Married by Monday Page 2

“Hmmm.” Ya, right.

“I’m not.”

Eliza glanced over and met Gwen’s scowl. Her porcelain features and perfect makeup, along with the accent, added to the innocent poster child image.

“I may have gone to boarding school, and lived most my life at Albany behind locked gates, but I’ve done some traveling on my own.”

“Let me guess, with a bodyguard the size of Neil hanging around?”

“Hans isn’t nearly as big as Neil.”

Eliza rolled her eyes. “Hans? His name is Hans?”

“He’s from Sweden. His specialty is in martial arts.”

Eliza would have laughed if Gwen wasn’t so serious. “So where is Hans now?”

“At home. I didn’t think he needed to accompany me here. I knew I’d be with you and could call on Samantha or Blake anytime. Besides, you don’t seem to need anyone holding your hand to keep you safe.”

That’s because I know how to take care of myself. “You’re not me.”

“No, but I’m capable of staying out of trouble without a bodyguard.”

Unaccredited confidence could lead to trouble. “You know I’m leaving the day after the wedding.”

“I know.”

Eliza put the car in park and kept it running to keep what cool air they could blowing on them as they talked. “When are you flying home?”

“I haven’t decided. Mother wants me to fly home with her, but I think I might stay here for a while longer.”

“I think you’d be better off going home with your mom.”

“I’m not a child.”

“Didn’t say you were.”

“I think you did.”

Gwen’s defenses were up. Eliza placed a hand over the other woman’s. “How old are you, twenty-five?”

Gwen’s jaw dropped. “I’m thirty-one.”

Too old to be walking around with a babysitter. “I tell you what. Tonight we’ll put on a pair of jeans, find a couple of hats, and look for that honky-tonk. Maybe I can give you a few tips so you can stay out of trouble.” Not exactly the environment to recruit new customers, but leaving Gwen to her own defenses was kinda like leaving a kitten with a dozen pit bulls.

“What if I want to find some trouble?”

“Then it’s best you have someone to keep you from getting hurt. Hence, you’ll need someone like Hans.”

“Fine, no trouble. I’d like to keep myself safe, have some fun, and leave un-accosted.”

“Fine.”

Gwen smiled and pushed the door open.

The sweltering heat sucked the energy from every pore of Eliza’s body. Maybe a cool bar and a beer would help knock her out of her current funk.

Eliza hiked her purse over her shoulder and rounded the front of the car.

“Oh, Carter, how nice of you to come.” Gwen’s voice pierced the air with her greeting.

Eliza skidded to a stop. Carter?

Gwen reached the steps to the ranch house and greeted Carter in the classic European style, kissing both of his cheeks. Dressed in casual slacks and a cotton button up shirt, Carter Billings tossed on his easy smile. As usual he said exactly the right things, at exactly the right times. “Don’t you look lovely. You’d never know it’s a thousand degrees out here.”

Eliza’s heart pounded in her chest. Here stood the real reason for her unease. Carter Billings was everything she’d ever wanted in a man, but completely out of her reach. Something inside her ignited every time she saw him. Sadly, that response usually ended up in a snarky remark or defensive battle. He walked with more confidence than a tomcat in a dark ally in Brooklyn, charmed everyone he met with only a smile, and oozed sex appeal like syrup dripping off a double stack of pancakes.

Carter ran his hand through his sandy blond hair and caught her gaze when Gwen walked past him and into the house. Eliza watched his chest rise and fall with one deep breath before he started down the stairs to greet her.

“Hello, Eliza.”

“Hey, Carter. What are you doing here?” Damn, that sounded snotty. The heat was frying her brain.

“I take it you’re not happy to see me.”

“Didn’t say that. Wasn’t expecting you is all.” Is all? The locals were sliding into her speech.

He crossed his arms over his chest, tucking his fingers under his arms. “Gwen asked Neil to come, Blake asked me to give a report on Gwen.”

Eliza glanced over Carter’s shoulder to the empty doorway. “Why doesn’t Blake ask Neil about her?”

“Neil doesn’t offer gossip, only facts. Blake would be more frustrated with a, ‘she’s fine’ response.” Carter dipped his voice to mimic Neil’s. Eliza couldn’t help but smile.

“She is fine.” How did one woman instill such a need for these men to coddle her?

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

Eliza shoved a lock of hair that managed to fall out of her loose bun from her eyes. Carter watched the movement, his eyes wandering to the tip of her head. “Let the judge, judge then.”

“I’m not a judge any longer.”

“No, you’re a politician.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Politicians are hated almost as much as lawyers.” Which Carter was. Or had been anyway. At thirty-seven he’d climbed more ladders and overturned more goals than a man twice his age. His sights were now on Sacramento and, according to the polls, his chances were good.

“Ouch.”

“I call ’em as I see ’em.”

He stood aside, his smile never falling from his full lips. “Well why don’t you call ’em inside. It’s hard to judge my ward out here in the heat.”

“She’s not your ward,” Eliza informed him as she walked by. Even in the heat, she managed to catch of scent of the musk rolling off his frame. She shivered, ignoring the pleasure his scent brought over her.

“She’s not yours either, but I didn’t see her driving up here alone.”

“Don’t you have laws to pass or something?”

He chuckled as she passed him on the stairs. “I’m not the governor, yet.”

“I’d think babysitting a grown woman was off your list of judicial duties.” The cool interior of the house was welcome relief from the heat.

“Maybe my political ones, but not my friendship ones. You’d do the same for Sam and don’t even try and deny it.”

Loading...
Prev Next