Against the Heart(6)

By: Kat Martin

He just grunted. "I thought that’s why you were here. You said you were going to get the place cleaned up."

"I am. But there’s plenty to do outside. Meri’s going to take care of the inside."

Another grunt. "Suit yourself. Long as she doesn’t come bothering me in here."

Ian turned in her direction. "Meri, this is Daniel."

"Hello, Mr. Brodie." The room was so dim it was hard to see exactly what he looked like. Tall, she figured, since his son was. Silver hair reflected in the light of the TV screen.

He made no reply.

"Say hello to Mr. Brodie, Lily."

She looked up at him, her eyes big and solemn. "Hello, Mr. Brodie."

He pushed the handle down on the recliner and sat up in the chair. "She’s got a kid? How’s she going to clean while she’s tending a kid?"

"We’ll let her worry about that," Ian said, heading for the door. "Come on, Meri. I’ll give you a tour."

Thankfully, Ian left the den, led them into the hall and up the stairs.

"The room I’m using is relatively clean and there’s a TV in there. Lily could watch cartoons while I show you around."

"That’d be great."

Ian led her into one of the bedrooms. Football wallpaper covered the walls, and there was a full-size bed. It looked like the room of a high school student. Gold athletic trophies: swimming, tennis, and football, lined the bookshelf. A canvas duffle sprawled on top of the old-fashioned quilt on the mattress.

"I just got here," Ian said. "I have hadn’t had time to unpack."

"This was your room?"

"Yeah. Mom never changed it after I left."

Curiosity moved through her. You could tell a lot about a person by the space he lived in. She wondered what the room would tell her about Ian Brodie.

He walked over and turned on a small TV, set it on the Disney channel. Meri lifted Lily up on the bed in front of the screen.

"You stay here. Mama’s going to work for a while. I’ll make you a sandwich and bring it up, okay?"

Lily nodded, her eyes fixed on the cartoon characters on the screen. "Okay." Besides watching cartoons, her favorite pastime was coloring, or playing with her Kermit the Frog hand puppet. Meri made a mental note to get the toys out of the car.

"I’ll show you the rest," Ian said. "Then I’ll show you where the cleaning stuff is kept. It’s bound to be there, since Dad clearly hasn’t used it."

She smiled and followed him out of the bedroom. A quick tour of the upstairs included a total of three bedrooms and two baths. Except for the master, where Daniel Brodie slept, the upstairs wasn’t too dirty. She figured not too many people had stayed there over the years so the doors and windows had remained closed. Still, the rooms were musty, dusty, and the linens all needed washing.

The living room was dank and cluttered, but had seen little use. She paused in the dining room to admire the lovely old mahogany dining room table with its eight, high-backed tapestry-upholstered chairs, and the beautiful matching sideboard with a silver tea service on top.

"This was my mother’s favorite room," Ian said softly, reaching out to run a finger through the dust on top of the table, exposing the mirror-like sheen underneath.

"It’s beautiful." She looked up at him. "It will be again, Ian. I promise you."

He smiled. It wasn’t one of the wary smiles he’d been giving her. It was a smile that lit up his face and made her breath catch at how amazingly handsome he was.

"My mother would like that," he said.

Meri just nodded. Her mouth felt dry. Her heart was hammering. It had been years since a man had attracted her. Not since before Lily was born. She had learned the hard way what could happen when you let your physical desires rule your head. The only good thing to come from that night with Joey was Lily. Meri would always be grateful for that.

She glanced away from Ian’s sexy smile. "Where’s the kitchen?"

"This way." He led her into a once-white room whose walls were now more a gray. White curtains trimmed with faded red hung at the windows and the white Formica counters where piled high with dirty dishes.