“First order of business is to cover up that window and clean up the broken glass.”
Kate shook her head. “No, first order of business is thawing out your feet. We should probably start by putting them in some lukewarm water so the shock’s not too great. Then I’ll cover the window.”
“Sorry, but I’m not dipping my toes in warm water until that window’s sealed up to my satisfaction.” Duncan started opening cupboards. “I don’t want to waste any more electricity than we have to, and some snow is blowing in.”
“I’ll take care of it.” She spied a turkey roaster in one of the cupboards he’d opened and shut again. Walking over, she pulled it out. “Sit down and take off your shoes before you get frostbite.”
“Not yet. Aha. Here’s a box of rubbish bags. Now all we need is tape.”
“My grandmother will be furious if you end up injured and I could have prevented it.” Maybe the thought of an elderly female pack alpha on the warpath would make him more tractable.
His commanding tone would have raised her hackles if he hadn’t combined it with that cute title. But she’d be damned if she’d fall in with his game and call him milord, which carried overtones of subservience, in her opinion. Holding the turkey roaster, she stood and faced him. “Yes, Duncan?”
“As you well know, because you sent me a Sniff to that effect, my ancestors fought the British in all kinds of weather while they were naked and painted blue. Don’t make a fuss over me. I’m a wee bit tougher than you’d be giving me credit for.”
She gazed at him standing there in his open topcoat and his feet braced apart as he held the box of garbage bags. His dark hair was damp and tousled and his collar was still turned up. He’d removed his shades and no longer looked like a mob boss, but the beard made her think of a dashing highwayman about to kidnap the woman he fancied.
When that image was combined with a sexy brogue, a girl could find herself wanting to be kidnapped . . . and ravished in the bargain.
“I won’t get frostbite, lass. We weren’t out there long enough. In the second place, I would never allow your grandmother to be angry with you on my account. You spent your valuable time driving to the airport to meet my flight, and you’ve done your best to assure my survival in a blizzard.” He smiled.
Oh, boy. That smile should be registered as a lethal weapon. Dazzled by its magnificence, determination seeped away and left her ready to surrender without a fight. No wonder Angela Sapworthy couldn’t shut up about him.
“You’ve acquitted yourself well,” he continued, “though it pains me to say it, considering that you’re the driving force behind the Howler movement.”
She blinked as if rousing herself from a trance. The Howlers! They were counting on her to stand firm against this leader of the Woofers, and yet she was allowing herself to be captivated by his Scottish charm. Shame on her!
“Thanks for reminding me of that.” She plopped the turkey roaster on the kitchen table. “You can make use of this when you’re ready. I’ll find some tape for that window.”
“Excellent. The job will go faster with two people.” He took off his gloves, scarf, and coat and laid them over the back of another kitchen chair.
“You’re right, though it pains me to say it, seeing as how you’re the driving force behind the Woofers.” Focus was definitely going to be a challenge when she was in the presence of this Scotsman. By removing his coat and scarf, he’d provided a more comprehensive view of his broad shoulders, massive chest, and narrow hips.
He winked at her. “That I am.”
Surely he wasn’t flirting with her. At least not on purpose, since she was not his species choice. Maybe flirting was his default setting. She began opening drawers in hopes one would contain tape. “FYI, somebody hacked into the Furevermore website today. It was down for hours.”
“I hope you’re not implying that the Woofers had anything to do with that.”
“I’m not accusing anyone of anything.” She found a roll of gray duck tape. “But I find it odd that this happened today as everyone’s gathering for the conference.” She held up the tape. “This should do the job.”
“Aye, but let’s go back to the other topic. Furevermore is your livelihood. My followers wouldn’t jeopardize that to make a point.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“Kate, I know them. That’s playing dirty, and that’s not what we’re about.”
“You can’t deny that my dating site goes against everything the Woofers believe, so why would they want it to flourish?”
He pulled a garbage bag out of the box. “Is it flourishing?”
“Of course it is.” Maybe not as wildly as she’d like, but the site was gaining new subscribers every day. “And I’ve had wonderful comments about my book. Whether you want to admit it or not, plenty of us prefer Were-Were sex and mating.”
“I’ve read it.”
“You’ve read my book?” She was surprised and a little chagrined that he’d taken the time. She’d totally ignored his.
He nodded. “Sex and the Single Shifter is a damned clever title.”
“Is that your way of saying the title’s great but the book sucks?”
“No, it isn’t.” He blew out a breath. “Let’s tape up the window before the Stewarts have an electric bill to rival the one at the castle.”
“Okay. Temporary truce.”
His eyebrows lifted. “Are we fighting?”
“It can’t be helped, can it? As you conveniently mentioned not long ago, I’m the leader of the Howlers, which means I stand for maintaining our standards. You want to blast them to smithereens.”
“I could respond to that outrageous statement, but I won’t, because then we’ll never get the job done.” Crossing to the window, he pushed it back down slowly as bits of glass rained onto the sill. “If we’re going to be walking around this area, we should sweep up some of this first.”
She hated to admit that he might be thinking more clearly than she was at the moment. “I saw a brush and dustpan under the sink.” She handed him the tape. “I’ll get it.” On her way back to the counter she unzipped her leather jacket and pulled it off. She’d be able to maneuver better without it.
She’d worn her favorite black turtleneck sweater under her coat for this first meeting with Duncan. The sweater was soft and classy, so it gave her a boost of confidence every time she wore it.
Returning with the dustpan and brush, she thought she caught a glimpse of male appreciation in his gray eyes, but she might have been mistaken. She hunkered down and swept up the glass immediately in front of the window. “That should be good enough for now.” She laid the dustpan and brush to one side and stood. “We can do a better job later, when we mop up the water we’ve dripped on the floor.”
“Is that sweater angora?”
“Yes.” Knowing that he’d checked her out provided a measure of satisfaction. If he rattled her this much, she’d like to think she’d had some effect on him as a way of balancing the scales.
“Thought so. Do you want to hold or tape?”
“Nothing like a decisive female, I always say.” He handed her the roll of tape.
“For what?” She met his gaze.
“Everything.” He turned and stretched the plastic across the top of the window frame. “Whether it’s business or pleasure, I appreciate dealing with someone who knows her own mind.”
“Even if it’s different from yours?”
“Especially then. I don’t like shadow boxing. Thankfully, you don’t do that. Hey, this is going to blow at the bottom, so maybe you should tape that part while I hold the top.”
“Yep. But you’ll have to step back so I can get in there.” His shadow-boxing statement had sounded like a compliment. Interesting.
Maintaining his hold on the bag, he walked his feet backwards. “I must look like a perp in a cop show about to be frisked.”
“You watch those?”
“Aye. I love trying to solve the case.”
“Me, too.” Crouching down again, she sandwiched herself between his legs and the wall so she could tape the bag to the bottom of the window frame. The scent of warm wool and warm male surrounded her from behind, while cold, damp air blew in through the broken window.
“At least we have one thing in common.” His brogue had an undertone to it that hadn’t been there before.
“So it seems.” If she didn’t know better, she’d think he was getting turned on by working with her in such close quarters. For her part, she was hyper-aware of his body hovered over hers. Without really wanting to, she found herself matching the rhythm of his breathing.
“So what’s your favorite show?” he asked.
“I love The Force. I have a little crush on the guy who plays Adam.” Now that she thought about it, Duncan reminded her of that tall, dark-haired actor, who was, of course, human. She’d never consider actually dating him, but he was great to watch on the screen.
“I’m looking forward to some American TV while I’m here.” Again, there was a husky quality in Duncan’s voice, as if he wanted to sound casual when he felt anything but.
“Stillman Lodge has a flat screen and cable in every room.”
There was no mistaking the sexual vibration in that comment.
She picked up the heady scent of arousal. Technically he shouldn’t be attracted to her because she wasn’t his type, yet it seemed that he wanted her.
The knowledge gave her a sense of power, but it also made her quiver inside. Against all odds, she wanted him, too, despite who he was and what he stood for. He was her physical type, as evidenced by the fact he looked like the TV actor she liked. But it would be foolish to get involved. She could easily compromise her campaign for HOWL.
Moving faster, she taped each side of the window, but she couldn’t reach the top. “I need to stand up to finish. Watch out for your chin.”
She stood slowly to make sure she didn’t clip his jaw with her head. Once she was upright, she found herself effectively caged between his outstretched arms. For the second time tonight she was being embraced by Duncan MacDowell.
Although breathing had become more difficult, she tried for nonchalance as she ripped off a piece of tape and smoothed it quickly against the window frame. “Well, isn’t this cozy?”
“Bloody inconvenient,” he murmured.
“I know.” She deliberately chose to misunderstand because she wasn’t ready to admit what was happening between them. Maybe if they ignored it, the tension would go away. “I didn’t intend for us to get stuck here, and I’m sorry.” She slapped on some more tape.
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it, lass.”
So he wasn’t going to let her sidestep the issue. She struggled to stay calm as she put on the last piece of tape. “You can let go, now,” she said quietly.
“But we’re all finish–” She gasped and dropped the tape as he took her by the shoulders and turned her around.
“No, we’re not quite finished.” And his mouth came down on hers.