| Chapter One
She turned to the left, lined up her shot. Perfect. As the camera clicked she smiled. An observer might have thought she looked like a fairy. Her pixie like face, dreamy pale blue eyes, and fair skin gave her that appearance. But the blond hair she had pulled back into a jaunty ponytail and the wide, full mouth that smiled more often than not gave her an impish quality. She turned and focused in on two men on a bench through trees. She turned and focused in on two men on a bench through the trees. She cocked her head and studied, framing the picture in her mind. She brought her camera up and snapped. Then, because she appreciated the picture they made she snapped two more. Relatives, she thought, studying their striking good looks objectively. Maybe brothers, she decided. It would make a good picture when she had it developed, she knew. She appreciated the easy camaraderie she could see between the two as they laughed over something. The almost visible bond or link between them. They were a contrast. The first was tall and lean with dark features. The other was also tall and lean, but obviously more relaxed. He had easy going mannerisms and light features. Blond hair just a bit too long that curled, and a relaxed stance. They both had similar bone structure however. She snapped a handful of pictures, even though she had thought she was done with the pair, then turned to focus her attention on a new subject, not giving them another thought.
Kale Bowers laughed, then saw his brother’s eyes harden.
“What is it?” Kale asked, following his eyes. He too spotted the woman with the camera. Michael stood up.
“Leave it, Mike.” Kale said. Michael gave him a hard look then strolled off. Kale sighed.
When Melanie Hopkins glanced back at the bench she noticed the darker of the two men was gone. She liked the picture the blond man made by himself in contrast to the one the two men had made together. She focused in on her shot, zoomed a bit to get a better look at his face. Right before she could snap the picture a large hand clamped around her wrist and whirled her around. She let out a gasp of surprise.
Kate Hopkins rounded the corner, carefully holding the ice cream she had just bought. She stopped dead when she saw a man beside her sister grab Melanie’s wrist and spin her around. She let out a shout and ran forward.
“Get enough pictures?” Michael snapped out when he saw the shock on the reporter’s face. He pulled the camera out of her hand and tossed it to the ground in disgust. He heard a shout and looked up in time to see the fist coming. He ducked, keeping his hand clamped on the reporters arm. Before the second woman could take another swing Kale was there. He snagged the arm not holding ice cream.
“Let go of her!” Kate shouted, furious. She struggled to free her arm. Michael was oblivious to it as he stared at the woman whose wrist he still had. Not a reporter, he realized, Just a photographer. He stared at the woman, fascinated by her face.
“I thought she was a reporter.” Michael wasn’t sure why he turned and addressed the woman his brother held instead of the one in front of him.
“That’s no excuse to…” Kate trailed off when she saw his face. A face anyone could know. It had graced the covers of many a tabloid in the past year. She knew the story, and recognized instantly how tired he would be of cameras. How easy it would be to be bitter and assume too quickly. He had made newspapers too, in recent months, and she didn’t underestimate how powerful a person he was.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I understand.” Kate said, hoping to smooth over the situation. She hadn’t counted on Melanie.
“How dare you!” When her sister spoke Kate turned to her in surprise. Then she saw the camera on the ground. Oh God, they were in trouble now. Melanie ripped her arm free, then picked up her camera. Kate turned back to the blond man who still held her arm. She told herself she didn’t notice how gorgeous he was. Or, at least, that she didn’t care. Kate looked at her ice cream, contemplating smashing it in his face if he didn’t let go of her arm soon. As if he saw her intentions he plucked the ice cream out of her hand. He held both of Kate’s wrists easily in one hand as he grinned and took a bite out of her untouched ice cream. She growled, but Melanie set off before she could speak.
“I swear, if there is so much as a scratch on this camera-”
“Melanie, please, shut up.” Kate said. Melanie gave her sister a look of disbelief.
“He tossed my new camera to the ground like you would a piece of trash!” She raged. Melanie turned back to Michael as he watched her, bewitched.
“You’re going to be lucky if we don’t sue.” Melanie continued rashly.
“Nee.” Kate groaned, closing her eyes as her sister carefully went over every inch of her camera.
“If there’s so much as a scratch on this camera.” Melanie started.
“Dig the grave and push us in, Nee.” Kate muttered. She turned to Kale.
“Get your hands off of me.” she said with a sneer. Kale raked his eyes down her in his own lazy way.
“Honey, if my hands were on you, they wouldn’t be here.” he drawled, looking pointedly at her wrists. A threat? Or a promise? Kate assured herself she didn’t want to find out. She tried to look cool and haughty, but ended up tugging uselessly at her trapped wrists instead. Meanwhile, Melanie was still berating Michael as she carefully inspected her camera.
“Melanie, for God’s sake, please be quiet.” Kate snapped out.
“Kate!” Melanie demanded. “He tossed around my camera. My camera is sacred!” Finished with her inspection, Melanie looked up and finally got a good look at Kate’s face. She recognized the expression on it, it wasn’t the first time she’d seen it. Slowly, she turned to Michael, then turned back to look at Kate, who’s wrists were still held by the blond guy who had been on the bench.
“This is someone I should know, isn’t it?” Melanie asked slowly, with a sinking feeling. Kate gave a long-suffering sigh. Melanie gave Michael’s face an intense study with those pale eyes, then turned back to Kate.
“No clue.” she said.
“Michael Bowers.” Kate supplied. Melanie gave a shrug.
“Bowers Tools?” Kate tried. At Melanie’s blank look Kate rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“Geez, Nee. Just apologize.” Melanie looked pointedly at her camera, then sighed in defeat. She may have grown up in Brooklyn, but her parents had been southern, and she’d had southern manners grounded into her so that even when her precious camera had been endangered it would have gone against the grain not to be polite now. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened.
“I’m sorry.” Melanie said to Michael. “I don’t really keep up with current events.” She winced as she remembered snapping pictures of a woman who’s son had been murdered viciously, then learning who the woman was when she broke into hysteria and begged Melanie to just leave her alone. The despair in the woman‘s voice still haunted her.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened.” Nee added, riding on that memory. “Occupational hazard.”
“Not for most photographers.” Kate said dryly, but she softened the words with an affectionate smile. “Just oblivious ones like you.” Melanie shrugged, then caught sight of an adorable little girl playing out of the corner of her eye.
“Oh, that’s perfect.” Melanie said, rushing away.
“Remember to ask permission.” Kate yelled after her, feeling foolish standing there with her wrists being held by the Michael Bowers’ brother, while said brother steadily ate her ice cream. She turned back to Michael. “I’m sorry. Melanie isn’t intentionally rude, she’s usually very friendly, but the perfect picture will always be first priority for her. She‘s working on a series of prints of people. Her latest project.”
“No problem.” Michael murmured absently, staring bemusedly after Melanie. When Kate looked back at Kale her smile was replaced with a sneer.
She tried to jerk away, but Kale held her wrists fast, just on principle.
“I’ll see you, Cat.” He said, and again, Kate wondered, threat, or promise?
“My name’s Kate.” She snapped out, irritated with herself for being excited about the prospect of finding out. Kale gave her another long, lazy survey. That lithe, sleek body that just begged to be touched. Wavy, thick blond hair, with more wave then her sister’s straighter hair, fell loose to just past her shoulders. And those green, cat-like eyes. Oh, definitely a cat, Kale thought. He smiled, a slow, spreading smile.
“I know…Cat.” She narrowed her eyes. He let go of her wrists, then offered her her ice cream back. He’d already eaten half of it. She gave it, then him, a look of disgust and walked off after her sister. No, not walked. Kale corrected himself. She seemed to slink away, her movements fluid. Kale took one look at his brother’s face, threw back his head and laughed. He slung his arm around Michael’s shoulders companionably.
“We’re both sunk.” Kale chuckled cheerfully, rather pleased with the idea.
Melanie looked on as Kate quickly brushed makeup on with expert ease.
“So let me get this straight.” Melanie said. “He fired you because you’re the best accountant in the firm…that makes no sense!”
“Exactly!” Kate exclaimed, furious. “Kate, my dear,” she started, trying to copy Mr. Barnett’s deep, booming voice. “We at Barnett and Ryson just feel that you need a chance to spread your own wings. Start your own firm, take on a huge business account, do something new. Broaden your horizons. You’re a diamond in the rough and you need to get out there and move on to better things.” Kate broke off to return to her normal voice. “I swear to God, if he had used one ore cliché I was going to break his nose.”
“What did you say to all that crap?” Nee demanded. Kate grinned grimly.
“I clichéd him right back.”
“Oh, Kate. You didn’t use your line again.” Melanie groaned. Kate’s grin broadened.
“Isn’t it a hilarious coincidence that his name is Frank Lee too?”
“No way.” Nee said. Kate laughed.
“Okay, so I made that part up. But I really did say, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn what you call it, you’re firing me.’ Those were my exact words.”
“That’s so stupid…Look, Kate, are you sure we have to go to this party tonight? We could stay home and eat a gallon of ice cream and-”
“Nee! When the guy who owns the biggest tool company on the East Coast sends you a personalized invitation to his party, especially the day after you’ve attacked him-”
“He attacked me first.” Melanie muttered. Kate narrowed her eyes, then grinned.
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a-”
“Oh, shut up.” Nee said. Kate applied lipstick, then stood up.
“There, what do you think?” Nee looked at her watch.
“Five minutes. You can look like that in five minutes. God, I hate you. It took me an hour to do this.”
“Thanks Nee, but you look great too.” Kate told her. Melanie looked down at the simple blue halter dress she was wearing. It was simply cut, with a wide skirt that hung in folds. It was one of the many such dresses she had to wear to the weddings she shot.
“Kate, are you sure we have to-”
“Nee, you love parties.” Kate said.
“Yeah, but I’ve already humiliated myself in front of the host. Not that he didn’t start it, but still…”
“Oh,…so that’s what this is about.” Kate said with a smirk. Nee raised a brow.
“And you’re not wearing that slinky black dress because his brother’s going to be there?” That wiped the smirk off her face. Kate sniffed.
“I don’t even remember his name.”
“Kevin.” Melanie said.
“Kale.” Kate corrected automatically. When Nee snickered Kate sighed.
“This unemployment thing must really be getting to me if I fell for that one.” she joked. Melanie sobered instantly.
“It‘s not giving you financial trouble, is it? ” she asked.
“No, we’re fine. I’ve got enough money in the bank to live off for a while, and I can get another job easy. Mostly, it’s just my pride. I don’t understand why I got fired. And it doesn’t matter how Barnett put it, I got fired.”
“Well, hey. Let’s go to the party and see the brothers we’ve just about convinced ourselves we don’t want to see and maybe we can forget it for a while.”
Thirty minutes later Kate and Melanie arrived at Michael Bowers Manhattan loft, which was on the other side of the park. They’d driven from their own apartment across from Central Park. Michael’s place was crowded with people. Kate snagged two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one to Melanie.
“Oh, thanks.” Nee murmured absently as she surveyed the place. “Nice digs.”
“If you read the papers you’d know he was rich.” Kate said.
“If I read the papers I wouldn’t have met him and we wouldn’t be here.” They were both silent for a moment as they traded a look.
“Maybe I should read the paper.” Melanie said at the exact time as Kate. They laughed together.
“Hello.” Michael said. They both turned to see him standing behind them. Melanie flushed and wondered how much he’d heard. She got a good look at his face and decided probably all of it. But she didn’t mind so much if it was what had put that appealing gleam of laughter in his dark gray eyes. Kate unobtrusively slipped away until she was behind Michael.
Apologize. she mouthed over his shoulder. Melanie resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her sister. In any other circumstances she would have apologized herself to death already, but her camera was her prize possession.
“Look, I’m sorry again about yesterday. I wasn‘t some reporter trying to get your picture or anything, I do a lot of pictures of people. I guess you‘ve had a problem with paparazzi in the past.” Neatly avoiding her not-so-subtle probing Michael said,
“I would think that I should be apologizing to you.” Melanie had opened her mouth to say I agree when she thought better of it and snapped her mouth shut. She couldn’t help but laugh, Michael raised a brow.
“Care to share?”
“No, I think I’d better not.” she said with another laugh. Before Michael could reply Kate swooped down on them.
“What’s wrong?” Melanie asked, immediately catching the look in Kate’s eye.
“June’s here.” Kate said shortly, trying to recover from the sense of helpless fury over what she’d been told a moment before.
“June…” Melanie mused, trying to place her. Kate waited impatiently while Nee thought. She could have said June was currently the most wanted model in NYC. Kate could have said she’d been on Regis and Kelly that morning, or that she’d been on the news last night. And Nee still wouldn’t have known who she was. She’d methodically work through all files in that disordered brain of hers until she came up with a face and personality to match the name.
“June Weaver?” Michael asked. When Kate gave a short nod he turned to Melanie.
“You know, she just had that huge spread in that magazine-”
“Don’t bother.” Kate interrupted. “She won’t know. She doesn’t read magazines or tabloids or even the paper. She doesn’t even watch the news.”
“It’s depressing! And I don’t need to waste my time reading magazines about people I’ve never met.” Melanie defended herself. The problem was, Kate thought, she inevitably did end up meeting famous people. Particularly with the weddings she did. Those beautiful, pale eyes narrowed suddenly.
“June. Leggy, redhead, has a label that reads: Poisonous. Keep away from children and small animals.” Michael chuckled at the perfect, if unorthodox, description.
“She just told me that she spent the day with Barnett’s wife. She proceeded to tell me how sorry I was that the only reason he fired me was because Ryson told him either I left or he would.”
“Ryson’s the other partner in the firm?” Melanie asked.
“Why did he do that?” Kate cleared her throat before she answered.
“He wanted a date about a week ago, I said no. He was a bit…overly persuasive. I demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, how I felt. Apparently he was a bit more than miffed.”
“And you didn’t feel the need to tell me about this?” Melanie said dryly.
“Nope.” Kate knocked back the rest of her champagne.
“Kate, why don’t you tell Barnett the whole story?”
“He already chose Ryson. Evidently, Barnett felt he needed Ryson at the firm more than me.” Kate said, grabbing Nee’s half finished champagne.
“Yes, but if he knew the circumstances-”
“I won’t go off pleading for him to change his mind.” Kate snapped out.
“That’s just your pride talking.” Nee muttered.
“Yep.” Kate downed the rest of Melanie’s champagne, then snagged another glass from a passing tray. As she walked away she tossed the car keys over her shoulder.
“You’re my designated driver. I’m going to need one.” Nee caught the keys and watched her sister walk off. She turned back to Michael.
“I’d better follow her and keep an eye on her.” Michael held up a hand to stall her. He scanned the crowds in his loft. As if he’d known Michael was looking for him Kale came up immediately.
“Whatcha need, Mike?” He asked, sending Melanie a quick grin. Michael pulled him aside and Nee watched as the spoke for a moment. Michael walked back over.
“He’ll take care of her.” He said simply. It wasn’t that Melanie was someone who trusted blindly, but she followed her almost fool-proof instincts about people, and she trusted Kale. They both watched Kale weave through the crowds to find her sister.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Nee murmured. “That easy camaraderie, the friendship you get when you have a sibling that close.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Michael told himself he wasn’t testing her, not really. Her laugh was quick and amused.
“Of course you do.” she said without a drop of uncertainty. “A blind person could see the love between you two. And it’s not just love, what we both have with them, the love’s not enough, it can smother, be weak, even fade. But the respect and the trust and the loyalty you get when you truly love someone all the way.” She didn’t notice his eyes sharpen. “That’s really great, isn’t it?”
“The loyalty?” he asked, careful to keep his voice blank.
“All of it, but yeah. Everyone can see it’s there. It’s so obvious.” Maybe sometime he’d look back and be amused by the way her words unwittingly had so much to do with recent events in his life.
“Not to everybody.” He told her. Melanie looked up, surprised by the change in his tone.
“What do you mean, ‘not to everybody?’” She asked.
“I mean not everybody can see the…bond. The loyalty. Not long ago someone looked at Kale and thought that they could convince him to…betray me.”
“Then he was stupid.” Nee said indignantly, amazed by the very idea when it was so obvious to her that they were so very close. But then, emotions came easy to Nee.
“She.” Michael said harshly. “And she was very, very smart. She just miscalculated.” He walked away swiftly.
“Oh sure.” Nee muttered, “Make some confusing comment like that, then leave without telling me the story.”
An hour later Melanie was talking to a man when Michael reappeared again at her side and handed her a glass.
“Oh, I can’t, I have to drive for-”
“Club soda.” Michael told her.
“Oh, thanks.” She looked back at the man she’d been talking to before Michael came up.
“He was fascinating. I wonder what his name was.” Michael shook his head in amazement.
“Every book he’s ever published has made the best-seller list so he must write pretty fascinating too.” He told her dryly.
“Oh, he’s a writer. Probably someone famous too, right?” Michael shook his head again.
“You really don’t watch the news or read the papers or anything?” he asked.
“Do people ever get annoyed that you don’t know who they are?” he wondered. Melanie shrugged.
“Sometimes. Not everybody. Good people don’t, because I don’t judge them by what I’ve read or seen. I don’t know anything about them so they have a clean slate. And when I get to know them I know them better then others because I don’t know what they’ve done or what their last name is. I know what kind of person they are. I feel like that’s more important than if their mother was a movie star or if their father made millions inventing soap.”
“Inventing soap?” Michael asked, amused. She shrugged.
“What do you mean by ’good people’? The ones who’ve never had a speeding ticket or who help old ladies across the street?”
“Of course not! Things like that don’t mean anything. Who helps old ladies across streets because they actually care? They do it because someone might be watching. It doesn’t matter if someone used to be in a less-than-legal business, or if they’ve done things bad things they regret. The point is if they regret them. The point is what they do now.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you.” Michael said candidly. They were both silent for an awkward moment as they sipped their drinks.
“So, do you make it a habit of doing things like that?” she asked out of the blue.
“Things like what?” Michael asked absently. He’d been so preoccupied by her eyes before that he’d just now noticed her lips. Full and soft, they were unpainted. Simply because she’d forgotten to put on lipstick. He wondered how they would feel on his.
“Like making a freaky confusing comment about something, then just walking away to leave a person wondering what they said wrong.” His gaze snapped up from her mouth to her eyes. She saw him stiffen.
“I’m sorry.” she said immediately, hating herself for the snide way she’d said that. “I just really hate when I feel like I’ve said something that upset someone then can’t figure out what I did wrong-”
“You hadn’t done anything wrong.” He interrupted with a weary sigh. She felt her heart fill at the look in his eyes. She felt a surging need to make him smile. For just one moment he looked so…tired. So world weary. She suddenly wanted to show him the world the way she saw it. To show him it wasn’t all bad. She didn’t consider it odd that she felt that way. She often felt that if she could get people to look at the world the way she did they would be so much happier.
She wondered what had happened in his life that made him seem so disenchanted with the world. She could have asked Kate. She could have asked anyone and they could have told her his life story. But that wasn’t the way she did things. She made it a policy to stay out of people’s personal lives until they told her things themselves. However, even if she didn’t know all the details he’d told her enough in his one earlier comment that she thought she could guess some of the basic story. It was a shame she could sum it up in one word. Betrayed. He’d obviously been betrayed by a woman somehow at some point in his life.
“Were you in love with her?” she asked, talking out loud before she realized she had. She cursed herself for asking something like that. For assuming she knew his story when she didn’t know anything. He was silent for so long she thought he wasn’t going to answer.
“I was in love with what I thought she was. What I wanted her to be.” he said finally. Nee nodded slowly.
“Being disillusioned is hard.” she acknowledged.
“You sometimes remind me of what she pretended to be.” Melanie tried very hard not to be hurt by the careless remark. Why should he trust her to be sincere, genuine, when he’d obviously been recently hurt? Because she was. And she couldn’t help but be hurt, because that was her nature.
“I’m sorry.” he said. “That was a horrible thing to say.” Michael had seen the flash of hurt, and disappointment, in those pale eyes. She startled him when she gave a sudden laugh.
“We’re not getting off to a very good start, are we?”
“Well then,” Michael said spontaneously, “Let’s try a new start. What’s your full name?” She chuckled.
“Melanie Katherine Hopkins.” She said. Michael frowned.
“I thought your sister’s name was-”
“It is.” she said with a laugh. “My middle name is her first name, and her middle name is my first name. Confusing, isn’t it. I’m twenty-five and so is Kate. We’re paternal twins.” When she didn’t say anything else he turned to look at her.
“Your turn.” she said with a smile. Good God, that mouth was going to drive him insane.
“Michael Bryan Bowers. I’m thirty-three. Kale’s two years younger than me. I’m president of Bowers Tools, a company my great-grandfather started by-”
“You don’t retain information very well, do you?” Nee asked with a curious little smile.
“What?” Michael asked, confused. Nee shook her head.
“That‘s the kind of information I could find out in any magazine or newspaper. And while I‘m sure I‘d find it interesting, because I find most anything interesting, that isn‘t really what I had in mind.” she said with a mixture of amusement and exasperation. “Try this, what do you like to do on your day off?”
Michael laughed, the first sincere, full laugh she’d heard out of him.
“What day off?” he asked. She smiled.
“All right, if you could have tomorrow off to do anything you wanted, what would it be?” He seemed to think about it, really, truly think about it-not just shoot off the first thing he thought of that he’d like to do. She liked that.
“Spend the day talking to you.” he said suddenly.
“O-kay.” she dragged the word out. “That’s a nice line, but-”
“Not a line,” he interrupted. “Just the truth.” There was a period of silence and he could tell she was slightly uncomfortable. To put her at ease he said, “When Kale turned twelve years old he knew he wanted to be an accountant. Said there couldn’t be anything more fun the finding ways to help people make money without doing anything but spending more.” Melanie looked up.
“Kale’s an accountant? So’s Kate.” She gave a quiet laugh. “When Kate was twelve years old she wanted to be a figure skater.” He almost laughed, then thought about Kate’s graceful walk.
“It lasted until she turned eighteen.” Nee continued. “What about you?” He took a deep breath.
“No, I’ve never wanted to be a figure skater.” he said solemnly. Nee looked over quickly to make sure he was joking. She laughed.
“You’re funny. I didn’t know you could be funny.” He shrugged.
“I’ve got a little bit of Kale in me.”
“So really, what did you want to be at twelve?”
Michael shrugged again. “I’ve always known I would take on Bowers Tools. It had been drummed into my head since I could walk.”
“How awful.” Melanie said instantly. “Our parents always taught Kate and I that all our options were open.”
“It’s not like I made it sound.” Michael said. “I never really thought about it like that.” He loved his parents, and understood responsibility. He’d never felt that they had been unfair.
“Do you enjoy it, what you do?” Melanie asked.
“Yes.” he said. “Yes, I do.”
“You sound surprised.”
“I never really thought about it. What about you? What did you want to do at twelve?”
“For me it’s always been pictures, never anything else.”
“What do you do in photography?” Michael asked. Nee smiled.
“I’m forever trying to get some of my prints into a gallery. Hasn’t happened yet. Mostly I do weddings, though.”
“Yeah, it can be a lot of fun. Free food, too.” He laughed and they fell silent again for a moment, watching the crowd.
“I guess you should probably be entertaining your guests.” Melanie said finally.
“You are my guest.” He held her eyes for one intense moment where she felt something shoot through her. Finally, he turned and scanned the crowd.
“Besides, they seem to be entertaining themselves.” he said lightly. Melanie nodded mutely. She pressed a hand to her heart. It was pounding. What was that? That…that moment. She’d felt something. Not just a physical pull but a strong emotional one that made no sense to her. A woman came up before she could think any further about it.
“Michael, you must introduce me to your friend here.” An hour later, after they had both talked to many people Melanie looked at her watch. They’d been there for three and a half hours, time had flown. It was almost eleven-thirty. She looked up at Michael as the man they had been talking to excused himself.
“I’d better find Kate and get home. Tomorrow’s Saturday and I’ve got a wedding to do.” Nee said.
“I’ll help you find her.” Michael replied, taking her arm. Ten minutes, with the help of Kale, Melanie was leading a slightly drunk Kate to an elevator in the back of Michael’s place.
“I didn’t know you had the whole top floor.” Nee commented to Michael as she navigated Kate onto the elevator. He didn’t say anything.
“I’m really tired.” Kate said.
“You should be.” Melanie said dryly.
“I cut her off.” Kale said.
“Thanks. Um, Kate, you’re crushing my shoulder.”
“Here.” Kale scooped Kate up into his arms.
“Oh.” Kate said as the world spun.
“Just hang onto me, Cat.”
“Okay. Nee, Kale just started his own accounting firm. We’re going to be partners.” Melanie raised a brow.
“Is that so?” she considered for a moment. “That may be good for you.” Kate gave a sleepy, yawn.
“There are lots of good reasons.” she said. “I just can’t remember them now.”
“We’ll see each other every day.” Kale said helpfully.
“Just like there were lots of good reasons not to break June’s nose.” Kate continued without hearing him. “Like, I might end up having to pay for her next new one.” Nee chuckled.
“Good thing she was with Kale.” she said to Michael, “I might not have bothered to stop her.”
By the time they reached the parking garage underneath Michael apartment building Kate was asleep in Kale’s arms. He slid her into the passenger seat of the car.
“Thank you Kale. I guess I’ll be seeing more of you soon, seeing as how you and Kate are going into business together.” Nee said with a wink. Kale chuckled.
“We’ll see how she likes the idea tomorrow.”
The two brothers stood in the garage for a moment, watching after the car as it drove off.
“I’d never have thought you’d take advantage of a woman, Kale.” Michael said, amused.
“She was smashed. I never touched her.”
“No. You convinced her to agree to something…binding.” Kale didn’t bother to hide the grin. But he did say, for forms sake: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“What are you going to do if it doesn’t work out between you two and you end up stuck with a business partner you don’t want to be around.” Michael asked sharply. He had no doubt Kale could convince Kate to be his partner. Kale just shrugged.
“Kale, you can’t fall in love with a woman the second time you meet her.” Kale turned to him, curious at the way it had sounded more like Mike was telling himself.
“Maybe not. But you can start to.”