The sun had nearly set by the time Emma opened her eyes. She sat up slowly and glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was nearing five. When was the last time she’d indulged in an afternoon nap? Too long ago to remember.
Standing and stretching, she walked to the wall of windows and blinked hard. Surely it couldn’t be snowing again? It was too dark and shadowed for her to tell for sure, so Emma walked over to her bags, pulled out some clothes to change into, and went into the bathroom to freshen up. Maybe some cold water on her face and clean clothes would wake her up from what was turning into a nightmare.
How much longer was she going to be stranded here with Lucas?
When she stepped out into the living room, Lucas was exactly where she’d left him earlier; the only difference was that now he was watching the large plasma TV that was mounted on the fireplace mantle. There was a football game on—she had no idea if it was actually football season or if he was watching old footage of his own career.
She hoped it was football season.
Lucas turned his head when he heard the bedroom door open. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do or say, so he chose to wait and let Emma take the lead.
“Is that snow I’m seeing coming down again?” she asked.
“’Fraid so,” he said cautiously, not sure what would set her off at this point.
“Fabulous,” she grumbled and headed for the kitchen. “How’s your knee?”
“A little bit better. This ice pack is pretty much melted away now, but I think I can manage to get up and make some dinner.”
Emma froze and stared at him. “You’re kidding, right?”
Lucas arched an eyebrow at her. “Excuse me?”
She sighed dramatically. “Could you please just sit and relax? There is no reason for you to get up. I am perfectly capable of handling putting dinner together.”
“You’re a guest in my house…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said as she rummaged through the cabinets in search of what to make. “I’m a guest in your house. That’s just great. That doesn’t mean that you have to jump up and wait on me. I can certainly put dinner together. I managed just fine with lunch, didn’t I?”
Now it was his turn to sigh with frustration. “Yes, you did. Geez, Emma, all I’m saying is that I don’t expect you to do all the work.”
“I don’t consider it work. I enjoy cooking. And although I think it’s a little late to take something out to thaw, I think I could whip up some omelets for dinner if that’s okay with you.”
He nodded. “That’s fine. Thank you.”
Emma went about gathering ingredients from the refrigerator and was impressed with what she found. When she hummed with approval, Lucas wanted to know what she was doing. “Well, it’s just that you seem to be a step above the average bachelor.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“It means that you have real food here. Your freezer isn’t stocked up with frozen entrees and your refrigerator is not just housing condiments. You have fresh fruit and vegetables and all kinds of goodies.”
“Goodies?” He laughed.
“Yes, goodies.” Emma shut the fridge door and put her armload of ingredients down on the counter. “You don’t have what I would need to make any desserts from scratch, but you’ve got plenty here to make a gourmet meal.” She looked down at what she had to work with. “Just not tonight.” She smiled at him and was relieved when he smiled back.
Twisting around she found the pans that she would need and the paring knives to cut the vegetables. Out of the corner of her eye saw Lucas stand. And wince. She slammed the frying pan down on the stovetop burner.
“What?” he snapped.
“I’ve got everything under control, Lucas! I don’t need you to get up and help. I am more than capable of doing this!”
His head dropped forward and it was a tense several seconds before he spoke. “I wasn’t getting up to help you, Emma. I was thinking I’d grab a quick shower while you cooked. I should have done that earlier when I came back inside but I was too uncomfortable.” His tone was harsh. Would they be able to have one civil conversation this weekend or were they doomed to fight over everything?
“Sorry,” he said sincerely. “I’m going to grab a quick shower. I shouldn’t be too long but don’t hold dinner if it’s ready before I’m out, okay?”
Emma nodded and watched as he walked away and shut the bedroom door. A smile crept across her face. Without an audience, she was free to play in the kitchen again.
Twenty minutes later, Lucas was practically salivating from the aroma coming through the bedroom door. She was simply making eggs, how could they smell so good? He opened the bedroom door and stepped out into the living room and saw Emma fluttering around the kitchen. “It smells great in here. What are we having?”
Emma looked up and smiled at him; her whole face lit up and Lucas felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. What would it be like to come home and have her look at him like that every day? He shook his head instantly at the thought; that was never going to happen because someone like Emma deserved a man who could take care of her, not one who could barely take care of himself.
“Well,” she said, interrupting his thoughts, “I made us some western omelets, home fries, and you had a loaf of Italian bread that I toasted to go along with it. And,” she said, her voice trailing off as she walked toward the front door, “the best part of the whole thing?” Emma reached into one of the bags she’d left by the door and pulled out some sort of food storage container and held it up like a trophy. “Dessert!”
That piqued his interest for sure. “You were bringing dessert to the spa?” he asked with a barely contained laugh.
“No,” she said with only a hint of defensiveness. “I was actually bringing this to your mom. She loves my homemade brownies, so I had a batch in my freezer that I was going to surprise her with. Since I’m not going to see her, there’s no point in letting them go to waste, right?”
Lucas had heard stories of Emma’s baking skills. Both his parents had been singing her praises on that front for what seemed like forever. Knowing she had put a lot of work into their dinner, he didn’t want to seem overly enthusiastic about finally trying her famous dessert. “That sounds great,” he said. “But let’s eat this dinner before it gets cold.”
There was a small dining table in the kitchen and Emma had it set and ready for them. The fire was roaring in the fireplace and the television had been shut off. Lucas stopped for a moment and realized there was music coming from someplace.
“You have a great music collection,” Emma said as if reading his mind. “I hope you don’t mind that I put something on. I always have music playing at home when I cook.”
“No, that’s fine; it’s kind of nice actually.” He waited until Emma took her seat and then took the chair opposite her. The table looked perfect, the food looked and smelled amazing and this was all very…cozy. He was treading into dangerous territory and didn’t think there was anything left he could do to stop it.
So he decided to embrace it.
“So, if you weren’t stuck here with me right now, what would you be doing?” Lucas asked as he cut into his omelet. He had to bite back a groan because it was so good. The last thing he needed to do right now was sit here making sounds of pleasure while trying to engage in a normal conversation.
“Well, I’d like to think that I’d be getting a full body massage right about now.”
“What?” he asked, nearly choking on his food.
“The spa? Remember? If I wasn’t here right now, I would have been indulging in all kinds of pampering. I’ve never gone for a massage before. I’d like to think that it would be amazing. Or maybe I’d be enjoying a cocktail while I got a pedicure.”
“I highly doubt that a health spa would serve cocktails.”
“Maybe,” Emma replied with a shrug, “but in my mind I’d be in a fluffy white robe with an exotic drink in one hand while my feet were getting pampered.”
There was no way he wanted to continue this particular conversation, because now all he could imagine was Emma in a fluffy white robe with nothing on underneath and him giving her a foot massage. He cleared his throat and took a long drink of the juice she’d put out for them before speaking again.
“So what are these papers that were so important that my father couldn’t wait until he got back to see?”
Emma froze. She knew William hadn’t wanted his sons to know what he was working on, but in all fairness, she still had no idea what it was either. So technically, she wouldn’t be betraying a confidence because she honestly didn’t know what they were, and that was exactly what she told Lucas.
“That seems a little odd; he tells you everything,” he commented. “He didn’t mention anything before he left yesterday?”
“It was really kind of weird,” she replied honestly. “I mean, he was getting ready to leave, it was before lunch, and all of a sudden he threw it out there that he was expecting some papers. When they arrived, he made it seem as if they were urgent. Thus my trip up here to the wrong house.” Emma laughed at the words but Lucas knew she was only trying to make light of their situation.
“That’s another topic altogether. My father is sharp as a tack. I find it hard to believe he simply forgot his own address and accidentally gave you mine.”
“What would be the point? Why would he want me to go to the wrong house?”
“Who knows? I know it bothers him that I live up here alone and I don’t invite anyone over. Not him, not my mother or brothers, no one.”
“So you think he wanted me to come here first just to check on you? That seems a bit excessive.” She made a face at the thought and it really angered her a bit that her boss would deceive her this way.
“At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. I hate that he sent you on a wild-goose chase and you ended up getting hurt.” He stopped speaking and looked over at Emma intensely. “Which reminds me, how are you feeling? You haven’t said anything all day about your head or your ankle.”
“My head is down to a dull ache and my ankle is a little tender but fine.” She toyed with her hair to cover the lump on her forehead and Lucas reached out to tug her hand away. “Lucas…”
He studied her for a long moment. “It looks much better. You were lucky; it could have been much worse.”
She simply nodded. “I know. Thank you for taking care of me.”
“Well, it seems as if you got the opportunity to return the favor today,” he said and Emma laughed. “What? What’s so funny?”
“We have got to be two of the worse patients ever! I mean, here we are, two people who clearly have injuries and all we did was fight about them!”
“In my defense, I’m a guy,” he said simply. “And guys do not like to admit to any weakness.”
Emma had to agree with that summation. “Okay, noted. In my defense, well”—she hesitated—“I don’t have one. I simply don’t like people fussing over me.” With that she saw that they had both finished their meals. “Was your dinner okay?”
“Fishing for compliments?” he teased.
“Always,” she said with a saucy smile as she stood and began clearing the dishes. “How’s the knee doing? Do you want to put the heating pad on it now?”
“That would be great,” he replied. “I mean, thank you for thinking of that.”
Emma knew it bothered Lucas to ask for help, and so she decided to put him to work on something minor just so he’d feel useful. “How about you find something for us to watch on the TV while I finish cleaning up in here and then I’ll go and get the heating pad from your bedroom?”
“How did you know I used one?”
“When I was hunting for a toothbrush earlier, I found it in the linen closet.” When she realized she had just admitted to snooping, she blushed. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize. A proper host would have thought of getting that stuff for you.”
“You’ve been very proper, Lucas,” she said lightly as she wiped down the table and Lucas’s eyes went dark. He had been trying to be proper; he’d been kicking himself after every time he touched her. The last thing he wanted was her gratitude for his “properness” dammit. But as she finished her task, completely oblivious to the dialogue going on in his head, Lucas knew the best thing to do was to put distance between them.
Within minutes, they were seated on the sofa; Lucas at one end with the heating pad on his knee and Emma at the other, her legs stretched out on the sofa between them, a plate of warmed brownies within reach. “What kind of stuff do you like to watch?” he asked cautiously, certain that she was going to request a soap opera or some sort of Jane Austen movie.
Reaching over, she took the remote from his hands and scanned the channels until she found a James Bond marathon. Lucas looked at her as if she were crazy. “What? What’s wrong with 007?”
He shook his head. “Nothing. Nothing at all. I just never met a woman who willingly wanted to watch a James Bond movie, let alone a marathon.”
“Now I have to admit, I’m a sucker for Sean Connery, but I certainly have no problem with Daniel Craig either.”
There was no way he was going to debate why she chose one over the other and decided to just let himself relax and enjoy an action-packed movie with the beautiful girl.
It was a sensation he hadn’t experienced in far too long.