Authors: Helen Grey
Tags: #steamy sex, #bad boy, #hot guys, #secret past, #journalist, #billionaire romance, #sexy secrets
I walked beside her, my gaze skimming the main cabin with satisfaction. It looked like all the exterior repairs and renovations had been completed. New clay-colored metal roof, new fireplace chimney with riverbed stone, the ground cleared off to one side for parking. A barn and corral a short distance away. Behind the cabin, another shed all looked freshly painted.
“Well, any vacation or endeavor should have some sort of impact on your life, don’t you think?” I paused at the bottom of three wide plank steps that led from the dirt turnaround driveway onto the porch, constructed of old railroad ties. “And that impact should leave a definite impression in regards to where you’ve been, what you’ve done, maybe even what you learned from it. So it has to be forceful, influential, and hard. Ergo, Hard Impact.”
She grinned and damn me if it wasn’t contagious. I found myself grinning back.
“I make it a point to give everything I have to everything I do” I went on, “be it personal or professional. Whenever possible, I want everything I do to leave a hard impact on someone else.”
Misty stared at me. I stared back. She was a lovely woman, no doubt about it. I was close enough to inhale her scent, appreciating the fact that she wasn’t wearing perfume. She smelled natural, although I did get a hint of strawberry, most likely from her shampoo. She didn’t wear any makeup, another refreshing change of pace when it came to the women I was usually around.
She looked a little disheveled from the ride through the city, followed by a helicopter journey, but she was no wilting wallflower, at least that I could tell. Whether she was game for whatever came up on my inspections had yet to be determined. She hadn’t balked about wearing used clothing, one point in her favor. Nevertheless, no way in hell would I make this too easy for her.
While my board members wanted me to show the personal side of the company, I wasn’t at all willing to divulge too much about my personal life. That really was no one’s business. The success or failure of my company should stand on my business decisions and my ability to give my clients what they were looking for. My personality should have nothing to do with it.
“What got you into this business in the first place?” she asked, slowly taking the three steps up to the porch. The overhang of the beamed roof cast her face half in shadow.
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean, what do I mean?” she replied, frowning. “It’s not a trick question, Mr. Masters—”
“Blake,” I interrupted. “And in regard to your query about what got me into this business, can you be more specific?” She continued to stare at me as if I had lost my mind. Why was she looking at me like that? I shook my head. “I got into this business because it’s what I like to do, what a lot of other people like to do, and I figured I could make money doing it.”
I stepped toward the front door, pulled a set of keys from my pocket, and inserted one into the door lock. I pushed it open, gesturing for her to enter. “It’s that simple,” I said, following her inside.
I hadn’t been here for a while, and like the outside, I was pleased with the renovations to the interior. The front door opened into a large space. To the left was an area where lodgers could sit around a fire and shoot the breeze. The log walls were au natural, but I’d had the chinking replaced and whitewashed. The hardwood floors had been sanded down and re-coated with polyethylene, protecting the nearly one-hundred-year-old planks from more abuse.
The river stone fireplace added not only charm but additional functionality. A massive elk head was mounted above the mantel, off-set by two antelopes on either side. Two sets of sofas were situated perpendicular to the fire, with a couple of small tables with chairs and lamps strategically placed around the room. Between the fireplace and the outside walls stood inset floor to ceiling cedar bookcases filled with books. An authentic bearskin rug covered the floor in front of the hearth. In the other corner was a larger, round table with chairs, perfect for a match of Texas Hold’em or other games.
The room was open to the log beamed ceiling. Rooms lined one side of the second floor, with highly polished wood railings separating the balcony overlooking the living space. On the long wall beneath the open, second-floor balcony hung two Navaho tapestries, along with other Native American and Western regalia; a quiver of arrows and bow, a coiled lasso, and near the hallway, a Frederick Remington painting. To the right was the stairway, while my office, a small bathroom, the kitchen, and a small dining room were down the hall.
I smiled with satisfaction as I turned to Misty, gesturing upstairs. “Like I said, at the end of the hallway, last room on the right, you’ll find a closet filled with clothes. Pick whatever you want.”
She frowned. A nervous tick? Did she always frown like that?
“Is it really necessary for me to change clothes? After all, we won’t be here very long, will we?”
I blew out a breath, biting back a curse. I wasn’t sure if it was miscommunication on Ruby’s part, or on the part of the magazine, but apparently Miss Misty Rankin had been left out of the loop with no idea what was going on.
“Miss Rankin… Misty,” I amended. “We’ll be spending the night here and then tomorrow or the next day, we’ll be flying—”
“We’re staying the night
Her eyes huge, she glanced around the room, as if someone might miraculously appear from out of the woodwork before glancing at me again. Her face flushed, but whether it was from anger, frustration, or who knew what, I had no idea. I nodded. “I have properties to inspect before hunting season,” I explained. “Didn’t your editor tell you?”
Once again, Misty frowned. She dug into her satchel and pulled out a manila envelope. “This is all I got, Mr., uh, Blake,” she said, shaking the envelope in front of me. “It has your photo and a very sketchy bio, and that’s about it. And no, my editor didn’t tell me that we would be going anywhere, let alone that we would be staying overnight—”
“We’ll be gone about a week,” I broke in, forcing my face to remain carefully blank. The expression on her face intrigued me. The flush had darkened and so had the look in her eyes. “You’re the one that wanted an in-depth interview—”
She began to sputter. She formed half a word, stopped, then tried again. “A
“At least,” I shrugged. “I’m a busy man, Misty. If you want to interview me, you’ll have to come along. I don’t just sit behind a desk. In fact, I hate sitting behind a desk. I’m actively involved in my property development. I test everything to make sure that all my properties and perks provide the amenities that are promised to my clients.”
“But I don’t… I didn’t have anything!” She stamped her foot in frustration. “No one told me… what am I supposed to do?”
“Your magazine is the one that wanted this interview,” I said. “The fact that you’re not prepared isn’t my fault.”
“You can always go back to San Francisco,” I casually commented, turning to walk toward one of the sofas in front of the cold fireplace.
“And how am I supposed to do that?” She waved her hand. “Fly your helicopter by myself? Fat chance! We’re out in the middle of nowhere! You had to fly your helicopter in here for crying out loud!” She glanced around. “Can I call a taxi?”
He shrugged. “Good luck with that, cell phone reception is sporadic. I’m thinking of doing something about that, but to be honest, most of my clients are trying to get away from the rat race, so other than emergency communications, cell phone service isn’t exactly at the top of my to-do list when it comes to this property.”
She stared at me in dismay for several seconds, then reached into her satchel and retrieved her cell phone. “
She shook her head. “I don’t believe this.”
“What’s the big deal? You got a pet at home waiting to be fed? A husband? A dental appointment you just can’t miss? What?”
She stared at me, obviously taken off guard. Why did she have to look so damned uncomfortable? People would be paying through their teeth to stay at this resort — and then I realized. “You’re worried about being alone here with me?” I shook my head in disbelief. “For one, you’re not my type, and for two, I would never take advantage of anyone, so you might as well get your mind out of the gutter right now because seducing you is the last thing on mine.”
Her mouth dropped open. If possible, her expression darkened even more. “I didn’t — I wasn’t — well, you’re not my type either! But that’s not—”
“Don’t be offended, Misty,” I said, growing frustrated and impatient. “I just want you to know that you don’t have to worry about being alone with me. That’s all I meant, okay? Now can you go upstairs and change? Unless you want to get your nice slacks and that dainty blouse all dirty.” Unbelievably, her frown deepened still more.
“Why? Where are we going now? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to inspect the property,” I said, striving for patience. “Or do you expect me to walk all six hundred acres so you don’t get dusty?”
She stared, blinked and then her eyes widened. “I don’t have to ride a horse, do I?”
“Don’t you know how to ride?”
She ignored the question and shook her head in what I could only surmise was disbelief. I wasn’t sure what to think. I didn’t want her here, didn’t want her tagging around, but my board had insisted. Depending on how this interview went, at least according to my board, the marketing potential and publicity for my company could either go up or down. I didn’t understand that. How could one interview spread in a relatively obscure magazine that was heavier on gossip than on business have an impact on my company? It wasn’t like she was from Time or Inc. for fuck’s sake. I was allowing myself to get sidetracked and brought my focus back to the present with a carefully muffled curse.
“Did you see any horses outside?”
“No, but you have a barn and corral out there,” she said in her own defense.
“Actually, we do have horse stalls in the barn, and another stable about a quarter of a mile away, and yes, we have a corral or two, but I have no horses on the property just yet. We’ll take the four-wheeler.”
She made a squeaking sound. I wasn’t sure if I was more aggravated than amused. I had a feeling that Misty Rankin had suddenly found herself a bit off her game. While she couldn’t really be blamed for that, as it was apparent that she hadn’t been fully informed, I didn’t have time to babysit either.
“You can either come along or stay here and wait for me to get back,” I said shortly. “But the longer it takes for you to get this interview over with, or whatever this is, the longer it will be before you get back to San Francisco.”
Misty said nothing for a moment, her gaze riveted on my chest as she apparently strove to get her emotions under control. With her satchel once again pressed close to her body, she lifted her free hand and rubbed her forehead between her eyes, as if trying to get rid of a headache. Without a word, she slowly turned and made for the staircase, taking the steps one at a time as if she were heading for the gallows. I barely stifled a chuckle.
“Get a move on, Misty,” I called out as she reached the top of the stairs. “Daylight’s a’ wastin’!”
The glower she sent my way made me smile. Maybe it was my own frustration with the situation that had me goading her. I paced around the sofa situated in the middle of the living space, admiring the job my interior designer had done with the place. She managed to incorporate rustic, antique, and well-used furnishings and still give the place an updated, comfortable appeal.
I had no doubt that this property would be popular. Due to its location, I could pretty much stay open year-round. Hunting season, winter skiing and snowmobiling, and in the spring and summer there would be fishing, horseback riding, four-wheeling, hiking, rock climbing, and canoeing. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to take the four-wheeler out. I needed to inspect the trails to ensure they would be safe and stable for year-round use.
I sat down, staring into the cold and empty fireplace, imagining how cozy it would be in the middle of winter with the fire blazing, a gentle snow falling… but then my thoughts drifted upstairs, to Misty, more than likely thrumming through the clothes in the closet. I wasn’t sure about the sizes, so hopefully she would be able to find something that was serviceable and comfortable at the same time.
Misty Rankin was nothing like I expected. Actually, she was quite voluptuous, with large but firm breasts, wide hips, and long legs. She carried her weight well. Not fat, just well-built. Stocky. Different. And those dimples…
The women I typically went out with were more the model type, but the majority of them had also taken advantage of cosmetic surgery to enhance their appearance. I got the impression, even though I didn’t know her at all, that Misty was more down-to-earth than most of the women I’d been around lately. Just the fact that she seemed perfectly comfortable in her own skin, didn’t slather on the makeup, and wasn’t afraid to challenge me was a nice change of pace. She might be nervous about this whole situation, but she wasn’t a pushover either.
While she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about staying with me, or the way I drove, or flying around in a helicopter, or going four-wheeling, she had gone upstairs to change. She would deal. She was definitely out of her comfort zone, and I would withhold judgment, pro or con, depending on what happened during the next few hours. We hadn’t really talked, and she hadn’t started in on her questions yet.
But I had a job to do, and I would be the one in control of this interview. I would draw a line regarding the scope of her questions, slam on the brakes the moment she pushed beyond my own pre-set boundaries. Anything beyond that and she’d be shit out of luck.
Maybe she was cursing me at the moment. I didn’t really care. I knew what she ultimately wanted to know, what they all wanted to know. I also knew that I wouldn’t give her the answers she was looking for. I hadn’t discussed my past with any interviewers to date, and I wasn’t about to start now. I would be fine answering questions regarding my business, its formation, and my goals, but if she thought for one second that she would get to dig into my past, into what happened…