Read Courting Katarina Online

Authors: Carol Steward

Courting Katarina

“You don’t like Ron, do you?”

Katarina looked at Alex. He leaned one shoulder on the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest, his muscles fighting the constraints of his sleeves.

“No.”

She was shocked by the lack of hesitation in Alex’s reply. “You’ve never even met him. How can you make that kind of judgment?”

“I don’t like anyone who steals that smile from your face,” he said without pause.

Katarina hesitated, momentarily baffled. Her heartbeat quickened, and she found herself breathing faster. “That kind of comment, Alex MacIntyre, could get you into a heap of trouble.”

One side of his mouth curved into a resigned smile as he raised an eyebrow. “I think I already am.”

Books by Carol Steward

Love Inspired

There Comes a Season
#27
Her Kind of Hero
#56
Courting Katarina
#134

CAROL STEWARD

lives with her hero/husband of twenty years and three teenage children in Greeley, Colorado. When she isn’t busy caring for preschoolers in her home, she keeps busy with the activities of her daughter and two sons, and with volunteer work for various organizations. A retired cake decorator, Carol enjoys camping, restoring antiques, tole-painting, needlework, gardening, traveling, sewing and collecting Noah’s Ark items.

She loves to hear from readers. You may write to her at: Carol Steward, P.O. Box 5021, Greeley, CO 80631-0021.

Courting Katarina

Carol Steward

Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give you
the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the
Lord, trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.


Psalms
37:4,5

Thanks to Bob, and his wife, Vicki,
for their help in understanding the extraordinary
demands of smoke jumpers and wildland
firefighters. What a truly heroic line of work
and special people, to carry it out year after year.

To my brother, Randy,
who doesn’t know a stranger.

And to my sisters, Mindy, Cathy and Cindy, for
inspiring me to write a series about that incredible,
indelible relationship only sisters can understand.

Dear Reader,

Some of you may have read
Second Time Around
and fallen in love with Katarina and Alex just as I did. When I finished writing Emily and Kevin’s story, I realized there was more to this extraordinary story of God’s everlasting love than one book could ever tell. I wondered how the other two sisters, Katarina and Lisa, would handle the pain of their father’s abandonment, and how it would mold not only their earthly lives, but their spiritual lives, as well.

And these MacIntyre men—they’re pretty special, too. Alex, the daring smoke jumper, Kevin, the charming builder and Adam, the rugged cowboy, are all men of integrity. Men you can count to steal your heart, mold it and give you one incredible ride in the process.

I hope you enjoy this series of two incredible families and how God has brought them together through three totally unique love stories that draw on the individual needs and personalities of each couple. We have all been created in His image, with faults, weaknesses and special gifts that are as unique as our own fingerprints.

I love to hear from my readers. Please write to me at P.O. Box 5021, Greeley, CO, 80632-0021.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter One

K
atarina Berthoff dabbed the tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. Her sister was married. After eleven years, Kevin and Emily had
finally
gotten it right. Pictures had been taken, the reception was running smoothly and her bridesmaid’s obligations were finished. Until the bride and groom left for their honeymoon and Katarina began to take care of their newly adopted four-year-old, she was free to relax with the other guests.

Laughter and the murmur of voices from the crowd created a constant echo in her ear, so she discreetly removed her hearing aid, placed it in the case and dropped it into her purse. She hated to wear it in large gatherings. She’d pay nearly any price, even this deafness, to avoid the drone from all the background noise, and the headache that always followed. She didn’t need anything else to deal with
today.
One of these days, I’m going to have enough money to buy one of the new models that won’t be such a problem
.

Bypassing the assortment of cheeses and luncheon meats at the banquet table, Katarina studied the chafing dishes filled with mushrooms, meatballs and tiny quiches. She stopped at the elaborately decorative platter of fruit and filled her plate with melon, strawberries and grapes, then studied a pale yellow star-shaped fruit.

A deep masculine voice interrupted. “Katarina?”

She turned and nearly dropped her plate. There stood Alex MacIntyre. Her heart skipped a beat and she felt her cheeks flush. “Hello. We meet again, finally.” With all the last-minute decorations and reception preparations to take care of, Katarina hadn’t had a chance to visit with anyone at the rehearsal the night before. She’d met the groom’s brother only once, at Kevin and Emily’s first engagement party eight years ago. The college graduate had made quite an impression on her as a high school senior. When Kevin and Emily broke their engagement, Katarina had lost hope she would ever see Alex again.

He nodded. “It’s been a long time. When Kevin told me who you were last night, I could hardly believe you’re the same woman I met eight years ago. You’ve…changed.”

And
you
haven’t
. Alex was even more attractive than she remembered. Suddenly overcome by a
gamut of perplexing emotions, Katarina glanced quickly away, then back to him. Did he approve of the changes? “Do I hear ‘thankfully’ in that remark, Alex?”

He smiled in a leisurely way, looking a bit chagrined. “It’s definitely meant as a compliment. I wasn’t sure you’d even remember me.”

Like I could actually forget those gorgeous blue eyes? Not a chance
. “It amazes me how much you and Kevin look alike.” When Alex had come to Springville a few weeks earlier to help run Kevin’s business after Kevin’s accident, Emily had wasted no time informing Katarina of Alex’s availability.

Though already dating someone, Katarina had to admit she’d been curious to see if Alex had changed. Only for the better, she realized.

Now she wished she’d taken time to meet him before he returned to his own job and life, wherever that might be.

Alex’s smile was white against his bronzed skin. “Don’t hold it against me—that’s where the similarities end. Care to sit with the wild bunch?”

Katarina furrowed her eyebrows. “The wild bunch?”

“Any time you get the entire MacIntyre clan together, it’s chaos.” He tipped his head toward the table nearest the cake, where his siblings appeared to be seated. “I’d love for you to join us.”

Love for her to join him? She couldn’t resist. No wonder her sisters had nicknamed her “the heart
specialist.” Despite her older sister, Emily, actually becoming a doctor, Kat’s honorary title remained. When it came to matters of the heart, she was a romantic in the purest form.

She felt color flush her cheeks as she recalled the crush she’d had on Alex MacIntyre—business major, football star and all-around nice guy. She glanced at the happy faces around the table. Did she dare tempt herself twice in one lifetime?
I’m practically engaged. There’s no harm in making friends with my sister’s new family. Besides, after the honeymoon Alex will return to his life. No harm done
.

She set her plate on the table and Alex immediately pulled out her chair. She chose her seat so that he would sit on the side of her good ear.

Kevin’s twin sisters and another brother were catching up with each other’s lives, laughing and having a good time when she sat down. Alex waited for the chatter to quiet, then went around the table making introductions. By turning her head slightly, Katarina didn’t think she would miss anything.

Alex reminded his family that Katarina had been instrumental in pulling together the wedding decorations at the church and the reception with less than a week’s notice. Everyone showered her with adoration. She wanted to fade into the woodwork. True, she had a knack for decorating or she wouldn’t have celebrated her fourth year as owner of Kat’s Kreations. Yet the attention her talent received still made her uncomfortable. “The credit really goes to Emily.
She and Kevin picked it all out. I just put it together.”

“Kevin helped?” The laughter roared, and Katarina realized they probably couldn’t imagine their brother in a flower shop, let alone that he cared to help with wedding plans. Alex smiled apologetically. “Forgive us, Katarina. We haven’t been together much in recent years to see this side of Kevin.”

Still Mr. Nice Guy
.

She shifted in her chair and felt as if the seat was sinking beneath her. Katarina’s slim-fitting dress bound her legs tighter, and she raised herself slightly to pull the fabric loose, then sat back down.

With a loud snap, the chair collapsed, and Katarina slid as if on a chute under the table. All she could see were legs. And feet. The tablecloth draped itself over her shoulder, and Katarina ducked her head under the table completely, welcoming the shelter from her embarrassment.

She tried to turn over and crawl out, but her spike heel caught inside her skirt. She was stuck.

I can’t believe this
. She squirmed the other way, and made matters worse. Why did this have to happen today, of all days? Katarina closed her eyes. Taunting voices from her childhood haunted her.
Klutzy Katarina
.

Beyond the veil of linens she could see pieces of the plastic chair in a tangled heap on the ground.
Katarina relished the haven from her humiliation. At least she was away from probing gazes.

Feet scuttled around, concerned faces replaced the legs. She saw mouths move and she covered her face, oblivious to what they were saying. She didn’t want their pity or their help. She only wanted to hide.

Katarina again tried to untie herself from the human knot of her twisted body. She rested her forehead on her knees, wrapped her arms around her head and began to giggle nervously.

Only she could get herself into such a ridiculous situation.

Her sister’s new in-laws would probably agree with the playground nickname, “Klutzy Katarina.” Suddenly she was a sickly child again, wishing the jeers of her classmates would stop. “Go away. Just go away,” she whispered. When Katarina opened her eyes, she saw the kitchen doorway just past the table and pulled herself forward. If she could just scoot to the kitchen without drawing any more attention…

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