“Nah, that doesn’t work for me. See you there at six.” She hung up on him before he could answer.
He tucked the phone back in his pocket, disappointment weighing heavy in his gut. As much as he liked Rose and as much as he wanted this to work, he couldn’t handle the way she was giving him the runaround. He’d have to confront her tomorrow night; ask her how she’d spent her day and where she planned to sleep. He didn’t like secrets and he didn’t like the sense that something was going on he didn’t understand.
Meanwhile, he wasn’t going to hang around here by himself anymore. Grabbing his coat, he drove to the Cruz ranch to distract himself with a visit to his friends. He met up with Jamie when he parked in the driveway.
“Have you seen Rose today?” he asked as soon as he got out of his truck.
“No. I figured she was with you.”
Cab shook his head. “She stayed somewhere else last night.” He outlined the sequence of events and told Jamie his plan to confront her about her activities.
“Man, you suck at this stuff, don’t you?” Jamie leaned against his truck.
“Care to elaborate?”
“Don’t get your back up, I’m just telling it how it is.” Jamie clapped him on the shoulder. “Look, Claire’s been talking nonstop about you and Rose. She says you’re going to blow it if you push her too hard.”
“I’m not pushing her. I just want to know what she’s doing.”
“What damn business is it of yours? Do you think she’s sleeping around on you?”
“No.” He didn’t. Nothing in Rose’s behavior led him to believe that.
“Then screw the rest. Buddy, you’ve got a good thing there. Don’t mess it up because you’re a control freak.”
“What the hell did you just call me?”
“Control. Freak.” Jamie straightened and led the way toward the barn. “You always have to know everything and you always need everyone to do things your way.”
“Now that’s just not true,” Cab said, stung by his friend’s summation of his character. “I’m the laid-back one of the group.”
Jamie snorted and led the way inside. “Rob’s the laid-back one, Ethan’s the responsible one, I’m the good-looking one and you’re the control freak.”
“Hell, no.” Cab stopped short. “I am not the control freak. I’m the strong silent type that cleans up the messes the rest of you make.”
“Whatever.” Jamie flashed him a look, sauntered over to a bunch of tools piled up against one of the posts, and kicked them, sending them scattering across the barn floor. He sauntered onward into the dim recesses of the barn and started rummaging among the tack.
Cab waited near the scattered tools to see if Jamie was coming back, stunned by his friend’s behavior. When it became clear he wasn’t, Cab sighed and bent to straighten them up. He set the biggest pitchforks and rakes against the post, then leaned the shorter ones against them one at the time until the whole set was balanced. Tidier. Less likely to get in the way.
“See, I just cleaned up another mess,” he announced.
Jamie strode back toward him, gave the tools a quick look. “You just organized the rakes by size and function. Control freak. You know, you remind me of someone. Kind of an old dude that likes to rearrange Rose’s things and burn her paintings up? Know that guy?” He walked out of the barn laughing.
Cab remained behind, fists jammed deep into his jeans pockets. Yeah, he knew that guy, and if he was anything like Emory he had to change.
On Sunday, Rose lay low, hanging out in her tree house with a sketchbook and watercolor pencils. The small propane heater worked like a charm to keep the space warm, even if the tree house didn’t have a proper roof. She munched sandwiches and daydreamed and tried to sketch out some ideas for the paintings she would do when she finished the tree house’s interior and moved in her supplies. Since Cab could be at Carl’s place at any time today, she didn’t work on the tree house itself. She was afraid the sound of the hammer or saw would carry.
When her cell phone vibrated in her pocket late in the morning, Rose jumped but quickly answered it when she saw it was Cab. She was happy to plan a dinner date, but put him off until the following evening, determined to spend one entire day alone just to prove that she could. She felt it was important to establish a boundary with Cab—and herself, too. It would be far too easy to fall into a relationship with him that took over her life. That’s the way the old Rose would do things. New Rose kept her love life in line.
By four in the afternoon, however, Rose was getting restless. Try as she might, thoughts of Cab kept intruding on her plans and sketches. She relived every moment of their afternoon together and fantasized about new and different ways they could make love. The possibilities were infinite and before long she wanted nothing more than to climb down the treehouse ladder and dash over to Carl’s mansion.
When she found herself peeking out the window in that direction, she decided she needed a change of scenery. She made a run to a lumberyard in a neighboring town to get some extra supplies for Hannah and Mia’s tree houses. The corner posts took a day on their own to set in the cement, so she bought eight more posts and buckets, some brackets and screws and then took herself out to dinner. On her way home she stopped at a grocery store to stock up on food and a number of gallon jugs of bottled water.
Once it was dark she drove back, hid the truck again and brought everything to the site before mixing up the cement and anchoring the posts in the buckets. She had to use bottled water for the job and work by the low light of a flashlight with a ski hat draped over it, but it worked out. She’d picked out two locations some distance apart from each other and from her tree house, hoping Hannah and Mia would approve. Like hers, the new tree houses would be nestled among trees without being built into them; she was determined that if they were forced to leave, they could disassemble the houses and remove every trace of them without damaging Carl’s property.
As she settled in for another night in her tree house she was pleased with the progress she’d made and the fact that she hadn’t broken down and gone to be with Cab. She was a capable, competent woman, no matter what her parents or anyone else thought. She didn’t need anyone. She didn’t mind being alone.
But as she slid into her sleeping bag she wished more than anything that Cab was sliding in beside her.