Copyright © 2014 Cynthia D'Alba
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Publication
That was the last thing she knew until the Saturday morning sun burned into her eyelids. Paige moaned and rolled away from the window, trying desperately to get back into her dream involving a cowboy, some rope and a feather bed. After noticing the small movement from her owner, Ruby wrapped her tiny fur body around Paige’s head and turned on the purr machine.
Paige shoved Ruby off her head with a laugh. “I’m up. I’m up,” she said, swinging her bare feet to the floor. She stretched her arms toward the ceiling and looked around her room and smiled. Her own room in her own house. No sharing the hot water with anyone.
No dirty dishes in the sink that didn’t belong to her. No bra required if she didn’t feel like putting one on. In fact, she could walk around in nothing but her extra-large T-shirt that read Rope Me, Cowboy and a pair of panties. No robe needed. Freedom to do whatever she wanted.
Staying at her Uncle James’s house for these past ten months had been great, but she’d never forgotten she was a guest, even when she’d been there alone. But this place? This was her place. Caroline had told her to make herself at home, and Paige intended to do just that.
After sliding her feet into a pair of scuffs, she headed for the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. She’d make a list of things she still needed to do and supplies she needed to buy while she got her morning caffeine fix. As the coffee dripped, she turned the oven on to preheat and started bacon frying in a large skillet.
She stole the first cup of java before the pot finished filling. Her eyebrows shot up with the first sip. Stout, to say the least. She added a little water to the coffee maker’s reservoir then cracked open a can of biscuits. When the preheat bell chimed, she slid a cookie sheet loaded with biscuit dough into the hot oven.
She flipped the bacon and then sat at the table with a notepad and pencil. Other than the sizzle from the bacon and the slight tick of the coffee maker, the peace was comfortable.
Leaning back in the high-backed kitchen chair, she stretched out her legs and took a long sip of black coffee.
Across the table and directly in front of her, the door to the back bedroom banged open and a half-dressed man ran out, a tennis racket raised high above his head, all while he yelled, “What the hell are you doing in this house?”
Paige jumped from her chair, sending it over backwards. She spat the coffee in her mouth across the table while at the same time tossing the mug of hot liquid at her attacker.
The man leapt to the side, avoiding most of the scalding java.
“What are you doing here?” she gasped out, barely able to catch her breath from the sudden adrenaline jolt, not to mention the masculine sight standing in front of her. Her heart grabbed her ribs and rattled. She struggled to focus as her mind refused to accept what she was seeing.
Cash Montgomery wore only a pair of white boxer briefs. Angry long scars crisscrossed his chest, abdomen and arms. But even those couldn’t diminish the impact of his naked, chiseled six-pack. Paige swallowed hard against the rising lust.
“I live here,” he answered, lowering his impromptu weapon to his side. Confusion covered his face and his brow furrowed. “Paige? Paige Ryan?”
She nodded. “That’d be me.”
His gaze roved down her body and back up to her face. “Why are you in my house? And why don’t you have on clothes? Not that I’m complaining, mind you.” A wolfish grin spread across his mouth. “Nice T-shirt slogan.”
Paige looked down and felt the flush of embarrassment as it climbed her neck and face. Both nipples protruded through the thin material far enough to be used as hat pegs. Her gaze flew back to him. “I’ll be right back.”
She hurried from the kitchen, tugging down the hem of her T-shirt over her purple panties. She could barely think about the need for a robe when her mind swirled like a blender, mixing her thoughts and emotions like a smoothie.
What was Cash Montgomery doing in her house?
And more importantly, why was she kind of excited to see him? The man had practically ruined her life. Well, maybe not ruined as much as shoved her onto a new life path. Still, he’d let her fall in love with him, taken her virginity and then treated her like she had meant nothing to him. He’d broken her heart and hadn’t seemed to care one whit.
Of course, she’d felt sorry for him passed out in the bar, just like she’d feel sympathy for any injured animal. And of course, she’d been crushed when she’d heard about his accident, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be in close proximity to him.
Cash Montgomery was a dangerous man. Dangerous to her positive self-esteem, which she needed to prosper in the intensive graduate nursing program she’d be starting in three months. Dangerous to her plans to stay focused only on her career for now. And dangerous to her self-preservation, as her heart tended to overrule her mind when it came to Cash.
Nothing good could come of him being here.