“If you promise to behave, I’ll give you a surprise,” he said, his hot breath coating the ear he’d just tickled, sending little tingles down her neck.

“If you promise to behave, I won’t elbow you again,” she panted, wriggling again and pressing her bottom against his groin. The hard length of him made her want to moan. “Is that my surprise?” She couldn’t believe what she’d just said. She never said things like that.

He scrambled off of her and stood.

She sat up, looking everywhere but him. Ivy slept on, blissfully unaware of the complete fool Rose had made out of herself.

“I’m in the mood for omelets tonight,” he said, his voice low.

He wanted to talk about food? She looked up at him in confusion. “There’s some eggs in the fridge.”

“Ones from your chickens?”

“No, I sold them, remember?” A feather floated in front of her and landed in her lap. Was that a chicken’s… She jumped to her feet. “You bought me chickens?”

He gave her a genuine smile. One that threw her off balance. “Not just any chickens. Your chickens.”

She ran to the back porch, not bothering to grab her coat. Throwing the door open, she ran outside and didn’t stop until she got to the chicken coop. She watched in disbelief as Colonel Sanders and company strutted and pecked.

“I can’t believe he brought them back,” she whispered.

“While I can’t believe what they did to my leather seats,” Sasha said, his shoes crunching the half-frozen grass as he walked.

She whirled around and grabbed his hands, squeezing them tight. She wanted to kiss and hug him, then dance around her backyard like a deliriously happy fool. “I’ll clean them for you. I have a recipe for cleaning that gets just about anything out.” She let go when he hissed and grimaced. “Are you okay?”

He held his hand up for her inspection and pointed to a nasty looking scratch. “The big red one got me. I can’t die a horrible death from this, can I?”

“No.” She tugged his hand down and kissed the scratch. “Better?”

“Much, but it’s getting colder.” He drew her along, threading his fingers through hers as they strolled to the house.

He held the door open, letting her go first. Instead of sitting at the table, he joined her at the sink, waiting for his turn to wash his hands. While she filled up glasses with ice and tea, he began taking bowls of steaming mashed potatoes and rolls to the table. Then he grabbed the glasses, winking at her as he did.

Turning from the counter with a platter of fried chicken, she almost bumped into him. Her face heated as they did the little side to side shuffle and tried to get out of the other’s way.

“Sorry,” Sasha said with a grin, and let her slip past.

She set the platter in the middle of the table. He pulled out her chair, gesturing for her to sit, and when she was comfortable, he finally took his own seat.

Suddenly shy, she focused on eating. The sound of silverware hitting the table with a thud made her jump and her eyes flew to his face.

His cheeks were flushed, highlighting the startling green color of his eyes. “Are we back to this again?”

“No, I’m—I don’t what to say.” She lowered her lashes and stared at the mostly empty plate in front of her.

A strong masculine hand covered hers. “Look, I’m doing my damnedest to apologize, sweetheart. Nothing more. And you owe me nothing.”

She looked up and studied his sexy face. The slash of his high cheekbones, his sensual lips and square jaw. He was an extremely beautiful man, and he knew it. But right here, right now, he looked sincere. The little voice of warning in her head was quiet. Taking a chance, she gave him a little smile. “A damned good job, I think.”

Raising his brows, he gave her a cheeky smile back. “Good enough to attend the fundraiser as my date?”

“I don’t know,” she hedged, not wanting to reveal the true reason that she wouldn’t be welcome at there. However, she was always welcomed at Harrison Collins’ bank. Or at least in his private office in the back. She inwardly cringed at the memory of having to beg him for a loan. He’d been the one man she swore she’d never go to for anything. Not even if she was on fire and he was the only person on earth with a bucket of water.

Sasha gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “No one will know it’s you.”

“How’s that?”

“Masks, love, and naughty costumes.” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. “You would be unrecognizable.” His eyes roamed her face as his hand left hers to gently tug at a wayward curl. “Perhaps not. These are too distinctive.”

Patting one side of her head, she tried to smooth her hair down.

“Don’t, your hair is lovely.” He caught her hand with his free one. Holding both of her hands in his, he lifted them to his lips and gave them a tender kiss. “You work too hard, Rose. Go out with me tomorrow night. I’ll pay for a babysitter.”

Something broke inside of her. “I’ll go—” A look of triumph covered his face and she managed to press her hands against his mouth before he could talk. “—out with you,” she clarified, “but not any place fancy. I don’t have anything to wear.”

“I’ll dress to match,” he drawled in that sexy voice of his, and she laughed.

“Don’t worry about a babysitter. I’ll get Skye to do it. She doesn’t have to work tomorrow night,” she said, drawing her hands away. She placed them in her lap, twisting and untwisting the cloth napkin she’d placed there.

He slid back his chair and began clearing the table. “I’ll start washing up the dishes.”

It took no time at all to clean and put everything back in its place. Rose wrung out the dishcloth and straddled it along the sink, then turned to face him. “Thank you.”

Sasha shoved his hands in his pockets. “Guess I’ll turn in.”

“No!” Rose blurted, and his brows shot to his hairline. “Sorry.”

He inclined his head. “Was there something you wanted?”

She bit the side of her lip. “Can I show you something? It’s kind of a secret…well, my secret, but anyway, want to come exploring with me?”

His eyes shuttered, and for a moment she was sure he was going to say no, but a smile crept back on his face. “Sounds fantastic.”

She snagged the baby monitor off of the counter and motioned him over with a wave of her hand. “Let’s go.”

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