|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
Guilty. “This is my favorite place. I wanted to share it with you. Put on your gloves and let me show you a bit of history—your history. Our history.”
Shifting on her feet, she looked back down the trail, blew out a frosty breath, then snatched up her gloves. “Make it quick.”
If she was half as curious as he hoped she’d be, “quick” wouldn’t be an option. He still had a lot to learn about his wife-to-be, and the only way to figure out if the old man had hoodwinked him into agreeing to marry a nut-job was to spend time with Sabrina. “Follow me.”
He stepped into the adit running horizontally into the side of the mountain and lit the kerosene lantern he kept inside the portal. “Once in a while we get a few bats, but they shouldn’t bother you.”
She flashed a startled glance at him. “That better not be a cheap trick to get your hands on me again.”
Give her points for intelligence. He hid a grin by ducking under a crossbeam. “Guess you’ll have to figure that out yourself. Stick close and watch your head. It’s a small mine, but I don’t want you to get lost.”
“Gee, thanks. Should I drop bread crumbs?”
“Not unless you want wildlife to come looking for you.”
She gasped and hung back.
“I’ll take care of you, Sabrina. Come on.”
He was used to the deep shadows cast by the lantern, but she wasn’t. Every now and then she jumped and hustled closer to him.
She paused at the first ventilation shaft, looked up into the dark hole and then down and stomped her foot. “I didn’t expect a wooden floor.”
“A solid surface makes rolling the ore cart out easier. The boards have held up well because it’s dry and cool in here. If you’ve toured larger mines then you know most have tracks, but this was a one-man operation for the most part, although my great-great-grandfather must have had help setting the supports.”
She eyed the square-set timbers warily. “How safe are the supports?”
He heard the apprehension in her voice and stopped, making her jerk to a halt just short of colliding with him. The small circle of light forced an intimacy between them. She stared up at him with dilated pupils and parted lips, and the need to kiss her again seized him. With the taste of her still fresh on his mind and mouth, it was difficult to remember to take it slow rather than act on his desires and risk scaring her.
He suppressed the hunger. “I spent countless hours in here as a kid and more as an experienced engineer. The mine is as safe as any mine can be. There are always risks when you’re underground.”
“There you go trying to scare me again.”
“Relax. Short of an earthquake—which is unlikely—you’re safe. I’ve been in here several times since returning home and checked to make sure there aren’t any unwelcome visitors hibernating.” He hadn’t intended that to be a cheap shot, but she startled and shuffled closer.
She scowled. “Cut it out. But I’m warning you, Gavin Jarrod, if there are any bears or fanged creatures, I’m pushing you into them and running for it while they feast on you.”
“Thanks for the heads-up.” Her feisty attitude would definitely make their relationship interesting. He led her toward the mine’s newest section. “Some mines have steep drops or winzes that go straight down. Our ancestors kept the tunnels relatively level, but there are plenty of drifts to explore.”
“Dead-end tunnels. The one where your grandfather left his mark is ahead on your right.” He lifted the lantern, illuminating a broad beam as they approached the turn. “The depth and shape of the second set of initials is different from the first. It doesn’t look like the same person carved the letters.”
She stepped closer, brushing against him in the narrow space. He caught a trace of her flowery scent over the earthy smell of the tunnel and his pulse quickened. She peeled off a glove and lifted her hand to trace the letters of the second trio. “CDC. Colleen Douglas Caldwell. You’re right. These are my grandmother’s initials. She always used to put a little heart like this one after her name.”
He had a crazy urge to coil a curl around his finger, but focused instead on why he’d brought her here. “The carvings and this section weren’t here when I left for college, and I don’t remember seeing them when I came home on school breaks. Your grandparents must have dug this sometime in the last six years.”
“My grandmother died five years ago.”
The pain in her voice sounded fresh. “You were close?”
Her fingers lingered, then her arm slowly lowered, as if she hated breaking the connection. “She was more of a mother to me during those summer months than mine was for the rest of the year—not that my mother was or is a bad parent. She’s just totally absorbed with her Arctic mammals.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” He reached into his pocket and dug out his pocketknife then flicked open the blade. Sabrina stumbled back, fear flashing in her eyes. He’d never had a woman be afraid of him before, and he didn’t like it.
He offered her the butt of the knife. “Keep the family tradition alive and carve your initials into the beam.”
The wariness faded from her face, replaced by a vulnerability that jump-started his pulse and made him want to take her in his arms, but if he did that he was going to kiss her again—and reinforce her suspicions that he was using old tricks on her.
“Thank you. I’d like that.” She took the knife from him.
She tucked her tongue into the corner of her mouth as she worked. The gesture was damned adorable. And sexy. Then in the lantern light he caught the glistening of tears brimming in her eyes and rolling down her cheeks, and it hit him low and hard that Sabrina could be hurt by the marriage scheme.
But what choice did he have except to carry on? His family was counting on him.
She had to get rid of Gavin Jarrod, Sabrina decided as he shadowed her to the inn’s front door as the sun set. But more immediately, she had to avoid kissing him again.
Guilt and fear intertwined inside her. For a moment up on the mountain she’d weakened and let herself be swept away by the strength of Gavin’s arms as he held her and the passion in his kiss as his lips plied hers. She’d taken pleasure in the leashed power of his muscle-packed form against her, the smell of him, the taste of him—all that manly stuff her life had been lacking lately—and her body had awakened with a rush of desire.
In that moment, she’d forgotten Russell.
She’d forgotten how much loving him had cost her, how much losing him had hurt and the vow she’d made while standing at his graveside to never open herself up to that kind of pain again.
Determined to keep her distance from Gavin, she stopped at the door, pivoted and offered her hand. “Thank you for lunch and for showing me the mine.”
Eyes narrowed, he studied her extended arm, then searched her face. “You’re welcome.”
His long, warm fingers closed around hers, but instead of shaking her hand and releasing her, he anchored her in place and bent his head. Her heart sputtered in panic. She ducked at the last second to dodge his kiss, and his lips settled on her temple. She tried to pull away, but he kept her tethered with his strong grip, then he feathered a string of soft branding caresses along her cheekbone. A shudder of awareness shimmied over her. She struggled to clear her head with gulps of chilly autumn air.
“Stop, Gavin,” she croaked and pushed against him with her free hand. How could she tell a man that he’d made her feel and she preferred being numb?
Without loosening his grip Gavin slowly straightened. “I’d like to take you out again—maybe to one of those