Due to a partial snowmelt Bran suggested they check cattle with the ATVs instead of the truck. It’d been a month since he’d double-checked a couple problems areas he couldn’t get to in his pickup. After he’d loaded up wire cutters and other supplies, he wondered how Harper would fare helping with the most monotonous aspect of ranching—fixing fence. But he didn’t doubt her ability. She’d done remarkably well with every mundane task he’d set in front of her the last week.
So when Harper breezily assured him that she had experience driving an ATV, he’d sped off ahead of her, expecting she’d keep up.
Not even fucking close.
Jesus. The woman drove like a ninety-year-old retirement home escapee. At the rate she was meandering along, it’d take them all damn day to reach the freakin’ fence, let alone have time to fix the damn thing once they actually got there.
Bran waited impatiently by the gate—the gate he’d had to open because his gate opener was a quarter mile behind him.
And when she’d finally putted up alongside him, her cheeks pinkened by the wind, strands of blonde hair sticking to her face and poking out of her hood, looking so goddamn cute and yet breathtakingly beautiful, he got instantly hard. And he instantly got mad about getting hard. He snarled, “Dammit, Harper. Is it too much to ask you to keep up with me?”
She peered at him over the top of her sunglasses. Dark, movie star type sunglasses bejeweled with pink and purple rhinestones in the corners above her eyes, for Christsake. “I didn’t know we were racing.”
“We’re not. But—”
“This is a dangerous job. I’m not about to pitch myself off this thing headfirst into a snowbank because you want to prove you can outmaneuver me. You can. You win.”
“The only danger you’re in, sweetheart, is from falling asleep at the wheel because you’re goin’ too goddamn slow.”
Harper smiled slyly. “Is that what you said to Les before his hip got broken? Hurry up?”
He growled. “Just keep up.”
“You go on ahead. I’ll close the gate, boss.”
Boss. Bran growled again. He zipped through the gate and across the field. All the way across the flattest part he didn’t hear the rumble of her ATV close behind him and since there wasn’t a side mirror, he couldn’t just glance in it to see where the hell she was.
Don’t turn around and look for her.
He resisted the temptation for oh, about…forty-five seconds. He slowed and spun around.
Fury bloomed when she raised her arm, from two hundred yards away, and waved at him like a goddamn…beauty queen atop a parade float.
She is a beauty queen, dumbass.
Like he needed that reminder–it was obvious every time he looked at her, regardless if she wore filthy, ripped, oversized coveralls, she carried as herself regally as royalty. Bran waited. And fumed. When she got within ten feet of his machine, he thought about spinning a cookie and coating her with snow, just to be ornery.
But he didn’t. He clenched his teeth.
“Is there a problem?” she shouted.
Yes. You are my problem. You’ve gotten under my skin like a burr and I can’t stop thinking about you. All the damn time. Further incensed by his crush-like behavior, he snapped, “Do you have to work at the nail salon later this afternoon?”
“You’d better get a move on because a section of fence needs to be fixed. Today.”
“You’re telling me I’m not leaving until it’s done?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.” He bumped along the trail to the broken fence line and noticed she’d managed to keep up after his pointed reminder.
Probably made him an asshole, but he slowed down. Way down.
Harper zoomed up, flanking him. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’. Just makin’ sure we’re safe.” He flashed his teeth at her.
She hit the gas, sped ahead and sprayed him with snow.
Damn woman did have a little sass. And that was more appealing than seeing her in a swimsuit.
Okay. That was a total fucking lie. He’d give his left nut to see her in a skimpy bikini again. The last time he’d laid eyes upon the glory of her nearly nude body? She’d practically been jailbait and he shouldn’t have been gawking at her, but he couldn’t help it; she’d looked damn fine. The years had been good to her. Very good to her.
He was so lost in visions of Harper in a string bikini that he almost plowed over a fence post. He skidded sideways and killed the engine, acting as if he’d intended to get close enough to get splinters in his teeth and his tires.
Bran tossed the roll of barbed wire on the ground and grabbed his pliers. “See that sixth fence post in?” He pointed. “Take this end,” he unwound a section, “and walk down there with it. Keep it straight and keep a tight hold on it.”
“Tight as you can. I like it tight and hard and I’m gonna be jerkin’ on it harder than you’d expect.”
Harper’s mouth opened, then closed with a bashful smile.
When Bran realized how he’d phrased it, he actually blushed. He almost snapped at her to get her mind out of the gutter, when she inquired sweetly, “Wouldn’t it be easier to put a metal clamp on it and then try to fix it?”
He loomed over her. “Excuse me, Miss Sweet Ass, but how many miles of fence have you fixed?”
“It’s Miss Sweet Grass, Mr. Rude Behavior, and I was just offering a suggestion.”
Fuck. He couldn’t believe he’d called her Miss Sweet Ass. “I don’t need your suggestions, Harper, I need you to do what you’re told.”
She gave him her back and sauntered away. And were his eyes deceiving him? Or had Harper saluted?
Sexy as hell though, that little bit of sass.