At the word miserable, Renner booked it out the door.

He tried to think where she’d be this time of day, but he had no freakin’ clue what time it was. Or what day it was. Too many long hours on the road with limited sleep. Too many hours filled with thoughts of her. Too many hours trying to figure a way out of this mess.

Renner hoofed it up the path that led from the barn to the lodge. He heard a noise and glanced up at the parka-clad woman at the top of the path. Her cheeks were rosy. Her brown eyes were enormous behind her glasses. Her lips were parted with an O of surprise.

“Renner? Is that really you?”

“Yep.”

Brilliant answer.

Then Tierney did the most un-Tierney-like thing. She shrieked, raced down the hill and threw herself into his arms.

He closed his eyes, held her close and breathed her in. This was where he belonged. With this woman. No matter what happened, no matter where they ended up, as long as they ended up together, everything would be all right. He trapped her face in his hands and gazed at her adoringly. “I’m sorry I left like I did. I love you. God, I love you so damn much that it’s been killin’ me to be away from you.”

“When I didn’t hear from you—”

“You grabbed the bull by the horns?” he said dryly. “Or should I say, you got pissy and took the whole damn bull? BB is a dangerous animal, Tierney. Makes me crazy to think you’d pull a stunt like that. You could’ve gotten hurt.”

“But I didn’t.” Tierney poked him in the sternum. “You forced me to get creative to capture your attention since you wouldn’t return my calls.”

“I . . . I needed . . .” He rested his forehead to hers. “Hell, I don’t know what I was thinkin’. I hoped I could come up with the money, turn this situation around, but nothin’s changed.”

“Wrong. Everything has changed.” Her gaze dropped to his mouth. “I want to kiss you. I’ve imagined what I’d do when I saw you again. Most of the scenarios were X-rated.”

He laughed. “I really love that about you too.”

“But I know once I start kissing you I won’t want to quit.” Tierney stepped away from him, but she grabbed his hand. “Come on. I need to show you something.” She led him up the path to the back door of the lodge and up the staircase into their office. When he tried to tug her into his arms for a full body-on-body kiss, she ducked. “No way. Once you put your hands on me, I’m toast. I need a clear head for this.” She pointed to the couch. “Sit. I’ll get the paperwork.”

“What? No PowerPoint?”

“It’s not quite done,” she tossed over her shoulder as she pawed through files on her desk.

“I was kiddin’.”

Tierney peered at him over the top of her glasses. “Never kid about PowerPoint.”

Damn, he loved this woman.

She wandered over, file folder clutched to her chest. “Umm. Would you like coffee?”

“ No.”

“How about a soda?”

“No.”

“Maybe you want something stronger?”

Why was she so nervous? Her nervousness set him on edge. “If I wanted something to drink, I’d get it myself. Now get on with it.”

His snappish answer had the intended effect. She squared her shoulders and took the chair to his left. “While you were gone, PFG sent a certified letter, invoking the clause from the initial contract, which required payment in full. Although not required to do so, the official reasoning for the change in the contract terms is ‘questionable financial judgment that could result in possible loan default.’”

Renner muttered, “Total bullshit.”

“I concur. I broke down the payoff amount and realized PFG had not figured the price of the land and the improvements you’d made before your loan application into that payoff amount. So as your self-appointed financial overseer, I requested an immediate reconfiguration of the total due, which they are required to complete as quickly as possible because of their change in contract terms.”

He understood Tierney’s need to explain every minute detail, but it was damn difficult not to urge her to get to the point.

“You with me so far?” she asked.

“Yeah. Keep goin’ but I wouldn’t mind if you just hit the high points. Or the low points.”

“When I received the revised loan payoff amount, I was surprised to see it wasn’t as much as I’d projected.” When he started to ask a question, she held up her hand. “No, I did not secretly use some of my own money to buy off a chunk of the loan to lower the total amount due.”

“Okay. Show me the number.”

“But don’t you want to know about—”

“No. I wanna know exactly how much money it’ll take to pay off the note.”

Tierney turned the paper and tapped her pen on the number at the bottom of the page.

Renner whistled. “That’s . . . still a shitload of cash.”

“Yes, but when you break it down, the amount of collateral you have in the land is sixty percent. So you probably could find a traditional financial institution to lend you the money. But I’m expecting in this economy the terms would be less than ideal and the payments would be steep.”

“But doable if I could shave a couple hundred thousand off the bottom line.”

“How would you do that?” she demanded.

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