I shake my head. “Not today. Just my regular today.”

“Why not?” she asks.

It won’t serve either of us to lie, so I just say it. “I’m with someone.”

She smirks. “Right. The hermit mountain man has found himself a mountain woman? I don’t think so.” She reaches across the bar and takes my hand. “Come on, baby. It’s been a while since I’ve had a ride and I need a mountain man like you to show me how it’s done.”

“Lucy, stop.”

She keeps pulling me toward the door where we went last time—the back parking lot where her car and expectations are waiting. But right now the door is filled with Anna’s short frame. Shit. Her eyes are flat steel. “He told you to let go.”

Lucy’s got a good four inches on Anna, and she straightens, looking down her nose. “Who the fuck are you?”

A slow smile crosses Anna’s face. “I’m the mountain woman.”

11

Anna

The kick of jealousy in my chest isn’t what I expected. The woman in front of me is everything that I’m not. She’s taller than me, skinnier, and her tight shirt shows off a set of breasts that I’ll never come close to. The familiar way she’s touching Robert tells me that they’ve slept together before, but I don’t care about that. I care about the fact that he asked her to let go, and she didn’t.

“Take your hand off of him. Right now.”

The woman—I head Robert call her Lucy—sneers. She looks back at Robert. “Her? You’re with her?”

“I am,” he says. No doubt. No hesitation. Then he takes her wrist with his other hand and pulls her off him. “I think I’ll skip the beer.” He walks straight to me, and leans down to kiss me. It’s deep and fast and I’m so surprised that I almost drop the bag with my new clothes in it. “Let’s go.”

I nod, and follow him, taking only a second to look back at Lucy, who’s staring at the two of us with an open mouth and daggers in her eyes. Robert is walking so fast that I can barely keep up, and he climbs into the truck without a word. It’s only after I shut the door that he pulls me across the bench seat and takes my face in his hands. “I didn’t go in there looking for that.”

“Were you worried I would think that?” He doesn’t have to say anything. The look on his face tells me. “I saw enough to know otherwise,” I say. “Besides, you don’t strike me as a man who would do that.”

“Never.”

“And I’m not the kind of woman who cares that you’ve been with other people before me. I’ve been with other people too.”

He stares at me for a second. “I slept with her once. I usually go to the bar when I come into town and one day I just…I needed something. Anything. We had sex in her car. It was a nice change of pace. But I think this one is better.”

“Good.” I hold up the bag of clothes so he can see it. “I got some things. We’ll see how many you decide to destroy before we have to come back.”

“Or you could just go naked. There’s no one around to see you up there.” He starts the truck and heads down the main road of the town back toward the mountain.

I snort a laugh. “I can’t do work naked. There would be a lot of dirt in places it has no business being.”

“Who said anything about work?” he says. “I could just have you there, naked so that I could look at you. Trust me, the work would go faster because I’d want to get it done.”

I make a sarcastic face. “Are you sure you could control yourself long enough for the work to get done at all?”

“Why don’t we try it and find out?”

“Maybe,” I say, “but you’re so close to finishing the sculpture. I think you should finish that first before…anything else.”

“But—”

I place a hand on his arm. “I promise I’ll give you a good show if you finish it first.”

He takes his eyes off the road for a second to grin at me. “What kind of show?”

“What, and ruin the surprise? I don’t think so.”

I can tell he wants to press for more, but he doesn’t. But he does drive a little faster.

“Trust me,” I say. “You’ll enjoy it.”

Robert disappeared into the workshop so fast I swear I saw some skid marks. I unload the groceries and fold my new clothes while I hear the soft sounds of carving. And soon after, I hear no sounds at all. I creep up to the workshop door and peek inside. Robert is staining the sculpture, painting the pale wood a golden brown, the liquid dripping down it like honey and pooling in the tray beneath it.

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