“Very funny. You’re an assistant. You occasionally will have to do some sort of work. Today it just means cleaning up.” He ran a finger along the fireplace mantel. “And dusting.”
She saluted him. “Whatever you say, boss.”
He gave her an exasperated look as he headed back to his desk. Grant picked up his keys and paused, glancing around the main lodge. “You think they’ll be proud of what we’ve accomplished here?”
“Why are you asking me?”
A wry expression twisted Grant’s mouth. “Good point. Like I said, it’s just nerves.”
She stared at him. He’d almost just smiled at her. “You feeling okay?”
“Yeah.” He ran a hand down his face again and tugged at his collar once more. He was clearly nervous. “Just a bit distracted.”
“You’ll be fine once you see them,” Brenna said, and then almost bit her tongue. Why was she trying to soothe him? “Shouldn’t you be going soon?”
He nodded and turned to the door, then turned back to her again. “I don’t suppose you can get rid of the purple in your bangs?”
Her purple Bettie Page bangs? She loved them. Brenna glared and pointed at the door. “Go.”
Grant nodded. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. They look nice.”
As she sat there at her desk, mouth hanging open, Grant turned and headed outside just as Dane bounded through the door, coming inside. The big athlete shook rain from his hair, grinning cheerfully. “Looks like it’s going to be a downpour soon.”
Brenna ran to him, dragging him away from the front door and to the back of the main office. “What’s up with Grant?”
Dane looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“He’s being weird,” she hissed. “He apologized to me earlier. Twice. And he seemed nervous. And when he was leaving, he complimented me on my hair.”
“Huh.” Dane looked just as surprised as she was for a moment there. “Your hair’s cute, Bren. In a Suicide Girls sort of way, that is. Kinda not Grant’s thing, though.”
Well, that stung, and she didn’t even know why it bothered her. “I could care less if I’m Grant’s kind of thing,” she said, irritated. “What’s eating him?”
Dane shrugged, then moved to the swag counter, pulling one of the complimentary shirts off a stack and switching it out with his damp one. “Oh, that. He’s probably just has his feathers ruffled because of his parents visiting. He hasn’t seen them in two years.”
“Aren’t they rich? What’s the matter with them? They don’t like flying or something?”
“Yeah, but it’s more like Grant avoids them. They always ask him about the wife.”
“The wife?” Brenna thought for a moment. “You mean, his dead wife?”
“Yeah.” Dane ripped the tags off the new shirt and tugged it down over his muscular chest. “His dad’s convinced he’s wasting away from missing her, and his mom’s convinced that all he needs is someone new in his life to make him forget her. When Mama Markham shows up to visit, she constantly throws women in his direction, trying to set him up. It drives Grant crazy.”
Brenna thought for a moment. She’d been working with the Expeditions group ever since they opened, and though it had only been a few months, she couldn’t think of a single, solitary time that Grant had gone out on a date. For that matter, he never seemed to get many personal calls, either. It was all work for him.
For some reason, that made her sad, and she felt a twinge of pity. “How long ago did his wife die?”
“Five years ago.”
“Five years!” That was a really long mourning period. He must have been positively flattened by her death. Poor guy.
“Yeah.” Dane’s face was grim. “I wasn’t here at the time but I knew Heather. She and Grant were high school sweethearts. From what I heard, it was pretty bad and Grant was devastated as hell. He’s probably not ready to move on, but his mom won’t let up. She thinks he’ll never jump back into the waters unless she gives him a little push.”
She chewed on her lip. “Parents are kind of jerks like that.” Poor Grant. No wonder he was so flustered at the thought of his parents arriving. A memory flashed through Brenna’s mind and she went to Grant’s desk. She’d recalled seeing a picture there, but thought it was a sister or a friend—or girlfriend. But no, it was a photo of a pretty, perfect blonde posing on skis. It must have been his dead wife. “His parents should just leave him alone.”
“They’re family. Family never leaves anyone alone.”
She kind of disliked them already. Sure, Grant was an uptight douche, but he was her uptight douche to harass and annoy. She didn’t want to feel sorry for the guy. Ugh. What was next? Getting all hot and bothered because he liked her hair? Please.
The front door opened and Grant came in, keys in hand, glasses speckled with rain. His perfect hair was soaked and his shoulders were wet from big, splashing drops of water.
“My car won’t start.” He sighed, and then threw the keys down on the nearest table. “Un-f**king-believable.”
Brenna winced. “Yeah, about that . . .”
Grant turned to her, his jaw clenching. “What?”
She shrugged. “I might have disabled the fuel pump switch so Pop could have something to work on this afternoon.”
He looked like he was ready to reach across the desk and choke her. Well, that was an improvement at least. This Grant she knew how to handle. “Brenna,” he said, his tone warning. “Give me the switch.”
“I might have thrown it away.”
“What? Like I knew you were going to the airport.”
“It was on the calendar, damn it!”
She spread her hands. “Sorry. You can take my car. I don’t know how much gas it has, though. I pretty much only go to the station when the little red light comes on.”
He stared at her.
“Oh, and if it chokes when it turns over, you have to pump the brakes a few times. It’s a little persnickety.”
He continued to stare. Dane ran a hand over his mouth, a sure sign he was trying to smother a laugh.
“And actually, while I think about it, the tags might be expired, but they never really pull you over for that sort of thing anyhow—”
She broke off when Grant pointed at her.
Brenna pointed at her chest. “Me?”
“Yes, you. You are driving me to the airport. Call the carpenter and reschedule for another day. Get an umbrella.” He looked her up and down, and then added, “And put on some damn pants.”
TWO HOURS LATER, BRENNA WAS in jeans, the car was pulling into the airport parking lot, and she was ready to boot Grant out of the car the next time he made a crack about her 1992 Sunfire.
“We’re here,” she said in a falsely cheerful voice, pulling up to the first available spot. “You can get out now.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” he said in a low, almost pleasant voice, glancing over at her. “I might be stuck to the gum on the seat.”
“Nonsense,” she told him. “I throw all my gum on the floorboards.”
To her immense gratification, he lifted one of his expensive leather shoes and grimaced. “Lovely.”
“Isn’t it? Now come on. I can’t believe I’m the one telling you this, but you’re going to be late for their flight.”
They got out of Brenna’s car and didn’t speak as they entered the airport, searching for the correct gate. There were dozens of people already milling around the baggage claim, and none of them had the same sour look that Grant did, so she didn’t know if his family were here or not.
“The next time you decide to disable my car, do me a favor and check with me first.” Grant moved to her side and touched her elbow as he spoke in a low voice, through clearly gritted teeth. He was pissed.
“Oh come on. What fun would that be?” She shrugged out of his grip and put her hands on her hips, glancing around. “I don’t see them anywhere.”
“Don’t change the subject, Brenna.” He stepped in front of her, wearing his best It’s Time for a Lecture face. “I don’t relish the thought of driving my family back to town in that rust bucket that you call a vehicle. When was the last time you had it washed? Or detailed? There’s an inch of dust on the dashboard.”
Picky, picky. “Your family won’t care. They’re probably nice people who won’t comment on something like that.”
He snorted. “You don’t know anything about my family. For all you know, they could be a homely pair of Siamese twins.”
She smiled sweetly. “Well, that explains where you got your looks.”
Grant looked ready to choke her. “Brenna, I—”
They both turned at the sound of the voice. A trio of adults stood nearby, suitcases in hand. Their faces were lit with smiles at the sight of him—his family. A woman with a smooth gray bob and dangling earrings stepped forward. “Grant, honey! It’s so good to see you.” Her voice was sweet and cultured, and she set down her suitcase handle, opening her arms for a hug.
Grant obediently moved forward, hugging the members of his family, and Brenna observed them. His mother was tall and slender, and she wore a coral jacket and matching skirt, and low beige heels. An elephant brooch was pinned to her breast. She looked more like she was heading for lunch at the country club than visiting family. To her right was Grant’s father, an equally gray-haired man in a dark sweater and slacks that could have been plucked from Grant’s cabinet. Standing behind them was a shorter young woman with a curvy frame and long, incredibly straight light brown hair that hung in her face. She might have been pretty if she didn’t seem so darn shy. Grant hugged her, too, so Brenna guessed she was a sister or a cousin or something.
“It’s so good to see you guys,” Grant said, smiling at each person in turn.
Grant’s mother’s gaze went to Brenna, and she gave her a questioning look. Brenna wiggled her fingers in response, acknowledging the woman’s stare.
“Grant, sweetheart,” his mother said in a curious voice. “You haven’t introduced us to your friend.”
“I’m Brenna, his assistant,” Brenna said in a cheerful voice, sticking her hand out. “Grant asked me to drive today. He was having car trouble and I was just hanging around, so I got the honor.”
“I see,” Grant’s mother said in a curious voice. “I’m Justine Markham. This is my husband, Reggie, and this is our daughter, Elise.”
No one took Brenna’s hand. She turned it into a friendly wave. “Nice to meet all of you.”
Elise smiled at her. She could have been Brenna’s age. Well, that would be fun. She’d take Elise out drinking and get all the good gossip about Grant from her. This could be interesting after all. Brenna rubbed her hands together. “Should we get your suitcases and head back to the car, then? We’ve got a fair drive back to Bluebonnet.”
“The car’s a bit small,” Grant told them, picking up the handle to his mother’s suitcase and then grabbing Elise’s tote. Brenna picked up Elise’s other bag, just to help out. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” his father said easily. “We appreciate you coming to get us.”
“You could always rent a car,” Brenna pointed out.
“Nonsense,” Reggie said. “Grant has a lovely car and depending on him for a ride means that we’ll get to spend that much time together.”
Yeah, about that . . . Brenna thought, but said nothing. She just kept smiling.
“How are things with the business?” Elise asked.
“Things are great,” Grant said enthusiastically. “We’re really on track to have a good year, and we’re making a name for ourselves. We get inquiries about classes every day.”
They chatted a bit about the business as they walked across the parking lot to Brenna’s car. Justine and Reggie didn’t look thrilled, but a smile quirked Elise’s mouth at the sight of the car, which made Brenna like her all the more. Grant popped the trunk and grimaced at the sight of the jumper cables laying scattered across the back, along with a pair of grubby sneakers.
“Oh, those are just junk,” Brenna said, grabbing the shoes and tossing them under a nearby car. “All better now.”
Grant gave her his favorite disapproving look and then began to heft suitcases into her car’s small trunk while the others stood around.
“So,” Justine said after a long moment. “How are you doing, Grant? How’s the social life? You keeping busy? Getting out?”