Nicholas cast a wary look at the document envelope she was holding out to him. “What’s that?”
“Danny says it’s his wedding gift,” Bee answered rather self-consciously.
“And you can see it’s still sealed. I promised him I wouldn’t take…” Her voice trailed off as she found herself distracted by the sight outside her window. They were entering what seemed to be a privately owned ranch, with a pair of hands quickly swinging metal gates open to let Nicholas’ truck through. And beyond those gates was…
Myrtle and lilac chastetrees were alternately planted on each side of the road, and their canopying branches showered the ground below with a rainbow storm of petals. Up ahead, the ranch’s main house rose into view, a sprawling, two-story structure with dark red gabled roofs, expansive windows, and sliding glass doors.
Bee turned to Nicholas, asking rather breathlessly, “Is this where you work?”
“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Nicholas’ tone was dry.
“I’ve tried my best to research about ranch management,” Bee shared tentatively, “but if you’re willing to show me the ropes, I promise I’ll do my best to help out.”
“I see.” Nicholas was becoming increasingly convinced that Tabitha was either certifiably insane – or presently high on drugs, and when he saw her suddenly blush, he made a mental note to have the family doctor drop by first thing tomorrow.
Blissfully unaware of the direction of Nicholas’ toughts, Bee was busy trying to calm her racing heartbeat as she watched Nicholas step out and go around the truck to open the door for her. The chivalrous gesture reminded her of the dashing heroes from her favorite mail-order romances, and it was all she could do not to squeal.
Just a week ago, she had hit rock bottom, and now…
Nicholas offered her his hand to help her out, and Bee gingerly placed her hand in his. The feel of his touch was thrilling, and shamelessly wicked thoughts came out of nowhere to assail her mind.
Nicholas, running his large, strong hands over her body…
The sound of the door slamming shut behind her had Bee crashing back to reality. She belatedly realized that Nicholas had long let go of her hand and was now frowning as he took in her flushed cheeks.
“Are you alright?”
“I…uh…yes.” Bee had never been a good liar, but she just couldn’t make herself admit that he had turned her on so much she had ended up sexually fantasizing about him. He might be her husband, but…it was just too embarrassing.
Nicholas mentally threw his hands up in surrender. There was just no making sense of her, and whatever the real reason was that had Tabitha turning red as a tomato, he was damn certain it would be just as irrational as the rest of her replies.
In any case, he had done his job, and he could now wash his hands off her.
Gesturing towards the silver-haired man standing by the doorway, he murmured, “Thomas will be taking you to your room—”
Bee was confused. “My room?” Did he mean they wouldn’t be sharing a room?
“Yes. I’ve had the lilac room on the second floor prepared for you—”
Another startling realization struck her, and she blurted out, “You mean…we’re staying at the main house?”
“Where else are we going to stay?” he asked rather exasperatedly.
Wherever ranch managers were supposed to stay, Bee wanted to say but managed not to. Maybe, she had it all wrong, or she hadn’t researched enough. Maybe, ranch managers living under the same roof as his boss were more common than she thought.
“If we’re done now—” The tinge of impatience in Nicholas’ voice made Bee bite her lip. “I still have work to finish…”
Bee managed to summon a smile. “Of course. I totally understand.”
The words seemed truthful enough, and yet in her eyes he seemed to catch a flicker of hurt.
Which would even make less sense, Nicholas thought irritably, than everything she had said so far. What the hell did she have to be upset about? She was Daniel’s friend, dammit, not his, and all he owed her he had already done.
Nicholas purposely turned away as the family butler escorted Tabitha inside his house, and as he made his way to the stable, he remembered the envelope she had given him.
Danny says it’s his wedding gift, the girl had said.
He pulled the envelope out of his pocket, and tearing it open, a piece of paper fell out. A single QR code was printed on it, and Nicholas frowned. What the hell? He scanned the code with his phone, and it took him to a password-protected page.
Since this was his son, Nicholas typed the name Petula, and the page started to load. A couple of photos showed up first, and Nicholas’ gaze narrowed when he saw his son and Tabitha standing in what suspiciously seemed like a judge’s private chambers.