Never Too Hot
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Suddenly, she remembered what she was wearing. Or, more to the point, wasn't wearing.
She'd never go out in public without a bra, but here, in the privacy of her own house, she did as she wished. It was one of the things she enjoyed most about having her own place. The freedom to not only do whatever she wanted, but to wear whatever she wanted.
A tank top and cutoff jeans had never been part of her city vernacular. But here at the lake, especially when she was getting down and dirty with her paints, when the thermometer read eighty and the humidity was ratcheting up all day in preparation for a rainstorm, she liked the bohemian feel of cutoffs.
Not thrilled about flashing some stranger — even less thrilled about him taking any surreptitious pleasure from looking at her — she crossed her arms over her br**sts to stop the peep show. But then she realized he hadn't given her the lease back yet, so she had to unfold one arm and reach for it.
The corners of the papers crumpled in his fist. Damn it, he'd already cut into most of her dwindling painting time for the afternoon. She wasn't in any mood for games.
Switching into a stern demeanor that had been known to make billionaires quiver in their Ferragamos when they
“forgot” to give one of her charities the money they'd publicly promised, she said, “Now that you have your proof, I'd very much appreciate it if you'd give me back my lease.”
But this man didn't quiver. He didn't shake. Instead his eyes continued to hold hers and she was almost certain she saw a challenge in the blue depths.
And wouldn't you know it, her heart started leaping around in her chest. She supposed it was some sort of instinctual response to the combination of his devastating looks and the threat that he clearly posed to her perfect summer on the lake.
“Lucky you,” he drawled. “Getting this place all to yourself this summer.”
She was caught off guard by the way his low, rough voice slipped and slid through her veins so seductively. How the hell had he managed to almost make her toes curl on the porch floors with nothing but a few words?
Up until now he'd been hard. Unyielding. Definitely not in a bargaining mood. But now that she'd not only staked but proved her claim, it looked like he'd decided to change tactics by stunning her with the full force of his sensual power.
Well, just because she liked what she saw (she'd have to be drained of all hormones not to), didn't mean she had any intention of touching. Which meant she was immune.
“You're right,” she agreed, and even though she wouldn't normally feel the need to rub in her win over a virtual stranger, she couldn't resist adding, “It's breathtaking.”
He looked out at the lake. “Not many views this good, even on this lake. My grandfather used to call it the million-dollar beach.”
When he turned back to her his lips were curled up on one side in what might have been a half smile under other circumstances. But right at that moment it was colored more with a sneer than anything even remotely connected to happiness.
“I'm just wondering one thing. How did you know my grandparents were thinking of renting it when they didn't even remember to tell their own family?”
It was a sucker punch. Oh no, he wasn't going to get away with that. Because Ginger Sinclair was no longer afraid to call people on their shit. And this guy was fairly brimming over with it.
“Are you accusing me of something?”
The half-not-a-smile dropped. “Only if you've got something to be guilty about.”
Jesus. What was with good-looking guys? Were they so used to getting their own way all the time that they thought they could say and do whatever they wanted, whenever the mood struck? Someone should have taken this one down a peg a long time ago. Looked like the job was all hers.
Twisting her mouth into that same half smile, half sneer he'd just graced her with, she said, “Well, since I've already been living here for eight months without your knowledge, it's clearly been a long while since you've had a chat with your grandparents. Seems to me I'm not the one who should have the guilty conscience.”
She braced herself for his next parry, but instead there was that flash in his eyes again, not angry now, more intrigued. The way her pulse jumped confused her, made her head feel like it was spinning. What was it about this guy that had her body turning traitor on her?
It had to be the muggy weather. All the dancing on the porch must have depleted her electrolytes. She was dehydrated. That's all it was.
“You're right,” he finally said. “I need to call them.”
Ginger couldn't believe it. Was he actually agreeing with her? Well, that was that. Now that they'd cleared everything up, he'd go and leave her alone. Good.
She couldn't wait.
But then, she noticed the large bag at his feet, presumably full of his clothes. Clearly, he'd been planning on staying in the cabin tonight. Because he'd thought it was vacant. Which meant he didn't have any other place to stay.
She looked at his face again, immediately getting snared in his dark blue eyes.
This log cabin was hers and hers alone. The cuckoo clock chimed four times over the fireplace in the living room and she was hit by a sudden rush of anger at her perfect day falling to shreds.
“Look, I'm sorry that you didn't know someone was living in the house, but I've got a twelve-month agreement, so you're going to have to find another place to stay.” Tonight and thereafter, thank you very much. “And I'm afraid I'm going to be late for work if I don't leave soon, so…”
She looked at the door, making it perfectly clear that it was time for him to leave.
He nodded, picked up his bag and said, “Okay.”
She was midway through releasing the breath she'd been holding when he added, “I'll come back tomorrow. So that we can figure out something that will work for both of us.”
What? He was coming back?
She should have known a guy like this wouldn't back down so easily.
“I'll say it one last time. I've got a lease through the summer. Good-bye.”