Taming McGruff(7)

By: Laurie LeClair


“I heard that.”

“You weren’t supposed to.”

“Too late.”

They passed what she assumed was his den or study; there was a lone lamp turned on, sitting on top of a big wooden desk scattered with papers. Nothing else but his desk chair occupied the space. Even the built-in bookshelves behind his desk remained bare. Stark. Barren.

“This way, Miss Nosy,” he directed, essentially pulling her attention away from his office.

“Afraid I’ll discover something about you?” she baited.

He stiffened, and then turned. Nodding toward the study, he said, “Off-limits.” The command resounded in the high ceiling hallway. “Dinner in the kitchen. Then you go.”

“Ah, I’m sure when it comes time to give out awards for the best host, you’ll win.”

She thought he’d kick her out right there and then. However, he surprised her with a chuckle. It came out raw and nearly strangled, but it took her breath away.

“You have a sense of humor? Wow, wonders never cease.”

“Watch it, Pixie.”



***



Griffin James eyed the little bit of woman sitting near him on the only other bar stool at his kitchen island counter. She polished off the beef and broccoli. “Yummy,” she moaned, licking her lips.

Something stirred in him, low and deep. “How did you get my address?” He refused to give in to his cravings for her. She was not in his plan.

Her smile lingered, causing him to take a sharp breath. “I’ve got my ways.”

“Your stepsister? I’d have thought Charlie wouldn’t have given out confidential information.”

She slammed the empty carton down. “Of course she wouldn’t.” The fierce glare would have made a lesser man quake. It made him admire her, even more.

“So tell me. Convince me she didn’t.” He had his own idea now. “The ex-cop?”

“How did—” She stopped herself.

“It was him. Edward, did you say?”

“I didn’t,” she bit out. Priscilla pointed to his fortune cookie. “Aren’t you going to read your fortune?”

“I don’t have to. I already know what it says.” At her frown, he went on. ”A little Pixie will wreak havoc on your life.”

“Do you practice being a smart aleck or does it come naturally?”

That made him grin. “Maybe I should call you Sassy instead.”

“Here.” She cracked open her cookie. “I’ll read mine.”

“Aloud?” he prompted her when she remained silent.

“You will meet a dark, mysterious man.”

“It does not,” he said, taking the thin strip of paper from her outstretched hand. Quickly, he read the neat, typed script. “Damn, it does.”

“Show me yours.”

“Here?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. Why couldn’t he help himself around her?

Her gasp and flush brought him up short. She couldn’t be that innocent.

From the all too brief mention of her in the newspaper clip he’d just reviewed in his files, he had few clues to the type of person she was or the kind of life she lived these last few months away from her controlling, domineering mother.

Her teasing, outspoken behavior earlier in the evening had him assuming she knew her way around a man. Was he wrong?

“You read it.” He slid the fortune cookie toward her. She caught it deftly, and then pulled the white edge out.

Priscilla chuckled. “Your life will be turned upside down.” Holding it up, she showed him.

“I told you I knew what it said.” Inside, he tried to brush aside the rush of heat that swept through him at the musical sound of her laughter.

Hopping off the stool, she gathered the white cartons with food still in them. “And they say those things are made up. Who knew?” She carried them to his refrigerator and deposited them inside. “Your fridge doesn’t look much better than mine.”

He followed her lead, picking up the empty cartons and tossing them in the trash. “Thanks for dinner.” Somehow, he didn’t think her motives for coming here were entirely pure. He leaned against the counter and folded his arms across his chest. “Now, do you want to tell me why you’re really here?”

Nudging him aside until he moved, she washed her hands in the sink. She stood so close to him, he could smell her hair. Flowers? What kind?

“Not talking to me?”

“Nope.”

“Strange, you were so talkative until now.”

She glared at him under her lashes as she wiped her hands on a towel.

“Priscilla,” he tried out her real name, “do you often drop by men’s homes unannounced?”

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