She was instantly awake and trying to shake the cobwebs from her mind. They were in Oregon? In Falls Crossing? At his ranch? “No.”
He slid her a glance. “Where else would we go?”
“I can’t stay here!” She was squinting into the night as the beams caught a farmhouse with a wide, wraparound porch.
“Who invited you?”
She swung her head around to stare at him.
“It’s your car, but I need to be here.” He seemed amused at her befuddlement. “I don’t recall asking you to stay.”
“Oh. Right.” Of course!
“But, you could stay over if you wanted.”
He pulled up to the garage and cut the engine, then handed the keys to her. “If you’re going to crash with Jenna, you might want to call and give her a heads-up.”
“What time is it?”
She groaned. Originally, she’d planned to find a local hotel, sleep for however long she needed to, shower, and show up at her mother’s house only to start looking for a place to stay, probably finding a hotel or temporary apartment closer to Portland until she figured out what she was going to do with her life. Falls Crossing was sixty miles east of the city, though with WiFi and the Internet and cell phones, for her job, location wasn’t critical. Research and information were a laptop keystroke away. Connections with experts—a call or live chat or instant message, at the very least e-mail—were now nearly instantaneous.
Trent climbed out of the car. A stiff, damp breeze infiltrated the interior and the thought of driving one mile farther in the dark and rain sounded miserable.
“Maybe I could stay for a few hours, you know, until it’s a reasonable time to show up at Mom and Shane’s.”
All she could think about was tumbling into bed. No questions. No conversation. No sex. Just crashing. “You got a spare couch?”
“At least one. You need a bag?” He was already reaching into the backseat.
“The smallest one. Thanks.” Still a little groggy, she pocketed the keys, pushed her hair out of her eyes, grabbed her purse, opened the car door, and stepped into a puddle. “Did you have to park in the middle of a damned lake?” she sputtered.
“Welcome to Oregon,” he said, and she could have sworn he was trying not to chuckle.
“I’m wearing flip-flops.”
“It’s not like you never lived here.”
She made a strangled sound in her throat, first turning away from, then facing the cold bite of the wind against her face, the Oregon drizzle on her bare arms and legs.
“When did you get to be such a pansy?” He hauled the bag from the backseat and slammed the door as she picked her way up a darkened pathway to his house. From the corner of her eye, she saw movement, a fast-moving black shadow streaking toward her. “What the—”
A dog bounded into view, splashing through the muddy puddles and wet grass to leap up on her. Wet paws streaked her with mud, claws scraped. She sucked in a startled breath.
“Hud! Down!” Trent commanded as he reached her side. The wriggling, whining mass of fur instantly was on all fours. To Cassie, he said, “Sorry.”
“It’s . . . it’s . . .” Hud’s hind end still gyrated, as the shepherd gazed expectantly up at her. She leaned down to pat his damp head, smiling at the eager dog. “Not your fault.”
“I’ll get your clothes clean,” Trent apologized.
“Truly, it’s fine.”