As she danced with Josh, a fast number where they had no physical contact, she wondered what his reaction would be when he learned that he was going to be an uncle.
As soon as the dance ended and she had politely thanked him, Josh disappeared into the crowd. She turned to face Sam Gordon.
“I think it’s my turn. Will you dance with me?” he asked, taking her arm before she could answer.
“This is typical, Sam. You didn’t even wait for my answer.”
He grinned and released her, turning to face her. “Darlin’, you can’t begin to guess how eager I am to dance with you. Miss Hacket, may I have this dance?”
Knowing Sam was the one person she should avoid, she nodded her head anyway. “You’re hopeless.”
“No way, sugar. I just want to dance with you in the worst way,” he said, taking her hand and coaxing her. “C’mon.”
“In the worst way?” she teased, having fun even though she shouldn’t encourage him.
“Oh, yeah,” he drawled in a huskier voice as they joined the dancers on the barn’s makeshift dance floor. “The very worst—down and hot as only you can do,” he said.
A tingle sizzled while she laughed at the same time. “Not on your Nelly, Sam Gordon,” she tried to reply sternly, but it came out breathlessly. “I don’t even know how.”
“Oh, yes, you do, darlin’,” he said, his blue eyes twinkling. “My memory is crystal-clear. In the privacy of my place, we’ve danced down and dirty before and it was a bushel of fun and sexy as hell.” He moved closer. “And you haven’t forgotten, either.”
“If you want to keep dancing, Sam, you better get off that subject fast. You’ve skated onto extremely thin ice,” she said, wishing she sounded more forceful and knowing she had made a big mistake in flirting with him even for mere minutes, not to mention dancing with him.
He waved his hands as if he had dropped a burning iron. “I’m off the subject of how enticing your dancing is. You look great, Lila, and I’m glad you’re home.”
“Thank you,” she said, twisting and turning so they wouldn’t have to talk, yet aware of his steady gaze following her every move. She should never have encouraged him, but he was fun to be with and she loved to dance. Thinking like that was what had gotten her into the situation she was in now.
The instant the music stopped, she turned to him. “Thanks, Sam. Mom asked me to mix with guests. I’ve just mingled with you, so I’m off to socialize with others,” she said sweetly, and walked away before he had a chance to reply. Her back tingled because she knew he watched her and she expected him to catch up with her or take her arm to stop her.
As if pulled by a magnet, she couldn’t keep from glancing over her shoulder. Sam was leaning against a post on the sidelines and he was watching her as she had suspected. She turned around quickly, but he had seen her look back at him.
As she moved through the crowd and toward the house, she fought the urge to glance over her shoulder again. Her mother had given her no such instructions, but she had partied all she wanted to for one night. She was going to her own room in the sprawling ranch house.
Standing near the bar, Sam watched Lila cross the back porch and enter the Hacket home. As puzzled as ever, he couldn’t figure her. For minutes tonight, she had let down that guard and been open, friendly, more—she had flirted with him. And he thought she’d had fun dancing with him. Then it was over and the barrier was back between them. The moment the dance ended, she was gone. Why her coolness? Was it his attitude toward her job and women in the club? That seemed absurd and hadn’t made that much difference their night together. He couldn’t think of a thing that would cause this rift between them.
She didn’t approve of his views of women and he didn’t approve of her career, so he should accept the rejection and move on. Rejection was something he didn’t experience often—was it that difficult for him to accept? He still wanted Lila in his arms and in his bed.
She had looked great tonight—a flush in her face that made her cheeks rosy, a sparkle in her fascinating green eyes, her long legs showing from the knees down.
The dress hid her tiny waist—a pity because he remembered exactly how narrow it was. But the top of the sundress was cut low enough to reveal lush curves that seemed even fuller than he remembered.
He inhaled and took a long drink of his cold beer, wishing he could just pour it over his head to cool down.
Monday, Lila walked into the rambling clubhouse made of stone and dark wood. Sunshine splashed over the tall slate roof. The smell of bacon cooking wafted from the building, giving her a queasy feeling. Morning sickness had come early and had been mild. To her relief, it was beginning to disappear, and so far, today was one of the good days.
Shannon was waiting in the wide hallway. Dressed in a sleeveless navy cotton dress and heels, she didn’t look as if she had spent the morning doing ranch chores with the men who worked for her, but Lila knew Shannon and what her life had been like until recently, single-handedly managing a big cattle ranch.
Shannon’s smile sparkled. “Hi! I’ve looked forward to this since the night of the barbecue. I’m so excited over this child center.” She leaned closer to Lila. “I’ll warn you now—you’re going to get some nasty glares from the members who do not welcome what we’re doing.”
“I’m getting looks at home from Dad. He grumbles and stomps off without really saying anything.”
Shannon laughed as they headed toward the dining room for lunch.
Over crisp green salads, she enjoyed talking to Shannon, listening to plans about the center. “Remember they built onto the club and we have more meeting rooms now, so they moved the billiard tables to one of the meeting rooms. They’ll renovate the room later, but for now they just moved out the other furniture,” Shannon said.
“It wouldn’t do for all those men to be without their billiard tables,” Lila said with a smile.
“Right. Meanwhile, they’ve started on the billiard room and the room built adjoining it. They’re taking out the walls that separated the rooms. We’ll divide off areas for play, for eating, that sort of thing, and a special area for the babies.”
“I know some great California stores for furniture, pictures, little dividers that still keep an open look and can be easily moved.”
“Great. Give us a list. The women members are responsible for this. As soon as we eat, we’ll go look at the rooms. I told you that we’ve agreed on the basic structure, which includes built-in shelves, drawers and cabinets. I’ll show you all of our plans and notes.”
“I’m sorry the other women couldn’t join us for lunch. I would really be in good company with you, Missy Reynolds, Vanessa Woodrow and Abigail Price.”
“You should join, too.”
Lila shook her head. “I’m going back to California. You need members who will be active.”
“Abigail’s little girl, Julia, will attend the center as soon as it opens.”
“It’s exciting to be part of this,” Lila said, enjoying seeing her friend and having something else to think about in place of the constant concerns about her pregnancy.
When they finished lunch, they went first to the door of the old billiard room. Men were sawing and hammering, and the noise made talking difficult.
Shannon just motioned for Lila to follow her and they went down the hall.
“We can go to the billiard room.”
They entered the darkened room with four billiard tables, heavy brown leather furniture and coffee-colored