Bedded Then Wed(8)

By: Heidi Betts


Emma’s cheeks heated, but she hoped neither her father nor Mitch would notice in the dark.

“My pleasure, sir,” Mitch answered, rocking back on the heels of his well-worn boots, hands still in his pockets. “Anything else I can do for you tonight before I get going?”

“No, no, you go on.” Her father started toward the house, slipping out of Emma’s hold and looking more steady on his feet now that he’d had the chance to stand for a few minutes. “Have a good night. We’ll see you soon.”

“Yes, sir. Good night, sir.”

“Emma, I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“All right. ’Night, Pop. I love you.”

“Love you, too, sweetheart.”

The screen door slammed closed behind him and she waited several long seconds before speaking. Once she was sure he was out of earshot, she turned to face Mitch.

“Went a little overboard with the ‘yes, sir,’ ‘no, sir,’ ‘have a good night, sirs,’ didn’t you?”

She thought she saw him wince and bit back a chuckle of amusement.

“Maybe,” he answered shortly, his face a mask of inexpression. “But it sure beats the alternative.”

“What’s that?”

“Letting him know I spent the last half hour rolling around in the loft with his daughter.”

It was Emma’s turn to wince, and she cast a quick glance over her shoulder, afraid her father might have been close enough to overhear Mitch’s declaration.

She was a grown woman, so what she did with her body and with whom was no one’s business but her own. But talking about sex in front of her father—or worse, having him know she’d just finished having hot, extremely satisfying sex in his barn—was still something that made her keenly uncomfortable.

“Point taken.”

Gravel crunched beneath her feet as she crossed to him, then followed as he stalked to his truck.

“Thanks for your help with the horses and cattle,” she said.

He nodded, opening the door and climbing inside.

Watching him get ready to leave made her stomach clench. But what had she expected? That he would ask to stay the night or suggest they sneak back into the barn for seconds? That he would declare his undying love and fall to one knee, asking her to marry him?

She might harbor fantasies of happily-ever-after with him, but she wasn’t delusional. She was realistic enough to accept that sex was just sex, even if it had been with the one man she’d always secretly had a crush on.

“So I guess I’ll see you around,” she offered. The perfect opening for him to ask her out on a date, tell her he’d call, anything to imply that what had passed between them would be more than a one-night stand.

“Yeah,” he replied, and nothing more.

A beat passed before he started the engine, then turned his head to meet her gaze. “’Night.”

Forcing a smile to her lips, she swallowed back the bubble of disappointment swelling in her belly. “Right. Good night.”

He put the truck in gear, turned around and rolled slowly down the drive. She stood watching until his taillights disappeared, rubbing her arms to stave off a chill that centered in her chest and had nothing to do with the still night air surrounding her.





Three


E mma glanced at her shopping list. She had everything she needed except bread flour.

Turning down the baking aisle, she scanned the shelves for the brand and type she wanted, groaning when she spotted it on the uppermost shelf. The store had apparently rearranged items since the last time she’d purchased bread flour. And at five foot three, that left it just a couple of inches out of her range.

Pushing her cart to the side, she used the toe of her shoe to nudge cans of pie filling on the lowest shelf out of the way, then grabbed hold of a shelf at waist level and hoisted herself up. Her fingertips brushed the front of the bag, but she still couldn’t get a good enough grip to lift it down.

“Need some help?”

With a yelp, her hold on the shelf slipped and she fell backward. Strong hands and an even stronger chest caught and steadied her.

She turned, looking up into Mitch’s hard, gray eyes. Not that she’d needed to see him to know who’d spoken to her. She would know his voice anywhere.

“Hey,” she greeted him, feeling slightly out of breath, and not because of her graceless pirouette from the grocery store shelves.

It had been two weeks since the Fourth of July picnic, since that night in the barn. Two weeks without seeing or even hearing from him again.

She hadn’t been surprised. She would have been more surprised if he’d called or shown up on the doorstep, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t disappointed.

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