Unlike the time he’d hurt her all that long ago.
No. He wouldn’t think of it.
“The position would be for a live-in housekeeper. You know, the basics of keeping a house. Cleaning, washing, and cooking. You’ll have your time off and everything. Pretty much a wife’s role, only you get paid,” Liam said with a smile.
The term wife made Shane’s heart jump inside his chest. Claire would make a good wife. She cared about people and made sure everyone was taken care of.
Shane drank his coffee and let Liam do all the talking. He didn’t want cause her more pain, and he knew his possessiveness always had the ability to upset her.
“Everything sounds fine to me. Live-in? Does that mean I get to stay on the ranch?”
“You’ll have your own room upstairs.” Liam pointed up at the ceiling. Shane smirked over his cup as her gaze followed the direction up at the ceiling.
“That would be great. Can you imagine? This would be like one of our old camping trips without the danger, and of course, in a brick house,” Claire said, and turned back to the pot.
Liam and Shane stared at each other. On one of those camping trips, Shane recalled admitting his feelings for Claire. Sometime within that weekend, he had realized she wasn’t just one of the guys anymore. She’d moved into the bracket of a girl.
Now she was a woman. What would it be like sharing a house with her?
He didn’t know, but he sure as hell wanted to find out.
“So, I please you and the ranch hands, and then I get the job?” She poured some water out of the kettle into the stew pots and placed the lids on top.
Shane wanted to say the job had been hers from the start. He let Liam handle it.
“Pretty much,” Liam said, and got up from the table.
“I think this is going to be easy.”
Shane laughed. “Cockiness doesn’t become you.”
“I’m not cocky. Confident, but not cocky. Besides, if those guys have been living on your meals, I’m guaranteed to get the job. You both suck in the kitchen.”
I may suck in the kitchen, darling, but I can make you scream in the bedroom.
Time to leave. Shane got up and left the kitchen. The smells of the food were already making his mouth water.
He knew he’d have to face her sooner or later. He and Claire held a secret, and it threatened to spill out. Would Liam demand he leave the ranch? Their partnership would be over if he ever found out.
Shane couldn’t risk it. He didn’t know what to do.
* * * *
Liam stared after his friend and leaned up against the counter.
“What’s with him and you?” he asked. He noted the stillness in Claire and knew there was something between them he hadn’t been party to.
“I don’t know what you mean.” She turned from him, and he knew she was lying. Shane and Claire had been different ever since the day his friend turned eighteen. Liam might be a joker and prone to teasing others around him, but he wasn’t stupid. His friends had kept something from him, and he didn’t like being in the dark.
“I’ve got work to do,” Liam said. He walked over and spun her around. He gazed into her dark-colored eyes and wished he could get her to open up to him. Never in his life would he dream of hurting her.
He loved her. Yes, he wanted to fuck her brains out. He was a guy, but Claire meant more to him than a quick tumble.
“I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on. You know me, Claire, as I know you. Something is going on with you and Shane and has been for years. I’ll find out about it. One way or the other.” He leaned down and kissed her on the lips.
She didn’t say anything to the contact, and he did it again. Nothing too invasive, a mere brush of lips against each other.
He left and followed in the direction Shane went. Liam found him sweeping out the cattle stalls. He stood near the gate and watched.
The men would be doing jobs around the cattle among other things. Liam and Shane had some privacy until dinner was called.
“Are you intent on sending her away?” Liam asked.
Shane paused in his sweeping. He didn’t look up. “I don’t want her to go away. You know that. I care about her, and that’s not going to change.”
“Are you going to feed me the bullshit line about caring about her and not loving her? Shane, that line is way fucking old. I know you love her, and this constant change of mind is driving me up the fucking wall.” Liam walked into the stall and grabbed the broom. He knew, in a fight with his friend, he’d lose. Shane pressed weights for fun. Being best friends gave him insight. Even if Shane didn’t talk about his dad, Liam knew his old man used to beat him.
Shane used the weights to rid himself of the anger.