“Oh, so is that why you have ‘I Will Survive’ playing on repeat on your office computer?”
He scowled. “Hey, that’s my private office—”
“Or why you demon-dialed Deanna for three straight days until she finally blocked your cell?”
“She called me, Dad. She tried calling you back and couldn’t get you. She was worried about you.”
Donald turned away. “I wanted to make sure she was okay, that’s all.”
“She’s fine. She’s out of town with Thomas Pines.”
“Pines Ranch Thomas Pines? Her boss? Christ. What is he, twelve?”
“Dad.” Holly dropped to her knees beside him. “This is what happens when you date women three decades younger than you.”
“Hmph,” Donald said, crossing his arms over his barrel chest.
A Reid standoff.
Adam knew they had a cantankerous affection for each other. He also knew that Donald would move heaven and earth to make his children happy, but he wanted them happy his way, according to his specs. He set boundaries and brooded when those boundaries were breached. He was stubborn and driven and…stubborn.
Grif and Holly were two peas in a pod that way.
“I can’t believe you came all this way to look for me,” Donald said.
“We came a lot farther than you even know,” Holly said. “First we went to Diamond Ridge and Mount Eagle. And—”
“Both of those places suck and have ever since Hunting magazine posted that article declaring them part of the country’s top-ten best-kept secrets. I don’t go there anymore.”
“Did not know that,” Holly muttered. “And Kaniksu Caves?”
Donald slid a look in Adam’s direction. “The caves?”
Jesus. Seemed he’d hid his neurosis from exactly no one.
“We were worried,” Holly reiterated.
“Yeah, well, you shouldn’t have come,” Donald said. “Either of you.”
“I thought you might be hurt!”
Donald sighed. “Look, it’s nice that you worried. Really. And I’m glad you’re here. But I don’t understand. I go out all the time and you’ve never said a word. So what’s this really about?”
Holly sucked in a breath, looking shaken. Like maybe she wasn’t exactly sure. For the first time since they’d started this thing, she looked lost, and Adam felt his heart squeeze for her.
“It’s about the fact that you can’t just vanish anymore, Dad,” she finally said. “You’re getting—”
“Careful,” he said, pointing at her.
Donald stood up and Adam stepped between them. “Okay, time out,” he said, wanting to stop them before this got out of hand, because when things got out of hand between him and his brothers, fists tended to fly. He couldn’t imagine it getting to that point between the Reids—they probably fought with a lot more class and used their words instead—but no sense in testing things. He pinched the bridge of his nose before turning to Holly. “Nice job on the staying, by the way.”
Holly crossed her arms. “Did you know about this?”
“Do you really think I’d have dragged you all over hell and back if I had?”
“Right. Of course not,” she said. “You wouldn’t have spent an extra minute in my presence unless absolutely necessary, is that it?”
“No.” Jesus. How did this become about him?
She was still breathing heavily from her walk up here. Actually, she’d had to have hauled ass to arrive as fast as she had. She must have yesed him, waited until he’d gone on, and then run like hell after him and Milo.
But not surprising.
He’d have done the same. Which made her a woman after his own heart. Too bad his heart wasn’t in operating order.
And yet it had worked just fine last night…
No, that had been a different part of his body entirely. Yeah, that was bad. Really bad. And damn. So good…
He still had no f**king idea what he thought he’d been doing. None. Zero. Nada. A point proved by Donald’s next words.
“Have to admit, I’m surprised to see the two of you together.” Donald divided a long, questioning look between them before settling on his daughter. “Though I am glad to see you finally got over your silly crush and can be friends with him.”
“What?” Donald said. “It’s not like it’s a secret. Hell, how could it have been with the way you used to moon over the poor guy?”
The “poor guy” struggled not to grin.
Holly made a sound that managed to perfectly convey her thoughts, and moved close to her dad’s fire, thrusting her hands out over the flames, carefully not looking at Adam, though her ears looked very hot.
And if he looked very carefully, there was also steam coming out of them.
Adam knew better than to stir a woman’s temper, especially this woman’s. Her fuse was long, but once it was lit, it went off like a firecracker. Still, he couldn’t help himself. “You used to moon over me?” he asked.
At the low, sexy voice in her ear, Holly closed her eyes but not before she gave him an elbow to the gut. Then she huddled closer to the fire, staring into the flames.
Adam flashed her a rare two-hundred-watt smile but backed up a step, giving her some room. Not, she was quite certain, because she’d actually hurt the big oaf but because he wanted to move. Adam didn’t do anything he didn’t want to do.
And just like that, unbidden, came a flash of what he’d wanted to do last night. Or rather, who he’d wanted to do.
She shivered before relegating the erotic images to the back of her mind, where she could pull them out later, when she was alone. Because right now her dad was watching her carefully, a small frown on his face. Though he was generally clueless to the workings of a woman’s mind, he was clearly getting a vibe from her.
“You really thought something bad had happened to me,” he said.
Holly sighed. “It could have.”
“You need to worry more about yourself.”
She slid him a look.
“You’re across the country from your husband, who, by the way, never appears to call or check on you. What is he so busy doing that he doesn’t have time for you?”
His new TA, no doubt. Worse, she was thrown off by her father’s reference to her marriage. They never talked about her marriage. “We’re talking about you,” she reminded him. “This whole thing is about you.”
“Well, now we’re talking about you. You had to have that guy, remember? There was no talking you out of it. So what the hell good is he if he’s not ever at your side?”
She shook her head, discombobulated. “In all this time, you’ve never asked about him.” She felt Adam’s gaze heavy on her. “Which means that this is nothing more than your latest distraction technique. But you can’t distract me, Dad. You nearly killed me with worry.”
Her father couldn’t be distracted, either. “What the hell is going on with you, Holly? And don’t say nothing. It’s about Derek, right?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Why are you suddenly asking about him?”
“Call it a gut feeling.”
She sighed. “Fine. He’s no longer my husband. Happy?”
“Ecstatic. But what the hell?”
“I left him, Dad. I left him a long time ago.”
“And you didn’t think this was pertinent information?”
“You never asked. You never even talked about me being married. And as far as pertinent, it’s no more pertinent than you and Mom giving lip service to being married when in reality you were separated almost all of my childhood.”
He blinked. “At least we didn’t traumatize you and Grif with fighting, like so many other couples do.”
“You were three thousand miles apart. I don’t think that proves much. Plus, it was all pretend. You both hid all your feelings. The calm front was just a façade.” She crossed her arms and turned away. She wasn’t doing this now. Not in front of Adam, who was watching their bickering session with carefully hooded eyes.
Donald rose and grimaced but then wavered. He paled and put a hand to his heart. Holly’s heart stopped and she rushed over to him.
Adam got there first, pushing Donald back down to the chair with surprising gentleness, hunkering before him, looking into the older man’s face.
“Dad,” Holly said urgently. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
He wasn’t fine. He looked clammy, sweaty. And he was breathing erratically. “Dad—”
“Don’t fuss,” he snapped, and waved her away.
Stung, Holly backed up, then watched in disbelief as Adam reached in and took her dad’s pulse, getting a weak smile out of him in the process.
“The low blood pressure again?” Adam asked quietly.
“Yeah, the fucker.”
Adam rifled through his pack and pulled out a bottle of sports water.
“Not thirsty,” Donald said.
“Drink it. You’re probably dehydrated and the electrolytes will help the hypotension.” He unwrapped a snack bar. “And eat this.”
“Those are disgusting.”
“It’s got salt in it. That will help, too.”
Under Adam’s watchful eye, Donald drank and then ate, and then drank some more.
“Better?” Adam asked.
“Yeah.” Donald sighed and looked slightly sheepish. “I hate this shit.”
“What shit?” Holly asked. “What’s going on?”
Adam never took his eyes off Donald. “You need to tell her. She deserves to know.”
“Deserves to know what?” Holly demanded, her gut tight. “Dad, tell me.”
“I had a little problem a few months back. You were in New York. With your non-husband.”
“I was procuring my divorce,” she said tightly. “What kind of problem?”
He paused. “A heart attack problem.”
Holly gaped at him. “You had a heart attack and didn’t tell me?”
“It was a little one. A very little one. And I’ve completely recovered. It’s just that some of the meds I’m on now to lower my blood pressure have some side effects, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” she repeated, her voice cracking. “You had a heart attack and you didn’t tell me? Did you tell Griffin?”
The guilty look on his face said it all. “Oh my God. You didn’t tell either of us,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Dad. How could you?”
“Because you would have worried. You’d have nagged me about my eating habits, about the too-young girlfriend, about going out on hunting trips alone—”
“You think?” Devastated, she pushed her glasses up and pressed her fingertips to her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. She dropped her hands and tried to make him understand. “Dad, you can’t do this anymore. You can’t take off on your own like this.”
“I’m telling you, I’m healthy as a horse.”
“Except for the heart attack and the low blood pressure.”
He waved that aside. “I’m taking my meds. Exercising. Doing everything I’m supposed to. I’m not going to change, Holly. Not even for you.”
She looked at Adam, who wasn’t giving much away, except for maybe regret. He’d known. She couldn’t stop thinking about that. He’d known about the heart attack, which was undoubtedly why he’d come in the first place.
She drew in a deep breath and shook her head. She’d have to deal with him later; her father’s health was far more important. “How are we going to do this?” she asked him. “Get him back?”
“I’ll get myself back,” Donald said indignantly.
“You’ll be more comfortable in the Ranger,” Adam said.
“And I’ll drive his ATV,” Holly said.
Donald shook his head. “You’re not driving my ATV.”
“And why the hell not?” Holly demanded.
“Because you drive like your grandmother.”
Holly felt her own blood pressure rise, but it didn’t start to boil until she met Adam’s gaze. His dark eyes were warm and filled with humor, the ass. “Deal with it, Dad,” she said. “Because you’re not driving back. Now let’s go.” She didn’t want to risk getting stuck up here for another night. She could handle no running water, not to mention the lack of a toilet or electrical outlet for her hair straightener. What she couldn’t handle was another night with Adam—and now also her father—both of whom she was afraid she loved dearly in spite of their many, many faults. “Dad, tell me the truth—are you really okay, or should we call for help to get you out?”
Her dad laughed. “You’ve got the best S&R guy right here. I think he can handle me.”
“You can handle you,” Adam told him. “Hell, you can probably still outdo me.”
Her dad smiled, pleased at that. But Holly met his gaze and saw the truth. That he was aware that he was getting older, that he’d had a health scare, and it had done just that—scared him. But he wasn’t the sort of man to go out without a last fight. He always said he’d never be the sort of man to lie down and let old age catch him. “Okay,” she said softly. “Let’s go. But do me a favor and take it easy on your S&R guy. He’d just gotten back from a rescue when I dragged him out here. He’s injured and probably exhausted.”