Renner looked at her pensively.

“Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong.”

“That’s the thing, Tierney. You’re not wrong. I won’t argue with you on this just for the sake of arguing.”

She was pretty sure her jaw hit the coffee table.

“Between us? Some of these hospitality things weren’t well planned. I take full responsibility for it. The Split Rock shouldn’t try and be all things to all people. We’d be better off focusing on the Western element. Hunting, fishing, hiking, trail rides. I’d still like to get men and women here, but I don’t want this place to get a reputation as a romantic couples retreat.”

“Because calling it such wouldn’t make it more appealing to women at all,” Tierney said wryly.

“Very funny. If you noticed I didn’t call it a dude ranch either.”

“Again, dude ranch implies hot cowboys. What woman isn’t all over that concept?”

Renner leaned forward to bestow a sinful grin. “Are you all over the concept of hot cowboys?”

Only if you’re the hot cowboy who’d be all over me.

Tierney tossed off, “Of course. Since moving to Wyoming I understand the appeal of men who exist in Wranglers, chaps, hats and boots, real men who make their living in the great outdoors. I never did before.”

“I think that’s the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“Other things I’ve said have been just as honest—you just didn’t want to hear them.”

“You may be right. As long as we’re bein’ honest, can I ask you something?”

Do I want to see you naked again? Absolutely. “Sure.”

“How much experience do you have with on-site management?”

“None. However, I will qualify that by saying I’ve been financial overseer for several PFG properties for the last two years. So I’m very good at cost analysis. I lack hands-on experience on the management end. As you’ve pointed out. Repeatedly.”

Renner gave her a hangdog look.

“I’m here to learn. Not to spy.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that from the start?”

“We’re not exactly friends.” She studied him quizzically. “How much experience do you have within the hospitality industry?”

No answer. Several long moments passed.

Guess her honesty didn’t guarantee his. She shuffled the papers together. “I think—”

“Tierney. Look at me.”

She raised her head to meet his gaze and melted a little seeing the softness and sweetness of his smile.

Damn his charming cowboy hide. The man was getting to her.

Chapter Nine

“I’m no stranger to management. I’m used to workin’ with men. I’m the boss, they do what they’re told and don’t question it.” Renner’s least favorite part of owning the Split Rock was dealing with employees. He had no problem barking orders at his stock manager Hugh Pritchett, or at half a dozen cowboys and stock handlers, but bossing the women on staff... didn’t feel right.

You’ve got no issue bossing Tierney.

That was different.

You don’t hold any real power over her anyway.

True. Maybe that’s why he was always pissy around her.

No, you’re flustered because the woman riles you up in ways you’ve long forgotten.

“Something else on your mind?” she asked.

He frowned and swigged the coffee that’d gone cold. “You know them pens I’ve been workin’ on? We had the blowup last week about wasting my time on building livestock containment areas? Especially when those containment areas remained empty?”

“Then you snapped that Jackson Stock Contracting was footing the bill. I seem to recall you blowing a gasket about me questioning you.”

He wouldn’t apologize for that dispute. Little Miz Spreadsheet had been out of line. “I always intended to move the rough stock up here.”

“I know. But why?”

“I’d rather be based out of Wyoming. Kansas ain’t my home.” It never had been. After his father and Boz died, he would’ve been happy never seeing another wheat field.

“And Wyoming is your home?”

“Right after I bought the land, before I ever scraped away a shovelful of dirt to set the footings for the buildings, this was where I wanted to be.” Maybe it was foolish, telling her how much this chunk of rock and dirt meant to him when it provided ammo to use against him. So he backtracked. “Then again, I didn’t spring for the sweet setup you’ve got. Bet that cabin set your daddy back a pretty penny.” Another example of the many differences between them. She wouldn’t make do if she didn’t have to.

Tierney’s eyes flashed a warning but she held her tongue for a change.

Rather than snipe at her for the silver spoon in her mouth, he continued brusquely, “The problem is I haven’t moved the stock up here yet, but that doesn’t change the rodeo schedules I’ve committed to. I’m taking off after supper tonight because I’m needed at a rodeo in Nebraska tomorrow. I’ll be back late Sunday.”

“Excellent timing. You’re gone. Harper’s gone. Janie’s limping around. I’m stuck dealing with Dodie, Lisa, Denise, LouLou and that groundskeeper guy . . . what’s his name?”

“Willie. Groundskeeper Willie.”

Tierney didn’t crack a smile at The Simpsons reference. “What am I supposed to do?”

***

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