She stopped in front of the fireplace. “Actually, I was with Renner the whole time. At the National Western Stock Show.”
“Ah. Doing a little word-of-mouth advertising for the resort?”
“No. Renner’s livestock contracting company had business meetings set up with rodeo promoters. It was partially a working vacation for him as well as a getaway for us.”
Janie’s gaze flicked between Tierney and Renner. “Us?” she repeated. “What does that mean?”
“It means that at some point my financial manager has become intimately involved with the man who’s borrowed a whole pile of money from me.” Her father stared at Renner. “Isn’t that right?”
“Involved? As in the two of you are . . . together?”
Janie leapt off the couch and got right in her face. “How long has this been going on?”
“For a while,” Renner said.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Janie whirled on Renner. “Either of you?”
“Yes, Tierney, why didn’t you share the good news with anyone about your new relationship?” her father taunted.
“Because it’s private and has no bearing on our business relationship.” She locked her gaze to Janie’s. “Since you had no idea that Renner and I were anything but business associates, you can reassure my father that our working hours were solely devoted to business.”
Janie looked at Gene Pratt. “Sir. I assure you that I had no inkling more than a business relationship existed between them.”
“I believe you. I see how upset you are by all this, and I don’t blame you.” He smiled empathetically at Janie. “I’d like to talk to you in more detail about what we spoke of earlier. I’ll be here all day tomorrow and I leave on Tuesday morning for Denver.”
Another day and night with her father?
“Thank you. There’s stuff in the office I need to take home.” Janie started up the stairs.
Tierney’s father stood. “I’ll be in the lounge area. Dodie prepared dinner for us. You’ll have to serve, as I’ve sent her home.” He had his BlackBerry in his hand as he wandered away.
Renner mouthed, “Serve?” as they scaled the stairs.
“Yes. God forbid if he ever had to fix himself a plate.”
The door to the office was ajar. “Janie?”
“Don’t worry, I was just leaving.”
“Stay a minute and talk to us,” Renner said.
Janie dabbed her eyes with the tissue in her hand. “Why? So you can explain? Save it. I don’t want to know.” She sniffed. “Jesus. I’m such an idiot. And I’m sure you both got a huge laugh putting one over on me.”
Renner touched her arm in a show of support, but Janie flinched like he’d slapped her.
“Don’t be nice to me. I trusted you. Both of you. And it hurts like hell that you couldn’t be bothered to tell me what was going on between you.”
Rather than continue to coddle her, Renner got mad. “Really, Janie? You didn’t notice that every time Tierney came near me I couldn’t keep my eyes off her? You didn’t wonder why we locked ourselves away in this office so often?”
“I thought it was about business,” she said petulantly.
“After you moved in with Abe? You never once asked me how I spent my nights. Or who I was with. You didn’t question why we went away to Denver together? Don’t blame us for you bein’ oblivious.”
“Janie the idiot. It’s probably a sign that I should move on,” she muttered, slipping on her coat.
“A sign you should move on?” Renner demanded. “What’s that mean?”
She gave him a cruel smile. “It’s my private business and has nothing to do with you.” The door slammed behind her.
Tierney walked to the window and watched it snow. Was it really only an hour ago she’d never been happier? That everything she’d ever wanted was finally within reach?
Now she just wanted to cry.
Supper, aka dinner in Gene Pratt’s world, was a stiffly formal affair. With no table staff, Tierney served the food, poured the wine and acted like the uptight Tierney he’d first met months ago.
Renner didn’t like the reversion one bit.
But her father didn’t notice because he talked over her. Lectured her in the guise of discussing business. Not once during dinner did Gene Pratt ask a single personal question of his daughter.
As they lounged by the fire, acting ridiculously civilized, Renner topped off Tierney’s wineglass. He didn’t care if she rebuffed his support; he’d damn well show it in front of her father. Sitting beside her, he draped his arm behind her shoulders. Then he kissed her temple and set his booted feet on the coffee table, like he always did.
Tierney hid her smirk behind her wineglass.
Gene Pratt did nothing so crass as scowl, but disapproval rolled off him. “Where exactly do you see this relationship going?”
“With all due respect, that is between me and Tierney.”
“But you aren’t so naïve to believe this relationship will continue once Tierney returns to Chicago.”
“I’m not returning to Chicago.”
It was all Renner could do not to turn and gape at her. Seemed Miz Straightforward hadn’t been so forthcoming.
“And I told you I wouldn’t accept your resignation. Your six-month sabbatical is nearly up.” He swirled the cognac in the snifter. “Besides, you have been doing work for me while you’ve been on personal leave.”
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