The Maverick’s Thanksgiving Baby(3)

By: Brenda Harlen

“So why didn’t you just tell him you had a boyfriend in Los Angeles? I got the impression he would have believed that more readily than he believed you were with me.”

“I don’t think he would’ve believed anything without proof—which you’re still wearing,” she said, and lifted a hand to rub her lipstick off the corner of his mouth with her thumb.

And he felt it again—the sizzle and crackle of awareness when she touched him. And when her gaze locked on his, he knew that he wasn’t the only one who had felt it.

“He hit on Lissa, too, when she first came to Rust Creek Falls,” Maggie told him. “Apparently he even started a bar fight with some other guy who asked her to dance.”

“I don’t pay much attention to the gossip around town,” Jesse said. “But I remember hearing about that—both the sheriff and his deputy got punched and two guys got arrested.”

Maggie smiled. “Lissa insisted it wasn’t her fault, but Gage said something about beautiful women being the cause of most trouble at the Ace in the Hole.”

“Then you better stay away from the bar or you might incite a riot.”

Her cheeks colored prettily, as if she hadn’t heard the same thing a thousand times before. And if she hadn’t, he figured there was something seriously wrong with the guys in LA, because Maggie Roarke was a definite knockout.

“So why aren’t you involved with anyone back home?” he asked now.

“How do you know I’m not?” she asked.

“You didn’t kiss me until you’d confirmed that I wasn’t seeing anyone, and I can’t imagine you’d be any less respectful of your own relationship.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledged. “As for not being involved—I guess I’ve just been too busy to do much dating.”

“Until me,” he teased.

She laughed. “Until you.”

The magical sound of her soft laughter filled his heart, and the sparkle in her eyes took his breath away. He didn’t know what else to say—or if he should say anything else at all. Maybe he should just walk away while she was smiling and hopefully not thinking that he was an idiot.

“I really do appreciate your cooperation,” she told him. “If there’s anything I can do to possibly repay the favor, I hope you’ll ask.”

“Well, I was planning to grab a burger at the Ace in the Hole,” he admitted. “And despite the sheriff’s warning to your cousin, I’d be willing to take the risk if you wanted to join me.”

“Are you inviting me to have dinner with you?”

“It would substantiate your claim that we’re dating.”

“The Ace in the Hole?” she said dubiously.

He shrugged. “Since this isn’t your first visit to Rust Creek Falls, you know that our options here are limited.”

Still she hesitated, and Jesse began to suspect that her gratitude didn’t actually extend to the point where she wanted to be seen in public with him. And that was okay. He understood what she’d been saying about small-town gossip, and he really didn’t want to be put under the microscope any more than she did. But damn, he really did want to spend more time with her.

“I could do better than a burger,” she finally said. “I could make dinner.”

“You’d cook for me?”

“Which part surprises you the most—that I can cook or that I’m offering to cook for you?”

“I’m not sure,” he admitted.

She laughed again. “At least you’re honest.”

“I guess I just thought, with you being a busy lawyer and all…”

“Lawyers have to eat on occasion, too,” she said, when his explanation ran out.

“Yeah, but I would figure you’ve got a lot of dining options in LA.”

“We do,” she agreed. “But as it turns out, I like to cook. It helps me unwind at the end of the day. So what do you say—are you going to let me make you dinner?”

He was beginning to suspect that he would let Maggie Roarke do absolutely anything she wanted, but he figured dinner was a good start.

“An offer I can’t refuse,” he told her.

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