Gone Country

Page 7

“Thought I’d try to beat my high score on Grand Theft Auto,” he said with a perfectly straight face. “It’ll probably take more than a week, though.”


“Then I’ll tackle Vision Quest. It’s a bitch to reach the tenth level, but once you do it’s worth it because the reward is an orgy. In full color. Better than porn. Or so I’ve heard.”

Rielle’s eyes widened. “Sounds…interesting.”

“It’s awesome to finally have all this free time. I’ve always wanted to sleep in until noon.”

“Noon?” she repeated. “That’s…”

Gavin couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Gotcha.”

She lightly smacked his arm. “Gavin Daniels, that’s just plain mean. As if I’d believe you’d lounge around all damn day playing video games. Aren’t you buying up squares of land and putting houses and hotels on them, monopolizing the market?”

“But you did believe it, Miss Up-at-the-Buttcrack-of-Dawn-Every-Morning. I thought you knew me better than that.”

“I do. You’ve blabbed all your secrets to me, remember? Since you’re constantly underfoot pestering me.”

“No, I’ve withheld a few secrets. It adds to my manly mystique.”

Rielle laughed. “As Sierra would say…you’re a dork.”

“You laughing at my jokes proves you’re equally dorky.” He reached over and brushed his fingers beneath her jawline. Her skin was so soft right there.

Rielle’s pale green eyes were enormous as his fingers moved across her jaw. “What are you doing?”

“Umm…you had flour left from this morning’s bake-a-thon,” he lied to cover up his strange compulsion to touch her.

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” He tried really hard not to stare at her ass as she retreated and busied herself refilling their mugs with the last dregs of coffee.

“What are you really doing today?”

“Chet and Remy West are coming by this morning to show me the tentative plans for the four-car garage they’re building.”

“Ha ha. You almost got me twice today.”

“I’m not kidding.”

A moment passed and then she demanded, “When did you decide that?”

“Last week. They’ve promised to get it done before the snow flies.”

“Where on earth are you going to put a four-car garage?”

Gavin sipped his coffee, hating that their easy banter was about to end. “On the right side of the drive. The structure will be attached to the house and be accessible—”

“Through the mudroom in the basement.” Rielle looked as if she wanted to say something else but she didn’t.

“As long as they’ll already be doing dirt work, we’re revamping the front. Since this isn’t a B&B, there’s no need for a full-sized parking lot. Adding a garage will fill the space and close it off, giving it a more residential feel, as well as adding symmetry.”

“So the barn?”

“What about it?”

“Just wondering if you were making changes to it too.”

Not just prickly, but pissy. Not that he was surprised. “The barn is new, and from what you’ve told me and what I’ve seen, largely unused.”

“You sure aren’t letting grass grow under your feet when it comes to making changes, are you?” She slapped her hands on the counter. “Speaking of grass…please tell me you don’t intend to lay sod across the entire length of the former parking lot? That’d be a serious waste of natural resources. Water is as scarce here as it is in the desert. No one has groomed lawns in the country, Gavin, not to mention the deer and turkeys will rip it up—”

He placed his fingers over her mouth. “Don’t go off half-cocked on environmental self-righteousness, hippie chick.”

“Hippie chick?” she mumbled beneath his fingers.

“I figured you’d prefer that to granola head or tree hugger.”

Rielle’s eyes darkened.

He grinned. “Ree. I was trying for levity to make this easier on both of us. Yes, I’m making changes, but not without help. I intended to ask if you had time to talk to a landscaper. You know everything about this chunk of land and I don’t. I prefer the natural look. Maintaining a manicured lawn is the last thing I’d ever do.”

She turned her head, dislodging his fingers. “I’m glad to hear you aren’t completely an urban idiot with visions of becoming a hobby farmer, calling your riding lawnmower a tractor.”

He murmured, “Touché.”

“If you’re serious about hiring a landscaper, I know a local guy in Spearfish who is excellent and specializes in xeriscaping.”

“I’d appreciate it. I’ll tell the West brothers we have that part handled.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”

“Doesn’t change the fact that now I wish you had been telling the truth about being locked away inside playing video games.”

Gavin had no response for that as she walked away.

Dirt therapy worked better than scream therapy. Good thing because she wanted to scream her fool head off at Gavin.

The man drove her insane. Always so even-keeled. Matter of fact. Not to mention he was thoughtful, surprisingly funny and so unconsciously sweet that she just wanted to hug him.

And that annoyed the piss out of her.

The earth made a loud ching as the shovel blade connected with the crust. She put muscle into it, turning the soil over until dark chunks appeared. Rielle dropped to her knees and brushed the dirt from the clumps of blue fingerling potatoes. These were in high demand in recent years, so she’d filled one entire bed with just this variety. Restaurants in Casper, Cheyenne and Jackson Hole had already placed orders. The entire crop was sold before she’d harvested. That was a good feeling.

She stood and wiped her brow with the back of her glove. It was unseasonably warm for September—not that she was complaining. The longer the sun kept shining, the better the chances were the last crop of heirloom tomatoes could ripen on the vine.

This year she might actually get to harvest everything before the first frost. Over the past three years she’d tripled the size of her gardens. Specializing in organic vegetables had tripled her income. But she was too cheap to hire extra help, so she’d rigged up a generator and the light allowed her to harvest at night.

Gavin constantly commented about her working too hard, but the irony was he ran two businesses and she knew he worked late into the night. He wasn’t exactly a stuffed shirt either; he acted more relaxed now than he had when she first met him. But he was very matter of fact. Very methodical.

Isn’t that what you like about him? He doesn’t pussyfoot around an issue? He comes right out and tells you what he thinks and then gives you a chance to agree or disagree?

That was a refreshing trait. Most men tried to charm or cajole her, acting offended when their bravado didn’t have the desired effect, either in business or personally. Which is probably why she didn’t date. Too much bullshit.

How had the subject of dating and Gavin come up together?

Because face it, you’re attracted to him.

Yes, they flirted constantly. But it didn’t mean anything because they were… What exactly were they?

Roommates. Friends. Tied together by a business deal that each of them regretted on some level. The potential for more was there. The question was: Would either of them act on it? Or would they just keep it comfortable and remain at the friendly, teasing stage?

Pushing those thoughts aside, she got back to work.

Sometime later, she heard, “Hey, Rielle.”

She glanced up to see Chet and Remy West hanging over the fence on the far side of the tomato garden.

“What can I do for the West boys today?”

“Gavin suggested we come talk to you,” Chet said.

She dropped her gloves by the tomato plant so she’d remember where to pick up. “There are benches down here.” She could use a break. Standing slowly, she set her hands on her lower back, then arched back to ease the strain.

Since her hands were full with two baskets of tomatoes, Remy opened the gate for her. He wasn’t a tall man, but his bulked-up body made him seem bigger. With his curly dark brown hair, warm hazel-colored eyes and sweet smile, Rielle wondered why she’d always turned him down whenever he’d asked her out over the years.

“Plants look great, Ree.”

“No blight this year, thank heaven.”

Chet peered in the basket of tomatoes. “Ma wants to know if you’ll be at the farmer’s market or if you’ll be selling directly from here.”

“Some of both. Next Saturday I’ll be at Spearfish Park. She can always call me or stop by. I’m here most days.” Rielle sat on the slate bench. “Why does Gavin think I need to talk to you guys? The house and the front section of property are his now and he can do whatever he wants with it.” Including building a big damn garage. Would he fill it with boy’s toys? A sports car? She tried to picture it, but Gavin didn’t seem the flashy type.

Chet stared off into the distance. His height topped his brother’s by an inch or two, but his physique was identical to Remy’s—brawny and muscle bound. His gaze met hers. His eyes were deep brown, almost black. His blond hair also held a hint of curl. If their eye color and hair color weren’t complete opposites, Rielle would swear the men were twins. “Everything is finalized on the addition and we’ll start next week since we had a three-week hole in our schedule.”

“Seems…coincidental the opening just happens to be the same time Gavin needs a project finished.”

Remy shrugged. “Sometimes things just work out like they’re supposed to. But that’s not why we’re here.”

Rielle twisted the top off the gallon jug of water and took a long drink before she answered. “What’s up?”

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.