For His Brother's Wife(11)

By: Kathie Denosky

Cole’s first and probably best option would be to leave the Double R as fast as he could. But where would he go?

He was certain his room at the Cozy Inn had already been taken. They only had so many, and with the influx of workers there to rebuild the town needing a place to stay, the owners had a waiting list for their rooms, along with every other hotel or motel in the area. And crashing at Aaron Nichols’s place was out of the question. Even though he and his wife had just moved into a beautiful new home in one of Royal’s exclusive subdivisions, Aaron and Stella were newlyweds. There was no way Cole was going to intrude on their time together.

The only other option he had was to stay on the ranch, hope the weather cooperated enough for him to work his ass off and get the job done as quickly as possible. Then he intended to get back to Dallas as fast as his truck could take him.

Gritting his teeth against the heat building in his lower belly, Cole reached out and turned the warm water into an icy spray. The next couple of weeks stretched out before him like a life sentence, and he was going to have to fight with everything in him to keep from acting on the attraction. But he was determined to do the right thing or die trying.

* * *

After a rather silent dinner, Paige poured herself and Cole a cup of coffee. “Would you like to go out on the porch to have our coffee while we talk about my studio?”

“Isn’t it a little chilly for that?” he asked as he accepted the mug she handed him.

“I have a jacket,” she said, laughing. “Besides, I love listening to the falling rain. It’s very calming.”

She omitted the fact that she needed the wide-open feel of being outside in the hope of easing some of the tension between them. With Cole in residence, the normally spacious two-story house felt a whole lot smaller and made her more aware than ever of the attraction still simmering between them. She might have been able to ignore it if she hadn’t seen the heightened awareness in his eyes that afternoon when he’d helped her remove the cake from the oven. But all it had taken was one look and she knew they were both dancing around on thin ice.

“Here, let me help you with that,” he said, setting his coffee on the counter when she reached for her denim jacket on one of the pegs beside the back door.

When he took her jacket from her, Cole’s hand brushed hers, sending a delightful tingle up her arm. “I—I was just going to throw it around me,” she stammered.

Nodding, he stepped behind her to gently drape the garment over her shoulders. His hand seemed to linger a little longer than was necessary, and it was all she could do to keep from leaning her head to the side to lay her cheek against the back of it.

“Ready?” he asked, picking up his coffee mug. When she nodded, he reached around her to open the door. “Ladies first.”

As they walked out onto the porch and sat down in the swing, Paige realized she’d made a serious error in judgment. She hadn’t even considered how intimate it would feel as the sun went down and the dark night enveloped them.

“Besides the floor and another wall of windows, what do you want done to your studio?” he asked, setting the swing into motion.

“Would it be a lot of trouble to add a couple of cabinets for storing paints and canvas?” she asked, happy to focus on something besides the man seated on the other end of the swing.

“It wouldn’t be any trouble at all.” He took a sip of his coffee. “In fact, we could even add a sink for cleanup if you want.”

She liked the idea, but she wasn’t sure how difficult that would be. “Wouldn’t that be a lot more work adding the extra plumbing?”

Cole shook his head. “Not really. The north wall already has water and drain pipes running inside of it for the half bath on the other side. It’s just a matter of tapping into those.”

Enthused by the way the plans were shaping up, Paige set her coffee cup on the small wicker table beside the swing and turned to face him. “That would be fantastic. Since I mostly work with acrylics and watercolors, I’ll be able to rinse and clean brushes without having to leave the room and run the risk of dripping paint on something.”

“It’s nice to see you’re excited about it.” His smile caused a tiny flutter in the pit of her stomach. “And I’m glad I’m able to help make it happen.”

Suddenly self-conscious, Paige laughed nervously as she sat back in the swing to stare down at her hands. “I’m sorry. You probably think it’s silly for a grown woman to be this enthusiastic about something as commonplace as redecorating a room.”

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