running from the past Page 5

She carried four bags and he somehow managed to juggle six. How, he wasn’t quite sure. He’d never helped Rachel with groceries when she worked for him. To be fair, he’d also never wanted to pin Rachel flat on her back, fuck her until neither one of them could move, resurface to the real world for sustenance, then fuck some more.


Once he’d helped Emma inside the kitchen he tried to help unload the bags but she had other ideas. Every time he took something out of one of the bags, she snatched it from him like a child hoarding pieces of candy.


“Am I in your way or something?” he finally asked.


She sighed and put soft tortillas into one of the refrigerator crispers. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the help but I need to know where everything is. I’m very particular about things and I still need to rearrange this pantry. I don’t want to put anything new in it until that’s done.”


“What’s wrong with the pantry?” He peered inside. Cans, boxes of pasta, cereal and other random dry foodstuff filled it. There wasn’t much there but everything looked okay to him.


Her brows furrowed together and she gave a little head shake in his direction as if he’d grown horns. Unfortunately, that little head shake turned him on more than anything any woman had ever done. His cock stirred in his pants and his throat tightened as he stared down at her. Yeah, he was in serious trouble.


“Do you mind?” She spoke softly and took a can of red beans he hadn’t realized he still held.


He mumbled something unintelligible, even to himself, and backed out of the kitchen, but before he’d made his exit, she stopped him.


“Caleb?”


“Yeah?” He pivoted in the doorway. When she said his name, his heart nearly jumped out of his chest.


“You look very nice today.” Her eyes crinkled slightly and the corners of her lips curled up. Not into a full smile but he’d take what he could get.


“Wh… Thanks.” He wasn’t sure what else to say but she’d started bustling around the kitchen, ignoring his presence, so he assumed saying nothing would be the best response. If he did nothing, he was safe and he didn’t run the risk of sticking his foot in his mouth. Once a day was quite enough, thank you.


In his room, he stripped out of the monkey suit his ex-fiancé had insisted he buy and changed back into comfortable jeans and a t-shirt. Just as he’d laced his work boots back up, his bedroom door swung open and Robert stormed in.


“What the hell happened to my truck?” His friend grabbed the door handle to stop it from ricocheting off the wall again.


Caleb inwardly groaned. He’d hoped to have this conversation later. “You can drive mine for now.”


“I don’t want yours, I want mine. What the hell happened?”


“I don’t know.”


“What do you mean you don’t know?”


He shrugged. “Emma said a cow charged her.”


All traces of anger disappeared from his friend’s face. He cleared his throat once.


“She said what? One of our cows charged her?” He nodded and stood up. “That’s exactly what she said.” A grin split Robert’s face wide open. “Damn it’s nice to have a woman out here again. Breaks up the monotony.”


“You haven’t said anything to her about it have you?” Robert shook his head. “Nah, I saw it and thought I’d talk to you first. I didn’t want to say something stupid and scare off the best cook we’ve ever had. Especially after what happened earlier.”


They left his room and headed down the long hallway toward the kitchen. Already, delicious, albeit foreign smells wafted through the house.


“Good, let’s keep it that way. I’ll pay for the damages…” He jerked to a halt when Robert’s last comment registered. “What do you mean, after what happened earlier?” Robert shoved his hands in his pockets, cleared his throat and looked at him as if he’d just asked the sum of thirty-five times eighty-six.


“What happened?”


“I think Emma might have overheard some of the new hands talking about her. I found her wandering around the stables today looking for her truck…” He held up a hand and sighed. A detailed explanation wasn’t necessary. He knew exactly how his men talked. Some of the new men were barely twenty, horny all the time and crude. Hell, he’d been exactly the same way at that age. “I’ll take care of it later.”


When they entered the kitchen, Emma was taking a casserole dish from the oven.


She set it on the counter then glanced from Caleb to Robert and when her soft eyes landed on Robert, she winced. “I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for whatever—”


“Don’t worry about it. How ‘bout you bake me an apple pie a week for the next month and we’ll call it even?”


She blinked a few times. Opened her mouth, then snapped it shut before bestowing one of her heart-stopping smiles on him. “Deal.” Caleb fought an irrational surge of jealousy. Robert was married. Happily married at that. Even so, he didn’t want her looking at anyone like that but him.


He chanced one last glimpse of her before walking into the dining room. She wore jeans again today, low rise this time and they molded perfectly to her curves. When she bent over the stove, he got a fantastic view of her ass. Her brown wrap-around sweater rose up on her back, giving him not only a great view of her assets but a clear picture of the bottom half of a tattoo. It was too hard to tell what it was without lifting her shirt and… No, no, no.


Chapter Four


She’d set the table earlier in an attempt to set up a pattern. Caleb and Robert were the first two to show up so she wanted to get everything else out before the other men arrived. When she entered the dining room, she tried to ignore Caleb’s gaze on her.


He wasn’t outwardly gawking or leering but she could feel the intensity coming from his direction as if he was sending heat seeking missiles her way. She knew he wanted her. She might not have much experience with men but she knew when one was interested. And Caleb Ryder was. She’d recognized his attraction to her almost immediately but when he’d asked her to lunch earlier, there had been no mistaking the simmering heat in his eyes that practically screamed he was biding his time trying to bed her. He might not even be aware but his green eyes flashed a little brighter every time he saw her.


Oh, she wasn’t worried about him doing something inappropriate but just knowing he wanted her set her a little on edge. And a lot on fire. Knowing he wanted her as much as she wanted him was not a piece of knowledge she needed right now. Why couldn’t he hide it a little better?


He wasn’t even her normal type. Not that she really had one but she’d never envisioned herself wanting a rough looking cowboy with tattoos. He wasn’t conventionally attractive and he definitely wasn’t a pretty boy, although he did have a boyish charm about him. That could have something to do with the beat-up brown cowboy hat he wore all the time and the way he mumbled around her. It was strange but she preferred him in his jeans and button-down flannels as opposed to the Versace suit he’d worn earlier.


Why had she told him he looked nice? She still wanted to kick herself for that comment. She couldn’t remember ever being so attracted to a man. His hands were rough and calloused but something told her he’d be gentle if he touched her. She clenched her legs together and imagined him running his hands down her…


“Emma?” Caleb’s deep voice interrupted her thoughts.


She looked up to find Robert and Caleb both looking at her and she realized she’d been staring off into space.


“I’m sorry, what?” How long had she been standing there, staring into the casserole? She fought the heat rushing to her cheeks. At least they couldn’t read her thoughts.


“We just wanted to know what that was,” he said, pointing at one of the dishes.


“Pierogi Casserole.”


She received blank stares from both of them. Before either one could ask what was in it, everyone started filing in.


She escaped into the kitchen, knowing that Caleb would probably ask her to join them again. When she heard grunts of appreciation coming from the other room, she went to the utility room, took out the dry laundry, and started one last load before calling it a night. She grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, the small salad she’d prepared earlier for herself and slipped up to her room. Eating in her room felt rude but she wanted to go over the notes she’d taken at the library and she couldn’t do that in the kitchen.


In an hour, she would head back down and clean up the mess once everyone left.


At least tomorrow was Saturday and she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking in the morning. She’d spied a laptop in Caleb’s office. Maybe he would let her use it.


She started reviewing her notes when a huge yawn escaped. Her feet ached and her eyes felt as if sandbags weighed them down. A little nap couldn’t hurt. I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes, she thought.


* * * * *


Caleb lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Familiar shadows cast from the dim moonlight danced around his room. Crickets, frogs and even the horses were quiet tonight. The only sound audible was his breathing. Nonetheless, sleep was impossible.


Not with the mysterious, sexy brunette one floor above him. After dinner he’d been worried about her, so he’d gone to check on her. He found her sound asleep, with one arm curled underneath her head on the small, antique desk, papers scattered everywhere and an untouched salad beside her.


There was no way he could have woken her up. She looked so peaceful, if a bit uncomfortable, and disturbing her had seemed cruel. Besides, if he was going to wake her up, it certainly wasn’t for something as mundane as doing the dishes. So, he’d done the dishes, cleaned up and now he was staring at the ceiling with a raging hard-on. It was ridiculous. He hadn’t had any serious interest in sex in a year. Not since he found his ex-fiancé fucking two of his men. And if he was completely honest, he hadn’t had any interest—at least not in her—a solid six months before that. The relationship had died and he’d been too stubborn or lazy to admit it.