“Nobody’ll miss me,” Donny finally answered flatly as he turned the ignition and the truck hummed to life.
They were both comfortable in the silence that followed as Donny drove down the rural roads to get to the farm. Vic was busy regretting his chance to finally get back in the swing of things in regard to sex. He figured that Donny was too appreciative of the fact that Vic wasn’t preaching at him for being in a bar at one A.M. when he was only fifteen years old to push his luck by trying to start a conversation.
Vic was so preoccupied in his dark thoughts and self-recriminations for not ordering every last thing that Missy Shane had been offering on the menu tonight that at first he didn’t comprehend what Donny meant when he pulled up in the gravel driveway next to Vic’s cottage.
“Who’s visiting Tim and Meg?”
“Huh?” Vic asked distractedly.
Donny nodded his head at the sedan in the headlights. “Shit, it’s a Benz. License plates are NFC 87987. Know who that is? Vic?” Donny added after several seconds when he realized Vic hadn’t answered.
Vic blinked several times as he stared at the relatively mundane image of the familiar car as if it were a spaceship that had just landed on the driveway in front of them.
“Yeah. I know whose it is,” Vic eventually said. “See you at breakfast, Donny.”
“Night,” Donny said, a look of confusion on his face as he watched the tall figure of his boss stalk up to the main house with a brisk, purposeful stride and tense posture that looked entirely out of place, considering Vic’s former mellow mood.
Whoever the driver of that car was, Donny decided he was glad it wasn’t him.
For the first few seconds after Niall awoke, she didn’t know where the hell she was. Then she saw the painting of the farm on the wall. Meg had uncharacteristically blushed when she’d told Niall that she’d painted it herself in a burst of creativity last summer.
“I know it’s not any good,” Meg had said, chuckling at Niall’s protests to the contrary. “Good enough for the guest bedroom, if not over the mantel, anyway. This time of year on the farm really gets the creative juices flowing, you’ll see,” Meg had assured her as she’d showed her around her airy, spacious bedroom suite.
Who had just turned on the light? Niall wondered presently. She groggily pushed her hair out of her eyes and sat up on her elbow. Her lips fell apart in shock when she realized that Vic stared at her from the opened doorway, his finger still hovering near the light switch.
For several tense moments neither of them spoke. Niall soaked up the image of him. As thirsty for it as she had been, she felt that she could have just sponged up his image for hours and still had room to absorb more.
Her gaze moved hungrily over his long, jean-clad legs. He’d always worn low-riding jeans that set off his taut abdomen and lean hips. Niall thought that now they hung a little loose on his tall frame, as though he’d lost some weight. A blue and white button-down shirt hung open to reveal a plain, white T-shirt that highlighted his deepened tan as well as the long, taut taper of his torso as it sloped from his waist to his broad shoulders. She’d never seen his hair so long or his jaw so much in need of a shave.
He looked a little wild standing there in the doorway. For those few tense seconds Niall wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do or say. When he did eventually speak, he cut to the chase with his typical terseness.
“What’re you doing in my house?”
Niall scraped her hair back from her face and sat up in bed. She instinctively pulled the covers up around her breasts, feeling vulnerable with Vic’s eyes boring into her like fiery nails. His gaze flickered over her body at her abrupt movement, causing her skin to prickle in heightened awareness.
“I thought it was Meg’s house,” she mumbled lamely.
“You’re visiting Meg?” Vic more stated than asked. His hand lowered from the light switch and he took an aggressive step into the room.
Niall took a deep, fortifying breath. She’d expected a hostile reaction from Vic, but she hadn’t pictured it taking place while she was half-asleep and wearing nothing but a thin nightgown while he towered over her in barely restrained fury. She began to seriously doubt her wisdom in concocting this plan with Meg. Encountering Vic in that moment brought to mind unexpectedly awakening to find oneself in the eye of a powerful storm. She perfectly imagined him scooping her up out of her cozy bed and tossing her out on the gravel driveway along with her car keys and suitcase.
“In a manner of speaking,” she replied, glad to hear that her voice didn’t tremble. “I’m boarding here on the farm for the next several months.”
Vic’s jaw hung open. “You’re boarding here on the farm for the next several months,” he repeated with acid sarcasm.
“I believe that’s what I just said, yes. I’m the teacher the Institute hired to teach the art history class at the high school. Maybe Meg told you about it.”
“You’re the teacher they hired to teach—”
“Vic, you’re not going to repeat everything I say, are you?” Niall interrupted. His eyes flashed, and Niall knew she’d poured fuel on the fire.
“You don’t want me to repeat myself? Fine. Here’s something you haven’t heard, although if you had a few working brain cells, you certainly should have seen it coming. You’re not staying on this farm.”
She saw him blink in surprise.
“Because I said so, that’s why!” he roared.