“So any of these guys ready to give bull ridin’ a whirl?”

“Probably. You made it look awful damn easy.” Hank grinned. “What’s up with that landing? You nailed it like an Olympic gymnast.”

Renner shrugged. “No clue.”

“You weren’t showin’ off for Tierney?”

“I didn’t even know she was here until I heard her scream.” That’d shocked him. Seeing her scared to death, leaning against the fence in a f**king pink suit. Pink. Christ. She might’ve just as well waved a red goddamn cape at the bull.

“Thought maybe for a second there I’d have to send Abe over to referee.”

“Nah, I set her straight.” Renner hopped up on the second rung of the metal fence and looked at each one of his guests. “So who’s next?”

After watching eight guys eat dirt within two seconds of the bull exiting the chute, and two other guests managing to hit the three second mark, the last two guys decided to skip bull riding. Renner needed a shower in a bad way, but he had to talk to Janie on her first day back after the car accident.

He unhooked his chaps, ditched his vest and kicked off his boots and spurs before entering the lodge’s laundry area. At the industrial-sized steel sink, he scrubbed his hands with water as hot as he could stand.

When he raised his head, a towel appeared in his peripheral vision. Mopping his face, he met Janie’s curious gaze.

“Should I ask?”

“No.” He dried his hands. “But lemme ask you something. Did you and the tyrant have a conversation about Dodie today?”

“No. I haven’t seen Tierney yet.”

Damn woman probably ignored the to-do list he’d left her.

“But I had a long talk with Dodie this morning,” Janie said. “We went over a few basics, and she confessed nerves got the best of her. Cooking in a new place, new expectations. She asked if she could bring her pans and stuff from home to cook with here.”

“Really? That seems like an excuse.”

Janie shrugged. “Most cooks I’ve dealt with have preferences for everything from knives to ramekin sizes. I told her to use whatever she needed to better do her job.” She tossed a look over her shoulder. “I emphasized the word job, to remind her that this gig is more serious than whipping up appetizers for a bridge party. She picked up her utensils after breakfast. I sampled what she’s been working on. It’s fantastic.”

As she spoke, Renner studied her. Her face was still puffy in spots, but she’d covered up the bruises with enough makeup that he wouldn’t have known they were there if he hadn’t seen them with his own eyes.

“What? You’re staring at me.”

“Just wondering if you’re up to the challenge of managing the staff as well as bein’ the chipper hostess with the mostest for the guests tonight?”

“I’m fine. The thought of being stuck in my trailer with my own miserable company for another day drove me bonkers.”

“I ain’t gonna lie. The last three days have sucked. I’m damn glad to have you back. I don’t think I can run this place without you, to be real honest.”

Her eyes softened. “Ren, this is temporary.”

“I know, so don’t get any ideas about hittin’ me up for a raise because the tyrant would have my neck measured for a noose.” He loomed over her. “That said, if you think your accident might’ve had something to do with—”

“It doesn’t,” she said too quickly. She snatched the towel from his hands and snapped him in the butt. “Get cleaned up or I’ll hose you down myself. You smell.”

He bent down and bussed her forehead. “Aw, listen to you. A few months back in Wyoming and you’re talkin’ cowgirl tough, makin’ threats and shit. Next thing, you’ll be chewin’ tobacco.” Renner ducked her snapping towel and scaled the stairs to the office, half afraid, half looking forward to going at it with the tyrant again. That woman fired his blood in more ways than he’d thought possible.

It didn’t take long to straighten his mess, but he could see why it’d gotten Tierney’s panties in a twist. She was such a neatnik. Her personal items didn’t take up much room. No photos on the desk or bookshelves. No live plants or quirky desk objects like his pooping cow jellybean dispenser. Every item had a specific purpose and a specific place.

However, she’d left her mark in the bathroom. The shower curtain was printed with rubber duckies. Some wore funky hats—cowboy hats, bowler hats, stocking caps, trucker caps. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the rest of the shower curtain was dotted with pirate duckies. Devil duckies. Angel duckies. And his personal favorite, psychotic-looking clown duckies. He couldn’t imagine any kid wanting this shower curtain in the bathroom—it was as scary as it was embarrassing.

Renner stripped and kicked his clothes aside, thinking about Tierney. The woman defined contradictory. Shrewd financial mind but limited managerial skills, almost bordering on . . . shyness. She wore classy, sexy tailored suits, but she had a weakness for colored sprinkles, ducky-printed shower curtains, girlie shoes with bows, ribbons and flowers, and romance novels. He’d noticed the jam-packed bookshelves in her cabin. Not a newsflash the woman was a bookworm, but he would’ve pegged her as the type to read self-help books. Not novels with titles like Take Me, Barbarian, and Slave To His Rough Touch, and Seduced Against Her Will.


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