Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Chapter Five, page 1 of 8)

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The next morning dawned clear and crisp outside, but the stove was warming the living room as Carmen came through. She plunged into her coat and stomped into her boots. Alex was at it again.

Crunching across the yard to the dairy, she found the stove there burning warm as well. Alex had broken the ice off the top of the water trough by the time she got there and every stall was filled with fresh hay. She should have been delighted instead of feeling frustrated. Did he have to be underfoot all the time? She was standing in the middle of the dairy, scowling, when he emerged from the barn.

"Hey, Heidi." His smile faded as he noted her expression. "Is something wrong?"

"No," she answered shortly. "Everything is absolutely perfect."

He arched a brow, a smile lurking in those dark eyes.

"And that's a bad thing?"

Even his voice held a mocking note. He knew why she was upset. Knew and wanted to rub it in. She swung around and headed for the door.

"The chickens need to be fed and watered."


She paused mid-stride and threw a response over her shoulder without looking at him.

"Then I guess I'll clean my room. I know you haven't been there."

Although, at the moment she wouldn't swear to it. Why did he have to be so good at everything? Couldn't he stumble - just once?

As her fingers closed around the doorknob, Alex brought her up short.

"Hey. Where are you going? I thought we might have a chance to talk a little. Am I that boring?"

She glanced back at him. "Talk?" she echoed stupidly.

He moved toward her, his lips twisting into a sardonic smile.

"Yeah, you know. When you open your mouth and something totally off the wall slips out. You're good at it."

Great. Now she was supposed to be an entertainment committee to a sophisticated fat cat. She eyed him sourly.

"Why? Do you need some more quaint hill talk to add to your collection? I haven't given you enough to keep the office entertained for a while?"

He stared at her, his expression going sober.

"Is that what you think I'm doing? Making fun of you?" He shook his head. "I enjoy your little colloquialisms. They have a spicy flavor I find refreshing."

She met his solemn gaze. It was ridiculous to stand here, trying to match wits with such a polished salesman. She shrugged.

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