His idea of love was a twisted array of pride, money and expectation. “Thanks. If you’ll excuse me, I have a stack of paperwork to catch up on after being gone.”

“I don’t have to ask you not to discuss any of this with Jackson, do I?”

“Renner and I are involved. What he wants from me should factor into my final decision.”

“On a personal front, talk about it until you’re blue in the face.” He leaned closer. “But on a business front, you cannot discuss specific contract terms with him, as what we discussed falls under business confidentiality.”

Bullshit. Renner signed the contract; he had a right to know what it contained, especially since he’d missed the fine print. So for the first time in her life, Tierney looked her father in the eye and lied. “I understand.”

He patted her hand, in a pseudo-fatherly gesture that turned her stomach. “I won’t keep you from your work. But I’d like to have dinner, if you’re free tonight.”

Another bogus offer. Her father seriously underestimated what she knew about his business practices. He had no intention of being here tonight. He’d said his piece to her and set everything in motion. She smiled and lied again. “Of course I’m free. I’ll ask Dodie to create something special just for us.”

Renner wasn’t looking forward to telling Tierney he had to leave again because Pritchett needed his help. Funny, the idea of Pritchett needing help with the business Renner owned. A business he’d sadly neglected in the last year when he’d been building the resort.

Chances were high he wouldn’t end up owning the Split Rock when the chips started to fall. The smartest thing he’d done was to keep his stock contracting business out of financial dealings with PFG. So he wouldn’t lose everything.

But no doubt in his mind he stood to lose a lot. The worst was the thought of losing Tierney.

Goddammit, he loved her. Loved her in that all-consuming way that scared the living hell out of him because he’d never ever felt that way before. She’d barged into his life, into his bed, into his heart, attaching herself to every part of him and he couldn’t fathom being without her.

The door banged open. A shadow solidified. The man strolled into the barn like he wasn’t wearing tasseled loafers.

Good thing Renner had a shovel nearby to dig the pile of shit this man was about to unload on him. He smiled, resting his forearm on the top of the corral. “If you’re lookin’ for me, I’m back here.”

“Yes, I was looking for you.” Pratt paused. Probably wanting to mimic Renner’s posture, but not willing to soil his snappy suit to prove he was the type of guy who hung out in barns.

“You and your daughter have one thing in common.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t have a freakin’ clue about what type of shoes to wear in here. Be mindful of the piles of shit.”

Gene’s eyes narrowed and he managed a terse, “Thanks for the warning.”

“No problem. So, whatcha need?”

“I thought we should touch base. I’m pleased that the revenues are on par with initial expectations.”

“That’s happy news for you financial types.” Renner cocked his head. “But you’re not pleased I’m involved with Tierney. You here to warn me off?”

“In a manner of speaking. I don’t know how you feel about Tierney—to some extent it doesn’t matter.”

Wrong. It mattered a whole helluva lot. But he wanted to see where Pratt was going with this.

“My daughter is stubborn. If I said red, she’d say blue. Then she’d change her answer to red. Tierney wants to be an independent thinker. But in the end she always sees things my way.”

Renner whistled. “That’s harsh. That’s also making a pretty broad assumption about her.”

Pratt adjusted his tie. “I know her better than she thinks I do.”

The cocky statement pissed him off, because it was a total lie. “Well, Daddy-o, I’ll go out on a limb to say I know Tierney on a completely different level than you do. A level you ought not discount if this conversation is goin’ where I think it is.”

“Lust fades. As a man who’s been married as many times as you, I know of what I speak.”

“You think I’m surprised you know my marital history? Wrong. Ain’t something I hide.”

“But you did hide that your first wife’s daddy paid you off.”

“She wanted out of the marriage. Daddy made it happen and decided to compensate me for the hell I endured. I sure didn’t argue.” Renner allowed the man a once over. “Is that why you’re here? To see if I’m still that kind of guy?”

Pratt gave him an equally measured look. “That’s the question of the day, isn’t it?”

“So be a man about it and get to the f**king point.”

“I’m willing to sign over the Split Rock in its entirety to you and stamp the loan paid in full.”

“What’s the catch?”

Pratt smiled tightly. “Really. You need me to spell it out for you?”

“I’m betting all’s I have to do is tell Tierney she was a fling and I want her out of my life for good.”

“Simple, but effective.”

“Oh, and let me guess. You get to tell her that I’d rather have a chunk of dirt than her. That I am the same moneygrubbing piece of shit I’ve always been because I could be bought off. And she’s better off without me.”


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