Never Too Hot
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But even as he said it, he was getting lost in her eyes, could feel his fingertips start to burn with the need to touch her.
It would be so easy to get lost in Ginger.
Again and again she pulled things out of him he'd never said to anyone, was forcing him to look at things he'd thought he knew for sure in a new light. And when he'd tried to turn the tables on her by making her confess her own secrets, instead of closing the intriguing circle, learning more about her had blown the mystery wide open.
Sure, she'd had money. But it hadn't made her life any easier. It hadn't made her husband any less of an ass**le.
All his life he'd been a master of control. There was no reason Ginger should be any different. He just needed to take the reins back.
“You have my word that I won't touch you again.”
He'd never been a liar. And until this moment he hadn't thought he'd ever become one. But he was very much afraid he just had. Because after only the smallest taste of her sweetness, he could see keeping his word might very well be impossible.
She was so easy to read, her expressive face telling him she was disappointed. But after their discussion last night, staying away from her had turned into more than just keeping his focus on firefighting, on getting back on his crew. He liked her too much to use her, to give in to the urge to take her when he barely had one foot in the door. Liked her too much to be one more dickhead in her life.
He watched her pull in a shaky breath, look at the floor, say in a low voice, “So much for taking chances.”
When she looked back up at him, her once bright eyes had dimmed. “So what else is on the agenda with the cabin after you replace the logs?”
He hated to see the life go out of her, but knew it was for the best, that they had to stay in neutral territory.
“I'll have to rechink between the logs, then strip off the soot and age so that I can revarnish them. I'd been hoping to get to the furniture too, see what I could do to fix it up as a surprise for my grandmother. Now I don't know if that will happen.”
She made a sound of pleasure that set off another inextinguishable spark behind his breastbone.
“Actually, I've been dying to get my hands on some of the old furniture. It's all so classic and beautiful and I know with a light sanding and coat of fresh paint, I can probably make some of the side tables and dressers look like new.” Her words were coming out in a rush. “And I've seen some really gorgeous retro fabric in town that would look great on the cushions. It isn't hard to do and probably wouldn't take me much time at all.”
The furniture really needed refurbishing, but something told him this was a bad idea. That once Ginger had put her permanent mark on his family's things, it would be like she was a part of the family. And that would only make it harder to leave her behind when he went back to Lake Tahoe.
“Thanks for the offer, but I wouldn't feel right asking you to do that. You're already paying to live here.”
“Please, Connor,” she said softly, her eyes shining again at the thought of refinishing the furniture his great-grandfather had built by hand. “I'd like to help.”
“What about your painting?”
“Actually, I'm kind of in the thinking and planning stage with a couple of them right now. Might be nice to work on something else for a few hours. How about if I start to strip and repaint the dresser in my bedroom?”
It was the best idea of the day, sending her out to the workshop in the woods. Far away from the cabin.
Far away from him.
“I'll go upstairs and grab it right now. Put it in the workshop for you to work on.”
“The workshop? Oh, do you mean the red barn in the woods?” When he nodded, she said, “I've walked by it so many times, and even though I longed to go inside and look around, it felt too much like trespassing.”
He was glad for the heavy weight of the four-drawer dresser, for the fact that carrying it down the stairs and through the woods was making his hands hurt like hell. Anything to distract him from what being around Ginger made him feel.
The workshop was a good quarter mile back from the house and the smell of sawdust and oil was strong as they entered the large dark barn. Connor put the dresser down outside the big doors, his palms burning. After opening one, he found the light switch on the wall and flicked it on to illuminate the rows of lights that hung from the open beamed ceiling.
“Wow, this place is incredible,” she said as she slowly walked around the large space. “Every time I walked by I sensed that there was magic inside.”
“Sam and I were always begging to come out here when we were kids,” he told her, trying not to wince as he picked the dresser back up to bring it inside. “That was the lathe my grandfather used to turn all of the legs on the chairs and tables and beds. He taught me how to use it when I was five.”
Her eyes widened. “Five? Wasn't he afraid you'd hurt yourself?”
“He believed in having us learn from our mistakes. Knowing we could slice open a hand was a pretty big motivator not to goof around while using his tools. Plus,” he said, running his hand over the dusty tool, “I wanted to be just like him.”
“What did he do the rest of the year?”
“High school principal. My grandmother taught French and German. The past couple of years they've both been pleased to have me follow in their footsteps. Finally.”
She cocked her head to the side. “You're also a teacher?”
“Since the accident, that's what I've been doing. Teaching rookies the ropes, leading safety seminars. My scars scare them enough to make sure they really pay attention. Same principle my grandfather worked off of, I guess.”
She came to a stop in front of a half-built sailboat that was flipped upside down in the middle of the room.
“A boat my grandfather never finished building. It was always just there. Sam and I offered to finish building it for him a couple of times, but he said no, he'd do it himself. Guess he never got around to it.”
He walked over to a large rolling toolbox pushed up against the wall and yanked out several drawers, the rusty metal protesting his rough touch.
“Here's some sandpaper to get started. Let me know if you need more. I can pick up some paint at the hardware store when you're ready for it.”