|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
Escaping gained appeal by the second, and it seemed to take forever to fry the final piece of bacon and pile the last golden disk on the platter. She carried the plates to the table and turned to leave.
“Whoa, girlie. Sit down and eat.”
“I need to wash the dishes.” She’d done most of the work while cooking, but still—
“I’ll do them while you’re at the store. You’re not hiding in the office like you did last night. These chores were your idea. You need to contribute to the planning.”
Her cheeks burned at being called out in front of Gavin, but again, Pops spoke the truth. Refusing to join them would be both ungracious and cowardly. She retrieved her coffee, a carafe of orange juice and three glasses, stalling, she admitted, before returning to the table.
She had no appetite. How could she when awareness of Gavin made her jittery? Russell had never made her uncomfortable. He’d been dynamic and exciting, but he’d never made her feel crowded, breathless or restless.
She forced down a pancake without tasting a bite. She’d almost finished when Pops pulled his checkbook from his back pocket. She smiled at his old-fashioned gesture. Almost everyone she knew used debit or credit cards these days. No one wrote paper checks anymore—except Pops.
“Pops, I can charge our purchase to the inn’s card.”
“Don’t trust that electronic junk. Too many accounts get hacked.” He made the check out to the store and signed it, leaving the amount spaces blank, then tore it out of the book. She put down her fork to take it, but he passed the check to Gavin.
Tension snarled in Sabrina’s stomach, turning her fluffy pancake into a lead brick. How could Pops be so trusting to a virtual stranger? He’d literally handed Gavin a blank check.
It was up to her to make sure Pops’s trust was not abused. She wasn’t letting Gavin Jarrod out of her sight until this job was done and he crawled back under the rock from which he’d come.
Sabrina surreptitiously checked her watch, willing time to pass quickly.
“Relax and drink your coffee. The cashier said our order would be ready in an hour,” Gavin said from across the table.
She pleated her paper napkin. “I’ve never known them to take so long to pull an order.”
“They only have one guy licensed to drive a forklift working today. Are you sure you don’t want something to eat? You barely touched your breakfast.”
“I’m fine.” With her nerves already stretched to the breaking point, the last thing she needed was more caffeine. As for eating … no way. Her stomach churned like the cement mixer rattling the diner’s windows as it thundered down the street.
Gavin’s calmness only agitated her more. But then he was getting his way. “Dragging me to a restaurant has been your goal all along. Congratulations. You’ve succeeded.”
“And the enthralled expression on your face will make every woman on the sidewalk want my phone number.”
His dry sarcasm made her lips twitch. She wasn’t going to like him. No way. Not after the past hour.
In a store as large as the one they’d just left, how could there have been such a shortage of space that she and her unwanted shopping partner had repeatedly made contact? But they had. Their hands had bumped over banisters and their hips by the hedge trimmers. Every time she’d turned around he’d been in her personal space, crowding her and not giving an inch.
Her pulse hadn’t been in the normal range since she’d climbed into his cramped truck cab, and she’d gasped so many times while shopping that anyone who didn’t know her would think she had a chronic lung condition.
How could she get rid of him and still protect Pops? She traced the lip of her mug, then glanced at Gavin. His attention seemed riveted to the movement of her finger, and then abruptly shifted to her face. The impact of his dark gaze swept her into an out-of-control, lighter-than-air feeling that made no sense considering she was sitting in a diner in the middle of downtown Aspen. But she felt as if her parasail had suddenly been caught by a strong gust and she’d been lifted off her snowboard, off solid ground and carried up the mountain.
She snatched her hands from the table and gripped the booth’s bench waiting for her breathlessness to ease. She scrambled to find a rational thought. “Did you have to order top-of-the-line everything?”
“The more expensive products have better warranties. If you have problems the replacements are free.”
That much was true. But still … the total of the supply bill had been about twenty percent higher than she’d anticipated. Luckily, she’d balanced the checkbook last night and knew the account had enough to cover the amount. The inn wasn’t hurting financially yet despite some zero occupancy days, but it was the principle of Gavin being so free with someone else’s money that bothered her.
She sipped her unwanted coffee, grudgingly admitting the brew he’d made this morning was better than the trendy diner’s—maybe even better than hers, and she prided herself on making great coffee for the inn’s guests.
So the man made decent coffee. Big deal. That wasn’t a reason to keep him around.
“What do you want from my grandfather?”
“I told you. The mine and the acreage surrounding it.” He sounded sincere, but the way his eyes turned guarded and he tensed ever so slightly contradicted his words.
With almost fifty years between him and Pops, the men’s sudden friendship seemed unnatural and calculated. Gavin had to be up to something. That blank check he’d managed to get from Pops spoke volumes. There had to be more. She just didn’t know what yet, and the only way to figure out his agenda was to get to know him better. Not a project she relished.
What made Gavin Jarrod tick? “Where do you live when you’re not here?”
“I divide most of my time between Vegas and Atlanta.”
“Why two such different places?”
“Because Vegas is where my brother’s hotel is located and Atlanta is close enough to the Appalachian Mountains for hiking and river rafting and has a major airport hub.”
“You’re an outdoorsman?” The breadth of his shoulders implied as much.
“I shoot nature with a camera these days, although I have nothing against putting food on the table through hunting.”
Good answer. She’d have to find something else to dislike about him—other than that he was rich, he’d forced his company on her and she didn’t trust him. As if that weren’t enough.
“What makes you think you’re qualified to be our handyman? Aren’t construction engineers pencil pushers?”
“I’m a hands-on manager. I work with my team, and I worked part-time construction jobs during college.”
He worked construction? That might explain the faded scars on the backs of his hands. So much for proving him unqualified for the job. “Didn’t your father pay your bills?”
“He paid tuition, and for that I had to come back and work at The Ridge every summer. But during the academic year I earned my own wages rather than answer to him on how I spent my money.”
So maybe Gavin hadn’t lacked responsibilities the way so many of her parents’ wealthy students had. “Why engineering?”
“I like figuring out how things work and finding ways around obstacles that others consider impossible. What about you?”
She startled. “What about me?”
“Did you always want to manage the inn?”