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The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1)(14)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Now, it was dinnertime.

I blew out my hair sleek, gunked it up with some stuff I liked that contained any fly-aways and then did my makeup. Not full-on Nina makeup since I was in the Colorado mountains and if makeup-less, mountain fresh Becca was anything to go by the girls in the Colorado mountains didn’t do full-on Nina makeup. I went light, I might have got some of my color back but not all of it and I needed a bit of help.

Then I walked out of the bathroom, put away my stuff in my suitcase ever ready to escape, spritzed with perfume, put on some gold hoop earrings, a bunch of gold tinkly bracelets and wrapped a thin, lilac scarf edged with an inch of gold once around my neck, letting the long ends fall down the front. I pulled on some socks then my high-heeled tan boots. Then I stomped downstairs.

“Ready,” I announced when I hit the bottom.

Max was standing in the kitchen, looking like he was sorting through mail and he was eating another cookie.

“You’re eating another cookie,” I accused.

His head came up and his eyes did a full body scan before he said, “Duchess, you were up there a year. I didn’t have another cookie, I’d starve to death.”

I’d made it to the bar and put my hands on it. “I wasn’t up there a year.”

“Felt like a year.”

“It wasn’t a year.”

His eyes did a full face scan before he said in a softer voice, “Though, it was worth it.”

That voice and his words made me feel funny in a way I wasn’t willing to explore.

Therefore I said, “Can we go?”

He grinned before he replied, “Yeah,” then he put the rest of the cookie in his mouth and dropped the mail.

“Do you know where my coat is?” I asked.

“Closet,” he answered, going to the dining room table and nabbing his leather jacket off the back of one of the chairs.

I walked to one of the doors under the loft, guessing and guessed right. There was a big storage room, some hooks on the wall, lots more man stuff. My tan, shawl collared, belt cinched at the waist, falling to the hip, cashmere coat was on a hook. I grabbed it and shrugged it on, flipping my hair over the collar as Max stood at the opened front door.

“You look like you’re gonna meet the queen,” he said, giving me an indication that even toned down I might be a bit more fancy than the normal Colorado mountain town look.

“You don’t meet the queen in jeans,” I explained, walking through the door and cinching my belt.

“You would know,” he muttered.

I swallowed back a growl and headed to the Cherokee.

He flashed open the locks but didn’t come around and open my door. This didn’t surprise me. He didn’t seem a door opening type. Neither was Niles. Then again, Niles didn’t drive, didn’t know how, never bothered to learn and it didn’t bother him that he couldn’t. Firstly, I could drive and when we went somewhere together I did. Secondly, he could take a taxi to a train and you could take trains most everywhere. Then, once you got there, you could take a taxi to where you were going. Any town, even small ones, had more than just Arlene at Thrifty’s.

I pulled myself up into the cab, settled and belted in.

“I’d like you to call Arlene and lift the boycott on a taxi for Nina,” I told him once he started up, did a swift, somewhat hair-raising, three point turn and headed down the lane.

“You goin’ somewhere?”

“I might wish to and, without the keys to the rental that would be difficult.”

“We’ll see.”

“We won’t, you’ll call her.”

“Not big on women tellin’ me what to do.”

“Max –”

“Or anyone,” he finished and I turned to him, incredulous.

“You’re not big on women, or anyone, telling you what to do but you’ve essentially stolen my car and told the only taxi service in town not to give me a ride, which is, in essence, telling me what to do.”

“In essence,” he agreed pleasantly.

“I… I…” I stammered, “I don’t even know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything.”

“I’ve decided to poison you,” I announced acidly.

He burst out laughing then took a right at the end of the road. I looked out the windscreen and crossed my arms on my chest.

“I wasn’t being amusing.”


My neck twisted and I looked at him. “I wasn’t!”

“Let me get this straight, I nurse you through a fever and you thank me by poisoning me?”

“You’re holding me prisoner.”

“Honey, you rented the house for two weeks, that’s hardly holding you prisoner.”

“I rented a house that was supposed to be vacant.”

“Lucky for you, seein’ as you got so sick, it wasn’t.”

He had a point there.

“And, today, it was, save you,” he went on.

He had a point there too.

I decided to be quiet.

Quiet wasn’t good because Max seemed comfortable with quiet and my mind wandered. It wandered to what he was doing all day. And then it wandered to what he was doing all day with Becca. And then it wandered to the fact he was with Becca at all. And then it wandered to wondering who Becca was. None of this was my business but I wanted to ask even though I knew I shouldn’t care. Then I realized I did care and I worried about what that meant.

We hit town and it was busy, busier than I’d expect for a small town in the mountains on a Tuesday night. It was also pretty. When I’d driven through it, considering the snowstorm and my state of mind, I didn’t pay much attention. I knew from the internet advertisement that it was an old gold mining town that made it even after all these years, lately because of tourist trade due to its proximity to popular ski slopes, its shops, restaurants and the fact that it was pretty. The buildings looked old by American standards, not, obviously, English. And the sidewalks were wooden boardwalks with wooden railings like you’d hitch a horse too. There were more than a few shops that looked interesting. If I ever got my car keys back, I was definitely going to explore.

After I checked into the hotel which, on our drive through town, I also noted its location.

“Can you walk in those boots?” Max asked into the quiet cab.

“Yes,” I answered.

“I mean more than a few feet.”

“Yes,” I answered, this time curtly.

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