Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance) (9 page)

BOOK: Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance)
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“They had to stop me from doing CPR,” Brody said. The other
doctor, pulling him off, telling him it was too late. There was no hope. “I
just…I wanted him to live so bad, but it wasn’t enough. Not enough at all.”

Now her hand covered his, sympathetic, understanding. “Oh,
Brody, I’m so sorry.”

On the other side of the reservoir, Brody saw the gray flash of
the soldier’s T-shirt moving down the path. Guilt and regret settled hard and
bitter in Brody’s stomach. Did he want to see Kate living with that the rest of
her life?

He wasn’t here to assuage his own pain. He was here to help her
with hers.

“How did you…” she took a breath, let it out again, “how did
you get past that loss?”

“For a long time, I blamed myself,” Brody said, his mind
drifting back to those difficult days in med school. “For a while, I thought I
should do something else, something outside of medicine. I felt so damned
guilty, like you do.”

She nodded, mute.

“He was always joking, that patient of mine. It got so that I
even kidded him about walking the streets of Boston, told him to keep an eye
out. He thought that was the funniest damned thing he ever heard. It became a
running joke between us. He’d thank me for stitching him up and joke that he’d
be back for another appointment next week. I did the same thing you did, Kate, I
blamed myself. What if I didn’t joke with him? What if I’d lectured him about
being careful?” He tossed the remains of the leaf onto the ground and turned to
her. “For weeks, I was stuck, like you. Then I realized I wasn’t doing myself,
or his memory, any good.” His gaze swept over Kate’s delicate features. He
thought of all she had told him in the last few days, and of what Finn had said.
Do something proactive. That was what Brody had done all those years ago, and
what Kate needed to do now. “I ended up going down to city hall and petitioning
them for an audio crosswalk at the intersection where my patient was hit. The
kind that beeps, warns people with vision problems. It might have been too late
for him, but it wasn’t for the next person. Doing that helped me a lot. It made
me move forward.”

“That’s what I need to do.” She sighed. “Someday.”

Then he knew how he could help her. How he could get her out of
that self-imposed cement. Something bigger, better than baking cupcakes and
delivering desserts. “How do you feel about taking a trip to Weymouth this
afternoon?”

“Weymouth? Why?”

“Let’s go look at that location you were considering. See if
it’s good enough for another Nora’s Sweet Shop.”

“Oh, Brody, I can’t—”

“Can’t? Or won’t? I’ll be done with patients at three, and last
I checked, the sign on the door said you close at three. I’d say that’s a sign
we should go. Do something proactive, Kate, and maybe…” his hand covered hers,
“maybe then you can move forward again.”

She studied him for a second then a smile curved across her
face. “You’re not going to let me say no, are you?”

“Not on your life.”

“Okay. Meet me at the shop at three. I’ll give the realtor a
call this morning.”

He got to his feet, put out a hand and hauled her to her feet,
too. Now she stood close, so close, a strong breeze would have brought them
together. His thoughts swirled around the sweet temptation of Kate Spencer. Her
emerald eyes, her beautiful smile, her slender frame. And then to her lips,
parted slightly, as if begging him to kiss them. How he wanted to, and oh how he
shouldn’t. “Then it’s a date.”

* * *

A date.

Kate pondered those words all day while she worked. Joanne had
called and said she’d be tied up for a few more days with her daughter. “She’s
finding out a new baby is a lot more exhausting than she thought,” Joanne said,
“and my son-in-law couldn’t take any more time off from work to help her. Are
you sure you’re going to be okay without me?”

“I have temporary help,” Kate said. “You just enjoy that new
grandbaby.” She and Joanne chatted a bit more about the new baby, then Kate hung
up. She glanced at the clock, saw the hands slowly marking time until Brody
arrived.

Nerves fluttered in her stomach. Crazy. He might have used the
word
date,
but that didn’t mean he meant it. They
were going to look at a piece of real estate, for goodness’ sake, not go
dancing.

That word conjured up the memory of dancing with Brody, of
being in his strong, capable arms, pressed to his broad, muscled chest. He’d had
a sure step, a confident swing, and when she’d been in his arms, she’d felt—

Safe. Treasured.

Nope, nope, nope.
Her goal today
involved real estate, not potential husbands.

Still, a part of her really liked Brody. He’d told her not all
doctors were the same, and the more she got to know him, the more she wondered
if he was that one rare animal in the room. Could this man who volunteered in
needy areas, who’d taken the time to help a stressed out baker, could he be the
one for her? Or too good to be true?

The last thing she wanted to do was repeat her mother’s
mistakes and rush into a relationship that was doomed from the start, then spend
the rest of her life fighting to make it into something it could never be.
Better to be cautious, to find a quiet, gentle man. Not one who sent her heart
into overdrive.

Easier said than done.

Kate fussed with her hair. Checked her lipstick twice.
Rethought her choice of a skirt instead of jeans at least a dozen times. Ever
since she’d met Brody, her mind had been working against her resolve to business
only. First peppering her dreams with images of him, then flashing to his smile,
his eyes, at the oddest times. She was hooked, and hooked but good.

A little after one, the bell over the door rang, and Kate had
to force herself not to break out in a huge smile when Brody walked into the
shop. “You’re here early. I thought you said you wouldn’t be over until
three.”

“My one o’clock appointment canceled, and I had an hour until
the next one, so I thought I’d stop by and see how you were doing.”

Thoughtful. Sweet. Because he liked her? “It’s been a busy
day.”

“Too busy for lunch?” He held up a bag from a local sub
shop.

She snatched it out of his hands. “Bless you. I was about to
eat the fixtures.” She glanced up at him, trying to read the intent behind his
blue eyes. “You’re always taking care of me.”

“I’m trying to, Kate.” His gaze met hers and held.

“Well, thank you.” The intensity in his eyes rocked her, and
she turned on her heel, heading for the kitchen, rather than deal with the
simmering tension between them.

He followed her out back and sat across from her while she
ate.

She finished up the sandwich. “Thank you again. I don’t think
I’ve ever eaten that fast in my life. And one more healthy meal from Doctor
McKenna. This is becoming a habit.”

“All part of the service, ma’am.” He grinned. “Besides, it’ll
be on my bill.”

She laughed. “Well maybe I should charge you for cupcakes
consumed.”

“Who me?” He snatched one of the miniature ones she’d just
frosted, and popped it in his mouth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Show me the evidence.”

“I’ll do better than that.” She wagged a finger at him. “I’ll
make you work harder next time we’re in this kitchen.”

He glanced around the room, at the stacks of orders on the
counter, the tubs of supplies waiting by the mixer. “If you want, we can tackle
whatever is on your To Do list after we see that property today.”

“That would make for a really long day. Wouldn’t that interfere
with your plans?”

“Plans?”

A flush filled her cheeks. She got to her feet, and tossed her
trash into the bin. “Well, it’s Saturday and I didn’t want to assume you didn’t
have…”
Push the words out, Kate, you’ll never know unless
you ask,
“a date or anything.”

“I don’t have a date.” He came over to her, lowered the apron
to the counter. “Not tonight.”

“What about tomorrow night?” Who was this forward woman? Hadn’t
she vowed a thousand times not to get involved with a man like him? To be
cautious, look for someone who didn’t inspire her to run off to the nearest
bedroom? But a part of her wondered if Brody was different, if the risk in
falling for him would end in the kind of love story her grandparents had
enjoyed. And that part wanted to get that answer. Very, very badly.

“Not tomorrow night, either. I’m not dating anyone right now.”
He reached up a hand and captured the end of her ponytail, letting it slide
through his fingers. She inhaled the dark woodsy scent of his cologne. “In fact,
I don’t even have a date for my own brother’s wedding.”

“That’s too bad. Especially if there’s dancing.” A smile curved
across her face. “I bet Tabitha is free.”

“I’d much rather take someone closer to my own age. Someone who
could use a night off.” He twirled the end of her hair around his finger, his
blue eyes locked on hers. “Someone like you.”

Her heart hammered in her chest. Her pulse tripped. She
reminded herself—twice—to breathe. “Are you asking me on a real date, Brody
McKenna?”

“I am indeed.”

Now the smile she’d been trying to hold back did wing its way
across her face. Her heart sputtered, then soared. “Then I accept.”

“Good.” His hands took hers, and he pulled her to him. “You
know, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you all day. I would be talking
to a patient, and end up thinking about you. Or I’d be trying to write up my
notes, and think about you. I even called poor Mrs. Maguire Kate today instead
of Helen.”

“Because of my cupcakes?”

He traced a finger along her face, down her jaw, over her lips.
She breathed, and when her lips parted, his finger lingered on her lower lip.
Tempting. “Because of your smile. Because of your eyes. Because of the way you
make me hope and dream of things I…well, I hadn’t wanted before. You…you’re not
what I expected.”

Another odd comment. Brody McKenna seemed full of them. The man
had more dimensions than a layer cake. “What you expected?” She laughed. “It
seems my reputation has preceded me, if you had expectations.” She lifted her
jaw to his, sassy, teasing. “Have other people been talking about me and saying
I’m this boring old fuddy duddy who does nothing but work?”

“That’s not it.”

“Then what expectations did you have? Because you seem to have
a heck of a bead on everything about me. As if you knew me before you met
me.”

The humor dropped from his face, and he took a step back,
releasing her hands. He turned away, facing the wall where she had hung the
plaques and reviews of the shop. “I’m not…not who you think I am, Kate.”

“Not a doctor?” She grinned. “Don’t tell me you’re actually a
nurse.”

“No, no, it’s not that. It’s—”

A ding sounded from the oven. “Oh, the cupcakes are done. I
have to get them out of the oven or they’ll burn.” Kate pivoted to take the
trays of baked cupcakes out of the oven and set them on the racks to cool. “God,
what a busy day. Good thing you’re taking me to Weymouth this afternoon, or I’d
be liable to work until I passed out. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still
working on the prioritizing thing. Like learning to add a little fun into my day
and keep my eye on the bigger goal.”

“Which is?”

She placed her hands on the counter and glanced out the window
at the clear blue sky. “Continue the legacy my grandparents started, while
learning not to waste a second of my life on grief. Someone gave me some advice
about that today, and I’m still trying to take it in.” She gave Brody a watery
smile. “I’m working on it anyway.”

“Good.” Brody handed her another batch ready to go, then helped
her load liners and batter into the next set of cupcake pans.

“So, what’d you want to tell me?” she asked. “What did you mean
when you said you’re not who I think you are?”

He gave her that grin she was beginning to know as well as her
own. “Well, first, that I’m not a baker, not by any stretch.”

“That I noticed.” She sensed shadows lurking behind Brody’s
words, like secret passages that led to parts of himself he’d closed off. She
wanted to quiz him, wanted to press him, but the cupcakes were waiting to be
frosted, and the orders were piled up, and time was of the essence if she hoped
to get out of here on time. So Kate let it drop for now, intending to come back
to serious topics when they had more time.

Kate added a pink fondant flower to the top of one of the baked
treats. “I used to send care packages to Andrew’s unit overseas, and one time, I
sent him a whole batch of cookies with pink flowers on top, as a joke. He said
they were the best damned thing he and the guys ever ate, and asked me to send
more. So I did. Pink and blue and purple flowers. He said it was like a garden
exploded when he opened the box.” She laughed, then shook her head, as the laugh
turned to tears. “Oh, damn. See what I mean? I’m trying, but I’m not doing so
good at the last one. I miss him. God, do I miss him.”

Brody turned to her at the same time she turned to him. He
gathered her to his chest, and she let the tears fall. She’d promised herself
she’d never again rely on a man, never fall fast and hard, but Brody seemed
different. Like the kind of man she could trust. Lean into. Depend upon.

Then like a wave, the loss of her brother hit her all over
again. He was gone, and she’d never again see his smile or hear him tease her,
or look for treasures in the yard. He was gone…and she was here, without
him.

“Andrew was the strong one, you know? When our parents got
divorced, he was the one who told me it’d all be okay. He was the one who
dragged me down to the bakery day after day. He saved me.” She shook her head,
tears smearing into the cotton of his shirt. “I don’t know what I would have
done without him. And I don’t know what I’ll do without him now.”

BOOK: Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance)
3.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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