Pinning another T-shirt to the clothesline, she sighed. Paige had stopped asking long ago why, when there was a perfectly good dryer in the laundry room, Grandpa insisted on drying his clothes outside on the line.
“When you’re done taking inventory of those vaccines, lemme know. I’ll ride out with you to check that fence you found that needs mending out on the upper north side.”
“Will do, Raymond. Won’t be much longer.” Johnny flashed her a cocky grin and winked.
Paige bit back a growl and secured another clothespin. She was tired of enduring months of Johnny’s incessant flirting, his blatant sexual stares that made her want to yawn and puke, and the never-ending improvements he made on the ranch just to impress her grandpa. And she’d grown weary of constantly turning Johnny down when he asked her out on a date. Paige couldn’t decide if he was dumber than a stump or simply didn’t know when a woman wasn’t interested.
“Good. Daylight’s burning and you’re movin’ slower than molasses this morning,” Grandpa mumbled under his breath before he stepped in beside her and kissed her on the cheek. “Nothing like the scent of sunshine soaked in your drawers.”
“So that’s why you don’t use the dryer. You like your ass smelling like sunshine.” She smirked.
“Better than the stench coming out of it from those refried beans you fixed for dinner last night.” He winked. “I’ve been trying to stay downwind from Johnny all day, just to keep from killing him.”
“I’m sure he appreciates that,” she said with a chuckle. “Speaking of sunshine, it’s gorgeous out today. I think I’m gonna take a drive and enjoy this beautiful weather before it gets too hot.”
“Where you going?”
“Nowhere in particular. I just thought it’d be nice to get out of the house for a bit.”
“All right,” he said, eyeing her suspiciously. “You be careful now.”
“I will.” She kissed his cheek. “If I’m gone too long, I’ll stop at Toot’s and pick up dinner on my way home.”
“Anything as long as I get some of her mashed potatoes is fine with me.”
“I know.” She grinned as she hung up a pair of his jeans.
When Johnny pulled up in his truck, Grandpa waved goodbye and climbed inside. They’d barely made it to the field before her cell phone chimed. Paige pulled it from her pocket and checked the screen before her heart rate doubled and she quickly read Austin’s text.
Ashton: Got some news from McGraw. Need to talk ASAP. Meet me someplace besides my house?
Paige tapped out her reply, then sent up a silent prayer that no one in town decided to spend the day fishing before she quickly finished hanging up the clothes. As she carried the basket into the house, Austin replied that he’d meet her at the designated spot in ten minutes.
“Alrighty then. He wasn’t kidding when he said ASAP.”
After tossing the basket in the laundry room, she raced to the bathroom, dragged a brush through her hair, and swiped on some lip gloss. Then she grabbed her keys, jogged to her truck, and headed to Miller’s pond a few miles down the road.
Dropping the transmission into four-wheel drive, she bounced over the uneven ground, dodging the massive oak trees surrounding the pond. When she finally reached the clearing, she saw Austin’s truck. He’d parked beneath a big shade tree near the water and had spread a large red blanket out on the grass.
I love the way he always thinks of everything.
Paige smiled, remembering the vow she’d made herself in the bathroom mirror the first time she and Austin danced…and a whole lot more. While she understood his aversion to marriage after learning how that skank Ginny had broken his heart, Paige murmured the vow she’d made in the mirror any way, “Austin Carson, somehow, someway, I’m going to marry you.”
Hopefully, the universe would hear them and take mercy on Austin and heal his scarred heart. She bounced in the seat one final time as she pulled alongside Austin’s truck, then climbed from the cab.
He met her as she rounded the tailgate, with a crushing hug, a toe-curling kiss, and a hungry moan. “I know it’s only been three days, but I’ve missed you, little girl.”
“I’ve missed you, too.”
Paige showed him just how much by lifting to her toes, cupping his neck, and dragging his lips to hers. Then boldly took control—which Austin rarely allowed—and plunged her tongue deep inside his mouth before sweeping deeply. Almost instantly, his cock turned to steel, and Paige couldn’t resist rolling her hips, rubbing herself against him as the ache within mounted to a decadent throb.
With a beastly growl that vibrated clear through her, Austin fisted her hair and slowly pried her from his lips, then held her prisoner with a feral stare.
“Behave. It’s broad daylight and you just destroyed my give-a-fuck meter. If you’re not careful, I’m gonna strip you bare and drag sounds out of you that will terrify the wildlife.”
“Sounds like a challenge to me,” she taunted.
“Watch yourself, little girl.”
“Okay. Okay,” she said with a heavy sigh as she stepped back out of his arms. “I’ll behave if you will.”
“I don’t make promises I can’t keep.” He smirked, taking her hand. “Come on. Let’s go sit on the blanket. I’ve got news to share.”
“Good news or bad?”
“A little bad but mostly good.”
He flipped open a small cooler in the bed of his truck and offered her a cold bottle of water. Paige accepted with a smile and a thank you before they both eased onto the blanket beneath the shady tree. It felt strange being out in the open with Austin, in a public place, in broad daylight. But it didn’t lessen the fervent awareness humming between them or the sexual tension.
“I got a call from McGraw this morning,” Austin began. “After long weeks of possible dubious digging, he discovered that Hale and Porter only have one client.”
“Only one? Who is it?”
“A chemical company. A big one. One that makes numerous products that you, I, and ninety-nine-point-nine percent of Americans use every day.”