I don’t bother to put my pants back on, collapsing into bed. Yesterday, I thought I was making this bet so I could have more time. Time to find a way out of whatever plan my father has. Today, after that kiss, I’m not sure what I’m making the bet for.

The next two days Anna and I circle each other. We eat together and work alongside each other, mostly in silence. I tell her what I need her to do and she does it without complaining. When I asked her to stay, not only was I buying time, but I didn’t think she’d make it. I thought she’d say she was going home after the first day.

Whatever my father has offered her must be valuable. I’ve had her hauling logs and working in the garden, washing the dishes and being an extra set of hands while I chop wood and work on the sculpture.

We catch each other’s eyes now and then, and I feel her lips pressed against mine and suddenly I’m struggling to adjust my jeans. Every night I’ve made myself come thinking about what it would be like to fall into bed with her, and it’s barely enough to keep the lust that surges through me every time I look at her in check. Barely.

It’s been nice to have another person around, even if I’m never going to actually admit that I was lonely. Because I wasn’t. But maybe you don’t realize that you’re lonely until you have someone there.

But there’s another question that echoes around in my mind as I watch the obvious city girl disappear into the work. What happens if she stays? What happens to me and the fact that my attraction to her feels strange and deep and like nothing I’ve felt before? What happens to her? Will my father actually give her what he promised, and will it fix whatever thing she’s desperate for? And lastly, what happens at the end of thirty days when she’s still here and I have to keep my promise to go back to Boston and speak to the man I swore I’d never set eyes on again?

Today, the third day since the kiss, the day is hot. I’m sweating through my clothes and I take off my shirt not long after I start working. I can feel Anna’s eyes on me, and every time I catch her staring I give her a wink—I like the way it makes her blush. But I’m looking too. The way she takes drinks of water, the way her hips move as she walks. The way her shirt is clinging to her breasts as she moves.

By the time I’m finished for the day, I know that a shower isn’t going to cut it. I turn on the heat to my giant outdoor bathtub. Not quite a jacuzzi—there aren’t any jets, but it’s set around the west side of my house behind the workshop with a stunning view down the mountain.

I uncover the tub, and it’s already steaming, the water perfectly still and smooth. I grab some towels from the house and put them near the ladder before heading over to the garden where Anna is digging little holes in neat rows for carrots.

I tap her on the shoulder. “Come with me.”

She puts away her tools and gloves before she follows me, and I lead her around the house. I unbutton my jeans as I turn the corner and let them fall, and I smile as I hear her intake of breath. Good to know that my ass can still make a woman stop in her tracks.

I climb up the ladder and sink into the water, turning to Anna and seeing her staring with her mouth open. “Hot soak?”

Anna rubs her hands on her pants like she’s wiping dirt from them, but there’s nothing there. “I—” She swallows. “I don’t have a bathing suit.”

“Clearly neither do I,” I say, smirking. Leaning forward onto the ledge that surrounds the tub, I raise myself out of the water just enough so that she can see the water lining my naked hips and that there’s absolutely nothing underneath. She knew that, but I want her to see. “Are you scared?”

“No,” she says too quickly. Then she’s walking toward the tub with determination. “Close your eyes.”



I can’t believe I’m doing this. I strip off my clothes quickly and climb the ladder into the tub, submerging myself so that I’m hidden. Who am I kidding? This mountain water is crystal clear and I don’t think much of my body is left to the imagination, but oh my God, this feels so good. The water is heated through, and it seeps into my skin, a welcome relief to the aching in my muscles.

“Okay,” I say.

Robert opens his eyes, and I’m glad the water’s hot. My skin is already pink and he won’t be able to see me blush. I’ve barely been able to look him in the eye the past two days, afraid that I’ll pounce on him and finish what we started in his workshop. It doesn’t stop him from looking though, or me for that matter. There’s a slow smile that crosses his face when he sees that I’m looking below the water, and I turn away quickly. “I didn’t know this tub was here.”

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