Tierney sighed and took the caller off hold. “Sorry for the confusion, I thought you were someone else. What can I help you with today?”

After she ended the call, she removed her glasses and rubbed her temples to stave off another headache. No wonder she always told the truth. One little white lie on top of another and everything snowballed.

She called the bank and made the transfer. That left her less than two hundred dollars in her bank account. Not a lot to live on for the next few months without moving investments. But she could take on some of the freelance jobs the PFG accounting department had offered when she left.

Do it. Swallow your pride. It is honest work.

Before Tierney lost her nerve she made the call. Three rings. Four. Then, “This is Jennifer.”

“Hey, Jen, it’s Tierney.”

“Please tell me you called because you’re coming back to work at PFG.”

“In a manner of speaking. Remember when you told me about being backlogged on small projects? Anything I can help with?”

“I have four refinances staring me in the face that you could do in your sleep.” Jennifer paused. “Does this mean . . . ?”

“Yes, I’ll do them. Send them to me FedEx. Three a week is my max, and I’ll need you to give me access to our usual financial data Web sites and to rush my billing statement through accounts payable, listing me as an outside consultant.”

“Will do,” Jen said. “I still can’t believe you gave up your salary for six months for a training position. Doesn’t make economic sense.”

Tierney laughed that Jen had tossed her favorite phrase back at her. If Jen only knew what she’d just done. “It’s been a learning experience, that’s for sure. Oh, and since I’m already in the system I won’t have to wait the standard sixty days for payment, will I?”

“No. You’ll be back on the regular payroll schedule. And can I just say thank you? You are totally saving our bacon, T.”

“You’re welcome. One other thing? My father is not to know anything about this, okay?” Wishful thinking, but at least it was worth a try.

“Okay. But it’d be remiss of me not to point out I’m glad you’re back on the team—even in a freelance capacity. It hasn’t been the same without you.”

Surprisingly touched, Tierney smiled. “It’s good to be missed.”

Abe opted to pick Janie up at the Split Rock, rather than waiting for her to catch a ride home with Harper.

He poked his head inside her tiny office but she wasn’t around. He wandered to Wild West Clothiers and found it closed for the day. He bypassed the main guest lounge area and discovered it and the bar were empty.

Where was everyone?

Then he heard voices drifting from the dining room. When he reached the doorway he saw Janie, Renner, and Tierney standing in front of the group. Some sort of staff meeting. He leaned against the wall and waited. Listening to Janie do her thing.

“While everything has been running at top efficiency, and we have all of you to thank for that,” Janie said, “we need to stay on top of the little things.”

“Like what?” Harper asked.

Abe heard a rustle of paper and envisioned Janie whipping out a list. “I’ve broken it down by department.”

When murmured discussions broke out, Abe peeked around the corner, noticing Tierney and Renner were off to the side in an intense discussion.

He walked in and set his hands on Janie’s shoulders. “Hey, do you have a minute?”

“I’m in a meeting.”

“Sorry. It looked like it was over.”

“It is now,” Renner drawled.

Awkward laughter followed. But Janie wasn’t amused. She dismissed the staff. Then she wheeled around.

Abe followed her. When she attempted to slam the door in his face, he laughed and bulled his way inside her domain.

The instant they were alone, she slapped her hands on his chest and pushed him against the door. “Why the hell would you come in and interrupt my meeting? Do I ever demand your attention when you’re doing cow stuff?”

“Cow stuff?” he repeated.

“You know what I mean. I’ve never interfered with you doing your job running the ranch and I expect the same courtesy from you while I’m working.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You should be.”

Abe watched her eyes, those striking purple irises, sparking outrage. He hauled her to the toes of her sexy boots and he couldn’t help but inhale her. Suck down the passion she disguised in a haughty attitude, letting her fire consume him. It was like heaven to kiss her again, whenever he wanted, however he wanted. But kissing wasn’t enough. He needed her squirming against him, her breath panting in his ear as her body clamped around his. He soothed her with sweet kisses, shaken to the very core by the power this woman still wielded over him.

“Abe—”

“I want you. So f**king much. Do you have any idea how goddamn hot you look when you’re in charge? How unbelievably sexy you are to watch taking control of the room with your fire and sweetness? It’s a side of you I’ve never seen. It’s a side that makes me burn hotter than ever for you.”

Her face softened. “You and that damn silver tongue. Please take me home.”

He wasn’t so far gone with lust not to recognize that she’d called his house home. His spirit soared even as it cemented his intentions to show her he’d changed. “Doesn’t that make you feel powerful? Knowing you got me all kinds of worked up with your bossy ways?”

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