Here's another snippet of the tension between Rhys and Jade in Alaska.
Surely she wasn’t the only edgy one yet there he stood, clutching his clipboard, master of his domain, cool, imperturbable, infuriating.
What she wouldn’t give to shake him up a little, test his mettle, see if work-focussed Ranger was as unflappable as he portrayed?
It came to her in that second.
She’d done the right thing over the last month, being the model employee, subduing her hurt at his rejection, agreeing to the emotionless terms he’d set. And where had it got her? His admiration for her job skills and little else. Uh-uh, time to change the status quo. Up the ante. He may have set the boundaries for their relationship but that didn’t mean she couldn’t push them, right?
Hoisting the heavy branch onto her shoulder for extra affect, she marched across the clearing and dumped it on top of the stack she’d already collected.
“That’s the last of them. What’s next?”
He didn’t glance up from his clipboard, his frown clear indication her jaunty tone pained him as much as her accomplishing another task in record time.
“Take a breather.”
“I’d rather keep going. Build up my stamina.”
He glanced up, his frown intensifying, while something unfathomable shifted behind those ice-blue eyes.
“You’ve done enough for today. Take the afternoon off.”
“Maybe Cody and Jack need a hand? Clearing undergrowth from the picnic area is a huge job. I’m sure they’d like some help—”
“You need a break. Take it.”
He swung away, but not before she’d seen guilt streak across his face. So the guy had a heart, buried deep beneath layers of self-imposed guilt and macho bravado.
She could do as he said, take the easy option. But their monthly supply run was coming up fast and this time it was their turn to head into Skagway. Things were tense enough now, no way would she put up with any more.
“I don’t need a break. I need—”
You. One little word, so simple yet so complex.
He swung back to face her, his expression wary.
Not willing to push that far yet, she pretended to examine her blistered hands.
“I need a manicure, badly.”
His relief was comical. “Can’t help you there.”
Spurred by a little mischievous imp residing in her brain, she stepped closer, rolled her shoulders.
“Maybe another of those massages you’re so good at?”
Heat flared in his eyes before he damped it with a deliberate blink.
“Pity, because I’ve got a really tight spot right about here.”
She lifted one shoulder before stretching it back, biting back a triumphant laugh when his gaze strayed to her breasts stretched against the cool wool of her crimson jumper.
Turning around, she pointed to her lower back, knowing where his gaze would end up—about a foot lower.
“Don’t push me, Jade.”
His gravely voice sent a shiver of yearning through her as she slowly turned back to face him, grateful it had come to this.
“Like how you’ve pushed me?”
“That’s different. It’s work,” he ground out, flinging the clipboard away and thrusting hands into his pockets.
Taking a step, another, she got right up close, close enough for her sensory receptors to hit overload the minute she inhaled his addictive outdoorsy scent.
“Yes, damn it.”
His rebuke lost some of its force when she smiled, refusing to give an inch.
He took a step back, she took a step forward, spurred by the need to confront him and his crazy ideas of ignoring this thing between them.
“Here’s what I think.” She laid her palm against his chest. “I think you’re hoping I’ll crack. The harder you push me, you think the angrier I’ll get. Who knows, maybe you want me to quit?”
Her palm slid upward, rested over his heart, to show him she meant business. “Well, here’s a newsflash for you. I’m made of sterner stuff than that.”
Tilting her head up, she met his steely gaze unflinchingly. “I can handle anything you care to dish out and more, Ranger.”
He didn’t move, every muscle rigid, the hard angles of his face highlighted by the wan sunlight dappling the clearing.
She had no idea how long they stood there, toe to toe, each unwilling to back down, the silence amplifying every breath frosting the air between them.
Then a shift, a small one, as he angled his body towards her rather than stepping away, the corners of his mouth easing into a smile that snatched her breath and made her crave him more than ever.
“Maybe it’s time to ditch the Princess tag?” He gestured at the wood pile. “Perhaps Wonder Woman fits better these days?”
She chuckled, buoyed by his backhanded compliment.
“See this?” She touched his mouth, briefly traced his smile, before dropping her hand. “I want to see more of that in Skagway. Lose the angst. It’s not working.”
To his credit, he didn’t play dumb. “Focussing on business is easier than thinking about us.”
She snapped her fingers. “Well golly, Ranger, and here I was, unaware there was even an us.”
“Bit late for coyness.”
Patting his big, broad chest, she glanced up from beneath her lashes. “I’m not the one playing hard to get.”
He laughed outright at that and for a long, exquisite moment, when his gaze drifted to her lips, she thought he might kiss her.
If you're in the UK, you can grab a copy of WILD NIGHTS WITH HER WICKED BOSS off shelves now! Makes a great stocking stuffer or gift. :)
If you're in OZ/NZ, you'll need to wait until January.
In the USA? May. Though there's always online...!