Against the Heart(7)

By: Kat Martin

"Cleaning won’t be enough," she said, appraising the dreary room. "It needs to be painted." The whole house did, but she wasn’t sure she should say that.

He nodded. "It’s pretty bad. After you get things put away, I’ll get in here and get it done."

"You’re going to paint it yourself?"

He grinned. "What? You don’t think I can handle the job?"

Her gaze cut to the powerful biceps stretching the sleeves of his dark blue T-shirt. She had a hunch Ian Brodie could handle just about anything.

"I guess I just figured you could pay someone to do it."

"I enjoy the exercise."

Her gaze ran over his impressive chest and wide shoulders. "Where are the cleaning supplies?" she asked, forcing her gaze away.

"Some of the stuff is under the kitchen sink, the rest is in the mudroom." He showed her where to find everything, then they returned to the kitchen.

"Now that you’ve been here and seen what you’re facing, you still want the job?"

It wasn’t what she’d planned, but it would get them moving again. "Yes."

"All right, then, why don’t you go ahead and get started? I’ll be outside working in the barn if you need anything."

As he headed for the back door, she turned to the gigantic stack of dishes on the kitchen sink. She was supposed to cook supper, but no way was she handling food in a kitchen this dirty.

Fortunately, she’d bought a couple more pre-packaged sandwiches at the grocery store, one for Lily, one for herself. She tipped her head back and listened, heard cartoons playing on the upstairs TV.

Lily had spent a lot of time with babysitters or in day care while Meri was at work. The little girl had a vivid imagination and with only a few toys or a coloring book could entertain herself for hours. Meri took the sandwich and a glass of milk up stairs, went and got the toys out of the car and took them up, then came down and set to work.

She had a job to do and it was a big one.

For the first time, she realized she hadn’t even asked how much Ian Brodie planned to pay.


Daniel Brodie started switching the channels on the TV in the den. Dammit, he hadn’t had this much commotion in his house in years. And he didn’t like it.

This was his home. He hadn’t asked these people to come here and bother him. He hadn’t asked his son to come home.

He clicked the tuner, put on one of the ESPN channels and started watching an old football game. The Seattle Seahawks had lost to the Atlanta Falcons but he didn’t mind watching it a second time. It had been one helluva game. And he didn’t have anything better to do.

"Whatcha watching?"

He jolted at the sound of the small voice right next to his recliner, turned to see the little girl with the dark hair and big blue eyes standing there staring up at him.

"Go away. I’m trying to watch the game."

"My mama watches football sometimes. Who’s playing?"

He frowned. What the hell? "Seattle and Atlanta. Now go away."

"I watch, too, sometimes. Can I watch with you?"

He didn’t know what to say. She was a kid. No way would she sit still during the game.

"Can I?"

He looked into those big blue eyes. "I don’t care what you do."

"I need a chair."

She needs a chair, he silently mimicked, but kept the sarcastic words to himself. He remembered his son when he was that age. Kids always needed something. He glanced around the room. There were a couple of folding chairs around the card table in the corner. Some of the guys used to come over and play poker but that was a long time ago.

When she didn’t just leave, he grumbled something under his breath a kid shouldn’t hear, sat up in the recliner, and roused himself enough to get to his feet. He looked at the folding chairs, but they were hard as hell to sit on. He turned and caught the arms of the overstuffed chair, dragged it over next to the recliner so she could see the TV.

"You wanna sit? Sit."

She wouldn’t stay long. Kids her age didn’t watch football. He’d humor her until she got tired of sitting there and left him alone. As long as she kept her mouth shut and didn’t bother him, she could stay.