The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby(7)

By: Brenda Harlen


He touched a hand to the brim of his hat. “Mrs. Christensen,” he said politely.

“It’s Lissa,” she told him, and offered a smile that was both warm and apologetic.

He wondered what she felt she had to apologize for. Maggie had told him that Lissa wasn’t just her cousin—she was her best friend—and he would bet that whatever Maggie’s reasons for ending their relationship before it had really even begun, she would have confided in the other woman. No doubt Lissa knew more than he wanted her to, but she didn’t need to know—he wouldn’t let her see—how hurt he’d been by Maggie’s decision.

“Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?”

“Actually, I’m here to help you.”

“While I appreciate the offer, I’m already finished,” he said, deliberately misunderstanding her.

She shook her head, clearly exasperated with him. “Have you talked to Maggie recently?”

“Can’t say that I have,” he said, his tone carefully neutral.

“You need to talk to her,” Lissa insisted. “Sooner rather than later.”

And though Jesse’s heart urged him to reach out to her once again, Maggie had trampled on it once already and he wasn’t eager to give her another chance. Maybe pride was cold comfort without the warmth of the woman in his arms, but it was all he had left, and that pride wouldn’t let him continue to chase after a woman who had made it clear she wasn’t interested.

“If your cousin wants to talk, she knows where to find me,” he countered.

Lissa huffed out a breath. “If nothing else, the two of you have obstinacy in common.”

He closed the tailgate of his truck. “If that’s all you wanted to say, I need to get back to Traub Stables.”

“There’s plenty more to say,” she told him. “But it’s not for me to say it.”

He lifted his brows in response to that cryptic comment as he moved to the driver’s-side door.

“Please talk to her,” Lissa urged again.

He slid behind the wheel and drove away, but her insistence nagged at the back of his mind all the way back to Traub Stables. Lissa had to know that he’d been out of touch with her cousin for a while, so why was she all fired up about him needing to talk to Maggie? Why now?

Oddly enough, he’d got a phone call—out of the blue—just a few days earlier from his former fiancée. Shaelyn had said she wanted to talk, so he’d told her to talk. Then she’d said she wanted to see him, but he hadn’t thought there was any point in that. Now he was wondering why the women from his past, who had already tossed him aside, had suddenly decided he was worthy of their attention.

He continued to puzzle over his recent conversation with Lissa as he worked with a spirited yearling. And because he was thinking about her cousin, when he got the feeling that someone was watching him, he instinctively knew that someone was Maggie.

He hadn’t seen her since July, and the passing of time was evidenced by the changing of the season. When he’d met her the day of the community center opening, she’d been wearing a slim-fitting skirt and high-heeled sandals that showed her long, slender legs to full advantage along with a sleeveless silky blouse that highlighted her feminine curves. Today she was bundled up in a long winter coat that he’d bet she’d borrowed from her cousin since she wouldn’t have much use for one in Los Angeles. In addition to the coat, she was wearing a red knitted hat with a pom-pom and matching red mittens, and even from a distance, he could see that her cheeks were pink from the cold.

Her choice to stand outside, he decided. And though it was obvious to both of them that she was waiting for him, he refused to cut the yearling’s workout short. He wasn’t being paid to slack off, and he wasn’t going to let her distract him from his job. Even when she hadn’t been there, she’d been too much of a distraction over the past several months.

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