For His Brother's Wife(5)

By: Kathie Denosky

They looked absolutely nothing alike. Cole had beautiful dark green eyes, was a couple of inches over six feet tall and had a muscular build and straight, light brown hair. Shorter by at least three inches, Craig had pale green eyes, wavy, dark blond hair, and had been on the thin side. Both men were extremely handsome but in different ways. Craig’s features were classic and he always looked as if he’d stepped right out of the pages of GQ magazine. But Cole had that rugged appeal that sent shivers up a woman’s spine and had her imagining how it would feel to be in the arms of all that raw masculinity.

Her heart skipped a beat, and she shook her head as she rose to put their coffee cups in the dishwasher. She had no idea where that had come from, but it definitely wasn’t something she intended to give further thought. She wasn’t looking to find herself in the arms of any man, let alone Cole Richardson. Even though he was nothing like Craig, she had spent ten years with one Richardson brother and that had been enough to last her for quite some time.

* * *

Cole waited until the work crew left at the end of the day to move his things from his truck into the Double R ranch house. He wasn’t looking forward to the next couple of weeks—especially after his reaction when his hand had brushed Paige’s that morning as he’d passed her his empty coffee cup. If just that slight contact could cause his heart to stall and a fine sheen of sweat to bead on his forehead, what kind of hell would he go through being in such close proximity with her day in and day out?

Pulling his luggage from the back section of the club cab, he slowly walked toward the house. He hadn’t been in the Double R ranch house in well over ten years and he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to go inside now. The memory of the night he’d left the ranch for good was an ugly one and had resulted in him severing all ties with his twin. They had managed to be civil with each other for their father’s funeral a few years ago, but just barely. As soon as the service had ended, he had gone back to Dallas and, although Craig had started emailing him in the year or two before his death, Cole had deleted the messages unread. He hadn’t been interested in anything his brother had had to say.

“I’ve got your room ready for you,” Paige said, opening the door as he climbed the porch steps.

“Lead the way.” He took a deep, fortifying breath as he stepped across the threshold and hung his black hat on a peg beside the door.

Cole did his best not to notice the slight sway of her hips as she preceded him down the hall to the circular stairs in the foyer, and he concentrated on looking around the house he grew up in. With the exception of some colorful Southwestern art on the walls, the house looked much the same as it always had. One of the terra cotta tiles at the foot of the steps had a hairline crack from the wear and tear of five generations of Richardson boys’ roughhousing, and the honey oak banister still had nicks from where he and his brother had tried sliding down the thin rail.

“What’s so amusing?” Paige asked as they started up the stairs.

Lost in the memories, he hadn’t even realized he was smiling. “I was just thinking about the time I tried sliding down this rail and ended up wearing a cast on my arm for six weeks.”

She grinned. “Not such a good idea?”

“Well, it had seemed like it at the time,” he said, chuckling. “But I was only ten and quickly found out that it wasn’t.”

When they reached the second floor she showed him to the room closest to the stairs—his room when he’d lived here. “I hope you don’t mind, but I boxed up the things you left behind several years ago and put them in a closet in Craig’ the office just off the family room.”

“You should have just thrown them away,” he said, setting his suitcase on the bench at the end of the bed. He was surprised Craig hadn’t insisted on her disposing of everything he had left behind. “I really wouldn’t have cared.”

“I couldn’t do that. They weren’t mine to get rid of.” Shaking her head, she opened the curtains to let the late-afternoon sun brighten the room. “There were several sports trophies and medals. You earned those in high school, and I thought you might eventually want them.”

“I’ll go through the box while I’m here to see if there’s anything I want to keep,” he finally said, swallowing hard. Backlit by the sunshine coming through the window, she looked absolutely gorgeous, and if he hadn’t already realized the extent of the attraction he still felt for her before, he sure as hell did now. Her dark auburn hair seemed to glow with shades of red and gold and emphasized her flawless peaches-and-cream complexion.