“I’m serious. At least if you kissed me even with the excuse of mistletoe we might have a chance of keeping it an innocent peck.”

“You’d really lay a sloppy, wet one on me? Here in public? In front of our employees and the whole damn town?”

“Yep.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“Any kiss I’d give you would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that we’re lovers, Tierney.” He spoke by her ear. “What you don’t understand? I’d love for every man in this place to know you’re mine. That I can kiss you any goddamn time I please. I’d happily rub it in their faces that you’re goin’ home with me. And that sexy little f**king dress will be on the floor by my bed tonight.”

She froze. “The dress did all this?”

“No. You did this.”

“How much have you been drinking?” she demanded in a fierce whisper.

He chuckled. “I’m drunk on you. Absolutely intoxicated. Totally wasted on nothin’ but you.”

A second later, she sighed dreamily. “You are so getting some when we get out of here.”

“Will you leave them shoes on?”

“As hot as you’re making me I’ll probably end up leaving the dress on too.” She whispered, “Oh. FYI. I’m wearing those thigh highs you like. And a matching thong.”

“For God’s sake, Tierney, do you have to torture me?”

“You started it.”

“And I’m ending it. Right now. Let’s go. No one will miss us—”

“Stop.” Tierney quit swaying to the beat and repeated, “Just stop.”

Janie and Abe danced alongside them. Janie asked, “Is everything all right?”

Renner scowled at her. “Yeah. Why?”

“Looks like you two might come to blows. Need I remind you we don’t need a repeat of the drink-tossing episode—”

“We’re fine,” Tierney snipped. “We’re not children.”

He didn’t need Janie and Tierney getting into it either. “Ladies—”

“No, Renner, let’s find out what it’d take to prove to Janie that we’re fine. Want me to kiss him?”

Janie’s eyes narrowed. “Very funny. I oughta make you two do it just to see you both squirm. In fact, pucker up. Both of you.”

“And . . . we’re leaving,” Abe said, directing Janie to the bar.

“Damn,” Renner said. “For a second I thought we’d get a chance to blow our cover.”

“Not tonight.”

The music stopped.

“I’ll see you later.” She gracefully disentangled from his embrace and vanished into the crowd.

Took ten minutes to reach the back of the room since people were expressing thanks for the party. Lots of thanks. Renner was pretty bowled over by the amount of good wishes.

Tobin nudged a beer toward him. “Seems folks are heading home.”

“Getting to be that time.”

“Who’s on cleanup duty?”

Renner shrugged. “You volunteering?”

“Given the choice between cleaning up here or bein’ the designated driver for Garnet and her Mud Lilies pals? No contest.”

“A contest you just won by default.” He pointed to Tobin’s beer. “Last call for you, buddy.”

“Me and my big mouth,” he muttered. “If I start gathering them up now, maybe I’ll be back before five a.m. when we start chores.”

“Ain’t no we in those chores tomorrow mornin’.”

“That sucks.”

“Yep.”

“What’re you gonna be doin’ that’s so important you’ll leave me to my own devices?”

Spending as much time as possible in Tierney’s bed.

Tobin sent him a sidelong glance. “Man. Tierney is smokin’ tonight. I mean, she always looks fantastic, but she kicked it up a notch or twenty in that slinky dress, didn’t she?”

A snarl arose. “If I catch you lookin’ at her again I will blacken both your eyes so you can’t see nothin’ outta them.”

Tobin laughed. “Dude. You are so whipped over her.”

“No lie.”

“So what are you gonna do about it?”

“Need me to draw you a diagram about the birds and the bees, college boy?” Renner taunted.

“With all due respect, boss, f**k off.”

The molten stares Renner sent her way were making her nervous.

Don’t you mean making you wet?

That too.

Could the man be any sexier? And the heated compliments he’d tossed off in that gruff cowboy way caused her stomach to cartwheel.

The community party had been a huge success. Any attitudes that “highfalutin huntin’ place” were too good to mingle with the locals had been laid to rest. Seemed the citizens of Muddy Gap considered the Split Rock a real part of the community.

Tierney organized the cleanup, shooing Janie and Abe out the door, since they had a way to drive and it’d started snowing. Lisa and Denise stuck around, providing a buffer between Tierney and Renner, but as soon as those women clocked out, he’d make good on the hot promises in his eyes.

She couldn’t wait.

“Anything else?” Denise asked as she grabbed her coat and stood next to Lisa.

“No. We’re done.” Tierney couldn’t resist poking the antsy man a little. “Renner? Can you think of anything Denise and Lisa need to do before they take off?”

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