The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby(4)

By: Brenda Harlen


“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.

* * *

Maggie prided herself on the fact that she was an intelligent, educated woman. She’d graduated summa cum laude from Stanford Law School and was establishing a reputation for herself at Alliston & Blake—a prominent Los Angeles law firm. She’d gone toe-to-toe with formidable opponents in the courtroom, she’d held her ground in front of arrogant judges and she’d refused to be impressed or intimidated by powerful clients. One of her greatest assets was her ability to remain calm and cool whatever the circumstances. She simply didn’t get flustered.

But as Jesse followed her into Gage and Lissa’s kitchen, she was definitely feeling flustered. There was just something about this shy, sexy cowboy that had her heart jumping around in her chest. She opened the refrigerator, peered inside.

“What do you like?” she asked.

He looked at her blankly.

“For dinner,” she clarified.

He flashed a quick smile. “Sorry, I guess my mind wandered. As for food—I’m not fussy. I’ll eat whatever you want to make.”

“Chicken and pasta okay?” she asked him.

“Sure.”

She took a package of chicken breasts out of the fridge, then rummaged for some other ingredients. She found green peppers in the crisper, onions in the pantry and a bowl of ripe tomatoes on the counter. But what she really needed was fresh basil, and Lissa didn’t have any.

“Do you know if they carry fresh herbs at the General Store?”

“I doubt it,” Jesse said. “You’d probably have to go into Kalispell for something like that.”

“I can use dried,” she admitted. “But fresh basil leaves would add a lot more visual appeal to the dish.”

“I’m going to have dinner with a beautiful woman,” he said. “That’s enough visual appeal that I wouldn’t mind if you made macaroni and cheese from a box.”

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