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The choice ...
The choice seemed easy at the time. But this Evan didn't act like the childhood friend Leandra remembered. Who knew he could kiss like that? Or that his slightest touch could set her skin on fire? Just friends? Stay tuned...
"Son of a—" Evan Taggart sat bolt upright, grabbing the bedding around his waist even as realization hit that the young guy with the lumberjack's build wasn't entirely a stranger. Nor was the red eye of the television camera the guy held entirely a surprise, either.
He stifled the ripe curse on his lips just in time to keep it from being captured for all eternity—or at least the viewing life of a certain cable television reality show. "I've never been videotaped in bed, with a woman or without, Ted," he said grimly, "and I'll be damned if we're going to start here and now."
Ted Richard's grin was visible thanks to the annoying light he'd erected on a metal stand next to the bed, but he still didn't lower the camera. "The producer would be a lot happier if you did have a woman under those sheets. Marian would figure it'd be good for ratings."
Evan wasn't amused. "How did you get in here?" "Leandra always says Weaver is so safe that nobody ever locks anything. Guess she was right."
Evan should have known. He squelched another oath, this time directed at Leandra Clay and her part in the farce his life seemed to have become over the past week. "Shut that thing off," he warned. If he hadn't been out nearly all night tending a sick bull, he would never have slept through an intrusion like Ted's.
Not that this particular situation had ever arisen before. Ted still didn't lower the heavy camera from his shoulder. The distinctive red light on top of the thing stayed vividly bright. "Don't shoot the messenger, dude," he said easily. "I'm just doingmy job."
Ted's job was to follow Evan Taggart around for six weeks for Walk in the Shoes, or WITS, the cable television show of which Leandra was an associate producer. "Nobody told me your job was to invade all of my privacy."
Ted still didn't seem fazed. Nor did the young guy seem inclined to turn off the camera. But he did turn his shaggy blond head when they heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs outside Evan's bedroom.
A moment later, the woman responsible for Evan's headaches of late practically skidded into the room. He got a glimpse of chocolate-brown eyes before Leandra turned her attention to her cameraman.
"Ted, turn off the camera.You shouldn't even be here." She hefted the enormous satchel that hung from her shoulder a little higher and raced a slender hand over her short, messy hair.
Evan grimaced when the cameraman obediently lowered the camera.
"I'll just go back to the motel and catch a few more z's," Ted said cheerfully. "Any changes to today's schedule?"
Evan caught Leandra's gaze skittering over him before she shook her head and stepped out of Ted's way. "Not yet. I'll see you later."
Ted nodded and took the heavy camera, his steps pounding far more loudly on the stairs than had Leandra's. A moment later, they heard the sound of a door slamming.
Evan raked his hands through his hair, wishing he'd gotten more than the two measly hours of sleep he'd snagged. He needed all of his wits about him when it came to dealing with Leandra.
Leandra, who was still standing there in his bedroom, twisted her hands together at her waist. "Sorry about that," she murmured.
For what? Bringing chaos to what was ordinarily a pretty peaceful life? Peaceful, just the way he liked it.
"I didn't send him." Apology turned down the corners of her soft lips. "And I came as soon as I knew he was here," she added. As if that made up for everything.
Peaceful, he thought. Whatever had happened to it? He'd grown up around Leandra. And her siblings. And her cousins, and there were plenty of them. But what on God's green earth had he done wrong that every time he laid eyes on this particular Clay he felt a jolt?
Bad enough she'd once been married to one of his best friends.
Bad enough she'd chosen Jake over Evan in the first place. "Well?" Her chin had come up. "Aren't you going to say something?"
She wore loose flannel pants covered in cartoon chickens and a pink long-sleeved T-shirt with WITS printed over her breasts. The shirt did nothing to hide the fact that the woman was graced with all the appropriate curves. A woman who looked as if she'd bolted from her bed almost as precipi-tously as Evan. If she hadn't, she'd have grabbed a jacket, at the very least.
He didn't need the evidence staring him in the face to know it was pretty damn chilly outside.
It was September. It was Wyoming. It was four bloody o'clock in the morning, and he had Leandra Clay's sexy body smiling at him through her shirt.
"I've never seen chickens wearing bunny slippers," he finally drawled. "That the style out in California these days?"
Her lips pressed together. "That's not what I meant."
He was sure it hadn't been. And he was pleased with the tinge of red he could see in her cheeks as she turned off the blazing lamp that Ted had left behind.
Made him feel a little better at least.
Now he just needed to get her out of his bedroom. Because it was 4:00 a.m. and she was Leandra Clay.
He grabbed the sheet and started to slide off the bed.
At the first sight of his bare legs, Leandra frowned and abruptly headed for the doorway. "I'll, um, I'll put on some coffee."
He grunted. At least that would be something useful.
She glanced back at him and he dragged the sheet around himself, managing not to bare his butt to her eyes.
She fled, her footsteps racing down the staircase.
If he'd needed any hint that Leandra wasn't the least bit interested in seeing his butt, he supposed he had it now.
He dropped the sheet back on the messy bed and went into the bathroom, slamming the door shut.
How in the hell had his life come to this?
The question required no searching thought when the simple answer was right downstairs putting on the brew.
He rummaged in the small pile of laundry he'd kicked intothe bathroom the other day to keep the mess from being caught on tape. His clothes smelled of God-knew-what, but he pulled them on anyway, then went downstairs to face Leandra and her coffee.
But when he got there, the coffeepot still sat piteously empty. "Thought you were putting on the java." "I was. Am." She closed the refrigerator door with a soft rattle of bottles. "I can't find the coffee."
He opened the cupboard above the maker and pulled out the can. "Suppose you're used to some fancy brand you grind yourself."
She made a face but didn't answer. Which probably was her answer.
Evan knew good and well that Jake—his good buddy Jake—liked his coffee expensive and ground only moments before it was brewed.
Why would Jake's wife be any different?
Ex-wife, an internal voice reminded him. For all the good it did.
Evan was a fool. That's what he was. Pure and simple. And God didn't protect fools by the name of Evan Taggart. Punishment was the course, there. Punishment in the form of a golden-haired wisp whom he still didn't have the good sense to say no to.
Now that sprite in question was eyeing him through the brown eyes that had always seemed too large for her heartshaped face.
He dumped his simple, grocery-bought coffee into a fresh filter and shoved it into the coffeemaker. "You going to drink some of this?"
"If you're offering."
He pulled out the filter, added another scoop of ground coffee, and pushed it back in place. Before he could reach forthe empty coffee carafe, she'd plucked it out of the sink and was rinsing and refilling it with water.
Their fingers brushed when she handed it to him. He sloshed the water into the machine and hit the power button, not looking at her. A reassuring gurgle answered him. "I'm grabbing a shower before that peeping Tom comes back."
"Ted's not a pervert," she called after him as he practically bolted from the room. "He's doing what Marian told him to do."
"Then maybe Marian's the one who's twisted," Evan called back, heading up the stairs.
What had he been thinking when he'd agreed to be part of that stupid show?
What had she been thinking to approach Evan Taggart about WITS?
Leandra pushed her fingers through her hair, pressing the tips against her skull as if the pressure could relieve the throbbing ache inside. She'd figured that following the life of a good-looking veterinarian would be just the ticket for the show that had been her home for the past eighteen months. She'd figured that veterinarian would be her ex-husband, Jake Stallings, who, despite their divorced status, was usually willing to do most anything that Leandra asked of him.
Jake was everything that her boss, Marian Hughes, loved. Charismatic. Handsome. A veterinarian to a whole host of pampered celebrity pets.
But for reasons known only to Jake, he'd refused her request and reminded her instead about his friend from college.
Evan, who wasn't only Jake's old friend, considering Leandra had known him since they were tots. He'd been as much a thorn in Leandra's youth as he had been a friend, andhe was the one who'd introduced Leandra to Jake when he'd brought his college mate home one weekend.
Huffing out a breath, remembering that she hadn't even brushed her teeth when she'd made her mad dash over to Evan's, she went to her purse and rummaged inside for her cosmetic case.
She could hear water rumbling in the old horse's pipes and tried not to think too much about Evan upstairs in his shower.
It was bad enough to have seen him upstairs covered to the waist in a rumpled sheet.
She'd found herself wondering just what he'd had under that sheet. That, in itself was pretty darned disturbing.
She shook her head, trying to eradicate the image and yanked open the little case. She found her travel toothbrush and squirted toothpaste on it, then brushed her teeth at the kitchen sink, washed her face and streaked some water through her hair.
She had a pair of jeans and a shirt inside her bag, too, but she wasn't going to change into them until she'd had her own shower.
Which she would have back at her cousin Sarah's place, where she was staying for the duration of the WITS shoot.
She certainly wasn't going to ask Evan if she could cop a soak in his bathroom. The man had made it more than plain that he considered every moment they spent together an intrusion in his life.
She still wasn't certain what had made him agree to participate in the first place. Sure, they were friends from way back, and he and Jake were still buddies, but Evan's consent had been a surprise to her. A pleasant surprise, even. That is, until she'd arrived with her crew the week before and came face-to-face with how disagreeable Evan could be—disagreeable and disturbing.
But she was pretty desperate to have this shoot go well. Ifit did—no, once it did—she'd finally get out from under Marian's thumb and produce her own projects. And they wouldn't involve any shirtless hometown veterinarians, either.
The pipes overhead gave an ominous groan. Leandra looked up at the ceiling, half expecting the pipes to burst right then and there. But the ceiling—plain white with not a speck of dirt or a cobweb in sight—remained intact until the demand ceased and the pipes went silent. Rather than be caught gawking at Evan's spotlessly clean white walls, she hurriedly rummaged around in his refrigerator and cupboards and had the makings of breakfast well underway when he came back downstairs a while later.
"Smells good." He walked across to the waiting coffee. She wasn't sure if he meant his coffee or the bacon and eggs.
"Mmm." She flipped the omelet with a toss of the pan and picked up her own mug of coffee, watching him over the rim.
At least he'd put on a shirt, even if it was just a white T-shirt that hugged every muscle from which good genes and an active lifestyle had graced him.
His jeans looked the same as the other pair he'd just had on. Except this pair was clean.
When it came down to it, all of Evan Taggart's jeans looked pretty much the same.
Well-worn and sexy as hell on him.
Drat it all.
She buried her nose a little deeper in her coffee mug and reached for the spatula again.
Now was not the time for her libido to kick back to life after years of lying unconscious.
As far as Leandra was concerned, she preferred the unconscious state. Life was a lot less complicated that way.
She tipped the omelet onto a plate, drizzled hollandaise over it, then added toast and several slices of bacon and held it out to him.
He stared at the plate as if he'd never before focused those brilliant blue eyes of his on such a thing. "Jake always said you weren't much one for cooking."
Posted January 25, 2014