|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
“That’s where you’re wrong.” He shrugged off his knapsack, removed his gloves and then lit the fire. The dry wood caught quickly. “How much do you know about Aspen’s history?”
Sabrina moved closer to the crackling flames even though the climb had warmed her. She shed her gloves to enjoy the heat on her palms. “I know Aspen began as a silver mining town called Ute City in 1879, but I’m sorry to say that’s the extent of my knowledge even though I spent most of my summers here while my parents went away on research trips. I only learned enough of the city’s history to point the inn’s guests in the right direction.”
“What kind of research do your folks do?”
She considered dodging the question, but what did it matter if he knew? “They’re university professors back in Pennsylvania specializing in animal science. They’re always jetting off somewhere around the globe to study behavior patterns of some critter or another.”
“You didn’t go with them?”
“They claimed it was safer for me to stay with my grandparents.” Personally, she didn’t think her parents wanted to be distracted by looking after her when they had much more interesting things like polar bears or penguins in their sights.
He spread out the blanket on an area that had been raked clean of snow then proceeded to lay out an assortment of covered containers, a pair of thermoses, and finally a loaf of crusty bread wrapped in a cloth napkin.
Her instinct was to offer to help, but he’d forced this outing on her, so she let him do the work. Shoving her hands in her pockets, she wandered a few yards from the fire, trying to see what lay beyond the next turn in the path. Even though Gavin appeared occupied with the preparations, she could feel his attention focused on her like an alpha wolf’s would be aware of his pack—or his next meal.
He glanced up, finding her instantly and proving her point. “We’ll explore after we eat. Lunch is ready. Have a seat.”
Skeptical of how she’d enjoy a meal when she was so cold, she returned and eased down onto the blanket, trying to stay close to the fire and in reach of the food but not too close to her unwanted companion.
Gavin Jarrod unsettled her. Being near him made her feel as if she were perched at the top of the highest double black diamond ski trail and teetering on the verge of plunging downhill at breakneck speed. She wasn’t an expert skier by any means, and Gavin, like the most advanced slopes, was far out of her league.
“The mining heyday didn’t last long, did it?” she asked to change the subject to something less agitating.
His gaze hit hers like a falling tree, knocking the wind from her. “Most of the mines closed down after the Panic of 1893 and by the 1930s Aspen had less than a thousand inhabitants after maxing out at close to fifteen thousand. The region didn’t recover until the mid-1940s when it became a designated ski area. Jarrod Ridge weathered it all.”
The pride in his voice spurred her own. “So did Snowberry Inn. My ancestors have been here just as long as yours.”
“So they have.” He indicated the thermoses, giving her an excuse to break the connection his eyes seemed to have forged with hers. “You have your choice of hot coffee, hot chocolate or bottled water. We’re having chili for lunch. There’s freshly shredded cheddar in that tub, sour cream in this one and raw vegetables and dip in there.”
“This is a pretty decent spread,” she admitted grudgingly.
“For a guy?” He unscrewed the cap on one of the containers and steam mushroomed into the air. The aroma of the spicy chili filled her nose and her mouth watered.
She shrugged. “For a rich guy.”
He hiked a brow. “What did you expect?”
She shrugged. “An unimaginative, candlelit meal in some fancy place that doesn’t put prices on the menu, has obsequious waiters and a wine list the size of a telephone book.”
He studied her, and she couldn’t tell from his neutral expression if she’d annoyed him. “If I did that you might think I was trying to impress you.”
Was that deadpan humor or was he serious? “You’re not?”
He poured the thick chili into a bowl and passed it to her along with a spoon and a mug. “If I were, you’d know it. Eat before it gets cold.”
She frowned as she tried to make sense of the conversation and took a bite of the chili. The rich beefy flavor exploded on her tongue. “Mmm. This is good.”
“It’s one of my older brother’s recipes. Before Guy got too big for his britches he used to be a good cook. Now he owns a restaurant and lets others man the stove.”
“My compliments to the chef.”
He lifted his mug in a toast. “Glad you like it.”
“You cooked?” Surely he had a staff at his beck and call at the resort.
“Even rich guys have been known to stir a pot now and then.”
Chastened, she broke off a piece of bread, dipped it into her bowl and then ate while she tried to figure out what Gavin wanted from her. There were certainly far more attractive available women in town. Why her? Boredom? Slumming? The inn?
“What brought you back to Aspen?” His question chiseled into her thoughts.
Sabrina chose her words carefully. The full truth tended to elicit either pity or an anti-war tirade, and she wasn’t in the mood for either, so she edited. “My grandmother died and Pops needed my help with the inn.”
“Planning to stay?”
“What did you do before moving here?”
“Work and school.” Wife. But enough about her. She shifted on the blanket. “What about you?”
She guessed she deserved the brief response. “Travel to where?”
He shrugged. “Anywhere the job or the mood took me.”
That sounded like heaven. She and Russell had intended to work their way around the country when he’d gotten out of the service, but his death on his last mission had derailed their plans.
The remainder of the meal passed with nothing but the sound of some small animal foraging for food in the background interrupted by an occasional jet overhead. After he’d packed away the dishes he extracted graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows from his backpack along with a couple of skewers.
The ingredients looked familiar. “You’re making s’mores?”
“It’s a tradition. My brothers and I used to make them whenever we camped here.”
An image of him as a gangly kid chipped away at her dislike. “I haven’t had s’mores in a long time.”
She focused on his hands as he skewered the marshmallows then roasted them over the fire. His weren’t the pampered hands of a pencil-pushing millionaire. Small scars marred the tanned flesh and his palms had calluses. The imperfections didn’t fit with the Cadillac-driving, Tag Heuer watch-wearing, swaggering image she had of him from yesterday. “What do you do when you’re not killing time in Aspen, Gavin?”
“I’m a construction engineer.”
She’d been wrong. He wasn’t a man of leisure, and an engineer had to be smart despite the evidence to the contrary of his bringing her here to freeze her fanny off. But now that she considered it, she wasn’t all that cold with the warmth of the fire in front of her and the outcropping of rocks behind her to block the wind.
But his occupation told her nothing about why he’d be interested in her grandfather or the