Taming McGruff(8)

By: Laurie LeClair


Her gasp echoed in the nearly empty room. The color drained from her face. “Of course not.”

Griff had his answer. She wasn’t experienced. Somehow that made him angry at her callous assumption he, a complete stranger to her, would be a true gentleman. “You should be more careful of who you visit late at night.”

“You won’t harm me,” she stated with utter confidence.

“How do you know that? You don’t even know me.”

Her green-eyed stare met his, taking his breath away. “I trust you.”

Of all the things she could have said, this sliced through the stone wall he’d built around his heart. “Don’t,” he warned. “I can’t be trusted.”

She leaned close, coming within inches of him. “Liar.”





Chapter 4





The pounding rain pelted against the windows. Cold seeped into the house. She shivered as he directed her into his study. The storm outside had turned nasty. Griff’s looks could have been called the same.

“I’ll build a fire while we wait for the storm to pass.”

“Don’t go to any trouble for me.” Even her voice sounded wounded. Why had she said that to him? But she did trust him. She had no clue where that feeling had come from, but it was there nonetheless. It was his fierce reaction to her declaration that cut her. The warning still blared in her head. I can’t be trusted.

His heavy sigh bounced off the walls. “Does anyone know you’re here?”

“No.”

“Do you have a cell phone on you?”

“It’s in the other room in my tote—”

“That you left in my kitchen,” he finished for her. “Do you know karate or judo?”

“No.”

“Any self-defense moves?”

“Are you interrogating me?”

He knelt in front of the fireplace, striking a wooden match he pulled from the box. Expertly, he lit the pile of sticks and shredded newspaper. It took a few minutes, but it caught. Standing, he dusted off his hands. The flames licked, slowly spreading to the logs.

The sound of snaps and pops from the crackling fire surrounded her.

“I’m trying to protect you, Priscilla King.” His words were so soft she barely heard them.

“From who? You? I already told you.” She came up beside him, holding out her hands to warm them.

“I know.” He heaved a breath. “Not every man will be honorable. In a bedroom or a boardroom.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Do that.”

She took a small side step toward him; somehow she felt safer near him.



***



“It’s not letting up,” he said, nearly an hour later as he sat behind his desk and leaned his head back against the desk chair. The lights had flickered, and then gone off for good right after he’d started the fire.

He’d scraped up his files on the King family and tucked them in the top drawer of his desk long ago. But still he couldn’t shake the feeling he betrayed this woman he’d just met by having them in the same room with her.

He gazed at her, lying on a blanket he’d yanked from his bedroom and spread out in front of the roaring fire. In her stocking feet, she rested on her forearms on his pillow, staring at him. He could so easily lose his mind just looking at her, this lovely foreign creature inhabiting his nearly empty house, anticipating what it would feel like to touch her skin again, kiss those lips, see her naked body, and feel flesh on flesh…

“No radio, no little portable TV, no cell phone connection?” She shook her head. “Just a laptop that doesn’t work.”

“The Internet service is knocked out from the storm,” he corrected.

“So we’re stuck,” she said, resting her chin on her hand.

Why did he think staying behind his desk, separated by yards from her, would stop his imagination from running wild? It didn’t.

He shoved away from the desk and rose. Before he knew it, she jumped up. “Show me around?”

“Hmmm?”

“Your house.”

“My house?”

“You do have a flashlight, right?”

Griff nodded.

“Then, come on.” She grabbed his arm, tugging on him.

He bit down on a groan. Yes, he was right: her skin felt so soft against his.



***



Prissy swung the flashlight beam around the large, dark room. “Look at that,” she whispered in awe. “I love the arches, crown molding, the mantel above this fireplace.”

“The previous owners restored it all a few years ago.”

“And look! There’s a chandelier. Does it work?”

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