“Ouch,” said Paul as he recorded more information. “Tough audience today.”
Trevor captured another fish, but it splashed back into the trough. “
“You’re losing your touch. Or terrifying them with your bad mood.”
Spotting Glen Judkins coming out of the hatchery’s main building, Trevor straightened, pulled off his soggy, gray gloves, and hung them on the side of the trough. “I’m taking a break.”
“Okay, but come back happy, dear.”
Trevor walked over to talk to the old-timer who’d worked at the hatchery forever. “Hey, Glenn. Have you started to get any volunteers to help with the fall spawning season yet?” They walked together back toward Paul, and Trevor matched the older man’s slower pace.
Glen shrugged, his bald head gleaming in the sunlight. “A few.” He stopped at one of the holding tanks to peer inside. “We’ve been calling people who did it last year. And we’ve been sending notes home with the kids who come out for field trips. Plus, we keep sign-up sheets for visitors. The ususal. We’ve got all summer to worry about it.” He dipped a plastic container into the holding tank and pulled it out full of water.
“Great. Let me know if you need any help with that. How are the yearlings doing?”
Again the shrug as he capped the container. “Pretty good. We fertilized more eggs than ever before. We’ll be releasing almost a million steelheads in the fall.”
Trevor nodded. “How’re the new generators working out?”
“I’m glad to say we haven’t had to use them, but all the same, I sleep better at night knowing they’re in place. So far no problems with the water treatment plant, so no signs of any viruses.”
Trevor’s phone rang and he checked caller I.D., saw it was his mother, considered not answering, but remembered he had to talk her into removing Honey Stevens. “Excuse me, Glenn.”
He walked a few more feet toward Paul so neither man could overhear. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hi, Sweetie. I’ve just left your house. Honey is a doll. Both she and Elizabeth are staying at your place. Won’t that be fun?”
Fun? Was she kidding?
“Mom. I told you to get
out of my house.” He took a breath and trotted out the reasonable alternative he’d come up with. “Why don’t you take her and Elizabeth and send the aunts over instead?”
Trevor turned to see that Paul had stopped what he was doing to listen, brows raised.
“Are you kidding?” said his mom. “You three are all about the same age and will have tons of fun together. I can just see you trying to play host to my sisters.” She laughed merrily. “That would be hilarious. And Honey’s such a nice girl.”
Paul continued to stare, interested.
Trevor pulled the phone away to glare. “Are you getting any measurements?”
“They keep getting away. Anyway, your conversation is more interesting.”
Disgusted, Trevor walked a few feet away and lifted the phone to his ear once more to hear his mother’s continued happy chatter.
“...so anyway, I think it’s great, don’t you?”
Trevor knew he could argue all day and she wouldn’t change her mind. His fist tightened for a moment, but he finally threw up a hand and gave in. “Fine. She can stay.”
“Great! I knew you’d feel that way!”
Trevor shut his eyes briefly. What he
was exasperation, and the need to run away from home. He wished he had more building repairs to keep him busy. His own properties were running smoothly, but maybe he’d call his dad and see if he had any work available.
Regardless, Trevor had no intention of going home until late, if at all. He’d go do a stakeout. Try and catch some spotlighters. Maybe even bunk at the office. Or in his truck. The girls could have the house. The bottom line was avoiding the girl with the curls.
“Oh,” said his mom. “Before I forget, I need you to bring the girls to our place for dinner tonight.”
Trevor opened his mouth to argue, but stopped himself. It was pointless. Instead, he said, “Fine. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, dear! See you later.”
He snapped the phone shut. He’d work something out. He would go home for his sleeping bag and tell Elizabeth she had to drive their guest.
He headed back over to a smiling Paul who immediately opened his big mouth. “Now, who exactly is ‘That Girl?’”
Trevor scowled. “No one. Let’s get back to work.”
Late that afternoon, Trevor pulled into his driveway to see there were now
cars parked where they had no business being parked.
He sat gripping the steering wheel for a long moment before realizing that, strangely enough, he didn’t want to go inside his own house.
Maybe he shouldn’t.
He considered calling his sister and telling her to just bring out his sleeping bag, but decided that might come off as cowardly. Besides, he wouldn’t be able to stand Elizabeth’s smirk.
He got out of the truck and went around to the back of the cabin. Nothing unusual about that. He always went and talked to Charlie first and no one could say otherwise.
But Charlie wasn’t there. He was probably inside with the girls. Trevor hesitated. He could always go to Paul’s and borrow a sleeping bag. Why hadn’t he thought of that sooner? For that matter, he could just bypass all the nosy people in his life and go buy a new one. Then he could call Elizabeth and let her know he wasn’t coming to dinner. Brilliant plan.
He turned to go as Elizabeth opened the back door. “Trevor? What are you doing?”
Charlie bounded out to meet him.
“What do you mean?” Trevor bent to pet the dog. He couldn’t believe he was so wound up about meeting Honey, which was ridiculous. And what kind of name was Honey, anyway? “I was just coming inside.”
She raised her brows and opened the back door. “Well, come in already, then.”
Ignoring her searching gaze, he walked into the kitchen, but the girl, Honey, wasn’t there. Trevor could hear the television, and Charlie headed into the living room.
Trevor exhaled and turned to Elizabeth. “Look, I’m not really very hungry tonight,” he said, keeping his voice low. “And I’m wanting to get some work done, so I was thinking you could take our guest to mom and dad’s by yourself.”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not hungry? Pull the other one. You’re always hungry.” She waved a hand in the air. “And anyway, I’m not going. Jason will probably show up, and I’m not planning to be there. It’s why I agreed to come and stay at your place. Give my kids a kiss for me, okay?” She turned and headed for the stairs.
Disbelieving, he stared after her, his jaw tightening as he clenched his teeth. Well, he wasn’t going, either. And no one could make him. He’d just tell the girl where to find his parents’ place. She had a car.
Trevor went into his office and slowly turned the combination on his gun safe. It took him three tries to get the stupid thing open so he could finally put his gun inside.
After closing the safe, he stood there a moment, listening to the program on the TV in the living room. A sitcom from the sounds of it. Finally, he wiped his hands on his slacks, and headed out to tell her.
Honey Stevens was on the couch, slim, jean-clad legs crossed, petting Charlie, his massive head resting on her thigh. She looked up at Trevor’s entrance and they both stared at each other for a moment.
She blushed, but was composed enough when she said, “Hi,” added a nervous smile, stood, and came forward to extend her hand. “I’m Honey Stevens.”
Her curls were gone. He’d been thinking about those curls all day, but her blonde hair was completely straight. Her eyes were as blue as he remembered, and surrounded by lashes made sooty with makeup. Her face was pretty, delicate, like the rest of her. Even perched on short-heeled sandals, she barely came to his shoulder.
He slowly reached out and took her hand. It was firm, soft, fragile. Electricity seemed to run from her hand to his and his heart pounded in his chest. What was the matter with him? “Trevor Baron,” he said gruffly.
Her blush intensified as she tugged her hand free. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Trevor nodded, realized he was staring, and looked away.
“I guess we’re going to your parents’ place?” she asked.
Trevor hesitated. Technically she was his guest. He didn’t want to be rude or inhospitable, did he? Besides, his mother just might skin him alive if Honey showed up alone. So it looked like, for now, he didn’t have a choice. “Just give me a few minutes to shower and change.”
Cursing himself for a fool and a sucker, he headed up the stairs.Chapter Four
About fifteen minutes later Trevor came downstairs wearing jeans and a long-sleeved, fleece shirt, his hair damp. “Ready?”
Honey switched off the television. “Sure.” She glanced around. “Where’s Elizabeth?”
“She’s not coming.”
Honey stilled. “Not coming?”
Trevor crossed the room and pulled open the front door. “That’s right. It’s just you and me. We’ll take my truck if that’s all right with you?”
Honey hesitated. She didn’t really want to go. It had been a long day, she was tired, and frankly, Trevor intimidated her. But she
hungry, and as much as she’d like to simply cancel, if she wanted to wrap up the property deal as quickly as possible, she’d better go. “Sure. Fine.”
Honey headed toward Trevor, glanced up and wondered how tall he was. Around six-five or so. But he seemed bigger because he was packed with muscle. She slid by him and Trevor shut the door and followed. Walking side by side, Honey tried a smile, but Trevor didn’t respond. Instead, he glanced away and pushed a hand into the pocket of his jeans. His full, short beard hid his face and Honey wondered how old he was. Ten years or so older than herself, she suspected.
Trevor opened the passenger door and, holding her elbow, helped her inside. His hand was big, warm through her lightweight sweater, and he smelled really good. A sudden zing of attraction startled her, she sat back onto the seat and, puzzled, watched as Trevor crossed around the front of the black truck.
They started out and, still embarrassed about going to the wrong place, Honey turned toward Trevor. “I’d like to apologize for my mistake in staying at your house. I still can’t believe that happened.”
Trevor turned onto the main road. “No big deal.”
And then of course there was the bed.
bed. Her face heated, she took a breath, and tried not to squirm. “Your sister told me I slept in your bed last night. I’m really sorry about that. I thought I was in the guest room. I’ve moved my things.”
Trevor shrugged. “No harm done.”
Honey usually found it easy to talk with people, but for some reason found herself tongue-tied with Trevor. Big surprise. Maybe because he was witness to victim of the most embarrassing thing she’d done in her life?
Feeling compelled to explain, she took a deep breath. “You see, I had directions, and even though I thought your house came up too soon, everything else seemed to fit. The street, the bear, your last name on the sign. So I--”
Trevor put up a hand. “Really, it’s okay. My parents live a few miles down the road. Anyone could have made the same mistake.”
She opened her mouth again but, instead of saying anything else, clamped her lips shut, sat back and stared at the passing scenery. The green pines were pretty, but after a few moments, she couldn’t stand the silence. “So, Elizabeth told me you’re a game warden?”
Good grief. Had the guy never heard of conversation? “That must be fun. I sell real estate. I’m going for my brokerage license right now. That’s why I’m here in Redding.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
Another silence. Honey rolled her eyes as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The open window on his side of the truck was causing her hair to whip around, but she didn’t want to ask him to close it. She’d put him out enough already.
He was relaxed, one arm propped on the door frame, his damp hair drying fast, and she realized she really
attracted to him. At a loss, she studied him. He wasn’t even her type, with his dark hair, beard, large body, and silent personality. He was Christian’s total opposite.
cute in a rugged sort of way. And such a big, muscular guy that he actually made Honey feel dainty. At five-seven, that didn’t happen often.
Trevor suddenly did a double-take of a truck driving down the dirt road they’d just passed. He unexpectedly slowed, flipped a U-turn and, and driving fast, turned onto the dirt road in pursuit.
Trevor’s truck bounced its way down the road and Honey threw up a hand to grip the bar over the passenger window. “Isn’t your parents’ house back the other way?”
“Yes.” He didn’t explain his actions, just sped up. When he approached the other truck, he pressed his hand to the steering wheel and honked until the other vehicle slowed, then stopped. Trevor halted behind them, jumped out of the truck, and slammed the door, not even bothering to shut off the ignition.
Wide-eyed, Honey stared at Trevor. “What’s going on?”
“Wait here,” Trevor said through the open window and walked to the two men, one tall and the other shorter, getting out of their own truck.
Honey wondered what to do. She rolled down her window, dug into her purse for her cell phone but, not sure what was going on, hesitated to use it.
The tall man threw up both arms. “What did we do, Warden?” He sounded aggrieved. “We weren’t doing anything.”
Honey couldn’t believe it when Trevor started rummaging in the back of their truck. After a moment he held up a six pack of beer. “You’d better not be drinking and driving.” Even though Trevor’s back was to her, she heard him loud and clear, his deep voice booming.
The shorter man stepped forward. “We’re not.” His voice was aggressive, angry. “We’re going camping. We were going to drink it there.”