“I see you’re getting the picture now. Like always, she waited until it was dark, for the town to close up and the streets to grow deserted, then went out for a walk.”
“Son of a bitch.”
“Do you want me to keep going?”
“No,” Austin barked. “How much did she see?”
Jasper arched a brow. “How much was there to see?”
“If you’re asking if we got naked, the answer’s no. Tell me exactly what she saw. Please.”
“Nothing. She said it was too dark to see what you two were doing but that you and Paige Nelson were in the shadows of Budding Memories so long she got a cramp in her leg from hunkering down in the doorway of Marshall Dry Goods.”
Anger bubbling like a Yellowstone cauldron, Austin clenched his jaw. “We were…talking.”
“Ahh, I see.” Jasper smirked, clearly not buying the bullshit Austin was shoveling.
“But I’m sure that’s not what she’s telling the gossip guild.”
“Actually, she promised not to say a word to anyone.”
Austin blinked. “Wait…what? Why?”
“Because I asked her not to. She gave me her word she wouldn’t.”
“And you trust her to keep her word?”
“With every breath and bone in my body. I trust that woman more than any other soul on this planet.”
Though Austin didn’t share the man’s surety, he knew Jasper wouldn’t lie.
“Thank you. I appreciate you putting a stop to the unnecessary rumors.”
Jasper chuckled. “Unnecessary, huh? You forget who you’re talking to?”
Austin didn’t bother answering that rhetorical question.
“I didn’t pull you over to hook you up to a lie detector. I simply wanted to have this conversation with you in private.”
“I appreciate that.”
“I didn’t do it just for you. I did it for myself as well.”
“Yeah. If Duke and Raymond get wind that you and Paige are…talking, they’ll end up killing one another and probably you as well. One dead body means a lot of paperwork. But three? Well, that’d be a metric shit-ton for me to fill out.” Jasper smirked, then sobered. “Right now, you’re enjoying the best kept secret in Haven.” It sure as fuck doesn’t feel like enjoyment. “You need to be more careful or it won’t be a secret for long.”
“I will.” Mentally kicking his own ass again, Austin exhaled heavily.
“If…or rather when, the lid blows off this friendship between you and Paige, call me. I’ll come keep the peace and keep those two stubborn mules from doing something they’ll regret.”
Jasper’s pessimistic comment didn’t give Austin the warm fuzzies, but he thanked him all the same before heading down the road.
After pulling to a stop in front of Colton’s house, he climbed from the cab as Jeb Bartok, Colton’s foreman, strode from the barn wearing a grin.
“Hey, Jeb. Is Colton around?”
“In the house,” he said before pausing and cocking his head. A slow smile stretched across his lips. “Since I don’t hear Miss Jade screaming, Oh, God… Oh, God…Coltonnnnn, they’re either out of bed, which is highly unlikely, or catching their breath for the next round.”
“TMI, Jeb. TM fucking I,” Austin groaned as the other man burst out laughing.
“From what I hear, you had some fun last night, as well. I know a dirty slow dance isn’t as much fun as what they’re having,” Jeb said, jerking his thumb toward the house. “But I’m sure it didn’t suck to have Nelson’s pretty granddaughter snuggled up in your arms.”
Austin bristled and glared at the big barn. “Billy’s got a big mouth. Maybe I need to shut it for him.”
“No need for violence.” Jeb grinned, clapping him on the back. “Your secret’s safe. Billy hasn’t said anything to anyone…but us, of course.”
That you know of.
“Make sure it stays that way.”
“No worries.” Jeb nodded. “Just do me a favor…quid pro quo?”
“Don’t say anything about us hearing them getting busy in the house. Miss Jade’s a sweet girl and the best damn thing that’s ever happened to Colton. I’d hate to embarrass her.”
Before he could give Jeb his word, the front door opened, and Colton stepped onto the porch gripping a cup of coffee. He took one look at Austin and his expression turned uneasy. Jeb eyed his boss, then mumbled something about getting back to work before he strolled back to the barn.
“Want some coffee?” Colton offered as Austin stepped onto the porch.
“Thanks, but I can’t stay. Did Hale call you this morning?”
“Yep,” Colton replied grimly. “I’m running out of ways to convince the prick no means no.”
“I assume he contacted Nelson, too?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m here. The crazy old bastard nearly blew my head off yesterday. He won’t listen to me, and working through his granddaughter, Paige, is…” Austin simply shook his head instead of announcing that she was his Kryptonite. “Pa has a lawyer in Denton. I’ll deal with Hale, but I need you to convince Nelson to get on board.”
Colton groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll do what I can. I’m sorry I haven’t been more proactive; after all, we’re talking about possibly losing my land. I’ve let all these marriage plans—”
“Marriage? What the hell are you talking about?”