He couldn’t let this visit of hers be a one-off thing. He needed to make a plan with Rose to do something neutral, but fun. Something that couldn’t be construed as a date, but would throw them together again. Helping her build her shed was the obvious choice, but he had the feeling she’d refuse as vehemently as she’d done earlier today. He needed to think of something else.
The solution hit him as Rose picked up her plate to carry it to the sink.
“You need to learn to shoot.”
“I beg your pardon?” She looked at him askance. Cab scrambled to find an explanation that would convince her.
“You have trouble being assertive. Lots of women do. When Ethan took over sawing the wood for you today, it made you mad but you didn’t do anything about it.” She opened her mouth and he knew she was about to point out that he’d tried to do the same thing, so he barreled on. “When we give presentations on safety to women, we tell them they need to learn skills that increase their confidence. If you’re assertive, people won’t bully you.”
“What kind of skills?”
“Karate is a good example, but I don’t teach karate. I do train people to shoot firearms, though, and that skill often gives people confidence, too. Especially women, who tend to be afraid of guns. Have you ever fired a shotgun?”
She shook her head and he felt a surge of satisfaction.
“How about I take you out on Saturday morning? Just for an hour. That’ll leave you plenty of time to work on your shed or whatever other projects you have. What do you say?” He waited for her reaction impatiently.
“Okay,” she said slowly. “I think you’re right. I do need to learn to be assertive.” She scraped her plate into the trash. “But now I guess I’d better help you clean up and get going.”
“It’s early,” he said with a glance at his watch. “I’m not in a big hurry to call it a night. Want to catch a movie on television?”
He regretted the offer the moment he made it. He’d meant to play it cool. He didn’t want to rush her. Now she’d turn him down and he’d lose all the ground he’d gained with her tonight.
“Okay,” she said.
She’d watched this movie with Cab for nearly an hour, and she had no idea what it was about. The minute she’d followed him into the living room, her nerves had set alight. The tears she’d shed earlier seemed to have washed Jason clean from her system and left her feeling lighter. Freer. Like a heavy weight had been lifted from her chest. It felt good to admit out loud that she and Jason were over, although she wished the actual breakup was out of the way already. At least her tree house was underway. Now she needed to find an apartment. And a job. Without using Emory as a reference.
Cab shifted, distracting her. He was so close. Too close. She had sat at one end of the couch and expected Cab to take the other end, but to her surprise he sat down right beside her. And since he was probably a hundred pounds heavier than her, he put a significant dent in the cushion that left her sitting on an incline. As much as she tried to hold her ground she kept sliding toward him.
He shifted again and she slid some more until their thighs touched. Rose held her breath, aware of the man beside her in a way she wasn’t sure she’d ever been with Jason. His long legs, encased in faded jeans, played havoc with her nervous system. Everything about Cab was masculine and it made her want to melt against him. In the early days she must have felt something similar for Jason. Now when she thought of him she didn’t feel a thing.
She felt something for Cab, though. Touch me, she thought at him. Go on. Touch me.
He shifted a third time and she found her cheek nearly pressed against his arm.
“Hello,” he said, looking down at her and chuckling, his voice a low rumble.
“I’m not trying to make a move on you. I just keep sliding,” she said.
“Well, come here, then,” he said, and she shivered in anticipation. What did he have in mind? He lifted his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, pulling her even closer. “Comfy?”
His voice, a sexy murmur, shot right through her. “Um… yeah,” she said. She was comfy. She could hear Cab’s heartbeat where she leaned against him. Slow and steady. Strong. She let out her breath in an uneven sigh. She wasn’t sure what they were doing here. She might not be making a move, but it sure seemed like Cab was.
She wished he would. Kiss me.
He brushed his fingers down her arm and laced them between hers, and for one heart stopping second she thought he would bend down and kiss her. Instead, he sighed, tugged her ring gently and let go of her hand.
Disappointment flooded her. She wanted to yank her ring off right now, but that wouldn’t be enough. Cab was right; she needed to end her relationship with Jason before she could start a new one. At least he didn’t remove his arm from around her shoulders. She’d take what she could get for now. She settled in to watch the movie, but every minute next to him was delicious agony. If he wouldn’t touch her, she wanted to touch him. She struggled not to rest her hand on his knee and feel the muscles beneath his jeans. She wanted to slide her palm up his thigh. She wanted to tilt her head back and kiss him. Once in a while he moved his hand over her arm in a light caress and she had to bite back a moan.
An hour later she walked with Cab to her truck, dizzy with longing for him. Despite her best intentions her thoughts had been full of images of them together. Cab stroking her, suckling her breasts, pushing her legs apart. She was thankful for the darkness as he opened the door for her, but as she moved to get in, he took her hand and for one moment Rose thought he’d pull her close and give her a kiss.
She leaned toward him, all too ready.
But he didn’t. He squeezed her hand and let go. A little dizzy and highly disappointed, she climbed into the seat.
“Rose?” he said when she’d strapped on her seatbelt. His face was in shadow; she couldn’t see his eyes. “Talk to Jason.”
A zing of electricity shot through her as she completed his sentence in her head. Talk to Jason so we can be together.
“I will,” she said, her voice husky. She cleared her throat. “Good night.”
But Cab hesitated, his hand still on the door. He leaned down closer to her. “You know, I don’t like the idea of you driving home by yourself at this time of night. I’ll just grab my truck. You go first. I’ll follow.” He must have seen her look of surprise because he added, “Don’t worry; I’m not going to come in. I won’t even ask. I just don’t like the idea of you being alone on these country roads.”