His chuckle was low, and his cigar-roughened voice rumbled through the barn. I expected him to make a comment about my new stepsister-to-be, but instead he said, “Your daddy gonna expect me up at that wedding? I don’t wear suits. Not even to my own goddamn funeral.”
“I’m sure he’d appreciate it, but if you’d rather not, that’s your choice.”
Griff nodded once. “I’ll think on it.” He shifted the toothpick to the other end of his mouth. “That girl asks a lot of questions. Don’t think she’d know a cow pony from a cow patty.”
“You’re probably right about that,” I replied, thinking about the conversation at dinner.
Griff pushed himself upright, his joints creaking with the effort.
“Guess we’ll see how long she lasts, then.”
He ambled out of the barn, and I was once again left alone with my thoughts of Emma. Maybe if she got out of here fast enough, I’d be able to keep that fucking ball gag in my toy bag where it belonged.
Before Celeste had even picked up his dinner plate, Ford disappeared again. Russ's genial expression faltered for a moment, but Mom touched his arm and he smiled at her. I held back the urge to wonder where Ford was going. Either he was avoiding us—in which case, everyone should just let him sulk—or he was trying to give us our own space. Whatever it was, Ford chilling out a little could only be a good thing.
We went on chatting over coffee while Celeste cleared the dishes. An hour’s worth of small talk later, Russ yawned and set down his mug with a clunk. “I think it's time to check out the insides of my eyelids. You coming up, Cyn?”
Mom glanced at me as Russ pushed out his chair. “Do you need any help getting unpacked, sweetie?”
“No, thanks. I'll just pull out what I need for tonight and deal with the rest in the morning.” I leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. “Goodnight, Mom.”
Russ waited for Mom to get up, then started toward the stairs that led to their wing of the house. I put my plate and mug in the kitchen sink. They were the only dishes Celeste hadn't collected. I’d received the message clear as day: I was not welcome in what she considered her domain. Mom was too caught up in the excitement of wedding planning and being in love to notice the statement Celeste was silently making. But that was something for another day; I was too damn tired to deal with Celeste right now.
I went up to my room and rooted through my bags until I found my shampoo and long, fluffy bathrobe. Even though I was dead on my feet, I knew I couldn't get to sleep without a quick shower; I was rumpled and dirty from traveling all day.
I undressed and went across the hall, huffing with annoyance when I found the door shut. There was nothing I could do but wait. Either that, or get lost forever trying to find another bathroom in this huge, dark house.
Finally the door opened. A pretty girl in a see-through teddie stepped out. Her hair was mussed, her cheeks flushed … It was clear that she had just been well fucked. She squeaked when she saw me and darted down the hall to Ford's room like a scared mouse. I gaped after her until the situation finally clicked. Is everyone getting laid around here except me?
Behind me, Ford stepped into the bathroom doorway. I turned to look and immediately regretted it.
He wore nothing but a towel draped loosely around his waist. I tore my eyes away from the trail of dark hair leading down his abs and realized that he was staring at me. Not an angry glare, just … brazen. This was his home turf, and he was daring me to either challenge him or slink away with my tail between my legs. Was everyone out to challenge me tonight?
“You going to shower or what?” he finally asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Fuck you, buddy. It's not like I got a vote about staying here.
He showed no sign of moving to let me pass. I was forced to squeeze through the doorway around him, so close that his hand brushed my hip. My skin prickled where he touched me through the robe. With one last glance at my bare calves, he finally followed the girl back to his bedroom. I watched his tight ass as he walked away and told myself I was just doing it to spite him. I definitely haven't lost control of my own hormones. Nope. Not at all.
* * *
The days until the wedding crawled by. While Mom and Russ snuggled obliviously in their wing, I was trapped, with Ford just a few doors down. And he made it clear that he didn't like me invading his space. Whenever I turned around, he was right there—ogling me, scowling at me, blocking my way, swaggering around half-dressed. Everything he did simultaneously pissed me off and made me horny as hell. I felt like I was being taunted. I didn't know why he couldn't stand me; I didn't know why I couldn't shake my dirty thoughts about him.