Chapter 1

"Need some help?"

The unfamiliar voice had Kate shifting her attention from releasing the latch of the tailgate to the handsome stranger strolling towards her. She looked him over and let the tailgate gracelessly fall open. He was tall but not lanky. His denim jeans hung around his waist while a form-fitting collared shirt gave signs of the well-defined muscles below. It didn't take long for Kate to move past his body and see the piercing brown eyes that shown past his darker features. His charcoal hair was cut tight to his head while the top was longer to allow the hint of curls. A well-groomed beard that was supposed to appear to be more than a day's growth accentuated his sharp jawline. He held a wide tooth smile that Kate couldn't help mimic.

"I'm good."

She dipped her head back and released the cords that held a tarp over the firewood that had been loaded in the bed. He didn't retreat and leaned against the wheel well. His smile still holding strong.

"There's gotta be something I can help you with."

"I've got it, but thanks." Kate smiled.

"My loss."

Kate was usually content to end the conversation there, but she was intrigued. If it was his eyes, his tone, his smile, or how he carried himself. Something about him was sparking some sort of familiarity for her, or maybe just interest.

Before he fully turned away she called to him. "What's your name?"

"Daniel." He extended his hand. "Katelynn, right?"

Kate pulled her hand back with the flash of paranoia that rushed through her. "Have we met before?"

"Nope. But, this bar was highly recommended. You fit your description perfectly, though you're more beautiful in person."

Kate let out a small laugh at the strange compliment but wasn't about to let her guard down.

"And what brings you by?"

"I'm in town for family business." He looked up at the sign. "The Whispering Sisters. Cute name."

"The Whisper Sisters, and cute isn't quite what I'd go with."

"So plural meaning there are more than one of you?"

Kate crossed her arms and tilted her head at him. "You seem to be asking questions you already know the answers to."

"It's me trying and failing to make conversation."

"Maybe stop trying."

"How about I help you move the logs, then grab a drink?" he asked as he reached to release the last cord of the tarp.

"Suit yourself." Kate shrugged.

"It's a date." he tried.

"No, more like hard labor and a beer as a reward."

"Whatever." He smirked and took up an armful of logs and headed towards the rack along the side of the building.

Kate wouldn't admit it but she appreciated the additional hands to move and stack the firewood. Though he was efficient he seemed slightly distracted. He would constantly look around and when he was near the front of the bar and look to the door as if waiting for someone to emerge. She thought his behavior was weird. He knew more about them than he let on. Though it could have been something as simple as needing their help but wasn't sure how to go about it. She'd give him the benefit of the doubt, but remain cautious. When the last piece of wood was added Kate pulled the cover down and secured it.

She wiped her hands on her jeans and smiled to Daniel. "Let's get that beer."

"After you." He smiled back and stepped back for her to take the lead.

She kept him to her side but moved to enter the bar first. Her entrance caught Alex's attention and stopped her small task of wiping down a table. Kate was about to introduce their guest but stopped by Alex's reaction when her eyes landed on Daniel. Alex became rigid and stepped into a stance she usually reserved for those most threatening to her.

"Danny?" Her voice shook and hinged on acute anger.

"Ale-" It was all he managed with Alex in a dead sprint at him.

He tried to step back but had no defense to her sudden attack. When she connected cleanly he dropped and she followed him down peppering him with blows. Once the shock of Alex's reaction faded Kate leaped forward and tried to pry her off. Alex violently fought against her hold. She threw an elbow that caught Kate in the jaw. The sting of the blow only had her holding stronger and forcing Alex away. Kate dragged the unruly woman to the office and spun her in and pulled the door shut before Alex could exit. The closed-door did little to keep the threats and curses from seeping beyond the wood.

Holding the knob and door tight Kate looked to Danny. "You better leave."

He didn't move. His eyes shifted from her to the door. Kate grew impatient for him to act on her order. "Now!"

He rubbed his face and nodded. Kate made sure he left before she went back into the office to get an answer to what just happened.

"What the hell was that?"

"Sorry I hit you."

"Whatever." Kate twisted her waist in the direction Danny went. "Who was that?"

Alex shook her head and washed her hands together.

"What's going on?" Kate had thought she had seen all the emotions that Alex could express, but what she had just witnessed had her doubting everything she knew. "Give me something here."

"My brother," Alex whispered and began to pace along the desk. She didn't look up to acknowledge Kate's reaction.

Kate tried to hold in the immediate hurt that stuck her by the disclosure. Now it felt like a bomb was dropped destroying any truth Alex had originally given.

"Your brother?" Kate tried to keep her tone neutral. "I thought he died in the car accident when you were fifteen."

"Nope."

"That's it? Nope?" Alex's trust in people was minimal at best, buy Kate always felt she had more than earned hers. That thought was fleeting, but she was going to keep prodding to get the truth. "There's got to be more to this."

Alex dropped her head and shrugged. Kate waited for a response, but Alex held onto her defiant silence.

"Really? You're going to act like a stubborn teenager now?"

Alex threw her hands up. "You're being ridiculous."

"From where I'm standing you're the one being ridiculous."

"Fine. He's not dead, happy?"

"No, I'm not." Kate's hands went to her hips with the mothering tone that came out.

"Save it."

Kate didn't stop and let her questions fly. "What exactly happened? Where's he been? Why is he showing up now?"

"Ahh, stop." Alex groaned and threw her hand up. "I don't care."

"Maybe you should."

Alex lifted her shoulder in disinterest. "If you say so."

"If you actually stopped shutting down and filled me in maybe I could help."

"Doubt that."

"I honestly don't get you sometimes. Just do it all yourself, forget anyone that actually gives a shit."

"Then don't, Kate. The last thing I need is you having emotions about this."

"Too bad, I care."

"Whatever. I don't." She moved forward and pushed past Kate. "I gotta go clear my head."

"Yeah, you go do that." Kate kept her back to the retreating brunette. "Runaway."

Alex slammed her palm against the doorframe and turned. "Dammit, Kate! What do you want from me?"

"Just a little consideration."

"You're unbelievable!" Alex spit out as she escaped from the office and out of the bar.


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