When she finally felt the car decelerate, she took her chance. Before Duncan had even pulled to a stop at the light, she clawed her seatbelt off, flung the door open, and leaped out. Her head down, she raced onto the sidewalk and down the street. It was quiet here – an industrial area. She had to hide before Duncan circled around the block.
Fishing her phone out of her purse, Morgan dialed information and asked to be put through to a cab company. She didn’t stop moving and she didn’t dial 911. Getting the police involved wouldn’t solve anything since Duncan hadn’t actually done anything yet. Plus it would get her fired, and without a recommendation from the only employer she’d had for a decade, she’d be toast. She’d have to figure out what to do about that tomorrow; right now, she needed to get home. Darting down an alley, she turned a corner and checked the street-signs.
"Hello," she said when her call was put through. Fighting for breath, she kept running. "I need a cab. Fast."
A screech of tires warned her Duncan was trolling the streets. She ducked down another alley and hid behind a dumpster. Duncan might drive up and down the area for a while, but he’d never get out and search on foot. He was too lazy.
Besides, he’d know right where to find her tomorrow. Time to update that résumé.
Half an hour later, a taxi dropped her off in front of her building and she climbed out, nearly weak with relief. Duncan hadn’t found her before the cab arrived. She was out forty dollars, and she dreaded what the morning would bring, but she was home.
But as she walked into the covered garage under her three story complex, toward the entrance to her unit, she stifled a gasp when she saw a man loitering by her door. She stopped, ready to run, until she recognized him.
Shocked, she lifted a hand to her hair. She was sweaty and disheveled from her dash through the streets of Victoria. Her pants were wrinkled and her blouse awry. What a time for the cowboy to show up on her doorstep.
Slowly, she approached him. "Rob? What are you doing here?"
He unfolded himself from where he’d been leaning against the wall. "I was in the neighborhood. Thought I’d stop by."
She raised an eyebrow. She was still trembling from her close call. Only twenty minutes ago she’d needed all her defenses against Duncan. Now the man she’d longed for was closing in on her, fast. She needed a moment to transition.
She didn’t get one.
"I couldn’t stay away from you any longer," he said, bending down to give her a kiss that made her toes curl with desire, once she pushed Duncan from her mind. She forced herself to stay in the moment, to be conscious of only Rob. His smell, the taste of his mouth on hers, the strength in the arms that held her. She closed her eyes and leaned against him, letting everything else go. Rob Matheson was easy on the eyes, with a body made for touching. After a few moments, it was all she could do not to melt against him right here and now.
Easy, tiger. Remember your rules. Better not get him – or yourself – too hot and bothered.
She pulled away. "Come on in."
"Thanks." He finally released her and picked up a black suitcase. "Hope you don’t mind me showing up like this out of the blue. I had a sudden gap in my schedule."
"Really?" She didn’t think ranchers got gaps in their schedules. "Is everything all right back at home?" She unlocked the door and showed him inside her small apartment. Lugging his gear, Rob followed her into the entryway and down a short hall to the living room. Her kitchenette hugged one wall, separated from the rest of the room by a counter. Her one bedroom and bathroom opened off to the side.
"I like your place. It’s…nice," Rob said, putting down his suitcase. He seemed out of place in the confines of her little apartment. The cowboy was larger than life, and her living room was oh so small.
"You mean it’s tiny," Morgan said, trying to wrap her head around his presence here. Somehow Rob demanded wide skies and open land. He didn’t belong in a city like Victoria. "It’s cheap, too. Only a thousand dollars a month."
"A thousand dollars for this?" His eyebrows shot up.
"It’s expensive here."
"The money’s funny, too. What’s the deal with all the colors, eh?"
She had to laugh at the mixture of the Canadianism with his western drawl. Her shock at Duncan’s behavior and her wild flight through the streets began to melt away. Rob was here. She was definitely safe from Duncan now. "Easier to tell apart than your U.S. money."
He sobered up. "Look, I know it’s not good manners to drop in unannounced like this, but I needed to see you and…well, I needed to get away from home for a bit."
"Well, it’s great to see you, too. Just a little…unexpected." Especially after the hellacious evening she’d had.
"There’s something I need to ask you. Something important." He took her hand and led her over to her china-blue couch. There he hesitated, his gaze raking her from head to toe. Whatever he saw made his expression soften and he tilted her chin up and met her mouth with his own again. His kiss started out gentle, but then it intensified. He drew her in closer, one hand at the nape of her neck, the other at the small of her back.
Morgan let his kiss wash over her until she felt weak in the knees. She’d missed Rob so much – missed his touch so much. They hadn’t taken things very far when she’d visited Montana, but she’d wanted to, and she knew he wanted to. It was going to be hard to hold him off this time.
When she began to think holding him off was the last thing she wanted to do, he broke off the kiss, looking as undone by it as she was. After searching her face with his gaze, he slowly knelt in front of her and pulled something out of his pocket. Her stomach flipped when she saw it was a velvet-covered jewelry case. He opened it and held up the ring inside.
"Morgan Tate, will you marry me?"
"Before you answer, hear me out," Rob rushed to say. Morgan’s eyes had widened and her face lit up, but even so he knew that reality would soon come crashing down into her consciousness. Morgan was sensible. Practical.
She’d say they didn’t know each other well enough yet.
She’d be right.
"I don’t know how to say everything fast enough for you to hear it all before you make up your mind," he went on. "So, just…sit there, okay?" He pointed to the couch behind her and after a moment she dutifully sat down. She still looked stunned, however. Stunned, and her happy expression was fading fast. He’d better get going with that explanation. "You don’t know much about me. What you do know probably isn’t flattering." He winced at the thought of what his friends had probably told her about him during her visit to Montana last month. "But…" He sighed in frustration. This was hopeless. How could he explain everything that had happened in the last two days?