running from the past Page 10

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Caleb put on aftershave, something he hadn’t done in over a year and dressed in jeans and an olive green cashmere sweater he’d probably worn twice since buying it.


He slipped his cell phone into his back pocket and went in search of Emma. Voices and laughter trailed down the hallway. An irrational swell of jealousy surged through him and by the time he reached the open doorway to the kitchen, he had to unclench his fists.


Emma stood at the stove with her back to him. Robert leaned against the counter on one elbow and was apparently saying something funny because she kept shaking her head and laughing. She wore snug fitting jeans that outlined her ass perfectly and he wanted more than anything to strip her down again and take her on the counter. And he also wanted to deck his best friend. His happily married best friend who was just being himself. She was seriously fucking with his head.


“Hey man, we were just talking about you.” Robert finally noticed his presence.


“What about?” Even to his own ears, he sounded strangled and unnatural.


Emma glanced back at him, eyes filled with laughter and nodded. A half grin lit her face but she didn’t say anything before turning back to the stove.


“What about?”


“You’ll have to ask her. I just came by to see if you were going to be helping me out today. Most of the men are off and there are a few fences that need to be—”


“It can wait until Monday.” His words were abrupt and he immediately regretted his tone.


Eyebrows raised, Robert pushed off from where he leaned against the counter, looked at Emma then at him and grinned. It wasn’t an all-out smile that Emma would notice but he didn’t miss the knowing gleam in his friend’s eyes.


“Sure man. Izzy’s been after me to put up some new shelves in the guest room anyway.”


Seconds later, they were outside, walking through the garage toward the barn.


“That was fast work. Especially for you.” Robert slapped him on the back.


Caleb knew what he meant but he played dumb. “What are you talking about?” He rolled his eyes. “Don’t even try that bullshit with me. You looked ready to pummel me for just talking to her. So either something happened already or you’re pissed because—”


“All right man. Enough.” It’s not that Robert would breathe a word to any of the men if he told him but it was nobody’s business what went on between him and Emma.


The last thing he wanted to do was embarrass her.


“Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for you. After that bitch Heather, you deserve to get laid. You just better not screw this up. She’s the best cook we’ve ever had.” He chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Get out of here or I’ll tell Izzy you like another woman’s cooking better.”


“All right, I can take a hint.” He turned on his heel and headed toward his truck but he apparently couldn’t resist a parting shot. “Maybe she’s after you for your money.” His friend’s laughter trailed behind him all the way to his vehicle.


Caleb shook his head and inwardly grinned. Robert and a few of the men knew his real monetary worth but it wasn’t common knowledge that he was a millionaire several times over. During his twelve years away in the military, his father had made more than a few lucrative real estate investments. He was set for life, but in a few years he wouldn’t need his father’s money because he’d managed to do what his father never had.


He’d become one of the top breeders in the country. And it had only taken him five years to do it. Not that any of that mattered at the moment. The only thing he cared about was the sexy brunette in his kitchen.


He opened the door to the kitchen and silently watched as Emma darted around the room, preparing the rarely used, small table in the corner for them. He was glad she hadn’t set them up in the dining room. She glanced up from setting out one of his mother’s cloth napkins and smiled.


“I thought it would nice if we ate here instead. It’s cozier.”


“I was thinking the same thing. Do you need help with anything?” She shook her head and a few tendrils of her silky hair escaped the tightly wound twist. “Nope. Just sit down and stay out of my way.” Even her bossiness turned him on. “Yes ma’am.” He pulled out a chair at the round table and hungrily watched her.


She moved with such grace and ease and when she reached up into one of the cupboards to grab two small plates, he got a nice view of her exposed back. He sucked in a deep breath, then inwardly cursed.


If a sneak peek of her back turned him on this much after they’d already made love, he was in serious trouble. And since when did he think of sex as making love? It took all his willpower not to move in behind her and nibble on the sensitive spot behind her ear.


“What are you cooking?” he asked mainly to distract his wayward thoughts.


She took the pan off the stove and walked over to him. “Southwestern omelets, bacon and grits.”


“You know how to make grits? I’m impressed.” He waited until she sat down to start eating.


“I told you I came from a large family.”


She served herself almost as much as she’d served him. He couldn’t help but be doubly impressed by that. “And where exactly do you come from?” She paused, fork in mid air and her eyes locked on his. “Does it matter for now?” He shrugged, mainly to cover the disappointment he felt that she wouldn’t confide in him. “It would just be nice to know something about the very sexy woman I’m sleeping with.”


He received a small smile, presumably at the sexy comment. Then she frowned and chewed on her bottom lip. He could practically see the gear shifts turning in that pretty head of hers. Finally she sighed. “Caleb, I’ve got a lot of stuff I’m trying to figure out right now in my life and you’re just another complication.” He started to protest but she cut him off. “A very good complication. And the last thing I want to do is be less than truthful with you, so if you ask me something and I can’t answer, I’d rather not answer at all than lie. Does that work for you?” He didn’t have a choice did he? The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off. “I guess so. For now.”


She nodded, then answered softly. “Thank you for being so understanding.”


“Can I still ask questions? I know you might not answer but I’d like to know more about you other than you were a virgin until last night.” He got just the response he was expecting. Her face flamed at his words and she glared at him. “Fine. Go ahead. Ask away.”


He chewed on another bite of the eggs, giving her a chance to gain back some of her composure before drilling her. “How is it that you were a virgin? You told me you broke off an engagement.”


She chewed slowly, took a sip of her milk but wouldn’t look him in the face.


“Emma?”


When she put her glass down, white liquid sloshed over the side but she didn’t seem to notice. He could see another battle raging inside her. “He was gay.” He nearly choked on his coffee. “What did you just say?”


“I said he was gay. As in homosexual. Plain and simple. I’ve been his cover for years for reasons I am not going to get into and I finally had enough. End of story. Now, no more questions. Please? I don’t have the energy this morning.” The pleading note in her voice nearly undid him. And he was fairly certain she was telling the truth. “Okay.”


So, she’d left a man because he was gay? He could deal with that. It still didn’t explain why she was on the run. He’d seen real fear in her eyes the first day they’d met.


Had someone threatened her?


“So do you think you might show me some of your land?” Her voice brought him back to reality. She looked at him expectantly and some of the brightness had returned to her eyes.


“Definitely. We can go now if you’re ready.” Both of their plates were nearly clean and if they didn’t leave this very instant, he was likely to strip her down and fuck her on the kitchen table. When she nodded that she was through, he picked up the dishes and put everything in the sink. “We can deal with this stuff later.”


“Okay but…” She shifted from one foot to the other.


“But what?”


Her cheeks tinged pink. “Well, I’m not wearing a bra and it’s a little cold out there.” He grinned and pulled her tight against him. Her breasts flattened against his chest and he dropped a kiss on her forehead. He ran his hands up underneath the back of her sweater, savoring the feel of her smooth skin under his touch. When she arched closer to him, he almost changed his mind about showing her around. “I’m glad you listened,” he murmured into her thick hair.


“I didn’t think I had much of a choice.” She pulled her head back and searched out his lips with her own. It wasn’t exactly chaste but it wasn’t hot and passionate either. It was a sweet kiss. Sweet and unexpected.


She stepped out of his embrace and pivoted on her heel before he could protest. A few minutes later, she was back and had brought an extra sweater with her. She grabbed his hand with her small one and linked fingers before pulling him toward the door. “Ready?”


He nodded, unused to the strangely intimate gesture. He’d never held hands with anyone before. None of his relationships had ever progressed that far. Now that he thought about it, he realized he’d never even held hands with his ex. It was something so simple. Something couples in love did. Love? Whoa! Where had that thought come from.


He shook his head at his own absurd thoughts and locked the door behind them with his free hand. Their boots crunched over the fallen leaves as they crossed his yard in silence. He wasn’t a big talker and it didn’t seem she was either. If she didn’t have something to say, she didn’t try to break the silence with meaningless words. He stole a few glances at her and couldn’t get over the excitement playing across her face.


Excitement and wonder and something else he couldn’t pin down. Regret? It didn’t fit in with her bright eyes but the way she kept chewing on her bottom lip had him worried.