Gone Country Page 47


“Yes.”


Chapter Twenty-Six


As they deplaned in Phoenix, Rielle decided her first plane ride hadn’t been that bad. The whiskey Coke had helped.


Sierra had been bouncing off the walls since dawn. She jabbered a mile a minute, reminding herself out loud of things she wanted to tell her mom. She could scarcely sit still and as they pulled into the circular driveway, Sierra leapt out of the car and raced up the cobblestone-paved sidewalk and barged right into the house through the gigantic front door.


Rielle didn’t get a glimpse of Ellen, but then again she’d been too busy gawking at the house and landscaping.


The sprawling stucco structure was enclosed by a six-foot-high fence on all sides, save for the wrought iron gated entrance. The front area didn’t have grass, but reddish-colored stones bordered by larger flat white rock. Bushes were spread out along the base of the house and disappeared around the side. Off to the left were half a dozen fruit trees, the bottom of the trunks painted white, which was weird. She didn’t see cacti but groupings of different varieties and sizes of palm trees.


Mind boggling to consider that Gavin had lived here at one time and that he could afford to just give this ostentatious house to his ex-wife.


Gavin didn’t stay inside long. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes when he returned and said, “Ready?”


“Is the place we’re staying as upscale as this?”


He kissed her knuckles. “No. Ellen insisted on buying the house before Sierra was born. She kept it in the divorce settlement and we use her address since this area has a much better school district than where I moved. It’s an enormous house for two people, but the property value quadrupled in the last sixteen years. Ellen isn’t allowed to sell it until after Sierra graduates from high school and if she does, she’s forced to use my real estate company as the listing agency. It’s the only way I could ensure my daughter had some stability.” He realized he hadn’t answered the question. “The house we’re staying in is pretty typical for Phoenix. Three bedrooms, three baths, two-car garage.”


“Except it has a pool.”


“Honey, all the houses down here have a pool. This one is heated, however. Not all are. Because heaters definitely aren’t needed in the summer.”


Houses and scenery scrolled by as she looked out the car window. “It’s strange. Just a few hours ago we were brushing the snow off the car. Now the sun is blinding me and I’m actually hot.”


“I’ll say. I cannot wait to see you in that bikini.”


“How much further?”


“Twenty minutes. Thirty if we hit traffic.”


Shopping centers. Medical centers. Office buildings. More strip-malls. Every once in a while she’d see a grove of citrus trees—an oasis in the inner-city sprawl. She lost track of the number of golf courses. The huge swath of green among the dusty hues of the desert was a little surreal.


Gavin turned off the busy highway onto a residential street. With as many twists and turns as they’d taken, she’d never find her way out of this urban maze. He stopped at a gate and punched in a code.


A gated community? So much for his claim it was just a typical Phoenix house.


After more winding streets, he pulled into a driveway and parked in front of a garage. Most of the stucco-covered house was hidden behind a variety of trees.


“Ree?” He turned her face toward him. “You all right? You went from chatty to silent.”


“Just trying to absorb all this, Gavin.”


He kissed her softly. “Let’s go in and get unpacked.” He unloaded the suitcases and dragged them up the front steps.


A cool blast of air and the scent of lemon Pledge greeted her in the cavernous foyer. But the darkness made her claustrophobic, so she immediately crossed the room and opened the blinds and draperies.


The living room was connected to the kitchen through an arched doorway. The décor had southwest flavor, tiled floors, plain white walls, a Navajo influence in the rugs and the couches. The sliding glass door in the dining room opened to a brick-paved patio. Curious, she stepped outside.


Patio furniture was arranged around the large, kidney-shaped pool. Wide steps and a handrail accessed the shallow end. The deep end was marked at nine feet. The ledge surrounding the pool was trimmed with cerulean blue tiles. To her right, beneath a permanent awning, sat a picnic table and chairs. A firepit took up one corner of the yard; citrus trees lined the other side.


Gavin’s arms came around her and he kissed her neck. “So? What do you think?”


“I think I might be dreaming. This is beautiful.”


“Come and see the rest of the house.”


Rielle didn’t pay much attention to the spare bedrooms or bathrooms. The master bedroom was roughly the same size as her old room. The master bath was fancier, boasting a steam shower in addition to the glass-walled shower, a double vanity and built-in cabinetry in every nook and cranny.


She returned to the bedroom to see Gavin putting away his clothes. She still couldn’t wrap her head around the fact they’d be here for a week. Alone. Just the two of them.


Gavin picked her up and threw her on the bed. Then he was on top of her. Kissing her with ferocity. Grinding his pelvis into hers, his cock already hard. His mouth moved to her ear. “Let me have you.”


Usually she’d jump right on that idea, but not this time.


He sensed her hesitation and pushed up to look into her eyes. “What’s wrong?”


“I don’t know. The timing on this feels off. Like hey, we’re here alone, let’s fuck first thing and get it out of the way.”


“No pressure. This is supposed to be fun. Relaxing. I saw you bent over that suitcase and well, I’m a guy. I wanted to pull down your jeans and fuck you just like that.” He grinned. “I thought I was being polite and gentlemanly by throwing you on the bed first.”


Rielle laughed. “Tell you what. Can I take a raincheck on that for now?”


“Sure.” He pressed his lips to hers and rolled off the bed. “On one condition.” His very male, very possessive gaze started at her feet and ended at her chest. “You put on the bikini.”


“Now?”


“Now.”


“Fine. But I’d better see you in a Speedo too, bucko.”


Gavin shuddered. “No Speedo for me ever. But I will put on my swimming trunks if it makes you happy.”


“Very happy.”


Then, like a complete chicken, Rielle undressed in the bathroom and didn’t come out until she knew Gavin was gone. Since she’d forgotten a cover up, and had no intention of prancing around in a bikini all damn day—no matter what Gavin wanted—she snagged one of his button-up business shirts from the closet and slipped it on before she headed to the kitchen.


His drink stopped halfway to his mouth when he caught sight of her. “Are you fucking serious?”


“What?”


“I’m supposed to keep my hands to myself when you’re looking that goddamn sexy in a bikini and wearing my shirt?” He groaned. “You’re evil, Ree. Pure evil.”


This man knew exactly what to say to her. She kissed him, using the distraction to swipe his drink and take a sip before she handed it back. “Mmm. Whiskey. So this place comes equipped with booze?”


“I sent my assistant a list. She brought everything over when she checked the house yesterday.”


“How many minions do you have to do your bidding?”


“Employees,” he corrected. “No minions. It’s not like I demanded she prepare a gourmet feast for us. She just picked up a few things at the store for me. That’s it.”


“This is my first glimpse into your world, isn’t it? A reminder that we live in two different worlds.”


He hauled her against his chest. “We’re in the same world, in the same place right now and that’s all that matters to me.”


Rielle let him kiss her, wanting the familiarity of his touch to shut down the doubts that’d begun to plague her.


“Would you like a whiskey Coke? Or a beer? Or a whiskey Coke minus the whiskey?”


“Whiskey on the rocks would be great.”


“Are you hungry? There’s chips and salsa or I could make you a salad.”


Rielle put her hand on his arm. “Gavin. I don’t expect you to wait on me.”


“Tough. I plan to wait on you, cater to your every need, fulfill your every desire, so by the time we leave here, you’re used to it.”


She started to laugh until she realized the man was dead serious.


What the hell?


They carried their drinks by the pool and settled into the chaise lounges. With the sun warming her body and whiskey buzz, she drifted into that happy place of marginal awareness. She heard Gavin chuckle beside her and she let herself go completely under.


A rough fingertip stroking her arm brought her out of her relaxation. She stretched and sighed. “How long was I out?”


“An hour, I guess. I dozed off myself. Would you like another drink?”


Rielle peered at him over the tops of her sunglasses. “You trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me, tycoon?”


“Yep.”


“Okay. But add Coke to mine this time.”


After Gavin returned to the kitchen, Rielle decided to take a dip in the pool. She floated on her back; the water muffled all noise except for the sound of her deep breathing. She stared up at the pale gray sky. Odd to think a sky that color in Wyoming meant snow. She dropped to her feet and noticed Gavin watching her avidly.


“I set your drink on the table. There’s a towel there for you too.”


Rielle smiled at him. “Don’t want your shirt to get wet?”


His phone rang and he frowned at the number. “Sorry, I have to take this call.” He abruptly disappeared into the house.


Was Sierra already having issues with her mother?


She snagged a chair by the picnic table. The air temp had cooled, and she let her head fall back, closing her eyes. This drinking and napping in the afternoon stuff was pretty cool.

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