For His Brother's Wife(9)

By: Kathie Denosky

Stepping away from him at the door to his room, she nodded. “I’ll be sure to keep it simple.”

They stared at each other a few moments longer before Cole opened his bedroom door. “I’ll try to be quiet in case you want to sleep in tomorrow morning.”

“Sleep well,” she said as she turned to enter her room across the hall.

Closing the door, Paige leaned back against it and took a deep breath. Why did she feel as if she was still that starry-eyed sophomore girl talking to the cutest senior boy in Royal High School whenever she was around Cole? And why had he broken his promise to ask her out when she graduated?

She shook her head at her own foolishness as she pushed away from the door and got ready for bed. She might have had a huge crush on him when she was younger, but that was ancient history. He had made his choice not to ask her out. Besides, some questions in life were just better left unanswered.

* * *

The following afternoon, Cole kept a close eye on the clouds in the Southwestern sky. They had been gathering since right after lunch, and unless he missed his guess, they were in for one of the legendary Texas gully washers. Hopefully the rain would hold off until they finished framing the barn, but he wasn’t going to bet money on it. There was more than a fair chance he’d lose.

Twenty minutes later, the first crack of thunder rumbled overhead and he knew their workday had come to an end. He motioned for his men working on the rafters to climb down the ladders.

“Go ahead and start putting away the tools,” he said when they were all safely on the ground. “We’re going to call it a day. There’s no sense in risking one of you being struck by lightning.”

“See you in the mornin’, boss,” they all called as they hurriedly loaded their tools into the company trucks.

When fat raindrops began to fall, raising tiny puffs of west Texas dust as they hit the bare ground, Cole grabbed the blueprints for the barn from the tailgate of his truck, threw them into the front seat to keep them from getting ruined and slammed the door. Waving to his men as they drove away, he jogged across the ranch yard to the back porch. He’d no sooner sprinted up the steps than the sky seemed to open up and pour.

Staring at the curtain of rain just beyond the shelter of the porch roof, he clenched his jaw so tight he could’ve cracked a couple of teeth as he struggled to keep from cussing a blue streak. It was only mid-afternoon, and just the thought of being confined to the house for the rest of the day and night with Paige had him tied up into a tight knot. How the hell was he supposed to do what was honorable and right when it seemed the universe was throwing every obstacle it could in his way?

Considering the attraction he still had for her, he knew beyond a shadow of doubt the hell he was going to go through being alone with her. The urge to take her into his arms had been almost overwhelming, and if he hadn’t realized that before, he did after she threw her arms around him for that tight hug last night in the kitchen. He had known it was her excitement over turning his brother’s office into an art studio that had caused her impulsiveness, but that did little to prevent his body from feeling as if he’d been treated to the business end of a cattle prod. Then, when they’d walked upstairs together and he had discovered she was sleeping just across the hall from him, he’d lain awake half the night wondering what she wore to bed or if she wore anything at all. The other half had been spent speculating about why she wasn’t sleeping in the master suite. Was the thought of lying in bed without Craig beside her more than she could bear?

“Cole, is everything all right?” Paige asked from behind him. “Why don’t you come in?”

Turning, he found her standing just inside the open back door. “Everything’s fine. I was just watching it rain,” he said, knowing that his excuse for not going inside the house sounded pretty lame.

“You might be out here awhile,” she advised with a slight smile. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon.”

Resigned, he took a deep breath and followed her into the house. “That’s why I told the work crew to knock off for the rest of the day.”

“That was probably a good idea.” She walked over to open the oven door and check on something inside. “I heard on the news this morning that the weather is supposed to be this way for the next week or so.”

Why did she have to look so damned good to him? And why was he having such a hard time keeping things in perspective?

His heart thudded against his ribs when her words suddenly sank in. “The rainy season doesn’t normally set in for another couple of weeks.”

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