Home > Mackenzie's Mountain (Mackenzie Family #1)(8)

Mackenzie's Mountain (Mackenzie Family #1)(8)
Author: Linda Howard

Wolf stepped away from her. "Stay. She came to see you, anyway."

The boy looked at her quizzically. "You could have fooled me."

Wolf merely shrugged. "This is Miss Mary Potter, the new schoolteacher. Miss Potter, my son, Joe."

Even through her embarrassment, Mary was jolted that he would call her "Miss Potter" after the intimacy they had just shared. But he seemed so calm and controlled, as if it hadn't affected him at all, while every nerve in her body was still jangling. She wanted to fling herself against him and give herself up to that encompassing fire.

Instead she stood there, her arms stiffly at her sides while her face burned, and forced herself to look at Joe Mackenzie. He was the reason she was here, and she wouldn't allow herself to forget it again. As her embarrassment faded, she saw that he was very like his father. Though he was only sixteen, he was already six feet tall and would likely match his father's height, just as his broad young shoulders showed the promise of being as powerful. His face was a younger version of Wolf's, as strong-boned and proud, the features precisely chiseled. He was calm and controlled, far too controlled for a sixteen-year-old, and his eyes, oddly, were pale, glittering blue. Those eyes held something in them, something untamed, as well as a sort of bitter acceptance and knowledge that made him old beyond his years. He was his father's son.

There was no way she could give up on him.

She held out her hand to him. "I'd really like to talk to you, Joe."

His expression remained aloof, but he crossed the kitchen to shake her hand. "I don't know why."

"You dropped out of school."

The statement hardly needed verification, but he nodded. Mary drew a deep breath. "May I ask why?"

"There was nothing for me there."

She felt frustrated by the calm, flat statement, because she couldn't sense any uncertainty in this unusual boy. As Wolf had said, Joe had made up his own mind and didn't intend to change it. She tried to think of another way to approach hum, but Wolf's quiet, deep voice interrupted.

"Miss Potter, you can finish talking after you get into some sensible clothes. Joe, don't you have some old jeans that might be small enough to fit her?"

To her astonishment, the boy looked her over with an experienced eye. "I think so. Maybe the ones I wore when I was ten." For a moment amusement sparkled in his blue-diamond eyes, and Mary primmed her mouth. What did these Mackenzie men get out of needlessly pointing out her lack of attractiveness?

"Socks, shirt, boots and coat," Wolf added to the list. "The boots will be too big, but two pairs of socks will hold them on."

"Mr. Mackenzie, I really don't need extra clothes. What I have on will do until I get home."

"No, it won't. The high temperature today is about ten below zero. You aren't walking out of this house with bare legs and those stupid shoes."

Her sensible shoes were suddenly stupid? She felt like flying to their defence, but suddenly remembered the snow that had gotten inside them and frozen her toes. What was sensible in Savannah was woefully inadequate in a Wyoming whiter.

"Very well," she assented, but only because it was, after all, the sensible thing to do. She still felt uncomfortable about taking Joe's clothes, even temporarily. She had never worn anyone else's clothes before, never swapped sweaters or blouses with chums as an adolescent Aunt Ardith had thought such familiarity ill-bred.

"I'll see about your car while you change." Without even glancing at her again, he put on his coat and hat and walked out the door.

"This way," Joe said, indicating that she should follow him. She did so, and he looked over his shoulder. "What happened to your car?"

"A water hose blew."

"Where is it?"

She stopped. "It's on the road. Didn't you see it when you drove up?" An awful thought struck her. Had her car somehow slid off the mountain?

"I came up the front side of the mountain. It's not as steep." He looked amused again. "You actually tried driving up the back road in a car, when you're not used to driving in snow?"

"I didn't know that was the back road. I thought it was the only road. Couldn't I have made it? I have snow tires."


She noticed that he didn't sound very confident in her ability, but she didn't protest, because she wasn't very confident herself. He led the way through a rustic but comfortable living room and down a short hallway to an open door. "My old clothes are boxed up in the storage room, but it won't take long for me to dig them out. You can change in here. It's my bedroom."

"Thank you," she murmured, stepping inside the room. Like the living room, it was rustic, with exposed beams and thick wooden walls. There was nothing in it to indicate it was inhabited by a teenage boy: no sports apparatus of any kind, no clothes on the floor. The full-size bed was neatly made, a homemade quilt smoothed on top. A straight chair stood in one corner. Next to his bed, bookshelves stretched from floor to ceiling; the shelves were obviously handmade, but weren't crude. They had been finished, sanded and varnished. They were crammed with books, and curiosity led her to examine the titles.

It took her a moment to realize mat every book had to do with flight, from da Vinci's experiments through Kitty Hawk and space exploration. There were books on bombers, fighters, helicopters, radar planes, jets and prop planes, books on air battles fought in each war since pilots first shot at each other with pistols in World War I. There were books on experimental aircraft, on fighter tactics, on wing design and engine capability.

"Here are the clothes." Joe had entered silently and placed the clothes on the bed. Mary looked at him, but his face was impassive.

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