|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
She scrambled for excuses. “The ground will be slick.”
“I’ll drive him as close to the mine entrance as possible,” Gavin replied in a deep, patient tone that made her want to scream. “With the forecast we have we won’t be able to make the trip later in the week.”
If she couldn’t make the lug head see reason, she’d work on Pops. She turned to her grandfather. “What about your aches?”
“They’ve eased a might since my nap. The exercise will do me good. Might even loosen me up.”
She couldn’t let them go alone. Gavin had already gotten a promise to sell land and a blank check. No telling what else he would wheedle out of Pops. “I’ll go with you.”
“We’re taking the pickup,” Gavin warned.
She smothered a grimace. That would put her in the sandwiched-between-two-men position she’d fought so hard to avoid this morning. “Fine.”
Gavin held out her coat, leaving her no choice but to turn her back and let him assist her. She shoved her arms into the sleeves and before she could step away he scooped his hands under her hair to pull it free of her collar. His fingertips grazed her nape. A shiver of awareness trickled down her spine.
Startled, she jumped out of reach. She was not attracted to him. Absolutely not. She wouldn’t let herself be. She had too many good reasons to dislike and distrust him.
“Pops, wouldn’t you prefer your beaver hat?”
“B’lieve I would.” He shuffled toward his bedroom.
Sabrina waited until he was out of earshot, then scowled at Gavin. “The climb will be too much for him.”
“He can handle it if I take it slow and stop to show him points of interest along the trail.” He kept his voice at the same low volume as hers.
“He needs to do this and you need to let him.” His firm I’m-the-boss tone warned her not to argue. But that wasn’t going to stop her from trying to protect Pops.
“He doesn’t have to do it today. He can wait until it’s warmer.”
“Today is the anniversary of the day he and your grandmother carved their initials into the beam. He claims it’s the last time they were happy together before her pancreatic cancer was diagnosed. He wanted to go alone, but I insisted on tagging along.”
Sabrina’s heart clenched and her anger deflated. Could Gavin be a complete ass if he were this considerate of Pops?
“I didn’t know about the anniversary. He’s never said anything before. In fact, they never told us about the diagnosis until close to the end. I guess I should thank you for insisting on going.”
He snagged her knit cap from the peg and tugged it over her head. The intimate gesture startled her and made her chest tight, but she couldn’t move away since he still gripped her cap.
“Sabrina, I like your grandfather. You have nothing to fear from me as far as he’s concerned.”
Gavin looked and sounded sincere—and she wanted to believe him—but there was too much at stake to risk being wrong. “You’d better not be lying.”
“I don’t lie.” He slowly trailed his knuckles down her neck and then his palms over her shoulders, her arms. His fingertips raked along the back of hers, making her jump at the jolt. Static electricity. That’s all it is. He ended the contact seconds before Pops entered the kitchen.
With her pulse banging wildly in her ears, she trailed the men to the truck and reluctantly climbed into the middle of the bench seat. Gavin slid in beside her. His big body pressed hers from knee to shoulder and not even several layers of clothing could block the heat radiating from him. Her skin tingled. Her heart skipped. Awareness pooled in the pit of her stomach, heavy and hot. She wanted out of this vehicle, and yet she couldn’t avoid this excursion and still protect Pop.
Time seemed to crawl as they crossed the valley and ascended the ridge with each bump in the road making her burn from the friction of Gavin’s hard male body chafing against hers. Relief surged through her when Gavin finally parked the truck. She jumped out of the cramped cab as soon as Pops was out of her way and took a deep, sobering breath. But a nagging part of her noticed and missed the warmth Gavin had provided.
Gavin took a different path than the one he’d hiked with her last time. They hadn’t gone a hundred yards before she noticed her grandfather’s raspy, rapid breathing. Before she could say anything Gavin stopped. “This is the best view of the valley. If I ever decided to return to Aspen for good, I’d build a house here.”
Pops leaned against a rock. “You could be right. I can see the inn and Colleen’s favorite spot by the river.”
The sadness in Pops’s voice tugged at Sabrina’s heart. She hooked her hands through Pops’s elbow, offering support. She ached over losing Russell, but she’d only had him for a fraction of the time her grandparents had been together. How would it feel to lose someone who’d shared almost a lifetime with you? She didn’t want to know because she didn’t think she could survive it. Would she always ache for Russell the way her grandfather did for her grandmother?
The old anger stirred. She only half-listened as the men made small talk about the city’s history as if they’d known each other for years. She’d wanted the rest of her life with Russell and she’d been robbed of it. He’d sacrificed his life so others could return to their wives. He’d chosen his men over her.
When Pops caught his breath, Gavin continued up the path only to stop again at the first sign of Pops struggling and point out some odd rock formation. She was both impressed and appalled at the smooth way Gavin manipulated her grandfather. This consideration was the last thing she’d expected of him, and if he hadn’t warned her what he’d planned she never would have guessed each pause in their trek was deliberate and not incidental. But that he did so without giving a clue to his motive worried her. How else could he fool her—and Pops?
When they finally reached the clearing her grandfather tramped ahead of them toward the mine entrance.
She held back with Gavin. “That wasn’t the way you brought me the other day.”
“You could handle a more strenuous ascent.”
The rat bastard. “You had me huffing and puffing and sweating just for fun?”
“The tougher trail is more picturesque, but I doubt Henry could handle it.”
He was right on both counts. Her anger died quickly. She turned to follow her grandfather. Gavin’s big hand curled around hers holding her back and making her wish she’d taken time to put on her gloves.
“Give him a few minutes alone.”
He had to stop touching her. Each time he did, something inside her fanned an ember she didn’t want rekindled. She tried to pull free, but he held fast and stuffed his hand, along with hers, in his coat pocket. His body emitted heat like a roaring fire. “You left your gloves in the truck. Your hands are cold.”
So she had. “I can get them.”
“No need. We won’t be here that long.” His fingers laced through hers, pressing her knuckles against his abdomen and narrowing her focus to his flesh against hers, his calluses against her palm, his height looming over her. “Who hurt you, Sabrina? Who made you so wary?”
Her breath caught. “No one. No one hurt me. I’m fine.”
“Yes, you are fine, quite beautiful, in fact.” The words should have sounded like a cheesy pick up line, but the sincerity in his eyes held her transfixed. He lifted his free hand and stroked her cheek. Despite the cold, she felt flushed and too hot in her down coat. His proximity messed with her head, making her slightly