She hadn’t heard the office door slam so Renner and Tierney weren’t barking at each other. Those two drove her insane. Bicker bicker bicker. About nothing. About everything. Sheesh. Half the time she feared she’d burst into their office and find them circling each other, wielding machetes.
Over the past three weeks the rest of the staff had really stepped up. Dodie deserved kudos for creating rustic, satisfying meals. LouLou served breakfast and lunch, and assisted Dodie as a prep cook. Lisa handled guest housekeeping and laundry, also filling in as a bartender. Denise served the evening meal and staffed the private bar until ten o’clock or when the guests retired for the evening—whichever came first. Willie was their jack-of-all-trades: dishwasher, bellhop, groundskeeper and building maintenance. If Renner was in a bind, Willie helped him out with the livestock he’d recently bought. Janie knew Renner needed another full-time employee to deal with the ranch end, but so far he’d refused to bring it up with Tierney and for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why.
She wandered through the building. The lodge and dining room were both quiet this time of day, with the guests either outdoors or relaxing in their rooms until cocktail hour. In the past three weeks, Janie had realized the guests didn’t want—or need—a hostess every night. In fact, her presence annoyed those who’d arrived as a group, so she’d ended up with free time in the evenings.
Wild West Clothiers remained busy all week. Harper had hit the ground running after returning from her honeymoon, which hadn’t allowed much time for them to catch up. Janie missed that connection with another female. Besides the nights Tierney had played nursemaid after Janie’s car accident, their daily dealings revolved around business issues.
Abe’s concern for her well-being had continued for two weeks after her car accident. He’d tracked her down at the lodge compound. Chatted with her. Flirted with her. Dropped all sorts of sexual innuendos regardless of who was around. But in the last week? Nada. She hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him, although she heard he’d been at the barn and corrals working with Renner and Hank.
So it’d shocked the crap out of her when Abe had ambled up this morning and planted a steamy kiss on her. A hot, wet, tongue-thrusting, pelvis-grinding kiss that’d make a p**n star blush. Then he’d whispered, “Soon,” in that sexy rasp and ambled away.
Which begged the question: why was he screwing with her? Hot. Then cold. Then hotter yet. She wouldn’t have pegged Abe as the vengeful type, but there were times when she wondered if she underestimated his bitterness about her leaving him. Had he created a scheme to get even with her? Seducing her, making her want him and then walking away?
But he’d have to actually be in her physical presence to screw with her. Unless he was screwing with her right now by keeping her off balance. By making her want him. Because there was no doubt: Janie wanted her ex in a bad way.
So if she just happened to run across Abe when she was looking for Renner at the barn . . . she’d give the man a dose of his own medicine. Kiss him and run. Maybe she’d kick up the challenge a notch and blow him and run. That’d shock the hell out of him.
Buoyed by that possibility, Janie grabbed her down-filled jacket, which Harper had christened Little Red Riding Hood because the coat was the color of fresh blood. She kicked off her heels and slipped her feet into a pair of Uggs.
With her hood pulled tight to keep the wind from whistling in her ears, she started down the rocky path to the barn. Jamming her hands in her pockets, she focused on her footing. As she slowly picked her way down the slope, she decided they had to fix this treacherous path or someone would get hurt.
Almost as if she’d willed it, the ground rushed up to meet her face with a brain-jarring thump. Without the use of her hands to brace herself, she hit hard and the impact knocked the wind from her lungs. She rolled down the rock-strewn incline like a runaway log as she fought to breathe, but it was a losing battle when she smacked her head and the lights went out.
When Janie returned to consciousness, Willie was nearly nose to nose with her. Startled, she twitched, wincing at the sharp pain in her skull.
“Miz Janie? You all right?”
She moved her lips, but wasn’t sure if any sound came out.
She attempted to get up.
“Whoa there. Sit tight. Miz Tierney went to fetch Mr. Jackson.”
Now she hoped Abe wasn’t around. He would freak out.
What about you? Are you freaked out? Will you finally admit these accidents are familiar?
Dread weighted her stomach like she’d swallowed a boulder. Fear crawled up her throat. She turned her head and dry heaved. Sweat broke out on her brow and mixed with blood dripping down the side of her face. The throbbing ache increased her dizziness and she cried out of sheer frustration.
Willie’s glove-clad hand awkwardly patted her shoulder. “It’s okay. You took quite a tumble. You oughta be more careful out here. It’s easy to lose your footing.”
Tumble? She hadn’t been clumsy . . . had she? It would have taken a violent push for her body to pound the cold ground like that.
Janie must’ve passed out again, because the next thing she knew, Renner was hoisting her into his arms, amidst Tierney’s admonishment to call an ambulance.
“If it looks like she broke something, then we’ll take her to the ER in Rawlins.”
Tierney tossed out a comment about worker’s compensation, which set off another argument between them.
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