So proposition him.

Right. She already felt crappy, and if Abe turned her down . . . she’d be even more mortified. She shuffled to the bathroom and popped two ibuprofen. While scrubbing her teeth, she scrutinized her appearance in the mirror. Pasty white skin, black circles beneath her eyes . . . terrific zombie imitation. No wonder Abe hadn’t sweet-talked his way into her panties.

Janie stopped in the hallway outside of Abe’s room, debating on whether to bother him. The door opened so fast she almost believed he’d been waiting for her.

“Is everything all right?”

Holy hell, no, everything was not all right, she was about to have heart failure. The man wasn’t wearing a shirt. And check out those exquisitely formed pectorals—firm, chiseled bands of muscle. Her eyes followed the sexy line of dark hair bisecting his well-defined chest, down past his ribcage to abs of steel. Talk about a lip-smacking six-pack. As her gaze drifted farther south to the waistband of his camo boxers, Abe cleared his throat.

Guiltily, she met his eyes. “Sorry. It’s just a shock to see you.”

“Really? Because you knocked on my bedroom door.”

“I did?” She stared at her knuckles as if they had a mind of their own because she didn’t remember knocking. “Umm . . . I didn’t mean it was a shock to see you as much as I meant it is a shock to see you half-naked.”

“I’m getting ready for bed. Something you need?”

Dammit. Conjuring a plausible excuse on the fly wasn’t her strong suit. “Ah, I just wondered”—when you got into such fantastic shape—“what time you were getting up?”

“Around five. Same as I always do. Why? You want me to get you up?”

“No. In fact, I might sleep with a gun under my pillow in case you decide to try.” Abe’s tendency to adhere to a rigid schedule, especially so freakin’ early in the morning, had been a major annoyance during their marriage. He’d always wanted her to tag along when he did his first round of feeding, which never made sense to her because she wasn’t much help, but he’d always nagged the point. “I wondered if you were taking me to the Split Rock, or if I could borrow a vehicle. I need to be there around eight.”

“I’ll take you. I oughta have the first round of feedin’ done by then.”

“Well, thanks. Good night.”

“Night, Janie. Sweet dreams.”

They’d be a lot sweeter if you curled your banging body around mine.

“You sure you’re all right?”

Janie caught the mirth in his eyes, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. “I’m fine.”

Put your eyeballs back in your head. Turn around. Go to bed.

And somehow, Janie did just that.

Chapter Twelve

No surprise things had come to a head with Renner. Not because Tierney had been pestering him with endless questions. His fury had come from jealousy and disbelief that employees had been approaching her with operation questions—not him—while Janie was recuperating.

So maybe she had acted a little smug. But that hadn’t given him the right to insult her.

Maybe you should’ve thrown another drink in his face to cool him down.

No. He definitely wouldn’t have stood for that. Renner was deceptively laid back, but underneath his calm façade was a man coiled tight, ready to spring. They’d circled each other, boxers in the ring, words carelessly flying like fists. And when his final punch had hit too close to home . . . she hadn’t fought back. She ran.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of places to run to in Muddy Gap. She’d cruised past the churches and the lone restaurant, tempted to pray for patience or comfort herself with chocolate cake. On a whim, she’d decided to stop at the local hair salon.

The entire clientele of Bernice’s Beauty Barn stopped talking when Tierney walked in. Four ladies in various stages of beauty treatments loitered in a waiting area straight out of a 1950s beauty shop. Tierney glanced at the salon chair, where a robust woman snipped tiny gray tufts from her client’s head.

Immediately the redheaded hairdresser boomed, “Don’t look so darn scared. I ain’t started cutting your hair yet. That’s when you’re entitled to get the deer in the headlights look.”

Everyone laughed. One woman piped up, “You’re so ornery, Bernice.”

Tierney’s gaze flicked to the lounging ladies and then back to Bernice, wielding the scissors. “It appears you’re booked today. I’ll come back another time—”

“Nonsense,” Bernice said. “Have a seat. I’ll squeeze you in between Garnet and Pearl. You want a haircut? Or something more?”

“Just a . . . trim, but I wouldn’t want to impose and take someone else’s spot.”

“Oh, pooh.” The lady with rollers in her hair scooted over and patted the empty spot next to her. “There’s plenty of room. I’m Pearl Tschetter.”

“Tierney Pratt.”

“I don’t mind if you go ahead of me. I’d probably sit here and gab for a couple of hours anyway, after Bernice fixes me up proper. This is the only time of the week I get to gossip.”

Two of Pearl’s cohorts snorted. One rolled her eyes.

Tierney perched on the edge of the Danish modern sofa, set her handbag next to her left thigh before she folded her hands in her lap.

Still actin’ so prim and proper. You need to loosen up.


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