The front door swung open and Emma Cunningham stood facing him, hands on her slim hips.
Cort Ramsey tucked his fingertips into his jeans pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Pretty thirsty after all that labor. I work cheap, though. A cup of coffee should do it.”
Though her lips looked like they wanted to smile, she kept them in a firm line. “Payment? I seem to recall that your cow damaged my fence in the first place.”
“My father’s cow, actually. And since there’s absolutely no way you’d get him over here to repair the fence, I did you a favor.”
“If breaking into my barn can be construed as a favor. It was locked.”
His mouth quirked. “Ah…I circumvented.”
“You circumvented.” She narrowed her brown eyes at him. “I imagine you have some experience in that area.”
The familiar pang occurred at the reference to his past, but it was milder this time. “Among other things.”
An ear-piercing shriek interrupted whatever Emma had been about to say. She stepped inside the doorway and turned her gaze toward the kitchen. “Molly.” Her voice was stern. “Use your inside voice.”
Cort took advantage of her distraction and slipped inside the house, picking his way carefully through the security system cartons still in the living room. The kids he’d talked to yesterday were seated at the kitchen table, in their pajamas.
“Mom, you let the seal in,” hissed the boy.
She tossed Cort a half-amused, half-irritated look. “He sort of let himself in. He seems to have a habit of that.”
Cort walked past her into the kitchen, bee-lining for the automatic coffeemaker on the counter. He opened cupboards until he found a mug and poured himself a steaming cup. He caught her eye then and gave a slow nod toward the littered living room. “You over your head in there?”
He knew in the next instant that it had been the wrong thing to say. The amusement vanished from her expression, to be replaced with a look of determination that was also familiar. “I can handle it.”
Maybe she could. He brought the mug to his lips and drank reflectively. But for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why she’d try. “Place you bought that security system from probably does installation.”
“The waiting list was too long.”
Her response was clipped, but it gave him something to contemplate while she rounded the kids up, put their dishes in the sink and herded them back to their bedrooms to get dressed.
He settled comfortably onto the couch and picked up the instructions to the security specs. His mind was elsewhere. There had to be a reason Emma had chosen to come back to Montana. But he hadn’t heard a word about her return in his trips to town.
He was guessing there was a reason for that. He’d spent the last five years camped out in various war zones. He recognized the signs of a woman expecting trouble.
And unless he missed his guess, Emma Cunningham was preparing for a siege.
Visit the author: Kylie Brant
Kylie Brant is the nationally best-selling author of over thirty romantic suspense novels for Berkley and Silhouette. A three-Rita finalist and five-time Romantic Times nominee, her awards include one from Romantic Times for Career Achievement and two Daphne du Maurier awards for excellence in mystery and suspense. Kylie writes dark, edgy romantic thrillers. Her latest, DEADLY SINS, is the sixth in her Mindhunters series and is available now.