Marjorie had told me she was pretty, and I’d seen photographs, but they didn’t do Jade Roberts justice. Even the way she ate was sexy—how she licked her lips after every bite and then daintily touched them with her napkin. Still, a lone crumb from her hamburger bun stuck to the left edge of her lower lip. Damn, to be that crumb. I wanted to lick it off and then trace the rest of her lips with my tongue before plunging it inside her sweet mouth and kissing her hard.
The paper from her burger crinkled as she wadded it up and put it in the bag. When she reached to grab mine out of my lap and her fingers grazed the inside of my thigh, my dick stiffened. Yeah, just what I didn’t need—a boner in the fucking car. She wadded up my paper and tossed it in the bag as well.
Should I say something? I had no idea. She was Marjorie’s friend, not mine. If only Ryan or Jonah had been able to pick her up. Twenty more minutes…
“I’m really excited to see Marj,” she said.
Clearly, she was making small talk. Had she forgotten that she just saw Marj last week at her aborted wedding? It was the second time she’d made that goof. I couldn’t help a small chuckle, but I managed to keep it silent. She was cute.
“Yeah, she’s really excited about you coming out here to live.”
“I really appreciate you guys letting me stay with you on the ranch until I get settled.”
“Not a problem. If there’s one thing we’ve got, it’s room.”
“Oh, yeah, I know. I visited Marj at the ranch sophomore year during spring break. You weren’t…uh…”
“I was in Iraq.” For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why people were so loath to say the word “Iraq.” I was there. I saw a bunch of shit no human should ever have to see. But it was a fact, so why beat around the bush about it? It sure wasn’t the first time I’d seen nasty-ass shit.
She cleared her throat. “Yeah.”
Silence for a few beats. Then—
“I think it’s really heroic what you did over there. I really respect our military.”
“I didn’t do it to be a hero.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to imply—”
“I’m no hero, blue eyes.” Had I just called her blue eyes? “In fact, I’m about as far from a hero as you’d get.”
I didn’t know what I expected her to say to that, but I sure as hell didn’t expect what she said.
“It really doesn’t matter what you think, does it? I think anyone who serves our country is a hero. That’s my personal definition, and I’m sticking with it.”
I shook my head. Such na?veté. Had I ever been that na?ve in my life? Not since my first decade on this earth, and even then I don’t think I was quite as innocent she was now.
She’d learn eventually. I hoped it would be a while. I wouldn’t mind seeing the innocence in those soft blue eyes a little longer.
“I don’t know what to say to that.”
“You could say ‘thank you.’ Isn’t that customary when someone gives you a compliment?”
“You didn’t give me a compliment.”
“Sure I did. I said you were hero. It’s a great compliment. I wish someone would call me a hero. I’m no one’s hero, and I never will be.”
“And I told you, I’m no hero.”
“I suppose heroism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, then.”
I looked straight ahead, resisting the urge to turn toward her. I was driving, after all. The road into Snow Creek was never busy. We had to drive through the small town to get to Steel Acres.
“So where can I get a good deal on a used car? I need something to get around in.”
“You’d be better off going into Grand Junction for something like that. But there’s no hurry. We have about five cars on the ranch that aren’t being used right now. You’re welcome to use one of them.”
“Oh, no. I can’t impose.”
“You’re already imposing, staying with us.” I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. She didn’t deserve to be treated this way. I just wasn’t used to mincing words.
“I…I’m sorry. You just said…you had plenty of room.” Her voice cracked a little.
Shit, now I had upset her. Truth was, I didn’t know how to deal with people. Five years in Iraq didn’t teach me that, and God knew my life before then hadn’t taught me jack shit.
But something about her raised my hackles. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. All I knew was that I had to keep her at arm’s length. Couldn’t let her in. Couldn’t let anyone in. Only problem was, up until now, I had never wanted to let anybody in. After less than an hour with this woman, my whole philosophy seemed to be shattering.
Those damned blue eyes…
“All I meant was that we have extra cars, and you’re welcome to use one.”