Authors: Anne Marie Novark
Tags: #Diamondback Ranch#2
What could he say? That everything was all right? Everything
all right. Everything was screwed up beyond his wildest imagination. And if they struck oil? He couldn't think of that. It would drive him crazy.
Dallas walked behind Jessie up the steps to the door of the office trailer. He opened it and let her go in first. His thoughts were focused on the drilling and his land, his stomach burning. Four more months. He would make damned sure it wasn't any longer.
When he entered the office, a soft gasp halted his dark thoughts. Closing the door, he turned around and encountered big brown eyes regarding him in surprise. Gillian stood rooted to the spot behind a large desk. Dallas removed his Stetson and walked forward to stand behind his sister-in-law. An awkward silence hung in the small confines of the office.
Jessie stepped into the breach. "Mrs. Bankston? I'm Jessie McCade. This is my brother-in-law, Dallas. He insisted on accompanying me."
Dallas pulled a chair out and barely restrained himself from pushing Jessie down into it. "I've met Mrs. Bankston," he said, taking the other chair. He ignored the question in Jessie's eyes. Just like he ignored Gillian's beautiful brown ones, staring at him like he had grown horns or something.
Gillian seemed to pull herself together. She leaned over the desk and extended her hand to Jessie. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. McCade. I hope it wasn't an inconvenience for you to come this afternoon."
"No problem," Jessie said. "I'm visiting the ranch while my husband is away on business. I didn't want to be alone with Cameron gone for so long."
Gillian smiled. "If I were in your condition, I wouldn't want to be alone either." She twisted the wedding band on her left hand.
Jessie squirmed on the hard chair, trying to find a comfortable position. "How can you stand being away from your husband for such long periods of time? Does he come to visit you often?"
Dallas watched Gillian's cheeks redden slightly at the personal question. Damn Jessie for her impertinence. His brother had his hands full with her, that was a fact. But Dallas was glad Jessie had asked. He was curious about the husband, too.
"I'm a widow," Gillian said quietly. "My husband has been dead a long time."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Jessie. "I didn't mean to pry."
Gillian took a deep breath. She tried to smile, but it was a dismal failure. "That's okay. No problem."
Now Dallas was really curious about the husband. He squashed the treacherous thought that Gillian was free and available. There could never be anything between them.
Gillian seemed to be uncomfortable, even agitated. She flipped through a stack of papers on her desk, pulling out two sheets and pushing the others out of the way. Dallas wondered if she missed her husband? Was that why she still wore the wedding ring? Hell, he didn't have any business thinking such things. He was here for his ranch.
"I won't keep you long," Gillian said. "I just need your signature on this document and you can be on your way." She reached over to hand Jessie the paper.
Dallas quickly intercepted it. The brush of their fingers triggered electric sparks between them. Brown eyes clashed with blue for one brief second, and then Gillian jerked her hand away relinquishing the document. The lady was as aware of him as he was of her, Dallas was certain of it in that moment.
"Jessie's not signing anything," he said harshly, disgusted with himself for allowing his desires to interfere with his purpose for being there. "Not until we consult our lawyer."
"Dallas, don't be mean," Jessie whispered.
"Mr. McCade, I can assure you that everything is in legal order," Gillian said. "This is just a simple addendum to the original contract stating additional provisions of the lease."
"I don't care if it's the Clearing House Sweepstakes," Dallas said. "She's not signing anything today. We'll take it to town and have our lawyer look it over, then get back to you. Come on, Jessie."
Jessie struggled to her feet. "Of all the high-handed, idiotic-- This has nothing to do with you."
"It has everything to do with me. Copper River Oil is drilling on
land, in case you've forgotten." Dallas thrust the truck keys at her, keeping his eyes on Gillian's face. The woman looked like she'd been slapped. "Go start the truck and turn on the air-conditioner. I'll be out in a minute."
Jessie looked from him to Gillian. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Bankston. This drilling is a real sore spot with Dallas. I apologize for his rudeness. I'm sure it has nothing to with you."
"It was nice meeting you," Gillian said. "I hope I'll be seeing you soon. And believe me, everything in that document is straight forward. There are no hidden clauses or anything of that nature." She lifted her chin at Dallas, as if daring him to comment.
Dallas ushered his sister-in-law outside, deliberately closed the door behind her and walked back to the desk. Placing his fists on the scarred wooden top, he leaned forward. Gillian stood with her back against the file cabinets, watching him. Her soft scent, that hint of vanilla, assaulted his senses. His anger about the drilling mixed with anger about his attraction to this woman standing in front of him.
"I know this is only a job to you," Dallas said softly, trying to control his temper. "But to me, it's much more. I would do anything in my power to get Copper River Oil off my land. Anything. You got that straight, lady?"
Something flared in the brown eyes. Dallas saw the glimmer of outrage in the velvety depths. He wished he could see Gillian's eyes darken with passion. His body tensed when she leaned her fists on the opposite side of the desk and faced him almost nose to nose. The lady wasn't a coward. Didn't back down, he had to give her that.
"I understand perfectly. And if you're trying to intimidate or threaten me--I'd think better of it, if I were you."
Dallas suddenly became aware of just how close Gillian was to him. Creamy white skin stretched across delicate cheekbones, dusted with the barest hint of pink. Dark, lush lashes framed her chocolate-colored eyes. Now that he was this near, he noticed golden specks surrounding the pupils, highlighting the richness of her eyes. Her lips were full and inviting, even if her words were not.
For weeks, he had been tormented by this woman. He had touched her at the bank, feeling her warm skin beneath his own. He had seen her feminine curves in all their glory at the swimming pool. Now he wanted to taste her. He n
to taste her.
"I don't want to intimidate or threaten you," Dallas said, glancing from her eyes to her mouth. He almost came unglued when her breath caught and she quickly moistened her lips with the tip of her pink tongue. "And I've just thought of something much better." He moved forward and captured her mouth in a kiss.
Gillian froze as the floor seemed to shift beneath her feet. Dallas's lips were hard and demanding. She responded with a hunger that surprised her. It had been a long time since she had allowed a man to touch her.
His tongue rubbed against her lower lip. Gillian found herself opening to him, allowing access. He tasted minty and male. The slow sensuous melding of their mouths ignited a flame of desire she thought long extinguished. He angled his mouth to delve more fully into hers. One of his hands came up and stroked her hair gently away from her face. His thumb tenderly brushed back and forth against her cheek, keeping time with the thrusting of his tongue.
Gillian felt a curious detachment, as if her body was out of her control. She knew she was attracted to this man. Knew the attraction was mutual. She gave herself up to the delicious sensations.
Dallas's body burned with passion. Gillian's mouth was warm and responsive. She met his thrusts willingly, opening to him when he pressed for more. Her hair was silky beneath his calloused hands. Her skin milky smooth and pliant.
Leaning against the desk, his body grew hard and throbbed against the barrier of his jeans. He wanted more, had to have more. He reached behind her neck, placing strong fingers at her nape to pull her closer. Suddenly, he felt her stiffen beneath his touch.
Gillian came down to earth, wrenching away from his grasp and stepping back. Panic warred with desire.
"I think you should leave now." Her chest heaved as her lungs dragged in oxygen.
Dallas slowly straightened and stood looking at her. He was breathing hard, too.
"I want you," he said, his voice gravelly with repressed passion. "And you want me. Don't deny it." He picked up his Stetson and placed it on his head, pulling it forward over his brow. "This isn't finished, lady. Not by a long shot."
"Yes, it is," Gillian said, glad her voice was steady, because her heart was fluttering madly. "It won't happen again. I won't
it to happen again." She forced herself to walk around the desk, keeping a safe distance from him, and opened the door.
"Good bye, Mr. McCade."
It took every ounce of courage she possessed to wait for him to cross the room and walk out the door. She had made an oath with herself a long time ago. She would never put herself under a man's power again.
Closing the door, Gillian sank into one of the chairs in front of her desk. Her legs refused to carry her any farther. She would be lying if she said she hadn't thought about kissing Dallas McCade. She was human after all. But her experience with her husband kept super-imposing itself onto the present.
Besides, she didn't even like the tall, dark cowboy. He was rude and insulting. Yet extremely attractive. Better to keep busy with work and not chance another relationship where she would be vulnerable, both emotionally and physically.
She dealt well with men on a business level. On a personal level, not so well. She had been burned badly by her marriage. She knew better than to play with fire again.
Gillian looked around when the door opened, releasing a pent-up breath when she realized it was only Harold.
"You okay?" the foreman asked, coming forward and looking down at her.
"Yeah." She rose to her feet and walked around to her side of the desk. She had to get a grip and ignore the way Dallas McCade affected her.
Harold sank into the chair Gillian vacated. "I saw McCade talking to Dunbar."
"He was talking to Allen?" She couldn't help remembering Dallas's veiled threat.
Harold nodded. "Don't like the enemy so close. Don't like him plotting right under our noses."
"We don't know for certain that it's him," Gillian said. "Talking to Allen doesn't prove anything. We already know Allen worked for him. Maybe they're friends." Why was she defending the man? It couldn't be the memory of warm lips brushing her own, could it?
"Anything out of the ordinary happening out there lately?" she asked, ignoring Harold's uplifted eyebrows. At least, he wasn't asking any questions. Questions she couldn't answer.
Harold rubbed his forefinger and thumb over his mustache. "It's been over a week since we discovered the sugar near the mud tanks. Whoever's doing this will have figured out by now that particular ploy was discovered. Something should happen soon, if I don't miss my guess."
"But when and where?" Gillian asked.
"If we knew that, it wouldn't be a problem, now would it? Don't worry, we'll catch the culprit."
Gillian nodded. "I know we will, Harold. Thanks."
After he left, she tried to concentrate on the never-ending pile of paperwork on her desk. But Dallas McCade's image kept intruding. His stern face, warm lips, his questionable involvement with sabotaging the project--all these thoughts jumbled around in her brain.
Gillian jumped up, grabbed her hard hat and headed out into the heat. The paperwork could wait. She had to get out of the office. Away from the memory of Dallas's disturbing presence. Away from the memory of that kiss.
The lawyer okayed the papers Jessie needed to sign. Nothing out of the ordinary. No hidden clauses. Exactly like Gillian had said. Dallas wasn't really surprised.
He let Jessie return the papers to the drilling site alone. He didn't want to see Gillian again. After tasting her, he was damn near going crazy with wanting her. For the zillionth time, he reminded himself Gillian was off limits. He shouldn't want her. But he did. No getting around that fact.
Hell, he was horny. That's all this amounted to. He hadn't been with a woman in quite a while. He should go to Billie G's, the honky-tonk up on the Cap Rock, and take up with one of the regulars. Have a few beers, go to her place, and work off his frustrations. Those women knew the rules. No strings, just good clean sex.
That's what he usually did. So, what was he waiting for? It had been ten days since he'd gone with Jessie to the drilling site. Since he'd seen Gillian. The thought of her lips yielding beneath his made him grind his teeth. He hadn't been this worked up about a woman in years. Not since his college days when he had been hot-to-trot after Marilyn. And look what had happened then. Misery, pure and simple. He'd do better to remember that. He made up his mind to go to Billie G's soon. Very soon.