|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
She’d fallen head over heels in love with him and ended up pregnant. Her parents’ ultimatum—terminate the pregnancy or get out of their house—had left her with no choice. She and Russell had eloped on her eighteenth birthday—just days after her high school graduation. She’d planned to be a good military wife and raise Russell’s babies. But that hadn’t happened.
She pressed a hand to the empty ache in her belly, then blinked to chase away the past. “Does it matter? I’m where I’m needed right now, and I’ll never let my grandfather down. Nor will I let anyone take advantage of him.”
“What would you do if your grandfather sold the business?”
Alarm raced over her. She’d come to love making a warm, welcoming home away from home for their visitors, the way her grandmother had always done for her. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else now, nor did she have the qualifications for anything else. “He wouldn’t do that. He knows I love Snowberry Inn.”
Pops knew the inn was her refuge, the one place she’d always felt wanted and loved regardless of her choices. But she’d seen that blasted pamphlet and she had her doubts. However, she wasn’t giving Gavin Jarrod that information.
His brown eyes searched her face. “What if you marry someone who lives elsewhere?”
“You sound certain.”
“I am.” She’d done that before, and during her four-year marriage she hadn’t seen Snowberry Inn or her grandparents. Russell had been stationed in North Carolina, too far from Aspen to drive the distance in their old car, and she’d been too proud to tell her grandparents she couldn’t afford the airfare for a visit. During that time her grandmother had died, and Sabrina hadn’t been able to say good-bye. She’d had to borrow money from Russell’s friends to come to the funeral because her own parents wouldn’t loan it to her.
Time to change the subject. “Why did you leave Aspen?”
His face hardened. “My father was determined to turn us into clones of himself.”
“And that was a bad thing?”
“Yes. He was excessively controlling. But I escaped. We all did. Until now.” Anger flattened his lips into a thin line.
Demanding parents and a desire to escape were two things they had in common. Her perfectionist parents had never forgiven her for failing to meet their standards. They’d considered her an embarrassment and she hadn’t spoken to them in years.
But this wasn’t about her. “What about your mother?”
He focused on the mug cradled in his big hands. “She died from cancer when I was four. I barely remember her.”
Her mother may not have been the milk-and-cookies type, but she’d always been there at least physically … until Sabrina had needed her the most. “I’m sorry.”
“It happens. If we finish the repairs on time you’ll have a few days to relax before your guests arrive. What will you do with the time?”
Relax? What was that? She’d been so busy doing her job and picking up Pops’s slack that she couldn’t remember the last day off she’d had. She shrugged. “I don’t know. I used to ride horses on the trails, but—”
She bit off the thought. She didn’t want to imply the inn wasn’t financially secure to a shark like Gavin. Besides, her hobbies were none of his business.
“I didn’t see any horses.”
Busted. “Pops sold them after my grandmother died because they were too much work for him to manage alone and they reminded him of her.”
“We have horses at The Ridge.”
They had everything at the resort. “Goody for you.”
“That was an invitation, not a boast. If you want to ride I’ll take you.”
Tempting—except for the part about having to endure his company. The man irritated her like a blister forming on her heel halfway through a long hike. She just knew he wasn’t going to get better as time passed. “Thanks, but no.”
She had to get out of there and away from him even if all she did was freeze her fanny off with an hour of window shopping. The waitress provided an opportunity when she strolled by with the coffeepot. Sabrina caught her attention with a wave. “Excuse me, could I get the check, please?”
“Sure.” The woman peeled off the ticket and laid it on the table.
Sabrina reached for the bill, but Gavin moved a split-second faster. Her hand landed on the back of his. The contact uncorked something in the pit of her stomach, releasing a flood of fizzy heat that gushed through her like froth from an ineptly opened bottle of champagne.
She snatched back her hand, severing the connection, but her palm continued tingling, and her body bubbled with excitement she never expected or wanted to experience again. “Hey, I was going to pay that.”
He shook his head. “I’ll get the coffee. It’s the least I can do considering you’re going to be feeding me three meals a day for the next three weeks.”
Horrified, she stared into his dark eyes in dismay. “Says who?”
“Henry. He actually offered me room and board, but I already have a place to stay.”
Thank God for small favors. “I’m sure the food will be more to your liking at Jarrod Ridge.”
“I’ve been eating gourmet food for months. It’s time for a change. I’m looking forward to your good home cooking.”
At that moment she didn’t like her grandfather very much. What had he gotten her into?
Caldwell’s old bones had been right, Gavin concluded as a cold gust of wind cut through his turtleneck, chilling the sweat he’d worked up while unloading the building supplies from the truck bed.
He monitored Sabrina’s progress as she carefully picked her way down the brick sidewalk through the snow that had begun feathering down five minutes ago. The stubborn woman had insisted on helping him empty the truck despite the worsening weather. And while he admired her grit, as Henry called it, Gavin didn’t want her doing any heavy lifting or slipping and cutting herself on the pane of glass she carried toward the porch. If that made him a male chauvinist too bad.
After he stacked the last two gallons of paint inside the storage closet he grabbed his coat from the railing where he’d tossed it then let himself into the warmth of the cozy, good-smelling kitchen. The kitchen at Jarrod Manor had never had this welcoming atmosphere.
The glass pane lay on the table, still in its brown paper wrapper, but there was no sign of Sabrina. He caught the tap of her boots down the hall as he hung his coat on a peg by the back door, shed his gloves and mentally shuffled the chore list. Having weather change a timeline on a job was nothing unusual for him, but usually there were tens of thousands of dollars in penalties at stake. This time the delay was a reward rather than a punishment because it worked in his favor.
Sabrina returned. “Pops is napping.”
Her discarded knit cap had ruffled her curls, giving her a sultry, just-out-of-bed look that contrasted with her reserved expression. She’d shed her outerwear giving him another chance to appreciate her lean curves in a body-skimming sweater, this one a pale blue that accentuated her eyes. Her gaze met his and he experienced a now-familiar punch to the solar plexus.
“Go home, Gavin. We can’t work in the snow.”
She wasn’t getting rid of him that easily. If the only