Want You

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The whole drive back, TJ kept sneaking looks at Deb. She was beautiful. Not glamorous like Jillian or porcelain perfect like Mandy, but she did it for him. Always had.

“You eat at the diner?” he asked.

“No, why? You hungry?”

“Starved. You mind if we stop on the way?”

“Not at all. I could eat, too.” She started digging through her purse.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking to see if I have any money. You cut up all my credit cards, remember?”

He tugged her purse away and put it on the floor by her feet. “It’s on the company, Deb. I don’t expect you to pay for your own food when you travel for Garner Adventure.”

“We went to Reno. I hardly call that traveling.” 

“Fine, pay for your own meal, then.” Jeez, it was a freaking dinner.

“Okay, if GA wants to buy my dinner, far be it from me to stop you.”

“Damned straight.” TJ pulled into the parking lot of a steak house. “This okay with you?”

She scanned the front of the restaurant. It was old school, with double glass doors and a neon sign with a big cowboy boot that said, “The Golden Spur.” “Looks great.” 

They went inside and were seated at a booth. He checked his phone to make sure nothing had blown up at the office while he was gone.

 “Let me ask you something,” she said when the waiter finished taking their orders. “Why wasn’t there any video of you on GA’s new website?”

He shrugged. “There probably wasn’t any good footage of me for Jillian to choose from.”

 “Because Lord knows if there had been, she would’ve splattered it across the top of the page.” Deb’s lips curved up.

“We back to that?” He didn’t understand what her obsession with Jillian was. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was jealous.

She put her elbows on the table, laced her hands together, and propped her chin on the top. “I think you should have some video shot of you extreme skiing and include it with the other clips.”

“Why’s that?” He took a drink of water.

 “Because I’ve seen you shred a sheer line and it’s a thing of poetry. It’ll make excellent video.”

He felt a surge of pride at the compliment. “Thanks, but it’s not a vanity project. We’ve got footage of Win, and he’s the king of the mountain.”

“No, he’s not.” She shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong; Win is good. One of the best. But you’re better.”

He wasn’t; otherwise, he would’ve made it onto the U.S. Olympic team for freestyle skiing, not Win. It was a sore subject for him but nice of her to say just the same. “I think we’re good without it.”

“Just saying.”

Their food and drinks came and he picked up his burger and took a big bite. “Big plans for the weekend?” It wasn’t a particularly artful way to find out if she was seeing anyone besides waiting for Win to come around. By now, Boden could’ve asked her out.

 “I’m working breakfast shifts at the Morning Glory Saturday and Sunday. Afterward, I’m going skiing. How about you?”

“I’ll probably ski, too. It should be good with all the fresh powder.” Usually, he spent his weekends working.

“You miss guiding tours?”

“Yep.” More than anyone knew.

 She pointed one of her fries at him and popped it in her mouth. “I thought you loved being Mr. CEO.”

 “Who said I didn’t? I’m just feeling a little restless these days.” She had a drop of ketchup at the corner of her mouth and he itched to wipe it off with his thumb. Or with his lips. Instead, he took another bite of his burger.

“How come?”

“Don’t know. Midlife crisis, maybe.” He hitched his shoulders, his lips curving up in the corners.

“You’re a little young for that, don’t you think?” She took a drink of her tea and stared at him over the rim of the glass. Big, bedroom-brown eyes. “Perhaps you need a Corvette and a girlfriend.”

He laughed “A Porsche, maybe. How’s a girlfriend gonna make me less restless?”

She lifted one dark brow.

“Are you telling me I need to get laid?”

“Do you?” 

He took a long slug of his shake, then mixed the ice cream around and took another one. “You think this is appropriate conversation for the workplace?”

“You started it.” Yeah, he had. Maybe he needed to brush up on GA’s employee handbook. “And it never stopped Felix and me.”

“From talking about sex?” He didn’t let her answer that. “You almost done?”

“We’re not getting dessert?”

“If you want it.” He held up his shake. “I already had mine.” But he could do for some more, he thought, as he fixated on her mouth. Her pretty pink lips.

“You’re paying, right? Then yeah, I want dessert.”

He called over the waiter and asked for the menus again. She perused the offerings and decided on the apple pie à la mode. The server returned with a heaping portion and two forks.

“You gonna share?” he asked her.

She pushed the plate toward him. “Dig in.”

He tried not to hog it, but it was damned good pie and it was fun fighting her for it. But mostly he liked watching her enjoy it, the way she licked the fork after each bite and closed her eyes. It made him imagine kissing her and the way she might lick . . . Nope. Not going there. And TJ forced the image out of his head.

“You going to Old Glory tonight?” she asked.

“I hadn’t thought about it. Why, are you?” 

She scraped a spoon across the plate, getting the last of the ice cream. “Probably, although it’ll be packed with tourists.”

They’d be up to take advantage of the snow, and on Fridays, Boden booked bands to play. A big draw.

He needed to stay away from her in the off-hours. Working together was hard enough. “Yeah, I’ll go,” he heard himself say anyway. God, he needed to start dating and swore to himself that he’d call Mandy. She was successful, driven, hot; just his type.

He paid the bill, and on their way home it started to snow again. Sporadic flurries at first, but then it got heavy enough for him to turn on his windshield wipers to full blast.

“I’m glad you’re driving and not me,” she said.

Her rattletrap was lucky to make it over a hill, let alone through a few inches of snow. “You do anything about your transmission yet?”

“I have to wait until I get paid. Then I’ll hit you up for your contact.”

 “All right. Just let me know.”

Perhaps with her new salary she’d be able to buy a car. Not his place to suggest it, though. Just like it wasn’t his place to dissuade her from Win. His brother was a great many things. Excellent things. Fun, charming, and kind. Win was and had always been a good person. Reliable, though, he wasn’t. But he was TJ’s brother and the Garners were fiercely loyal to one another.

It took them fifteen minutes longer to get back to town, not that he minded. She looked good in the passenger side of his truck. He parked in front of Garner Adventure and started to get out.

Deb grabbed his arm. “I wanted to tell you something.”

He shut his door and turned in his seat to face her.

“Thank you for including me in the trip to Jillian’s and asking for my opinion, even if you don’t agree with it. FYI: I still think the online store sucks.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I got that.” He paused, and then for no reason at all said, “You may be right about it, but Jillian has more experience than both of us when it comes to retail, and the truth is, I don’t always use my head where you’re concerned.”

She jerked in surprise. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He let out a breath, tired of dancing around it. “You know exactly what I mean. You also know that it’s inappropriate on so many levels I don’t know where to start.” Win. The fact that TJ was her boss. The list went on and on.

When he attempted to get out of the cab, she tugged on his arm.

“Deb.” As warnings went, it was pretty weak. Downright soft, but his resistance was wearing thin.

 She gazed into his eyes and wouldn’t look away. “Just a little one.” And then she came over the center console and kissed him, barely brushing his lips. Yet he still felt a tightening in his groin and a hot spark of pleasure spread through him. Her hands clutched his shoulders and her soft breasts grazed his chest and she smelled sweet, like talcum powder. Everything about her was making it difficult for him to breathe. If he didn’t get out of the truck soon, he was going to kiss her for real.

“Hey, Deb, you think we can get back to work now?” His voice was hoarse and he couldn’t seem to move.

“Absolutely, boss,” she said in a whisper against his mouth, and he felt his heart squeeze the same way it always did when she graced him with a smile at the diner or waved to him from across the room at Old Glory.

She scrambled back over to her side of the cab, hopped out onto the street, and they walked together to the front door, her hand on the sleeve of his jacket to keep from slipping on the icy sidewalk in her high heels. And that warm feeling he’d experienced in the truck continued to wrap itself around him like a down blanket.

They got inside and found Win leaning against the reception counter, and the air suddenly turned cold.

“Hey, hot stuff,” he said, and Deb took her hand off TJ’s jacket and looked down at the floor.