The Maverick's Red Hot Reunion  (13)

By: Christine Glover

Something clutched low in his belly, making him want more than a physical reunion              . Making him remember days when she’d tease him about his fear. How could he imagine scaling fifteen-story luxury hotels during their construction phase when he had an extreme phobia of heights? She’d coaxed him to the roof time and time again in her determination to help him overcome his anxiety.

“She walks on that roof like she owns it,” he said.

Caleb grinned. “Hell, she’s been climbing scaffolding and crawling on roofs ever since she’s been old enough to untie her mama’s apron strings and hitch a ride to the construction sites in her daddy’s truck.”

“Her father taught her well.”

“If anyone can get Sweetbriar Springs and the surrounding region in the black again, Kennedy’s the person to make it happen,” Caleb said.

In the days since he’d arrived at Sweetbriar Springs, shocked to find his ex-fiancée on the site, Zach had grown a grudging respect for Kennedy’s business savvy. That she’d gone on to get an MBA hadn’t surprised him. He’d never had any doubt in her abilities. Now she’d melded her hands-on experience with book smarts.

A surge of pride flowed through Zach’s veins. “She’s always wanted to build.” Not just houses and lodges and skyscrapers, but dreams. Dreams that had once included Zach. And after the charged moment they’d shared earlier, he doubted her dismissal of their attraction 100 percent.

Zach clenched his jaw, worked the tension back and forth. He’d returned to Sweetbriar Springs for Michael. The man who’d befriended him in college and brought him home for holidays and summer jobs was like a brother to him. Michael deserved to see this project succeed. But Zach hadn’t counted on working with Kennedy, still wanting her. And knowing she returned his physical feelings only added to his desire. He had to get this damned attraction out of his system once and for all.

Then he’d move on with his heart intact.

A sharp sound crackled overhead. Zach snapped his head toward the sound. A sheet of shingles scraped down the lodge’s rooftop. Three fell to the ground with a clunk, clunk, clunk.

And Kennedy’s hard hat disappeared from view.

Zach’s heart lurched and adrenaline squirted acid in his mouth. “Get the first aid kit. She could be hurt,” he shouted.

“On it.” Caleb took off running.

Zach raced for the scaffolding. A dizzy, suffocating pressure banded around his chest as he looked to where the roof met the sky. He’d forgotten the building’s height. The sheer magnitude of the distance from ground to top.

Shake it off. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t look down. Just look up.

Air pumped through his lungs and the constriction loosened. He climbed the scaffolding, only thinking of Kennedy. His fear for her driving him upward. Instinct. Memory. Kennedy. That he still cared for her this much rattled him.

No. Damn it. He wanted her. Her expertise and her body. Nothing more. “Where are you? What’s going on up there?” he yelled as he reached the top and jumped onto the roof.

“I’m stuck in a squirrel hole. Didn’t see it until my foot broke through the wood. I can’t get the damn thing out.” A steady chorus of curse words followed. “Stupid squirrels. Shit. Shit. Shit. We’ll have to inspect and shingle the entire roof before installing the solar panels.”

He grinned. After growing up with construction crews, Kennedy’s language could make a sailor blush. “Screw the roof. We can fix it with an extra crew. You okay?” he called.

“The only thing that hurts is my ego.”

He followed the sound of Kennedy’s voice until he saw her leaning back on her elbows with her face lifted to catch the sun’s rays. Her brilliant curls cascaded down her back and across her shoulders.

His mouth dried. How he’d loved raking his fingers through her wild hair, holding it to tame her. Possess her.

A muscle twitched in his jaw. He dropkicked the memory out of his brain. “You’ll get more freckles if you lay about tanning,” he said.

She looked at him over her shoulder. “I’ll take an extra freckle or two. I need sunshine.” She narrowed her eyes as he approached. “Looks like heights don’t freak you out anymore.”

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