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Wild for you, p.16
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       Wild For You, p.16

           J. C. Reed
 
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  We remain silent as I go through the motions with Erin watching my every move like a hawk.

  “I don’t know about you, but I need a snack. Want to join me?” I ask once we’re done.

  She nods and joins me in the kitchen, but I can tell from her tense expression that my assurances have done nothing to dispel her worries.

  Chapter Twenty

  Erin

  “How’s your head?” Cash asks, holding out his hand to help me settle beside him. I join him for his mid-morning snack, keeping a few, safe inches between us, mostly because I can’t trust my own judgment around him.

  After last night, I need to make sure there’s still a professional line between us.

  “Good, but it doesn’t seem to get any rest.” I smirk as I peer at my cell phone. “Your family won’t stop asking me to join this and that activity.”

  Cash catches my expression and laughs. “My family’s a lot of things. Very strange is one of them. They can be overly welcoming, at times bordering on sickeningly friendly. Sorry, it had to be you.”

  “Maybe.” I might not be one to let people get close to me easily, but I’m not one to badmouth them either. Cash seems to sense my unwillingness to gossip because he clears his throat, signaling a change in subject is near.

  “Anyone give you the grand tour yet?”

  I blink, confused. “Of the house?”

  “Of everything. The house. The farm. Madison Creek.”

  “If you count driving through on my way from the airport to here, and then from here to the shops, then yes.”

  “That would be the High Street tour. I was thinking more along the lines of places to hang out on your days off, where the locals do their shopping, which contractors to visit if you decide you might be interested in staying here.” Cash winks, and for a moment I’m unsure whether he’s joking, being friendly, or flirting.

  “I don’t take any days off, as you’ve probably gathered,” I say a little frostier than intended. His smile vanishes, which makes me instantly feel bad. But Cash can’t ever get the wrong idea. I can’t settle. Won’t. Ever. Simply because it’s bound to end in tragedy. “But I wouldn’t mind having a look around, do a bit of sightseeing,” I add to soften the blow.

  His eyes light up again. “Well, in that case, I’ll take you out tonight.”

  Oh, crap.

  He had meant it when he first uttered the intention to date me. My pulse speeds up at the prospect of putting a name to what we have.

  Dating.

  It sounds so strange, so unbearably forbidden, given the circumstances, that I almost laugh with excitement.

  And there is also the undeniable fact that we’ll end up in bed again, which I can’t wait to happen. Except….

  “I’m not sure I—”

  “Relax, Erin. We’ll just grab a steak and beer, nothing too fancy,” Cash says, misinterpreting my hesitation, and nudges me slightly. “Just two friends enjoying a good meal. I’ll get a change from seeing the same walls over and over again while you get to ask me as many questions about Montana as you want. It’s a win-win situation, and long overdue.” He cocks his head. “You have to agree I was a poor host. This is my way of making it up to you.”

  “Sounds good.” I smile at him, relieved. Beer and steak—I can handle that.

  “I have a few things to take care of at work. Meet you at six?” His gaze seems rueful, almost as if he feels sorry for having to postpone our date to later tonight.

  Our attention is drawn to a sound outside as Margaret pulls into the driveway.

  “Sure. In the meantime, I’ll be outside if you need me.”

  I get up and hurry to meet Margaret at the door. Throwing a last glance over my shoulder, I catch Cash pulling out his phone. For a moment, our eyes connect, and I catch the odd glance he gives me.

  He’s anxious, I realize, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going on. Because there’s definitely something he’s not telling me.

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Erin

  When Cash mentioned beer and a steak, I assumed he was talking about some casual joint where he usually hung out, which is why I put on a wrap dress. Nothing too fancy, just a cream and brown thing that emphasized by best features without going over the top, and paired it off with flats.

  The moment we arrive at the Michelin star rated restaurant, and I see the luxuriously decorated tables and breath-taking décor through the large windows, I realize I should have put more effort into choosing my outfit.

  I also realize this is one expensive place.

  Waiting for Cash to take the lead, I brush my hands over the front of my dress.

  “What’s wrong?” Cash asks. As usual, his annoying, observing self escapes nothing.

  “I’m not dressed for this.” I point to my plain attire. My hair’s pulled up in a knot, and I’m barely wearing any makeup. And don’t even get me started on the flats that are practical to walk in but don’t do my short frame any favors.

  “You look gorgeous. Perfect as usual.” His eyes drink me in, and for a moment I’m almost inclined to believe him.

  “This was supposed to be two friends enjoying steak and a beer. What I’m seeing is the setting for a date.”

  “Because it’s a date.” Cash grins, revealing his white teeth. There’s a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I didn’t think you’d agree to this, so I decided to omit the expensive restaurant part. Now that we’re here, we might as well enjoy the experience. They do serve steak, albeit only a miniature of it.” He winks as though revealing the restaurant’s menu could persuade me into wanting to dine here.

  “This is too much,” I mumble, peering down at my dress. I wouldn’t be surprised if people sneered at us and closed the door in our face.

  Oblivious to my doubts, Cash’s hand finds the small of my back, and he leads me through the revolving doors, whispering in my ear, “Relax, sweetheart. You look stunning in this dress, though you’ll look even better naked in my bed.”

  My skin catches fire under his scorching gaze. I open my mouth to say something when the maître d’ appears to lead us to a private booth.

  We take our seats and Cash orders a bottle of wine—some sort I’ve never heard of but apparently will go well with our dinner. As I peer at the menu, I try to ignore the fact that the prices aren’t listed anywhere, which can only mean one thing.

  The restaurant’s usual clientele is confident enough to dine here and peer at the bill later.

  Even worse is the fact that nothing I’m seeing sounds even remotely familiar to me. Whatever these people are serving, it seems like they also invented it.

  Once the maître d’ has disappeared again, I shoot Cash a venomous look across the table. “You can’t be serious.”

  “What?” He shrugs, his eyes twinkling.

  “This is so not—” I struggle for words.

  What am I supposed to say? That I’m not used to my dates taking me out to restaurants that serve food I’ve never heard of? That I never agreed to something as lavish as this?

  “Relax, Erin,” Cash repeats. “Let’s have a great evening.”

  I shake my head grimly. “You’re unbelievable. What’s the whole point of this? I’m hired to help you. Not to get my fun out of it. Even if I wanted to, this doesn’t feel right.”

  “I want to get to know you.”

  “And this is the only place where you can do that?”

  He shrugs. “Obviously, not. But it’s the only place I saw fit for a first date.”

  “Are you ready to order, Mr. Boyd?” a server asks, appearing out of nowhere again.

  I peer up at him, then at Cash, who meets my gaze.

  There’s so much to choose from I’m sure I’d have no problem finding something to my liking—if only I knew what I was ordering. As if sensing my confusion, Cash says, “We’ll take the seven-course chef tasting menu. And get us a bottle of your award winning wine to go with it.”

  “What happened to our steak and bee
r? And who’s going to drink all this?” I point at the wine bottle we haven’t even touched yet, and he’s already ordered a second one.

  Cash leans back with an amused gaze, his eyes roaming over my body slowly.

  “Well?” I prompt. My hands move instinctively to the napkins, eager to find something to hold on to.

  “Is my presence making you nervous?” Cash asks.

  “What?” I blink once, twice, my brain fighting to come up with an answer. Should I reveal the truth—that I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life? Or should I lie and risk that he’ll see right through me?

  “That’s a good thing,” Cash says, taking my silence as a yes. “It means you’re attracted to me.”

  Which is an understatement. I’ve been attracted to men before. What Cash does to me is different. It’s like his presence is all consuming, heightening my senses, making me want to do things I never imagined I’d want to do.

  Like beg him to cut this date short and take me back to bed.

  Or invite him into the restaurant’s bathroom for a quickie. Given the expensive flair, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it furnished with a plush little sofa in case its rich clientele might be seeking a quick tryst of the horizontal kind.

  “You’re right. I am attracted to you,” I say slowly.

  More than he’ll ever know.

  And not just to his body, or his perfect smile, but also to the way he looks at me as, if he genuinely wants to find out who I am. His green pupils dilate whenever he peers at me, and his lips keep curving into a wicked smile, as though his own private movie is playing before his eyes…and it’s very dirty.

  Suddenly, I want to kiss him.

  Take him into my mouth.

  I want all of it. All of him.

  My hands grab the wine glass. Swirling the red liquid, I try to sound calm and steady as I ask, “You said you wanted to know more about me. What exactly do you want to know?”

  His gaze betrays his surprise, and for a second, I fear that he’ll ask about my past. And not just the usual generic stuff, but something more personal for which I’m not ready.

  What the hell was I thinking giving him carte blanche to ask whatever he wants to know?

  “Tell me whatever you want, Erin,” Cash says.

  “There isn’t much to tell,” I lie, my hands clammy.

  “I don’t believe that.” His hand reaches over the table to intertwine his fingers with mine. “Help me understand what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours. We both know you had plenty of other opportunities to choose from. Yet you decided to come here. What pulled you to Montana? And don’t say money. We both know that wouldn’t be the whole truth.”

  I smirk and break our eye contact. “Do they serve stuffed ravioli? I haven’t had that in a while.”

  “Possibly.” He squeezes my hand gently. “You’re terrible at changing the subject.”

  “Maybe.” I glance at him pleadingly, my insides turning hot and cold. “I’ve always wanted to see Montana.”

  “I’m sure. But what’s your secret, Erin?”

  I frown at his question. “Why would you assume I have a secret?”

  “Everyone does.” He looks at me for a moment. “What’s the real reason you’re here?”

  I swallow past the sudden lump in my throat. This is the time to tell him and yet— “I can’t expose my soul. Please, just drop it.”

  Cash nods, and then he gets up and pulls his chair closer. His arms wrap around me, cradling me, soothing me. My eyes fill with tears at his unspoken empathy. My head settles against his chest, the material of his shirt soaking up the tears spilling down my cheeks.

  I don’t want to cry. I haven’t in years, but the fact that I’m sitting here with this man, on the verge of revealing my biggest mistake—my biggest failure—tears up old wounds. Because the truth is much more horrible than he could ever imagine. He might not even understand, and the last thing I want is for him to think I’m a monster.

  “It’s okay,” Cash whispers, his deep voice soothing me.

  I shake my head grimly.

  Maybe everything’s okay now, but once he knows my secret, nothing will be the same again. Whatever he sees in me now, will be a thing of the past, a beautiful farce just like everything else I portray.

  During dinner, we keep quiet about my past. Instead, Cash tells me stories about his days in college and all the stupid things he has ever done. And I find myself laughing and forgetting, if only for a while.

  The service is impeccable and the food delicious. My taste buds fall in love with the King Crab appetizer, the grilled octopus, and crayfish stuffed ravioli. As we leave the restaurant, countless sparkling stars dot the night sky. Cash stops to place a soft kiss on my lips, and as I savor his taste and scent, my heart both races and falls, plummeting into new depths.

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Erin

  Cash has made it a habit to take me out for dinner, showing me around and introducing me to his friends and relatives.

  It’s been three weeks since our first night together, and Madison Creek has slowly become my home. People in town were friendly before, but now that I’ve been seen with Cash on numerous occasions, they’ve started to treat me like one of their own. What’s strange is that Cash and I feel as though we’ve become a couple—without an official label on it.

  He hasn’t taken our dating to the next level but his hand is always on me whenever we’re in a public place, our fingers intertwined or his lips brushing my cheek casually. Little stolen moments that always leave a tingle in their wake.

  People have started to throw us little, mysterious smiles as if they’re suspecting that I’m falling for him. On some days, it feels as though Cash is falling for me, too.

  I love the solitude Madison Creek has to offer. The pace is slower, more relaxed, which has started to rub off on me. Even my sister and Ally have noticed. But while I don’t feel that I’m changing, it seems as though my heart’s slowly falling into place.

  For the first time in my life, I’m happy.

  Truly happy.

  I’ve found a wave of peace inside me that I haven’t felt in a long time. I’ve started to dream of possibilities.

  I want this to last.

  This Sunday is no different. After our usual morning therapy consisting of stretching and muscle training, followed by lunch, the phone rings and Cash excuses himself, muttering something about work.

  The door to his office remains closed throughout the day. It’s late afternoon when I return from my gardening. The sun’s been relentlessly hot, and I’m eager to cool off.

  After a quick shower, I find Cash still locked up in his office, the door ajar.

  I barge in without knocking. “You won’t believe what I’ve just found.”

  He’s sitting in his leather chair, surrounded by stacks of paper and five large accounting books. His eyes rise from the computer screen reluctantly, and I notice the black, rimmed glasses.

  My heart skips a beat, and a sudden tingle gathers in my abdomen.

  They fit him perfectly, almost as good as the tight white shirt he’s wearing. It gives the impression that he’s shy, not hot-tempered and impulsive.

  “I had no idea you wear glasses.” My voice sounds oddly hoarse, strangled, what I came in for instantly forgotten, as hot waves of want travel through me.

  Who knew I had a thing for guys in glasses? Or maybe it’s just Cash who has this strange effect on me. As if on cue, my nipples bead, two prominent peaks straining against the material of my shirt.

  “These old things?” He places the glasses on the desk and rubs the bridge of his nose. “I don’t wear them often.”

  “Why not? You look…” My voice breaks.

  Sexy.

  Obscenely hot.

  “Yes?” Cash prompts, brows raised. There’s a playful glint in his eyes, as though he’s already figured out that he affects me in ways I’d rather not admit.

  “Smart,” I say.
“And bookish.”

  A bit like Clark Kent—strong and clever and devilishly hot.

  “Interesting choice of words.” In a few long strides, Cash has rounded the desk and reached the doorway, stopping only inches from me, and I can’t help but notice how smoothly he’s started to move. He’s barely leaning on his crutches any more. Give it a week or two, and I’ll replace his crutches with a cane. Give it another month or two, and he won’t even need a cane.

  I smile, pleased with the progress he’s making.

  “I like when you think I’m smart. Maybe I should wear them more often,” Cash says.

  “Maybe you should.” I peer up into his impossibly green eyes and regret it almost instantly. He’s standing so unbearably close my entire body reacts to him. My breathing’s impaired and my heart can’t stop racing.

  Cash leans into me, his mouth conquering mine hungrily, his hands seeking my body. I moan into his mouth when he breaks off too quickly. “I love it when you look at me like that.”

  “How?” I breathe.

  “Like you want to rip off my clothes and ride me hard.”

  My face catches fire, and I bite my lip. Is it that obvious that I want him? Damn, I’ll have to work on my poker face.

  “Maybe those were exactly my thoughts.” I pull him to the leather sofa facing his desk and grab his glasses before climbing on top of him. “You’ve been locked up in here for hours.”

  “Missed me?”

  “Kind of. But only because you’re the only entertainment around here.” I smirk. “So why do you hate them?” I put on his glasses and peer at him, catching his amusement.

  “I don’t hate them.” He lifts my chin so our lips almost touch. “I’m just not sure I really need them. They look better on you than on me. You should borrow them tonight.” His palms settle around my hips, and I rock them gently against his lap, feeling him getting hard beneath me.

 
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