Tobin nodded. “And it’s not like you don’t have the grazing areas.” The kid launched into a long-winded explanation about natural grasses that made Renner’s eyes cross. But he wasn’t sure that wasn’t from being so goddamned tired.

He felt Tobin looking at him expectantly. “Sounds like you’ve been doin’ a little research on the land around Split Rock.”

“Here and there. Tierney’s been very helpful.”

It was all Renner could do not to grab Tobin by the throat and have him define helpful.

“Whoa. Boss. I know that look and it’s not like that. Not at all. Tierney is hot as hell in that brainy-girl way, and if she wasn’t . . . well, I might’ve been willing to take a crack at her—”

Renner snarled.

“But I’m not the type to poach, okay?” Tobin half cringed. “Jesus, don’t tear my limbs off after I’ve finally found a job I like.”

The jealous haze cleared. He bit off, “Explain poach.”

Tobin’s cheeks colored, but he kept his gaze steady. “I know you and Tierney are involved.”

Renner froze. Had she been confiding in Tobin while he was gone?

“Look, I don’t need a lot of sleep, so I’m up late. I’ve seen you goin’ to Tierney’s, seen you coming back from there in the early morning hours. Seen you shoveling her walkway early every morning.”

“Woman would break her neck in them damn high heels she always wears, if I didn’t,” Renner muttered.

“Last night after you got home that was the first place you went. And man, I don’t blame you.”

He snarled again.

“No, no, not what I meant,” Tobin backtracked. “I meant I don’t blame you guys for keeping it under wraps.”

“Well, f**k. Doesn’t sound like it’s under wraps.”

“Near as I can tell, no one knows besides me.”

“Let’s keep it that way.”

“Done.” Tobin opened his mouth. Closed it.

“For Christsake, what now?”

“Why doesn’t Tierney ever come to your place?”

Damn kid brought up the very question he’d been asking himself. Why was he always crawling out of her bed and schlepping himself home? Be nice if she’d spend a few nights at his place. He had to get up a helluva lot earlier than she did.

Does she think she’s too good to bang you in a cheap trailer?

“Shit. Sorry I said anything. Never mind.”

Renner sighed. “I don’t know why. Haven’t really thought about it much.” Liar. “Now that we’re done shooting the shit, how about if we get them bulls fed?”

He spent the rest of the day in a foul mood.

He should’ve been happy that everything had run so smoothly at the Split Rock in his absence.

He should’ve been happy Wild West Clothiers sales had doubled the projections.

He should’ve been happy the lodge was full for the next two weeks, but he wasn’t.

None of it made him happy.

Renner ate lunch alone at his desk. When Tierney blew in like a wet dream, wearing a skintight black sweater dress, red patent f**k-me heels, and a do me big daddy smile, he barely said two words to her before he bailed. He wasn’t in the mood for company. He definitely wasn’t in the mood to lock the door and have a quickie. He considered hopping in his truck—gee, wouldn’t that be a blast, because it wasn’t like he hadn’t just spent the last ten goddamn days on the road.

Why don’t you sneak a pint of ice cream, pop The Proposal into the DVD player and curl up in your bed like a girl? Because you’re sure as f**k acting like one.

Wrong. He didn’t have time to wallow.

Isn’t that what’s eating at you? You left to check on your stock contracting company and found it’s in good hands? Maybe better than when you were running it full-time? And you get back here and find out you’re not needed here, either?

Not needed my ass. There was always plenty of shit that needed done. So he returned to the barn, determined to sort through the tack.

The radio provided distraction from his self-pitying thoughts. He nailed up a new section of pegboard and had nearly cleared all the ropes, bridles and halters off the ground when he heard, “Knock, knock.”

Renner shot Tierney a look over his shoulder. Yep. She still wore that sexy-assed getup, including the stilettos. “I’da thought you woulda learned your lesson about wearin’ them kinda shoes out here.”

Tierney blinked at him.

“Something you need?” he asked shortly.

“Have I done something wrong?”

“Doubtful. Why?”

“Seems like you’re mad at me.”

“Nope.”

She tiptoed closer. “I don’t believe you.”

He shrugged and untwisted a section of rope.

“Renner? Why won’t you even look at me?”

Sighing, he faced her. “I have stuff to do after bein’ gone for ten f**kin’ days, so if you’ve got something specific to talk to me about, spit it out.”

That put starch in her spine. “I wasn’t aware I had to make an appointment to talk to you.”

“I wasn’t aware you had business in the barn. Unless you were here lookin’ for Tobin to help him out with some more research.”

He was being a dick. He knew it. She knew it. But for some reason Renner couldn’t stop it. He just kept working, hoping she’d take the hint.

***

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