wasn’t mistaken, nervous. “I’ve gone and put it out there.”
Nervous
didn’t apply to the Kat he knew. Unless she was trying to bank a corner shot to sink a double against a tourist who’d proven to be a bit more on his game than he’d let on, Kat Henderson rarely displayed nerves of any kind. Fearless she was. Around these parts, when it came to darts or billiards, she was the shark in the pond.
“You’ve been put on notice, Brodie Chisholm.”
He lifted his hands in surrender. “I have no doubt. Take whatever you want.”
“If it were only that simple,” she said with a long-suffering sigh, then pushed past him. This time she was fleet of foot and managed to sidestep his last-second grab. He thought about going after her, but somehow he doubted the real meaning behind her odd behavior would be further illuminated at this point. However, she had left him standing on the corner, literally scratching his head, purely puzzled by the whole of their conversation. And if there was one thing that provoked him, it was a good puzzle.
Then there came a round of metal clanking against metal, followed by another round of very creative swearing. Brodie smiled and walked back around the corner toward the repair-shop door. Something was up with Kat, and considering mention had been made of no prisoners being taken and the like, perhaps it might be best to be forearmed if possible. There was only one man on earth who knew Kat better than he did. Maybe he knew what in the hell had gotten into her.
“Good afternoon, Alastair,” Brodie called out as he approached.
The old man’s legs jutted out from under Hinky’s old Mini. “Not sure what’s good about it,” he grumbled, grunting as more metal clanged about, the sound ringing through the small garage and echoing back again. “But I suppose it’s better than not having another afternoon a’tall.” He grunted some more. “Seeing as this one is like to be my last, as I’m about certain this bloody transmission is going to kill me before I manage to wrangle it into—” Another ringing blow, then, “Bloody hell!” Alastair shoved the trolley out from under the car, holding one hand in the other. “Teach me to taunt the fates, that will.”
Brodie was already searching for a clean rag even before he spied the blood oozing rapidly between the fingers Alastair had clenched around his wounded palm. Brodie dragged the wicker wash basket out from under the tool rack and fished out what appeared to be something clean—clean enough, anyway—and tossed it to Alastair. “Where’s your first-aid kit?”
“Just hand me some glue and some tape—I’ll be fine enough.”
The blood had already soaked through the rag. “So you’re sayin’ you don’t have a kit? I thought Kat had harangued you about that ages ago. She sees this and there will be hell to pay from now till all—”
Alastair scrambled up. “Now, now, no crazy talk like that.” He wobbled a little, having stood up too fast.
Brodie immediately slung an arm around his shoulders, taking the weight of the older man against him. Seeing as, at a few inches over six feet, he had almost a full foot on the man, stout of build though he might be, it wasn’t much of a burden. “Let’s get you over to the washbasin and see what we see.”
“Hello?” came the sound of a lilting female voice from the open bay door behind them. Even though she’d only spoken one word, he had no doubt who it was. There was only one American in town with a voice like that.
“Hullo, Daisy. Just a bit of first aid going on here.”
“Bloody hell,” Alastair muttered. “This is all I need. Kat’ll be back any moment.” He shifted his weight out from under Brodie’s supporting arm and stepped away. “Why don’t you escort Miss MacDonnell wherever it is she needs to go. I’ll take care of this. Hardly more than a scratch.”
Brodie waved Daisy back. “Just a moment.”
“Are you sure you don’t need some help? My mother was a nurse. I picked up a few things growing up. Maybe I can help. Or go after someone for you? Dr. Frampton, maybe? I think I just saw him heading to your pub for lunch, but perhaps—”
“I’ll be fine,” Alastair called out. “Thanks anyway.”
If he’d been striving for civil, Brodie thought, he’d missed it by a stone’s throw or two. And he’d never known Alastair to be anything but friendly. Probably the pain. The cut must be even worse than it already looked to be. “Maybe we should get Frampton over here.”
“For the love of all that’s holy,” he hissed, “get her out of here before Kat comes back, will ye? I’ve trouble enough on my hands today without adding a catfight to the mix.”
BOOK: Bad Boys In Kilts
6.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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