Home > The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male (Bluebonnet #2)(17)

The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male (Bluebonnet #2)(17)
Author: Jessica Clare

“Beth Ann?” he called out, warningly. “You okay in there?”

She came out a minute later, holding a stick like a club. Her breath came in rapid gasps and her blue eyes were lit up. “I just killed a rat the size of my foot.”

“Probably more like a possum,” he said, amused.

“Oh.” She panted for a moment, then tilted her head at him. “Should we keep it?”

“Keep it?”

She nodded and wiped a hand over her brow, as if killing a creature had been a big effort. “You know, in case we have to eat it.”

“We don’t have to eat it,” he drawled.

But she bristled at that. “We’re surviving, right? You’d make your students eat it, wouldn’t you?”

“First of all,” he said, dumping the armful of wood. “I wouldn’t make my students eat it, because it’s most likely diseased. And second of all, we have MREs and we’re only going to be stuck here for the weekend. You won’t starve.”

Her eyes gleamed with a challenging light and she studied her stick. “You don’t think I can eat it, do you?”

“I don’t think I can eat it,” he pointed out. “And I’ve eaten a lot of disgusting things in the name of survival.”

“I could eat it,” she repeated.

He stepped up to her and looked down into her beautiful, clean face. She was just as pretty without a bit of makeup, he decided just then. Especially with that wicked gleam in her eye. “You tryin’ to prove something to me, Beth Ann?”

“I’m tougher than I look,” she said up to him, her gaze assessing. “And if I needed to eat a possum, I’d do it.”

“Of that, I have no doubt,” he drawled. “But I already know you’re tougher than you look. You’ve already proved it.”

Her eyes glittered with the compliment and her smile grew even wider, as if he’d just told her that she was the most beautiful woman on earth. “I could kiss you right about now for saying that,” she said, smiling up at him.

You could, he thought.

But she didn’t make a move. Just smiled.

Figured. Just girly talk. He gave her one of his lazy, “I don’t give a shit” smiles and turned away. “I’m going to get some more wood.”

Damn. She’d totally blown that moment. She’d been hitting on him hard and he hadn’t even taken her up on it. Had she lost her mojo? Was she horribly unsexy? Or did Colt find her revolting? Weak? Both? She knew he was extremely disciplined and spent a lot of time in the woods, honing his craft. Was that why he was ignoring her feeble attempts at flirting?

Ugh. She didn’t like to think that he might not respect her or was only tolerating her because he had to. Sure, they had to be together this weekend, but that didn’t mean he had to loathe her company, right?

She didn’t like to dwell on those sorts of things. That wasn’t her style. But if she liked him, she needed to put it out there in the open or else he’d never get the hint.

Still, a little help on his end would not be amiss.

“Stay here. I’ll be back,” he said, without glancing over at her.

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” she said, and rubbed her calves. They’d done enough hiking today. The cabin was set up at a prime location, slightly raised off the ground and thick with grass, which meant less mud. She liked less mud.

As he disappeared back into the woods to get another armful of firewood, she gathered rocks to line the fire pit. She didn’t know much about fires, but the ones in movies had rocks around the edges, right? So she’d do what she could. Her strappy shoes were just about destroyed from the day’s hike anyhow. They’d cut into her feet for hours but she didn’t have any other shoes, so it did no good to complain. Too bad she couldn’t burn them, she thought with a grimace. She did find a water bucket that she put outside to collect rainwater.

After another armful of wood, Colt knelt beside the ring of rocks and began to set up the wood in a tepee fashion. She bent over to watch. He wasn’t really instructing, but even she could pick up on the basics. He’d taken a handful of tinder out from the supplies in the cabin—she hadn’t known what to make of the bucket of it, but now she was glad that they had it—and stuck it underneath the tepee of wood. Then, he pulled out an oversized pocket knife and flicked out a piece of square metal.

“What’s that?”

“Magnesium. It’s a fire starter.” He took the other side of the knife and shaved the bar on one side, then began to flick the knife against the magnesium, letting it spark repeatedly until the tinder caught, and began to smoke. The entire process had taken minutes.

“Handy,” she commented, impressed. “I should get me one of those.”

He glanced over at her, the hint of a smile tugging at his mouth. “Probably not much use in a beauty salon.”

“You’re right. I’d be much better off arming myself with a curling iron.”

Again that flash of an almost smile. It was encouraging. He nodded at the fire, barely more than a little spark in the middle of all that tepee wood. “Get me a little more tinder from the bucket, if you please.”

She did so, quickly, and commented, “You guys sure have a lot of supplies in there. I thought it wouldn’t be much of anything.”

He grunted. “Grant feels that if we have clients on the land, in case of emergency, we need to have the supplies readily available for them to survive with. Last I checked, there’s even a tackle box. Don’t see why we don’t just put a few cans in there with a can opener and a sign that says ‘Here, eat this.’”

“You don’t approve?”

He shrugged, feeding small twigs to the fire. “Not for me to approve or disapprove. It all boils down to the students. If they’re willing to learn, we can teach them. If not, well…” He shrugged. “We have MREs and a pile of firewood at the ready.”

She sat on her haunches near the fire, watching the smaller bits he fed into the fire take flame and grow. “Yes, but we’re using the supplies, too.”

He flicked a glance over at her. “We’re different.”

Not in a bad way, she hoped. As he leaned forward and fed twigs on the fire, she watched his bare chest flex. His chest was rock hard. A hint of a six pack rippled on his abdomen, and his shoulders were big and lean. Allan had stopped exercising in college and had put on a belly. She hadn’t minded, of course, but all this lean, brawny muscle in front of her made her pulse flutter and she remembered how nice it was to dig her nails into a man’s skin and feel the taut muscle underneath.

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