He lifted his head and snared her mouth in a blistering kiss.

That’s when she understood he was taking back the reins.

Renner nuzzled her ear and demanded, “Untie me. Now.”

Somehow she eased off him without falling on her face—her legs were decidedly shaky. He’d pulled so hard on the neckerchief the knots were difficult to undo.

Once his arms were free, he moved them briskly to get the blood circulating.

Well, some of his blood had traveled a little farther south than his big biceps and ropy forearms.

“Tierney. Look at me.”

“I am.”

“At my face.”

Her gaze slowly traveled up to meet his eyes. Eyes chock full of heat and male satisfaction.

“You surprised me.” He curled his hands around the back of the chair.

“You’re not making that sound like a good thing.”

“You know how f**kin’ hot it was that you tied me up with my own goddamned neckerchief?”

“Ah no.” She permitted a small, hopeful smile. “So you’re not mad?”

Renner shook his head. “But payback is gonna be mighty interesting.”

“You’re going to tie me up now?” Why had her voice squeaked? Why did she have the strange compulsion to wave that black neckerchief and surrender to him?

“No. I’ll surprise you sometime soon, that way we’ll be even.” His smoldering eyes searched her face.

He was probably about to say something so blatantly sexual she’d melt into a puddle right in her platform heels. But she needed to clear the air first. “For the record today, you were wrong. Me not coming to your place wasn’t an intentional slight. It wasn’t because I think I’m too good to step foot in your trailer.”

“Look, about that—”

“Let me finish.” She pointed at herself. “Recently deflowered virgin here, remember? I don’t know any of this ‘who stays at whose place how many times’ type of stuff. But I do know if you would’ve said something to me, it wouldn’t have come down to this.”

“I’m thinkin’ you tying me up and havin’ your selfish way with me ain’t all bad.”

She smiled widely. “Really?”

“You are sin in sexy shoes, Tierney. And I know something else.”

That twinkle in his eye had become a gleam. A warning. “What?”

“You have about four seconds to get into my bed.”

The part of her that hated to be bossed around wanted to retort, “Or what?” The part of her that couldn’t wait to be in his bed told the bossy part of her to shut the hell up and she started down the hallway.

At the halfway point when she felt Renner breathing down her neck, she broke into a run. She shrieked when they hit the mattress in a tangle of arms, legs, mouths and need.

And he’d proved to her, twice, just how much he loved having her as his overnight guest.

Chapter Twenty-seven

“Abe? Is everything all right? You seem preoccupied.”

He glanced up at Janie from his bowl of chili. “Why do you say that?”

“Because you said you were starved and you’ve barely eaten a bite.” Janie stroked his arm. “I’m worried about you. You haven’t been yourself the last week. Locked in your office until all hours. You’re exhausted. What can I do?”

He loved this side of Janie. The sweet, caring side. The side that wanted to soothe him with either touches or words. His biggest fear and greatest wish had been one and the same: from the moment she’d shown up in Muddy Gap he’d fall in love with her again.

Again? Did you ever really stop loving her?

No. Abe could admit that now. But he also admitted they’d both needed the separation in order to become the people they were today.

So he decided to tell her about his secret keeping and they’d deal with the fallout. He linked their fingers together. “Is there any chance you can get a couple of hours off on Saturday afternoon?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. Why? What’s going on?”

“Well, there’s this . . . ceremony and it’d mean a lot to me if you were there.”

She blinked at him with those long eyelashes and it struck him how beautiful she was to him. Every inch of her. Inside and out. “What kind of ceremony?”

“College graduation.”

“Who’s graduating?”

Abe’s cheeks burned. “Ah. Me, believe it or not.”

Her gaze never wavered. “You’re serious.”

“Completely. In three days I will officially have a bachelor of science in agricultural business from the University of Wyoming.”

“Why is this the first I’ve heard of it? I’ve been living here with you for weeks.” She paused. “Wait. Is that what you’ve been doing in your office all those nights?”

“Yeah. My classes are all online and I only have time to study at night. So some nights after you fall asleep, I get up and hit the books.” He inhaled. Blew out a breath. “The truth is no one in my family knows. Not Hank. Not Celia. No one.”

“Why not?”

“Mostly because I didn’t want people—my friends and neighbors—askin’ me, ‘Hey, Abe, did you ever get that college degree?’ There were a couple of semesters I wasn’t sure if I’d ever graduate.”

“When did you go back to school?” When he didn’t answer, she figured it out. “After I left.”


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