Between You and Me(6)

By: Jennifer Gracen

“What?” Charles hissed at the same time that Dane asked, “Why so soon?”

“You both act like I’m heading off to parts unknown without a note,” Tess said. She was touched by their concern, but at the same time, so excited to move forward with her new plan, she couldn’t get away from them and out of the mansion fast enough. “I’m not going to Tibet, I’m going to Colorado. To the ski house the three of us own together, so I believe you have the address.”

“Don’t be cute. This isn’t like you and you know it!” Charles bit out, eyes flashing. “You can’t be surprised that we’re so surprised, much less that we’re concerned. You don’t make spontaneous plans, you don’t go away for months at a time, and definitely not without talking about it with one of us first.”

Tess nodded, a smile spreading slowly on her face. “You’re right. That’s why it feels so good, I guess.”

Charles and Dane both stared at her, speechless.

“Let her go, guys,” Julia said from her seat.

“Stop mothering her,” Lisette added softly.

Charles jolted as if he’d been hit, looking to his wife, who only nodded.

“Tess,” Dane said. “You can’t just leave without telling us a little more than I’m outta here, see ya in a few months. Come on. If it was one of us pulling this, you’d be flipping out. So just talk to us.”

“All right. I will. Tomorrow. But now, I have things to do. Be with your loved ones.” She leaned in to kiss Charles on the cheek, then Dane. She moved away to give quick hugs to her sisters-in-law, and an adoring snuggle to her baby niece. Then she turned to them all and said, “Merry Christmas. Talk to you tomorrow. I have to get packing.” And before any of them could utter another word, she walked across the long room to say a few more goodbyes so she could get out of there.

Even as she hugged her older niece and nephews, Tess felt invigorated. Brimming with excitement, she couldn’t wait to get going. She had a lot to take care of if she was going to leave in less than forty-eight hours, and she absolutely intended to make good on her words. She was a woman of action, dammit, and now that she’d decided to take action, nothing would stop her from seeing her whole plan through.

Chapter Two

Logan Carter checked the thermostat once more before turning to sweep his eyes across the long, wide living room. He’d been the house manager for the Harrison family’s ski house for the past five years, so he knew well what needed to be done before one of them arrived.

He’d already done his weekly house check for the place on Tuesday, as he always did when none of the Harrisons had visited in a while. So he knew the heat, water, all of that, were already in working order. He’d turned the lights on so Tess wouldn’t walk into a dark house. Well, he amended mentally, Tess, and likely her tiny white dog that often came with her. The wood was all stacked, both out in the back and some in the iron stand by the fireplace. He double-checked that the wood, paper, and fire starter were in place in the large stone hearth. Then he straightened the area rugs.

Scrubbing a hand over his full beard as his eyes canvassed the spacious room one last time, he mentally ticked off the checklist in his head. He’d made sure to put some potted poinsettia plants on the mantel above the fireplace, on the long dining room table and living room coffee table, and on tables by the front door and up in the master bedroom to add splashes of color for her. He didn’t do that personal touch for many of his clients, but he did leave cut flowers for some, the ones he knew appreciated it. The Harrisons were good people that he respected, and he knew she’d appreciate the gesture.

Ah, who was he kidding? He did it for Tess because he liked her. She was plain nice, and goddamned gorgeous. Not many women caught his eye anymore, but she always had. He could admit a . . . tiny crush, if he had to label it, to himself. Hell, he couldn’t imagine any normal straight man could resist a tiny crush on a woman like Tess Harrison.

Even if she’d stung him with an insult last year that he still hadn’t shaken off.