Chapter 1-2

2357 Words
He should have realized that day Kylee Ross was always bad news. Too bad he’d learned the hard way where she was concerned. But the young girl he drove home back then hadn’t said anything more about Kylee. “Drop me off here,” she’d insisted. He’d stopped the truck at the edge of Hansen property. “My cousins will tan your hide if they catch you on Hansen land.” She opened the truck door and hopped out, but she couldn’t reach into the bed to grab her pack. He jammed the truck into park and retrieved it for her. She took the pack and put it on, hunching her narrow shoulders against its weight. Gratitude flashed in her eyes. “Thanks,” she mumbled, and scrambled down the ditch, climbing over the fence to her family’s property. And now here she was. All grown up and no longer scrawny. Definitely not scrawny. Mother Nature had blessed her with curves to die for. Curves to sink his fingers into and caress until her skin pebbled in delight. But according to gossip he’d overheard at Dottie’s Diner she was also very off limits. “Dottie mentioned you’re a doctor living with some old man. What are you doing in Chicago, living with a chef??” Now that he’d met her, the rumor disappointed him. Even if she was a Hansen. “PhD, not MD.” She rolled her eyes. “When are you people going to realize the news from the diner isn’t reliable? I’m a scientist,” she snapped. “Particle Physics. And my roommate is obviously not some old man.” She brushed a stray lock that had broken itself free from her tightly wound bun behind her ear, then pushed her glasses up her nose. He imagined winding the silky looking tress around his finger. He shifted his weight uncomfortably. He needed to stop this line of thinking and get a grip. She pushed her glasses up her nose again. Ah-ha. Her tell. So she was nervous. Well that made two of them. Not that wild horses could ever drag that admission from him. He was overcome with the urge to … impress her. That was ten kinds of bad. The kind of bad that wrangled you a date with an aisle and an altar, and there was no place for that scenario in his life. Not with the responsibilities he shouldered. He cleared his throat, suddenly wishing he hadn’t downed his scotch so quickly. “So… what are you doing in Chicago?” Quite possibly the lamest opener since… ever. He’d done better asking cheerleaders to the prom. She shot him a look of challenge and exasperation. “I’m an Associate Scientist here at Fermilab. What are you doing in Chicago? You’re the cowboy.” Dang she was sassy. She’d obviously inherited the Hansen trait of not backing down from a fight. “I’m sure you know about Fermilab’s bison herd. I delivered a pregnant cow and a two year-old bull. We ranchers are committed to preserving genetic diversity. Something you scientists are familiar with?” He didn’t keep the sarcasm from this voice. Her pretty mouth tilted downward. “Look. Nice to see you again and all, but don’t let me keep you from your party.” Hansens were bad news. Always had been. If he was smart, he’d turn and walk away. Right now. Too bad that was the last thing he wanted to do. She piqued his curiosity. He wanted more of this… banter. And whatever else that was zinging back and forth between them. Throwing caution to the wind, he extended his hand. “Why don’t you join me?” He knocked his chin back toward the front room. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What’s in it for you?” “The company of a lovely lady to help pass the time at a somewhat boring but very necessary event?” She snorted. “That’s a nice line, but it won’t work with me.” He spread his palms. “Consider this a favor then. I helped you out of a pinch once. Now you can help me.” He gave her his most charming smile. The one that his housekeeper, Mrs. Sanchez, said crinkled his eyes, and made her pinch his cheeks and call him niño. She pushed her glasses up her nose, staring at him in disbelief. “You’re calling in a fifteen year-old mark?” He shrugged nonchalantly. “I know you Hansens hate to owe anyone. Just giving you the opportunity to wipe the slate clean.” “You’re kidding.” She scowled at him, eyes flashing. “I’ve always heard you Sinclaires are the most arrogant bunch of–” He leaned forward, interrupting her. “Surely you’re made of stronger stuff, Dr. Hansen?” He’d push his advantage while he had the chance. She crossed her arms. “Surely you know you can’t manipulate me.” “Wouldn’t dream of trying.” He lowered his voice. “But I’d like you to join me.” The look in her eye softened a fraction. “Please?” Hell, when was the last time he’d begged? For anything? Let alone someone’s company? Her breath came out in a whoosh and she nodded. A tightness in his chest released, surprising him. She reached for her glass, squared her shoulders, and slid off the stool. “Fine,” she said, raising her chin in challenge. “Though I’m certain I’ll regret this.” He winked at her. “I’m certain you’ll never forget this.” As long as she thought he was arrogant, he might as well play the part. He settled his arm at her hip. As they moved through the crowd, his hand skimmed over the soft material of her skirt. Jesus. Was she not wearing panties? Awareness surged through him. He splayed his fingers, testing. Sure didn’t feel like it. Damn. He’d give his left nut to find out. He held the curtain open nodding for her to step through into the gathering. He dipped his head, steeling himself against the tantalizing scent of her hair. “You can tell me which scientists wear high-heels in their office.” “That’s the problem with you cowboy types. You think all scientists are poofs.” He raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t they?” She studied him over the rim of her glass. “We’re pioneers. Same as our ancestors. Only we think before we speak.” Zing. Well wasn’t she a surprising bit of sass? He should have expected that, given her father. “Boldly going where no man–” “Or woman,” she corrected. “And I don’t see cowboys pushing to be the front of the line for space travel.” She took a sip of her wine, regarding him intently. Was it possible to be jealous of a glass? His balls tightened as she licked the remains of the liquid from her lips. There were so many things he could imagine that pink tongue doing. “As long as we’re discussing gross generalities, why don’t we discuss how cowboys are an oversexed bunch of Neanderthals who can’t accept the possibility women have more than fluff between their ears?” He stiffened. “I’m not a Neanderthal.” She raised her eyebrows skeptically. So what if he’d been checking her out nonstop since Jamey had connected them? So what if the first thought that entered his mind was what she’d look like n***d beneath him? That didn’t make him a Neanderthal. That made him a flesh and blood man. “I’m not,” he repeated defensively. “But I am human. And there’s nothing wrong about appreciating a pretty woman.” He allowed his eyes to slowly rake over her curves. Her tongue darted out nervously to wet her lips as a slight pink flush crept up her neck. The vein there fluttered wildly. Huh. So she wasn’t as cool and collected as she projected. As if in answer to his thought, she pushed her glasses up her nose again. Her tell. Huh. Damn if that movement didn’t go straight to his c**k. It would not do to sport a raging hard-on in a room full of observant scientists. He needed to shut that s**t down fast. Ripping his gaze away, his eyes landed on a painting. Of a nude. A voluptuous reclining nude. With long blonde waves cascading over her shoulder. Not helping. So not helping. This wouldn’t do at all. Steeling himself, he went to the place he hated. His worst nightmare come to life. He hated thinking about that afternoon twelve years ago and the disastrous results, but it always did the trick. The vision was permanently branded in his mind and nothing sucked the s*x out of him faster. He shook his head, clearing the cobwebs and forcing himself back to the present. She tilted her head, analyzing him over the rims of her glasses, like he was some kind of specimen. “You okay?” Great. Nothing got past her. He swallowed, nodding. “Yep. Have you tasted the food yet?” Her eyes narrowed skeptically, but she didn’t press the matter. “No. But if it’s Jamey’s it will be incredible.” He ushered her to the table. “Everything on the table is made from bison from Sinclaire and Sons.” “When did you move to bison? Weren’t you always cattle?” He nodded, grateful to be on safer turf. “Ben. He convinced us to switch five years ago. Said it made financial as well as environmental sense.” Pride welled in his chest. He loved what he and his brothers had built together. “And did it?” “So far, so good. But we’re a small operation and need to continue to diversify. We’ve built the herd to seven-fifty, and we’re developing a nice A-list of clients across the country, thanks to creativity like Jamey’s.” He handed Maddie a cracker smeared with pâté, enjoying the ecstatic expression on her face as she savored the taste. Shit. Food was off limits too. All he could think about was doing things to her to elicit that same reaction. He couldn’t resist offering her another bite, this time of the bison bourguignon, just to see it again. Her eyes rolled back and she let out a satisfied sigh. His c**k stood at attention, loving the sounds she made. He bit back a groan as she slowly licked her fingers. “Oh my God. That’s so good. That’s bison?” She grinned, her eyes lighting. “Jamey’s the best.” No. Your reactions are the best. When was the last time he’d talked business with anyone but a client or his brothers? Or allowed himself to enjoy a purely sensual moment like this? This was dangerous territory. He needed to shift focus quick. He grabbed a glass of wine for her from a passing tray. “Refill?” She shrugged and accepted the glass. Lightly touching her elbow, he led her to the makeshift bar. “Scotch please.” She smirked. “So I see Jamey hasn’t convinced you of the finer points of Irish whiskey.” “Old habits die hard.” “What other habits do you have, Blake Sinclaire?” He stilled. The way she said his name. It rippled over him like a breeze dancing through prairie grass. Holy. Hell. “If you spoke to Dottie at the diner, she’d tell you I’m an old grumpus. If you spoke to Anders at the Feed ’n Seed, he’d tell you I pay my bill promptly on the fifth of the month.” His eyes narrowed. “And if you asked most mothers in town, they’d tell you to run, not walk away as fast as you could. Everyone knows that Sinclaires and Hansens mix like oil and water.” Her eyes widened at that. A half smile lifted the corners of her sweet lips. “I’m a Hansen, cowboy. We run toward challenges.” He snorted, shaking his head. “Don’t tell me you avoid them?” “Challenges?” She nodded, raising her eyebrows in cool assessment. He shrugged. “Let’s just say I calculate the odds before making a move.” Her eyes flared. Where in the hell was this conversation going? His chest felt like a balloon about to burst. Except for the occasional flick of her tongue, which drove him to distraction, she seemed cool as a cucumber. What would it take for her to drop the cool facade? He’d love to find out. “How very scientific of you.” She drained the rest of her wine and signaled the server for another. “You don’t have a corner on the intelligence market.” She c****d an eyebrow. “Considering I had a doctorate by the time most people discover college nightlife, I feel pretty confident.” He took a sip of his scotch. “I see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Her face remained impassive. “Say more.” “Warren Hansen is the cockiest bastard I’ve ever had the misfortune to wrangle with.” Her lips twitched like she was trying not to smile. “There’s your problem. If you want to come out on top, the last thing you do is ‘wrangle’ with my father.” She took a sip of her wine, amusement flickering in her eyes. “I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out. You’ve tried to buy back the disputed land, how many times now? Three?” Zing. He stifled the anger that flamed to life every time he thought about the fact that Warren Hansen had stolen the Sinclaire family homestead from his father. Land he desperately wanted to use for a hunting lodge. Not that he’d ever let on to a Hansen he already had plans in the works. No. They’d only use it against him. Bitterness rose in the back of his throat. “Warren Hansen swindled that property from our family and it’s an insult to our honor to beg for it back.” She tutted, shaking her head. “Swindled? Those emotions will get the best of you every time, Blake.” He clenched his jaw. He did not need to wrangle with another Hansen over his property. She spoke to him as if she was talking to a child. That rankled. He was a f*****g grown man with an MBA. He made deals. Big deals. With important people. He wasn’t some greenhorn basking in the glow of her intelligence. She smirked. “You seem to be as bad a poker player as your father.” He opened his mouth to make a smart reply, then snapped it shut again, glaring at her. She sighed, the look in her eyes too close to pity for his like. “I don’t know why I’m going to tell you this, but in spite of what you said about the mothers in town telling me to run, you seem like a nice man… for a Sinclaire,” she added. For a Sinclaire. That was a small victory. “First off. Practice your poker face. Warren can read you like a book.” He scowled. “I have a great poker face.” She arched an eyebrow in question. Fine. Maybe he didn’t. But he’d sure as hell start practicing. “Go on.” “You can’t go at him head on. You’ll lose every time. Figure out his pinch point and use it. And whatever you do, don’t challenge his pride.” He could kiss her for that. Right here. In front of everyone. The temptation was overwhelming, her mouth so perfect. He stepped closer.
Free reading for new users
Scan code to download app
  • author-avatar
  • chap_listContents
  • likeADD