“That. Except it’d be yellowish orange instead of red. Or in the case of my potatoes—black.” Tierney closed her eyes in total mortification. “I hope the burned food thing doesn’t remind you of your ex-wife.”

“That’s what worries you?”

“Maybe. If you haven’t guessed by now, my attempt at dinner was monumentally f**ked.” She hiccupped. “Bet you thought after I whipped up the brownies and saved the day I’d be an excellent cook.”

“You can’t cook?”

“No, I cannot. The brownies were a fluke.”

“So you lied to me?”

Without looking at him, Tierney held her thumb and index finger apart about two inches. “I just stretched the truth a tad.” And wasn’t that a true statement on more levels than was wise to contemplate when she’d been hitting the bottle.

Renner’s fingers caressed her cheek. “Why?”

“Because I didn’t want you to think I’m a dork who can’t cook a simple meal. But the truth is: I am a dork. I can decipher financials from ten companies at one time, but I cannot follow one recipe card.” She opened her eyes. “I’m sorry. Not only did I flambé dinner, I drank all the wine to calm my nerves after I had to throw my smoking pans in the snow and now I’m a little tipsy.”

He smiled. “So you are human. Good to know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Tierney, darlin’, you’re intimidating as hell. You rarely make mistakes. You seem to know everything. It’s sweet that you wanted to impress me. It’s even sweeter yet that you failed. Hell, I’m impressed that you even bothered to try.” He adjusted her glasses. “And I like you tipsy. I bet you’re cuddly as a kitten.”

“You confuse me.”


That statement confused her even more.

“I’ll shut the windows so we don’t freeze to death.” Then he took her hands and pulled her to her feet. “You hungry?”

“Why? Can you cook?”

“Not worth a damn.”

“Oh.” They stared at each other. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable moment.

He gently asked, “I see the wheels churning in that big brain. What’s going through your pretty head?”

“I don’t know how to do this.”

“I know. To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve done this too.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You do know I’m not talking about cooking, right?”

“Yes, I caught that.” Renner grinned. “You get more literal when you’ve been drinking too. It’s cute.” He traced her lips with his thumb. “No pressure. Let’s just hang out.”

Tierney flattened her palm on his chest. Then both palms. Would she ever quit marveling at his hunky, muscle-bound body? Probably not. Now that they were lovers, would Renner just let her touch him however she wanted? Actually, when she really thought about it, he’d been a little stingy giving her equal opportunity touching time.

“If you don’t quit lookin’ at me like that, I’m dragging you to bed.”

“Okay. Can I take your shirt off this time? Slowly? And kiss you all over? Because I really really like your body. A lot. A whole lot. I could spend days touching you.”

Renner groaned. “How about if you hold that thought and we snuggle up on the couch? It’s still damn cold in here.”

Once she and the big cowboy were cuddled together beneath a fleece blanket, his chest to her back, their legs entwined, she sighed. “This is toasty.”

His warm breath stirred her hair. “Wanna take bets on how long before you’re snoring in my arms?”

“I could think of a couple of ways you could keep me awake,” she purred.

“I’ll take it under advisement for later.”

“So what are we supposed to do? Just lie here and think happy thoughts?”

He chuckled. “You don’t have much downtime in your life, do you?”

“More here than I did in Chicago.” Tierney brought his knuckles to her lips for a kiss. “Although, I do find myself watching the sky change and drinking in my surroundings in ways I never have before since I moved here.”

“The way you say moved here almost sounds permanent.”

I wish. “Why did you move here? Was it really just owning your grandparents’ land that brought you to Wyoming?”

“Initially. I had great memories. Didn’t know what it was at the time, but I felt such a sense of community.”

“I get that too. Weird, isn’t it?”

“Didn’t get that growing up in the big city?”

“It was hard to get to know your neighbors when fences and security systems surrounded each house. I’m not boohooing my childhood as a poor little rich girl.”

Renner caressed her arm. “Were you happy?”

“I guess. I didn’t know any differently. My mother died when I was four and my sister Harlow was two months old. My father remarried when I was eight. By my ninth birthday I was at boarding school. Spent summers at camp. Between the ages of thirteen and fourteen . . . I didn’t see my father at all.” Her stomach still turned queasy when she remembered the blank look on his face because he hadn’t recognized her.

“My mom died when I was young.” He stroked her hair. “Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if your mother hadn’t died?”


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