“You’re willing to walk away from everything you’ve known? Everything you’ve worked for?”

“Yes.”

“Forgive me if I don’t believe that after you toiled to earn all those advanced finance degrees, you’d give up a chance to put those theories into practical application. You prefer to be in Wyoming, worrying whether the guest in room four has enough clean towels?”

Direct hit. Renner almost heard Tierney deflate from that sharp jab.

“This place won’t make you happy for long. We both know it. You need to use your mind, not let it atrophy.”

Renner slammed the door and strolled around the corner, shoving his phone into his pocket. “Sorry. What’d I miss?”

Tierney stood and grabbed Renner’s hand. “Nothing. We’re done talking. I was just telling my father we’ve still got to unpack.”

“Fair enough.” Gene Pratt rolled to his feet. “And I’ll warn you to tread lightly on ultimatums as I’ve no patience for them.” He smiled at Renner. “Have a good evening, Jackson.”

“You too, Pratt.”

“Good night, Tierney.”

As soon as he shut the door on the room down the hall, Renner said, “Tierney? Baby, are you okay?”

“Not really.”

“C’mere.”

She willingly went into his arms. His kiss on her forehead became a soft smooch on her eyebrows. The corners of her eyes. The corners of her smile. Then their lips met fully and he ached to see this vulnerable side. He wanted to reassure her that it’d all work out, but he worried they’d just seen the tip of the iceberg where Gene Pratt’s determination was concerned. The icy mountain below the surface was always far scarier and able to inflict more damage.

Chapter Thirty-four

The front door slammed with enough force it rattled the dishes in the china cabinet.

Abe remained where he was, shoving each carpet sample against the wall, trying to decide which shade of brown looked better when he couldn’t tell the f**king difference and didn’t really give a shit. Janie should’ve been home hours ago to help him decide.

He lined up all eight samples in the middle of the empty room.

Thump times twelve echoed to him as Janie stomped down the stairs.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Working. Why?”

“You could’ve called. In fact you should’ve called and I hate that seems to be an option with you lately. I didn’t need to sit around and worry about you.”

“Who asked you to worry about me?” Her eyes narrowed to slits. “Don’t pull this ‘where were you’ macho bullshit on me, Abe. I didn’t like it back then and I sure as hell don’t like it any better now.”

He bit back his less than flattering retort. His gaze dropped to her hand, which clutched a very large tumbler of whiskey. “Bad day?”

“You have no f**king idea.” She knocked back a big gulp. “So, not only did Gene Pratt of PFG show up out of the blue, but as I was trying to explain why neither his daughter nor Renner was around, guess who strolled in, holding hands, and dropped a f**king bombshell?” She answered her own question. “Renner and Tierney. And get this, they’ve been secretly screwing around since before Thanksgiving.”

Abe said not one word.

“When I got pissy, rightfully so, Renner had the balls to accuse me of being oblivious. He said I was about the only one who hadn’t figured out that he and Tierney were involved. Seriously involved. Like in love and shit.”

He knew by the gleam in her eye she was about to ask the question he didn’t want to answer. But he’d be damned if he’d lie.

“Did you know?” she demanded.

“Officially? No.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It’s not the answer you want. If you’re askin’ me if I knew they had feelings for each other? Then that answer would be yes.”

“How?”

“Jesus, Janie. All’s I had to do was look at them. They kept their hands to themselves in public, but they sure as hell couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.”

She snorted. Knocked back another drink. “So I’m the village idiot. Awesome.”

“You’re not happy for them?”

“Not at my own expense.”

That sounded cold. “Are they firing you?”

“No.” She paced to the door to the bathroom and back. “But Mr. Pratt is right. How can I not feel betrayed that they couldn’t trust me enough to let me in on their secret? I worked with them. Every damn day. I’m mad as hell.”

“Are you mad at them or mad at yourself because you didn’t figure it out?”

Janie stopped. Faced him. “How is any of this my fault?”

Abe raised his hands in surrender. “Whoa. It’s not your fault. Why does there have to be blame?”

“I blame them because they made me look like a f**king idiot in front of the man who holds my future in his hands.”

“I thought I held your future in my hands.” He’d attempted a lighthearted tone but didn’t pull it off.

“Don’t even start with me, Abe. This”—she gestured to the space between them—“was temporary. You knew that.”

“Did I? So I should also assume things couldn’t change? Just like you assumed things wouldn’t ever change with Tierney and Renner?”

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