The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby(8)

By: Brenda Harlen

While he continued to work with the filly, he cautioned himself against speculating on the purpose of her visit. He didn’t know why she was there or how long she planned to stay this time, but he knew it would be foolish to expect anything from her. He finished running the young horse through her exercises before he passed her off to one of the stable hands for cooldown and grooming and finally turned his attention to Maggie.

“Hello, Jesse.”

She looked good. Better than good. She looked like everything he’d ever wanted in a woman, and he knew that she was. He also knew that she was definitely out of his reach.

He nodded in acknowledgment of her greeting. “When did you get back into town?” he asked, his tone polite but cool.

“Last night.”

Which confirmed that she’d already been in Rust Creek Falls when he ran into her cousin at the feed store—suggesting that Lissa’s appearance there had not been a coincidence. “More of Arthur Swinton’s business?”

She shook her head. “I came to see you.”

And damn if his heart didn’t kick against his ribs like an ornery stallion trying to break out of its stall. Because he was feeling more than he wanted to feel, more than he intended to admit, the single word was harsh when he asked, “Why?”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”

“Please, Jesse. Can we go somewhere a little more private?”

He wanted to refuse. He definitely didn’t want to be alone with her, because that would undoubtedly remind him of the last time he’d been alone with her—the night they’d made love.

“I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important,” she said.

“Do you know where The Shooting Star is?” he asked, naming his family’s ranch.

She nodded.

“My house is the first one on the left, after the driveway splits. Can you meet me there in an hour?”

She nodded without hesitation. “That would be good.”

No, good would’ve been if she’d come back three months sooner and asked to be alone with him. Then he would have been sure that they both wanted the same thing. Now, after so much time had passed, he had no idea what she wanted, what she thought they needed to talk about.

But he knew she’d been gone 119 days, and wasn’t that pathetic? He’d actually been counting the days. At first, he’d been counting in anticipation of her return. More recently, he’d been counting in the hope that with each day that passed he would be one day closer to forgetting about her.

And he’d been certain he was getting there—but only five minutes in her company had him all churned up inside again, wanting what he knew he couldn’t have.

* * *

What was she going to do for an hour?

She slid behind the wheel of her rental car and considered her options. She was less than five minutes away from Gage and Lissa’s house, but she didn’t want to go back there. Her cousin hadn’t stopped nagging her since she’d got into town the night before. Not that Lissa had said anything Maggie hadn’t already thought herself.

She pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the road, heading toward town. She drove down Falls Street, turned onto Sawmill, crossing over the bridge without any destination in mind. She was only killing time, watching the minutes tick away until the allotted hour had passed.

Her phone buzzed to indicate receipt of a text message, so she turned onto Main and pulled into an empty parking spot by Crawford’s General Store to dig her phone out of her purse.

Have you seen him yet?

The message, not surprisingly, was from Lissa.

Mtg him at SS @ 4, she texted back.

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