The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 31)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(31)
Author: Cora Seton

“Don’t hurt yourself.”

“I’m used to hard work.” But she picked up the novel and Ned’s mood improved. At least the story helped to pass the time. His leg’s dull ache wasn’t anything for him to gripe about—it was his own damn fault he’d broken it—but the silence and forced idleness were beginning to take its toll.

“Did you ever have a dog?” he thought to ask her.

“Of my own? No.” The idea seemed to surprise her. “In the village they weren’t pets. They were for protection. They were always hungry…” She trailed off and he got the picture.

“That’s a shame.” Stuck in the cabin alone, he missed Boomer more than he cared to admit. It was probably time to get a new pet. He’d have to check out the Chance Creek Animal Shelter when he was back on his feet.

He sat back and listened to Fila read for twenty minutes. All too soon, she shut the book and placed it on the bed.

“You’re leaving?”

“I have to. That roof won’t shovel itself.”

He knew it was important that she relieve the weight up there, but he didn’t relish being alone again.

“Fila?”

“What?”

“Kiss me.”

Her eyebrows shot up and her face flushed. Ned grabbed her hand before she could dash from the room.

“Don’t you want to kiss me?”

Her color heightened. She kept her gaze on the floor, her long, lush eyelashes fanning against her cheeks. After a moment she nodded her head.

“Come here, then.”

She bent closer. Ned shifted to meet her and they kissed. Softly at first—he didn’t want to scare her—but as the seconds passed, he turned up the heat. Sliding a hand up behind her head, he asked more of her, moving his mouth over hers, nipping at her lips, finally pressing for entry with his tongue.

She gasped and pulled back. He let her go. Waited.

A few moments later she was back for more.

It wasn’t the most comfortable position and after a minute or two, Ned’s leg began to ache again. He didn’t care. He’d put up with almost anything if it meant this sweet torture would carry on. Finally, breathless, they pulled apart. Fila ducked her head, but he cupped her chin and lifted it until her gaze met his.

“I like you, Fila Sahar.”

A smile broke over her face like a radiant dawn. “I like you, too.”

He sealed the moment with a quick final kiss. “You’d better get back to it. Wish I could help.”

She nodded and slipped from the room.

She’d kissed Ned. Really kissed him—not just an innocent kiss on the cheek. She’d kissed him like a woman in love kissed a man.

She wanted to do it again.

Fila cradled the new, exciting feeling to her chest as she wrapped up in layers and braved the cold again. Climbing up to the roof, she surveyed the area she’d already cleared, and the much greater expanse of roof still to go. She’d shoveled about two-thirds of the side of the roof that covered the bedrooms and kitchen, but there was still a third to do, and then all of the side that covered the open living room area. The thought of all the work ahead left her almost too tired to get started.

As she got to it, she replayed the kiss again and again, her whole body tingling in delightful ways. In frightening ways, too. She had to constantly remind herself that here in America it was fine for her to feel this way about Ned.

At least according to everyone except Holt. He wouldn’t approve.

Was there anything she could do to change his mind? Dye her hair blond, maybe?

She smiled despite the seriousness of the question. That probably wouldn’t work, but somehow she had to convert Holt to her side, because she didn’t want to make Ned unhappy, which he would be if he was forced to choose between them.

And she didn’t mean to give him up, either.

She turned the question around in her mind over and over again as she chipped away at the ice and snow. Should she concentrate on being more American? Dressing like the others? Mimicking the way they talked and moved? Learning everything she could about the ranch? Asking Lisa to teach her to cook all his favorite meals?

Would her restaurant be a constant source of irritation to Holt if she served Afghan food? Should she turn it into a steak house?

No—then she’d compete directly with DelMonaco’s. Besides, she had no idea how to cook steaks. Afghan food was her specialty.

She shook her head. She’d just spent a decade conforming to a group of men’s ideas about ideal womanhood. She hadn’t escaped just to come here and do the same thing all over again. She’d do what she could to build peace between herself and Holt, but she wouldn’t change for him.

He’d have to accept her the way she was.

Ned listened to the sounds of Fila on the roof chipping away at the snow. Over the course of the last hour her movements had gotten slower, the quiet spaces when she rested in between getting longer. He was worried about her, and truth be told, he was worried about the cabin, too. That load of snow and ice had to be putting a lot of stress on the old trusses that held up the roof. He hoped like hell it didn’t all come down on top of them.

When he wasn’t worried about the roof, he replayed that kiss in his mind. It hadn’t disappointed him. Far from it—he now burned with the desire to experience more with Fila. He had to be patient, though. No sense pushing things too far. He had to let her get used to him slowly. He could do that.

Even if it killed him.

When Fila finally came back in she took some time getting her outer gear off before making her way to the bunk room to check on him. Her hair was flecked with water and the collar of her shirt was wet.

“Is it raining?”

She nodded. “Freezing rain. It just started, but it got really slippery really fast.”

Ned tamped down a spurt of worry. That was all they needed—more ice on top of the layers already up on that roof.

“I’m almost done with this side of the roof. Almost but not quite.” She sat in the chair beside his bed. He could tell she was thoroughly worn out.

“I’m sure you’re doing great.” Ned glanced up at the ceiling. Above them lay the attic, the roof trusses and the roof itself. He was glad to know the snow was mostly off the side above them. The other side—over the living room and dining room—was still fully laden. It had to be an awfully heavy load.

“I’m working too slow.”

“It’ll get done. Don’t worry.” He was worried, though. She’d have to go back on the roof after lunch, even if it was still raining.