|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
“No. But, thank you.” She tacked on the last hastily because she could almost feel the ghost of her grandmother rapping her knuckles for being ungracious and impolite.
His steady gaze continued to drill her. She felt like a butterfly fighting to get free of a collector’s pin. “Henry is worried that you don’t get out often enough.”
Embarrassment bubbled inside her. Thanks, Pops. “That’s because I don’t date.”
His square jaw dipped. “Are you gay?”
Typical. “Do you assume every woman who turns you down is gay?”
A slow smile curved Gavin’s full lips. “Only the ones who ignore the obvious chemistry between us.”
So he’d caught that, had he? She hadn’t experienced that rush of response since before her husband had died and it had caught her off guard. She had no interest in pursuing it. “There is no chemistry.”
The fire in Gavin’s eyes told her she shouldn’t have challenged him. Two long strides brought him within touching distance. Within smelling distance. An outdoorsy, woodsy and clean scent mixed with a hint of something spicy and exotic clung to him.
She stared into his handsome face, alarm prickling the hairs on her nape and arms. He wasn’t particularly tall—six feet, maybe a little more—but he seemed bigger in an intimidating, turf-conquering way despite the snowboarder-disheveled hair that should have made him appear easygoing and approachable.
“No chemistry?” He lifted a hand.
Sabrina backed out of reach. “Don’t.”
“Don’t prove you’re lying?”
“Calling a woman a liar is a unique way to win points. Does that approach usually work for you, Mr. Jarrod?”
The corners of his eyes crinkled. “You seem like the type who’d appreciate honesty.”
“Good deduction. Let’s start with what business do you have with my grandfather?”
“I’d be happy to tell you.” Gavin’s smile broadened, revealing an orthodontist’s dream of straight white teeth. “Over dinner.”
Sabrina ground her molars in aggravation. How could she protect her grandfather and the inn without information? “Nice try. The answer’s still no.”
“Not even if I tell you your grandfather has something I want?”
Warning sirens blared in her head. “What?”
“Join me and I’ll tell you.”
She really hated being backed into a corner, but she wasn’t going to let Gavin have the upper hand.
“Make it lunch.” It wouldn’t be a date. It would merely be a fact-finding mission.
Those gold-flecked eyes probed hers. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at eleven. Dress warmly. Wear walking shoes.”
Without waiting for an answer he brushed past her and exited via the back door.
Dress warmly? Wear walking shoes? What had she gotten herself into? At the sound of the lock catching, the tension deflated from her muscles like air escaping from a balloon.
The creak of a floorboard brought her around. Pops made his way down the center hall, his steps lacking the vigor that had once radiated from him. She tucked her concern away for later and parked her hands on her hips. “What was that about?”
“Jarrod’s just being neighborly.”
The fact that he didn’t look at her when he spoke sent tingles of worry down her spine. “Baloney. What does he want?”
“Can’t a body converse with a neighbor?”
“He told me you had something he wanted.”
He shrugged. “The Jarrods own half the damn valley. What more could they want?”
When Pops wore that stubborn expression trying to get him to talk was a waste of time, but she didn’t believe the just-being-friendly story for one second.
“Pops, why did you tell him I don’t go out?”
She shook her head. “You know I’m not interested in—” “You should be. Your husband died. You didn’t.” She flinched at the quick stab of pain. “I’m not ready.” She’d never be ready. She’d given up everything for love, and when Russell had died she’d had nothing left—nothing except Pops and the Snowberry Inn. And now she could lose those.
His shoulders drooped. “When I’m gone—” “Stop. You know I hate it when you talk that way.” “Hating it doesn’t change the facts, girl. You can’t run this place by yourself. It’s too much. You need someone to help you. Someone who doesn’t punch a time clock or resent the long hours.”
“I don’t have to be married to be a good businesswoman. I can take care of the inn the way you and Grandma taught me.”
He shook his head. “You’re missing the point, Sabrina. Life is meant to be shared and enjoyed, not endured. If you try to run this place on your own you won’t have time for a life. Russell would be the last one to want you to sit on the bench for the remainder of your days.”
Sabrina swallowed to ease the grief tightening her throat at the mention of her husband. “I haven’t noticed you dating since Grandma passed.”
“That’s because I already had forty-six years with the best woman God ever created. No one else can measure up. I don’t want to lead a lady on only to disappoint her, ‘cuz I ain’t settling for second-best, and I ain’t getting hitched again. I’m too old to change my ways to suit another. You’re only twenty-five. Too young to quit living. Tarnation, I have more of a social life than you do.”
“I could always join your weekly poker club.” Her tongue-in-cheek comment deepened the concern shadowing his eyes.
“Don’t sass me, Sabrina. You once talked about traveling the world and filling your home with a passel of young’uns. You still have time for both. But not if you keep hiding here.”
The cold ashes of dead dreams stirred inside her. “I’m not hiding. I’m working. And I don’t need children to have a full life. As far as seeing the world, I have everything I want right here, Pops. The world’s travelers come to us.”
“The world might come to Aspen, but hearing about somebody else’s adventures secondhand and watching from the sidelines ain’t the same as playing in the game.”
“I certainly don’t have a future with some rich guy who’s only counting days until he can leave town.”
“He ain’t your father. Jarrod might have left town, but he came back the minute his daddy died. Don’t try to tell me you’re not interested in him. I saw you putting on lip gloss in the hall.”
Guilt burned Sabrina’s cheeks. “I was working outside trying to fix the loose railings when he interrupted me. My lips were dry.”
“Yep, I’m sure that explains why you couldn’t take your eyes off each other when you were in the same room.”
She didn’t bother to deny it. “You don’t know him. How can you or I trust him? I’ve heard you refer to the Jarrods as land-hungry thugs too many times to count.”
“That was their daddy. Donald Jarrod turned into a heartless, selfish bastard after his wife died. He gobbled up everything around him, and he rode his kids so hard it’s no wonder they all skedaddled as soon as they could. But I know more about the Jarrod boys than you think. I watched ‘em grow up. The whole town did. And while