“Why does it sound like you’re leaving?”

“Because I am.”

“Where are you going?”

“Back to what I know. Back where I belong.” Renner said, “Good luck with your new job, Janie.”

She was so stunned she let go of his belt loop. Those long legs and determined stride carried him out the door. Her response, “But I turned it down,” was lost in the whir of the washing machine.

Hours later, when the resort was completely quiet, Janie tracked Tierney to Renner’s trailer.

She sat on Renner’s unsightly mint green and turquoise sofa, with a box of tissues on one side and a bottle of peppermint schnapps on the other.

Janie took the chair opposite the couch. “We need to talk.”

Although Tierney’s eyes were red and puffy beneath her glasses, she wore a look of defiance. “I’m not in the mood to hear anything you’ve got to say.” She swigged directly from the bottle. “Save your breath if you plan to wax poetic about the wonderful job opportunity Daddy dearest offered you. The man’s a slimy liar, a cheat, and . . . I’m out of other names but I’m sure more will come to me.”

Janie rested her forearms on her thighs. “Why does everyone think I jumped at the chance to work for PFG?”

“Didn’t you?”

“No. I’ll admit I interviewed with him today. I wanted to see what breaking my loyalty to Renner was worth to him.”

“And?” Tierney asked dully.

“First off, he changed his mind and made it a formal interview rather than preliminary. His offer was to triple my current salary, immediate relocation for a three-year hospitality training position with the Grand Gateway Hotel in Muskrat Cove, Wisconsin.”

“That’s the crappiest property PFG owns. The manager is a troll and the employee turnover is close to ninety percent.” Tierney tipped the bottle again. “What was his response when you declined the offer?”

“He seemed smug. Especially after I told him I loved working for Renner. And you. He told me to enjoy it while it lasted.” Janie watched Tierney squirm. “Wanna tell me what that means?”

“Renner’s contract contains a f**ked-up payment clause even I didn’t catch. My father will forgive Renner’s debt entirely, turn ownership of the Split Rock over to him completely, if I return to my previous position with the company in Chicago.”

Janie frowned. “Weren’t you always planning to return?”

Tierney shook her head. “No. I resigned. Everything I’ve done here has been on my own. Including lending the resort money out of my personal account, which, naturally I hadn’t told Renner and when he found out . . . he wasn’t pleased.”

“And I thought I was f**ked,” Janie muttered. “So what are you going to do?”

“What are my choices? Take everything from Renner because he was stupid enough to fall in love with me? And if I love him as much as I say I do, then shouldn’t I make the ultimate sacrifice and walk away so he can have what he worked so hard for?”

“Did Renner tell you that’s what he wants?”

“No.” Tears slid down Tierney’s cheeks. “It would’ve been easier—smarter certainly—for us to fall in love with someone else. But we didn’t. It’s so screwed up. Renner is . . . everything. Now I can’t imagine my life without him. I’m still pinching myself that a man like him would want me. Love me. But he does, I know in my heart he does. And we’re both in a helluva mess because of it.” She sniffed. “So if you’ve got any advice, Janie, I’d love to hear it.”

Janie stood and grabbed a glass from the kitchen. She held it out so Tierney could share the schnapps. After a slow sip, she plopped down, propping her feet on the coffee table. “Tit for tat, girlfriend. Here’s my f**ked-up situation. I’m so in love with my ex-husband it ain’t funny.”

“Does Abe know?”

“Who knows? When I was complaining to Abe about not knowing you and Renner were in love, he got a little pissy and said it was obvious. I’m thinking to myself, if he could see that with you guys, how could he not pick up on the fact I’m goofy in love with him? So that made me pissy. And then I reverted to the bratty behavior I pulled when we were married.” She scowled at her drink and drained it. “Which went over well, especially when I hinted I was ready to pack up and leave Muddy Gap, I had nothing tying me here, yada yada yada.”

“Did you mean it?”

“No.” She bit the inside of her lip to keep from breaking down. “Now I think I’ve screwed up any chance of convincing him I love him, and everything I tried so hard to get away from years ago is exactly what I want now, because it’s better now. We’re both better. Frankly, even with all that weird shit that went down, I’ve never been happier in my life than the last few months.”

“Tell him that.” Tierney reached across the table and refilled Janie’s cup. “If it’s not about your pride, if you want a life with him, then you’re going to have to make the first move and prove it.”

“I don’t know if he trusts me.”

Tierney lifted her glass. “Well, there you go. Get him to trust you. Then your problem is solved.”

“Sounds simplistic.”

“The best things often are. So . . . now that I’ve helped solve your crisis, how about returning the favor?”


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