A scowl twisted his full lips. “Believe it or not, I don’t get off on fightin’ with you.”
She resisted the urge to retort, Coulda fooled me.
“You gonna move and let me off your rug, or what?”
Say no. “Fine.” Tierney headed for the kitchen, where they’d have to stand, to keep this talk short. “What’s on your mind?”
“It occurred to me when I saw you at the store today that we didn’t discuss your role in helping out at the Split Rock until Harper gets back from her honeymoon.”
“Helping out how?”
“Hands-on help with the guests and employees instead of hiding in the office.”
Her cheeks heated. “I don’t hide. There’s actual work done in my half of the office.” Sort of. For the first time in her working life, she had little to do and all sorts of time to kill. She stretched out her accounting duties, but they still took less than half of her workday. In the last month, she learned to look busy, disguising her online chess games and closing her e-books whenever he blew into the room like an angry bull.
“We’re shorthanded on opening week, so I’ll need you acting as Split Rock hostess for the guests.”
He cocked his head like he’d misunderstood. “Come again?”
“I said no. Now, was that all?”
It pissed her off that Renner stalked her until her back hit the edge of the counter. It really pissed her off she allowed him to force her retreat.
“What? Think you’re too good to mingle with the common folk?”
No. I’m too awkward. I’ll embarrass the resort and myself with my obvious lack of social graces.
Not that she could tell him that because the shrewd man would lord her insecurity over her forever.
At her nonresponse, he goaded her. “Don’t want to get your manicured hands dirty? You feel it’s beneath your lofty position as financial whip cracker?”
Rather than lashing out, Tierney said, “You really have me pegged. I’m a stuck-up bitch who has no place in the hospitality business. I can’t imagine why you’d want a snob like me hanging around making our guests feel uncomfortable, so I’ll pass on your charming request. Now please leave my house.”
The man remained as solid as a stone wall in front of her, but he sure threw off a lot of heat. Tierney kept her face aimed at the floor, her arms folded over her chest. Her posture screamed “back off,” but apparently Renner was deaf because he kept trying to provoke her.
“Is this some new tactic?” he demanded. “Insulting yourself, then giving me the silent treatment? Hoping I’ll get confused and fed up and go away? Guess what, it won’t work.”
“It’s worth a try.”
He laughed abrasively. “You don’t give an inch, do you?”
Another laugh. Softer. “I don’t like talkin’ to your hair. Can you look at me?”
“Even if my eyes shoot fireballs at you and you spontaneously combust?”
“I’ll take my chances.” Her pulse leapt when his rough fingers slipped beneath her chin and tipped her face up. “Gotta flash them pretty browns if you want to start my hair on fire.”
Pretty browns? What was he up to, complimenting her? When she met his gaze, the compassion in his eyes stunned her. As did his gentle, “Ah darlin’, what’s really goin’ on?”
Tierney blurted, “I stay in the office because I’m good with numbers. I’m not good with people. I’m not charming like Janie or sly and sweet like Harper. The Split Rock would be better off having no hostess than having me acting all fake and shit.”
That’d shocked him. “Why didn’t you just tell me that?”
“Because you jumped in and told me why I said no. Why should I explain myself to you when you’ve already made the worst assumptions about me, my character and my business acumen?”
Renner’s too blue eyes searched hers intently. “Tierney—”
“You can’t claim you didn’t do that, because you did exactly that.”
“I know. I’m an ass**le sometimes.”
“No argument from me.”
He smiled. A wide, gap-toothed smile packed with pure roguish charm and damn if she didn’t catch herself smiling back. He touched the left side of her mouth. “Whoa. Lookit that. You’ve got dimples. Never noticed those before. Is this really the first time you’ve ever smiled at me?”
His phone rang and he backed away to fish it out of his front pocket. “Jackson.”
Tierney watched the blood drain from Renner’s face.
“Where is she? Is she all right?”
He snapped, “Hush for a second,” and turned away. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Renner hung up and booked it to the door.
But Tierney grabbed the back of his coat. “You can’t just leave without telling me what’s going on!”
“Janie’s been in a car accident. Abe’s at the hospital with her in Rawlins.”
“I’m coming with you.”
He whirled around. “Now why would you do that?”
Instead of saying, because I’m worried and I might be useful for a change, she tossed her head and retorted, “Because you need someone to keep you from driving like an idiot.”
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