“I used to. Those thoughts mostly cross my mind when people accuse me of being detached. I wonder how different I would’ve turned out if I’d had someone in my life showing me affection.” She cringed.

“Didn’t mean to make you feel bad, Tierney.”

“You didn’t. It makes me realize I want more than just sex with you.” When Renner stiffened, she rolled over to face him. “Not a wedding ring. More meaning . . . I want to be able to touch you, hug you, kiss you when we’re alone. Like this.”

His too-blue eyes were as tender as his smile. “Just when I’m sure I’ve figured you out, you throw me a curveball. I’m tryin’ to say this in the least sexual way possible, but any time, any way you wanna touch me, feel free.” He teased her mouth with his, each gentle smooch becoming longer. “I like bein’ with you, Tierney. You truly are something special.”

Despite the clichés and the internal warnings not to moon over him, the first man she’d slept with, at that moment, Tierney couldn’t help it. She fell a little in love with him.

Chapter Twenty-one

The night was glacial and Janie was so glad to be cuddled against Abe, hating that he’d had to go out in this nasty weather, especially after he’d nearly frozen to death a week ago.

Abe hadn’t come home after doing a cattle check during which snowfall had turned into a full-blown blizzard. Unable to reach him on his cell, she panicked, calling Hank. He’d tried to get her to stay put while he checked for his brother, but Janie insisted on going along.

After two hours of inching through pastures and over snowdrift-covered fences, they found Abe. He’d high-centered his pickup. Both the battery in his truck and his cell phone were dead. Abe knew not to battle the elements, remaining sheltered in the cab of his truck. He’d dressed warmly, but subzero temperatures for six hours had chilled him to the bone. Hank had to carry Abe out of the cab and to his truck.

They returned to Hank’s house so Lainie could determine if Abe needed medical attention. The storm became so bad the roads were closed and Janie and Abe ended up spending the night at Hank and Lainie’s. Took hours before Abe thawed out. Janie never left his side. She held him through the teeth-chattering shivers and the pain when his limbs warmed. When he’d finally fallen asleep and she realized he was going to be okay, without permanent damage, she let her tears fall.

Yet even the scare wouldn’t change anything. Cattlemen were a breed apart, more concerned for the lives of the animals they cared for than for their own safety. He wouldn’t stay safe inside when the wind was raging and the snow flying. Abe’s compassion was one of the things she loved most about him.

But since that incident, life with Abe in the Lawson household had changed. She knew the reason for Abe’s change from casual to possessive—when she admitted she feared for his life and understood how helpless he’d felt after the car accident. That brutal honesty opened the door to his true unrestrained affection. Even when neither spoke of how long they’d continue to play house without promises.

Still, Janie felt Abe was holding something back from her. And because she loved this new openness, she wouldn’t let her questions go unaddressed another day.



“You asleep?”


She elbowed him. “I’m serious.”

“Janie. I’m whupped. You wore me out.”

“So if I said I was ready for another round of rambunctious sex? Would that wake you up?”

They were spooned together so she felt his dick twitch against her backside. “Okay. Now you’ve got my interest. What’s up?”

“I want to know what really happened between you and Nancy.”

Abe groaned. “You really want to talk about this now?”

No better time than when they were curled together, satisfied from a bout of good lovin’ and drifting off to sleep in each other’s arms. “Yes. You demanded the down and dirty details about how I ended up with a loser like Dave. I told you. It’s been a couple of weeks since I brought this up. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you haven’t told me anything about her.”

The way his body went on full alert Janie wondered if she’d just opened a big old can of worms.

“How detailed you want me to get?” His breath tickled her ear. “Because I can tell you stuff that’ll make you look at me in a whole different light.”

He had to be bluffing. She scoffed, “Doubtful. But take your best shot.”

His rumbled, “Remember you said that,” sent the hair on the back of her neck on end in a deliciously powerful shiver.

“For a long time after you left I wasn’t interested in any relationship. If I wanted to get laid I did. I drove to Casper. Or Rawlins. Trolled in the bars of the rodeo towns if I was with Hank. Got off and got gone.”

Janie had a hard time believing that. “No woman around these parts piqued your interest? You didn’t look at someone like Harper and think, damn, she’d make a helluva ranch wife?”

Abe slid his leg between hers. “Single suited me fine until Hank and Lainie got married. I wasn’t unhappy, just floating along. Then I met Nancy.”

“What was the attraction? From the grumbling I’ve heard, she didn’t have a fantastic personality. She wasn’t rich. Her father didn’t own a liquor store. Did she have pistol grip ears?”


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