Branding Gemma [Grizzly Pines 2] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour) (8 page)

BOOK: Branding Gemma [Grizzly Pines 2] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour)
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They stopped in front of the western store and Gemma gave Elodie a questioning glance. The last she’d heard, the western store didn’t sell maternity clothes, so why were they here? She slid out of the car and closed the door, moving around front of the vehicle to wait on the sidewalk for Elodie.

“I’m under strict orders,” Elodie said.

“Orders from whom?”

“The guys. They insisted that I buy you a few new things. Cody gave me enough cash to cover my purchases and yours. And if I run out, Beck put me on his credit account here and a few other places around town.”

“Elodie, I’m not going to run up my cousins’ bank accounts. If I get new clothes, I’m quite capable of buying them myself.”

Elodie raised an eyebrow. “With what money? You’ve run through what little you had and, since you’ve been spending all of your free time on that novel, you haven’t exactly been job hunting.”

“Do I need to?” Gemma asked softly. If she’d overstayed her welcome, she wanted to know now.

“Of course not! I’m just pointing out that you’re at my mercy until you sell your novel to some big publisher.”

Gemma laughed. “It doesn’t work quite like that. Not these days, anyway. Yes, there are still big publishers, but there are tons of smaller ones out there, publishers who will be willing to take a chance on a nobody like me. I’m going to aim for one of those. I’m still not convinced my novel isn’t trash. I’ll probably receive a hundred rejection letters before someone accepts my novel.”

“You’re not a nobody, Gem. Your name is going to be known worldwide in no time!”

“And how do you know that? Been consulting a crystal ball?”

Elodie blushed. “I might have accidently peeked at your novel when you left the laptop out the other day. I didn’t mean to read it! It’s just… I was bringing in your clean clothes while you were in the shower and it was just sitting there, open and begging to be read. I only read a little bit, a page or two, but it was really gripping. I didn’t want to stop reading!”

Gemma wasn’t sure how she felt. She was pleased that Elodie had enjoyed it so much, but it felt weird knowing someone had read her work. She knew people would read it one day, hopefully lots of people, but having someone close to her read it was another story.

“Are you mad at me?” Elodie asked.

“Of course not. It’s just a little weird hearing how much you liked my book. I mean, those words came from my head and my heart, I strung those sentences together, put my ideas to paper, and you’re sitting there telling me you actually wanted to keep reading it. I guess it makes me nervous and excited all at the same time.”

“Why nervous?”

“What if the rest of the book isn’t as good as the first half?”

Elodie laughed. “You worry too much. I’m sure it’s going to be great!”

Gemma sighed. “Fine. I’ll let you buy me a few things, but only because mine are starting to look a little threadbare and I don’t want to embarrass you when we’re running about town. I can’t have them thinking poorly of you just because you took me in out of the kindness of your heart.”

They stepped into the dim interior of the store, the scent of leather and polished wood filling the air. Saddles and bridles lined the far left wall, racks of boots filled the right, and the middle held carousels of clothes and shelves of jeans. Elodie practically dragged her through the store, piling four pairs of jeans and several shirts in her arms before nudging her toward the dressing room. Gemma took the hint and tried everything on, surprised that Elodie had done such a good job with her sizes. Everything fit, and fit well.

When she exited the dressing room, Elodie was holding up a pair of boots. Gemma glanced down at the scuffed brown boots on her feet then looked up at the pretty navy Ariats with the floral stitching. She’d seen a pair like them in Dallas a few months back and had practically drooled over them, but she hadn’t been able to afford them, and no way in hell would Trevor have bought them for her.

She accepted the boots, tried them on, and decided she wouldn’t take them off. They felt divine! Like walking on air. Gemma smiled at Elodie and threw her arms around the plump woman. Being with Elodie was like having an older sister. It blew her mind that her cousins had been so lucky to have found her, and even luckier still that she loved them as much as they loved her. Gemma wanted that. Some day. For now, she was enjoying being single. It had been over a month since she’d been with a man, and while she missed the intimacy of it, she couldn’t say that she really missed much else. Most of the guys she’d been with couldn’t figure out how to give her an orgasm anyway, so she certainly hadn’t been in it for the pleasure.

When they left the store, they stuffed the packages in the back of the SUV before moving further down the sidewalk. There was a new store on the corner that specialized in baby items. It seemed they carried maternity clothes as well. The women stepped inside and Elodie got a misty-eyed look when she saw all the little baby things. Gemma smiled and tugged her along to the maternity clothes on the back wall. It took probably a good hour to find things in Elodie’s size, things that would be comfortable for her and still look nice. It was decided, after picking out three outfits that everything else would need to be ordered online.

They paid for the purchases, and Gemma thought they were finished and heading home, but she’d been wrong. As they walked down the sidewalk, in the wrong direction, she noticed a sign hanging overhead.
Ryan Black—Attorney at Law
. Ah. The mysterious lawyer. It seemed she’d been correct in thinking Elodie was up to something.

Elodie smiled at her and pulled her along as she stepped through the door. A bell jingled overhead. A deep voice called out, telling them to have a seat. Being stubborn, Gemma chose to stand. If she was going to meet this mystery man, it was going to be on her feet and not on her butt.

When the enigma stepped out of the back room, she was rethinking that whole sitting thing. Nearly six-and-a-half feet of muscled, mouthwatering goodness came into view and she had to remember to breathe! He smiled and her knees went weak. Oh, this wasn’t good at all! Blue eyes twinkled as he assessed her, then he turned to Elodie.

“Miss Mitchell, it’s a pleasure to see you again. I have that document ready if you want to step into my office and sign it. I can get it filed as early as Monday.”

Elodie moved forward, pulling Gemma in her wake. So much for a chance to sit down and regroup! The office wasn’t what she would have expected of a lawyer. The décor was simple—wood desk, leather chairs—it was the pictures on the walls that drew her attention. Cowboys riding bulls. On closer inspection, she realized it was one particular cowboy. The one standing in the room with them. It seemed there was more to the lawyer than she’d first thought. He might dress in a suit now, but he was obviously a cowboy at heart.

“You ride bulls?” Gemma asked.

“I rode on the pro circuit for a year after high school,” he answered. “Then I went to college and just caught a rodeo here and there. Now I go when I’m able, but I stay pretty busy. It’s something I still enjoy but, as I get older, I realize it isn’t a practical hobby to have. I need something safer to occupy my time in my old age.”

Gemma snorted. No way was he past twenty-five, if even that. Old age, indeed.

The lawyer turned his attention back to Elodie. “If you’ll have a seat, Miss Mitchell, I’ll get a pen for you. Of course, take your time and read over the document first. If you’d like, you can even take it with you.”

Elodie waved a hand. “No, no. I trust you. If you say everything is in there, then I trust that it is. Just hand me a pen and I’ll get out of your way. I’m sure you have more important things to do.”

Gemma didn’t miss the subtle look he cast her way. She had to admit the man intrigued her. His coal-black hair was neatly trimmed, every strand in place. It looked silky and soft. She found herself wanting to run her fingers through it, wanting to see what he looked like when it was mussed. She’d be willing to bet he was sexy as hell with that just-out-of-bed look. Not that she was going to find out. Nope. No way. Men were not on her to-do list.

Elodie seemed to notice where his attention lay.

“How rude of me. Mr. Black, this is Gemma Brower. She’s the cousin of Cody, Beau, and Beck.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Brower. Are you just here visiting?”

“Please. Call me Gemma.” Now why had she said that? She wanted to smack herself.

“Gemma.” He smiled, a dimple appearing in one cheek. “You must call me Ryan, then.”

“No, I’m not visiting. I’ve been staying with Elodie and my cousins until I get a few things figured out, but I’ve decided to make Grizzly Pines my home.”

His eyes seemed to brighten. “Well, that is some good news. Good for me, I hope. I’ve only been back in town a short while, myself. I don’t suppose I could talk you into a night out, could I? I know there isn’t much to do around here, but we could have dinner at The Spare Rib and maybe go dancing over at the Blue Moon.”

Her brow furrowed. “Isn’t the Blue Moon the local bar?”

“They have a dance floor at the back. There’s usually a live band on Saturday nights, if you’re interested in going.”

Things were moving a little too fast. How had she gotten into this predicament? Oh yeah. Elodie. She didn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings, but she didn’t think she was ready to date just yet. She’d been doing so well. Going to a bar probably wasn’t the best idea. There were still plenty of days she wanted a drink, but she fought the urge, even knowing there was beer in the fridge downstairs. Her cousins had offered to go without, if it made things easier on her, but if something was worth doing it usually wasn’t easy.

“Ryan, that’s very kind of you, but…”

His smile dimmed a bit. “I understand. I’m not your type.”

No, actually he wasn’t. He was clean-cut, obviously had a good job, and he seemed like a nice guy. He was the exact opposite of every guy she’d ever dated. Which meant she should probably grab hold of him with both hands and never let go.

“It isn’t that. I’m just sort of trying this new thing where I don’t go out with the first guy who asks. I broke up with someone a little over a month ago.”

He nodded. “And I’m guessing it wasn’t an easy break-up. I understand. Well, take one of my cards and if you change your mind, please call. I really would love to take you out sometime. If it makes a difference, you’re the first woman I’ve asked out since returning home a month ago.”

He hadn’t been dating anyone in the past month? How had he managed to stay single? Were the women of Grizzly Pines blind? The man was sexy as hell. Even from across the room she could smell his designer cologne and it made her want to move in closer and take a deeper whiff, preferably with her nose pressed against his throat. If she needed inspiration for a sex scene, all she’d have to do would be think about Ryan Black. When he smiled at her, and that dimple winked at her, all she wanted to do was unbutton his shirt, tear it off his body, and shower him with kisses. Everywhere.

She accepted the card from him and noticed he’d written down his cell number while she’d been daydreaming. Giving him a smile, she tucked it into the pocket of her dress, hoping she remembered to remove it later before washing her clothes. Elodie must have finished her business because she was standing near the door. Gemma hadn’t even seen her stand, much less walk across the room.

“Ready to go?” Elodie asked. She seemed disappointed and Gemma knew why.

“Yeah.” She turned back to Ryan. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“I hope I see you around town, Gemma.”

She gave him one last smile and followed Elodie out the door. When they reached the sidewalk, Elodie elbowed her in the ribs, making her wince.

“What the hell was that all about? It’s been plenty of time since Trevor for you to move on.”

“I’m not pining over Trevor, if that’s what you think. I just feel that it’s best if I stay single for a while. And Ryan is definitely a happily-ever-after, picket fence kind of guy. He’s looking for the whole deal, the white dress and ‘until death do us part’ and everything. I’m not sure I’m ready for that right now.”

“You could have gone to dinner with him. It would do you some good to get out of the house for a while.”

“Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

Elodie nodded. “You do that.”

“So, what was all that about anyway?”

“The paper I signed? It’s a prenup.”

Gemma’s eyebrows rose. “Um, Elodie, I don’t recall Cody asking you to sign one.”

“He didn’t. I had one drafted for his protection. I’m sure he’ll see the wisdom in it.”

“Or spank your ass.”

Elodie blushed. “You heard that?”

“The walls aren’t exactly soundproofed. I hear everything. All the more reason for me to finish this book and start making some money. Not that I think it’s going to earn me enough to pay rent, but once I finish it, maybe I can look into a cheap car and start job hunting.”

“We have two farm trucks. I’m sure the guys would let you use one if you wanted to find a job now. Not that I’m pushing you out of the house! I like having you around.”

She hated to take another handout from her cousins, but she was ready for her own space. Of course, she’d lose access to Beau’s laptop so it would be nice to finish her story first. If she really pushed herself, she thought she could finish it in a few days. It was doubtful she’d get a job on her first time out. If it was anything like job hunting in Dallas, it would take a few weeks to land something. Maybe longer, especially with her being a stranger in a small town. People weren’t likely to trust her very easily.

BOOK: Branding Gemma [Grizzly Pines 2] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour)
13.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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