|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
Then he appraised the problem, a half hammered-in nail, toenailing the railing to the column. Not an easy angle for an amateur. “Let me get that for you.”
He bent and scooped up the hammer—one too heavy for her—and slammed in the nail with one swing. “There you go.”
“Thanks,” she offered grudgingly. Still holding her injured hand close to her body, she accepted the tool he offered with her other.
“Let me look at that.” He grabbed her wrist and inspected her reddened thumb. The unpainted nail plate remained intact with no blood pooling beneath it.
The warmth of her soft skin heated his and did something wacky to his pulse rate. Single? Her ring finger was bare. He dragged his thumb over her palm.
With a quick hiss of her breath, she jerked away.
Too bad. He hadn’t reacted that instantly to a woman’s touch in a long time. “You’ve probably just bruised it. Work gloves would have offered a little protection.”
Her eyes narrowed, drawing his attention to a thick fringe of black lashes that looked real. In fact, if she wore any makeup, it was the kind a straight guy couldn’t see. “I couldn’t hold the nail with gloves on. Is Henry expecting you? He didn’t mention an appointment.”
“I didn’t make one.” He’d wanted to catch the man off guard and perhaps get him to agree to sell on impulse.
“Are you selling something?”
“No. I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t throw it.” She gathered the box of galvanized nails, her discarded gloves and the hammer. “Follow me.”
She headed toward a back entrance and led him into a warm kitchen. The combined scents of pot roast and freshly baked bread made his mouth water and his stomach growl as he followed her down the center hall to the front parlor. “Wait here. May I tell him what this is about?”
“An old poker bet.”
Her dark eyebrows dipped. “He owes you money?”
“No.” And that was all she’d get out of him. No matter how attractive she might be he wasn’t sharing personal business with her—unless it was over dinner.
Her curious gaze slid over him, making him overheat under his ski jacket. “You don’t look like one of his poker buddies.”
“Then you are …?”
“Here on personal business.”
She stood straighter, her chin snapping up. “I’ll see if Po—Henry’s available.”
Gavin hadn’t dated since arriving in town, and watching her peel the knit cap off those thick, gleaming curls and then unzip her coat reminded his libido of the long dry spell. He visually tracked her until she turned a corner out of sight.
He’d definitely have to take this one to dinner. And then maybe to bed. His heart pumped faster in approval of the plan.
Unzipping his coat, he surveyed the room. Antiques. But not the kind a man would be afraid to sit on. Lace, velvet and flowery fabrics predominated. But not enough of the girly stuff to threaten his manhood. The inn wasn’t bad. But it definitely wasn’t competition for The Ridge.
“Are you related to the Jarrods of Jarrod Ridge?” she asked from behind him.
He hadn’t heard her return. She’d shed her outerwear, revealing a purple turtleneck sweater clinging to a long, lean torso with curves in all the right places. Nice. And definitely worth pursuing. “Yes.”
Her lips mashed together as if his reply displeased her—drawing attention to the fact that she’d added some gloss to her wide, red mouth. An encouraging sign. If she wasn’t interested she wouldn’t have bothered.
“My grandfather will be with you in a moment.”
His plans sputtered and stalled like a faulty airplane engine. “Your grandfather?”
The revelation killed any chance he had of taking her on a date or to bed. With his relationship track record, he couldn’t risk souring the sale with another romance wreck. Business came first—especially family business. But perhaps after the deed had been transferred …
He couldn’t imagine going a year without sex, but he’d ended his last relationship two months before his father’s death, and thus far none of the women he’d met at the lodge had tempted him like this one did.
“You’re not from here, are you?” he asked. Not that many people were Aspenites these days between the celebrity invasion and the ski season’s tourist ebb and flow.
“No.” She folded her arms across her chest, looking protective, defiant and delicious. Down, boy.
“I’ve worked all around the globe, but I can’t place your accent.”
Man, she had it in for him for some reason. “Have I done something to offend you, Ms. Caldwell?”
He hiked a brow.
“My last name is Taylor.”
He noted she’d ignored his question. Again. Apparently, Ms. Taylor, like him, operated on a need-to-know basis. His gaze flicked briefly back to her bare ring finger. “Married?”
She glanced away, but not so quickly that he didn’t catch a glimpse of pain, and then she checked her watch. “Not anymore. Can I get you something? Coffee? Tea? We usually have high tea at four.”
That would give her an excuse to leave the room, and he wasn’t ready to let her go yet—not until he’d made sense of her cool demeanor. “No thanks. Are you visiting your grandfather?”
“I manage the B and B for him.”
“Been doing that long?”
He almost laughed at her quick, succinct response. He’d never met a woman who made him sift so hard for information, like a miner panning for precious metals. He was used to ones who chattered nonstop. He’d have to employ a different strategy if he wanted to get details out of her.
“I am a local—or I used to be. But I’m only back for … a while.” He mimicked her words.
“Yes, I heard.”
“Don’t get excited. I wasn’t fishing for information about you Jarrods. In a city with a population of roughly six thousand residents, most of those not full-time, the gossip mill works overtime. Your father’s death and the stipulations of his will are a hot topic. My condolences on his passing.”
He digested the you Jarrods part of her reply. “Thanks, but if the grapevine is working efficiently, then you know there was no love lost between my father and me. I’ll only be here another seven months and then I’m gone.”
“Your loss. Aspen is beautiful.”
He let his gaze wander to her booted feet and then back to her eyes. “Exquisitely beautiful. But not as warm as I’d like.”
She stiffened, obviously receiving the message that he wasn’t discussing the city’s climate. A fresh rush of color flooded her cheeks and her lips parted.
“Yeah, well, you’re old enough to know you can’t always get what you want.”
A clearing throat preempted further discussion. An older gentleman, tall, thin, but bearing military-erect posture and a shock of snow-white hair stood in the entry. Blue eyes the same shade as his granddaughter’s met Gavin’s. “Jarrod, huh?”