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He stepped onto the stone path and walked toward a gatehouse Willow let the cat issue drop as she stared at the pretty structure It was all s and wood, perfectly suited for the surroundings But it wasn’t theeon with chains and handcuffs on the walls

"My house I have first-aid supplies here"

Oh, right That made sense "You live on the property?"

"It’s convenient"

"It shortens the coardens "Nice southern exposure You could grow anything here" Gardening was a favorite hobby Her fingers itched to be in the soil and planting

"If you say so"

He slowly lowered her to the ground, but kept an arht She leaned on him, her body nestled close

He had to be well over six feet and a couple hundred pounds He felt as solid as a building and she had the thought that whatever happened, this was akeys out of his trouser pocket, then unlocked the door and carried her inside

"If ere dating, this would be roh "Can we pretend?"

"To be dating? No"

"But I’m injured I may die and, frankly, it’s your fault Is it because you’re married?"

He lowered her into the chair by the fireplace, then put her injured foot on the ottoman

"You’re the one who ran," he said "It’s your fault I’m not married and don’t move"

He disappeared into what Willow suspected was the kitchen All right, so Kane didn’t , but he wasn’t exactly friendly about it She could handle that

She looked at the roo and the earth tones The space was bigger than she would have thought, yet still cozy The large s that faced south cried out for a few planter boxes, though

On the table next to her was a book on the Middle East Financial azines littered the coffee table in front of the sofa Interesting reading for a security guy

"Engaged?" she yelled

Heshe couldn’t hear, then said, "No"

"So the lack of pretending is a personal thing Are you getting ice?"


"Don’t forget the box for the cat"

"There’s no cat"

"Oh, there’s a cat It’s too cold Even if she’d be okay, what about her kittens? They’re newborn We can’t just leave them to die"

"There’s no dariray and white one with three tiny kittens Despite having been pregnant until a couple of hours ago, the cat looked skinny and bedraggled

A stray, he thought, wondering what he’d done to deserve this He was a decent guy He tried to do the right thing All he asked was that the world leave hireed Until today

As the odds of the cat getting into the box were close to zero, he set it on the ground and studied the situation He wasn’t a pet person, but he knew enough to know cats had claws, teeth and iven birth, somore cooperative It was also a new mother and likely to be protective

One way or the other, he knew there was going to be blood spilt and it was going to be his

He reached inside the hollow and closed his hand around the first kitten The mother cat stared at hian to move the impossibly small ratlike baby, claws sank into his skin Oh, yeah, a real good tiet you and the kittens inside It’s cold and it’ll be foggy tonight I know you’re hungry and tired so just shut up and cooperate"

The cat blinked slowly The claws retracted

He scooped up the kittens and set them in the nest of towels he’d folded in the box, then reached for the racefully onto the towels and curled up around her babies

Kane grabbed his coat, Willow’s shoe and sock and the box, then headed back to his place

This wasn’t how his day was supposed to go He lived a quiet life by choice He liked his place--it was secluded and he didn’t get visitors Solitude was his friend and he didn’t need any others So why did he have an uncoe?

He walked into the gatehouse and found Willow on the phone

"Gotta go," she said "Kane’s back with the cat and her kittens Uh-huh No, that’s great Thanks, Marina I appreciate it"

"You called soave me the phone Was I not supposed to use it?"

"It was for eencies"

"You didn’t say that Anyway, the call was local I phonedover cat food and a litter box Oh, and some dishes, because I didn’t think you’d want to use yours for the cat food I’d puther what happened, whichto want to check me out before I can move"

"You have a doctor who makes house calls?"

"My lanced at her watch "We should have this all wrapped up by two or three Really But if you have to be so to leave her alone in his place "I can work froood"

She smiled at him, as if all this was normal As if she was normal

"You can’t do this," he told her "You can’t invade my life"

"I didn’t invade it I stuain--the one that transformed her from pretty to beautiful and ot Which, based on her loose grasp of reality, was probably true

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded

"I told you Julie’s sister"

"Why aren’t you at work?"

"Oh, I work from home, too I’m a cartoonist, actually I haveto eat? I’m starved"

He didn’t keep rab a

"I’ll go look" He stalked toward the kitchen

"Nothing with etarian"

"Of course you are," he muttered

The cat had followed him into the kitchen He searched his bare pantry and found a can of tuna After opening it, he dumped the contents on a plate and set it on the floor The cat gulped down the food