For His Brother's Wife(6)

By: Kathie Denosky


They stared at each other for several seconds before she started toward the door. “I’d better check on dinner. It should be ready in about twenty minutes if you’d like to wash up.”

“Yeah, I’ll be down as soon as I shower and change clothes.”

When she pulled the door shut behind her, Cole took a deep breath, turned to get a clean set of clothes from his luggage and then headed toward the adjoining bathroom. It was going to cost him a fortune in overtime and his work crew was probably going to end up despising him for it, but he was going to push them to get the Double R job finished in record time. His peace of mind depended on it and for a couple of different reasons.

At one time the Double R ranch house had been his home, but there were too many unpleasant memories of the clashes he’d had with his twin for Cole to be comfortable staying there. When they were growing up, he had dismissed Craig’s narcissism and need to win as just being overly competitive. But when his brother had involved others—unconcerned if they got hurt in his game of one-upmanship—Cole had quickly realized Craig was driven by a dark side that seemed to be directed exclusively toward him.

As he finished his shower and pulled on a clean shirt and jeans, Cole gritted his teeth when he thought of their last confrontation. Before he’d had a chance to ask Paige out, Craig had somehow figured out the extent of the attraction Cole had for her and it was as if he had thrown down a gauntlet that Craig quickly picked up. When Craig had taunted him with his intentions of bedding her before Cole had the opportunity to ask her out, they had come to blows. Cole had even tried to divert his twin from his mission by telling him that he was no longer interested in Paige. But it hadn’t worked and the next thing he knew, Paige was pregnant and she and his brother were getting married.

Taking a deep breath, Cole tried to release the rage that still gripped him whenever he thought of the callous way Craig had used Paige. It was one thing for his twin to come after him, but when his brother had involved her in his vindictive game, Craig had crossed a line. In Cole’s opinion, it was unforgivable.

But that was ancient history now. His window of opportunity with her had closed long ago. No matter what lengths Craig had gone to in order to win Paige, Cole had to accept the fact that she had remained with his brother for more than a decade. That had to mean they had been committed to their marriage, and whether or not he and his twin had gotten along, Cole was bound to honor that.





Two

“I hope you like country fried steak,” Paige said, looking up when Cole walked into the kitchen.

The faint scent of his woodsy aftershave put her senses on full alert, but it was the way he looked that caused her pulse to race. His short, light brown hair was still damp from his shower, and he’d shaved off his five o’clock shadow. She barely resisted the urge to sigh when her gaze drifted lower. He was wearing a gray T-shirt with the R&N Builders logo in red, white and blue on the front; the knit fabric had to stretch to accommodate his bulging biceps and emphasized his well-developed shoulders and chest muscles. Her gaze traveled farther, causing her pulse to speed up. His worn jeans rode low on his narrow hips and clung to his muscular thighs like a second skin. She had to force herself to concentrate on removing the apple pie from the oven without dropping it.

Why did Cole have to be so good-looking and so darned masculine? And why on earth did she have to notice?

“I like just about anything homemade, but country fried steak is a favorite,” he answered, seemingly oblivious to her wayward thoughts. “Is there something I can do to help you finish up dinner?”

She shook her head as she placed their dessert on the kitchen island to cool, then reached for the platter of steaks and bowl of garlic and herb mashed potatoes. Carrying them over to the table, she motioned for him to sit down as she placed the dishes beside the garden salad she had prepared earlier. “I have everything ready if you’d like to take a seat.”

He remained standing as she poured them both a glass of iced tea, prompting her to ask, “Is there something else you’d like? I think I have a beer or two in the back of the refrigerator if you’d like one of those instead.”

He shook his head and stepped behind her chair as she set the pitcher on the table. “Tea is fine. I’m just waiting to pull out your chair for you.”

Paige tried to hide her surprise as she sat down. When was the last time a man had been chivalrous toward her? She couldn’t remember if Craig had ever shown her those kind of manners. Maybe when they’d first started dating or when they had attended one of the holiday balls at the Texas Cattleman’s Club and he’d noticed all of the other men pulling out their wives’ chairs for them. But she knew for certain that he had never done it for her when it was just the two of them sitting down for dinner at home.

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