Elizabeth woke upalone, which didn’t surprise her. Heathcliff had issues with intimacy completely separate from sex.
My dad wasn’t one of the good guys.
In Chicago-speak, she knew what that likely meant. His mother fleeing the state with him, and his lack of a past, were two more good clues. Thanks to her studies and advocacy work, she’d heard quite a few true stories with similar themes of targeted hits, but she didn’t know of any Chicago O’Connells who might fit Ryan’s story.
Everything, combined with the money he’d inherited from an unknown benefactor, left her thinking she should leave well enough alone and not dig too deep. At the end of the day, his past remained none of her business and she planned to keep it that way. They’d had one night of sex when emotions ran high.
While she wouldn’t call it a mistake, despite the unfortunate condom mishap—she’d take care of that first thing tomorrow—she’d been smart to get his agreement beforehand that this was a one-off event and he couldn’t use it against her. He seized on weakness the way a lion went after the lame. He liked to play with his kill too.
Her phone, buried somewhere beneath carelessly discarded clothing, pinged an alert that she’d gotten a text.
She stretched, stark naked—not her usual state when she woke up in the morning—and rolled from the bunk. Cold floorboards kissed the soles of her feet. She snatched up her robe and slippers from the shower next to the kitchen before rushing to draw the blinds she hadn’t wanted to close during the previous night’s teambuilding exercises.
The text was from Ryan, letting her know he’d be there in an hour to begin moving her belongings. She frowned at it.
Now that daylight had arrived, the incident with Jonas became far less sinister. That, and the sunlight doing its best to warm up the floor, had her rethinking her hasty agreement to move. Yes, Jonas had been too aggressive by far, but when she considered the nuances of his behavior, she saw what had bothered her—there’d been nothing sexual about it.
A mental review of his profile, where he’d initially exhibited violence over not making a male-dominated sports team, and a check of her research notes on him, suggested possible confusion over his sexual orientation might be the real culprit. He claimed to have acted on a dare from Angel, who was an extraordinarily good-looking, dominant, and promiscuous boy—exactly the type Jonas would want to impress. Her fleeing in fear to the main house wasn’t going to send him the right message at all.
Unfortunately, she’d agreed to the move, so the damage was done. If she tried to change her mind now, Heathcliff would lose his. She’d give it a few days and then ask him if they could review other options.
An hour later, when he arrived, she had her bags packed and ready to go. She waited to see how he’d behave after promising he’d forget all about the night before. If she’d thought he’d be possessive, or in any way romantic, she had no reason to worry.
He grabbed her belongings and hoisted them onto a small utility vehicle, called a Gator, that to her looked more like a golf cart than a piece of farm equipment. She latched the bunkhouse door on mixed feelings and hopped into the passenger seat of the Gator.
Ryan’s guest suite hadn’t changed since she’d stayed in it the night of the blizzard. She had a small sitting room with a desk and bookshelves in it so she could work on her dissertation, a bedroom with a queen-sized bed, and an enormous bathtub in the en suite that made the move well worth her while.
Rather than leave her to unpack alone, Ryan sprawled on the bed. He folded his arms behind his head and crossed his long legs at the ankles and proceeded to watch her.
She crammed a handful of panties into a drawer, opting to tidy them later. “Don’t you have any hobbies?”
“One. It takes teamwork.”
She grabbed another suitcase and unzipped it, determined to ignore him.
“Good God,” he said. “How many pairs of shoes do you own?”
She re-zipped the suitcase and pushed it aside, then sat on her heels on the floor, her hands on her thighs. They had to talk and there was no time like the present.
“About last night,” she began.
The way his eyes lingered on her threatened to derail her. Only dogged determination kept her on track. “I meant after Jonas left.”
“So did I.”
His smugness wasn’t entirely undeserved. Despite knowing better than to sleep with her boss, that was what she’d done. She’d exhibited weakness. “Maybe we should revisit the ground rules for our new living arrangements. I thought we were going to pretend last night never happened.”
“I am pretending last night never happened,” he said. “Since we’re now living together, I’m a whole lot more interested in what happens tonight.”
She knew he enjoyed provoking her, and the proper response in this situation was to ignore the provocation, but she couldn’t seem to use her common sense around him. Last night was an excellent example. “We’re not living together.”
“Tell that to the church and the state of Montana.”