Slade knocked on the weathered red door and then pulled his fist back. What the hell was he doing? Never in his life had he started the night with one woman and ended it with another. Hell, he couldn’t recall a single sober one-night-stand. And the two beers with dinner hadn’t been enough for him to catch a buzz. He ought to take those same stairs he’d just climbed back to the street, to his truck, and home.
Jules opened the door, her deep blue gaze as wide as her smile and charged with desire. “I thought you’d got a better offer,” she teased, ushering him inside.
Her apartment was all high ceilings and wood floors, with windows on one side looking out onto Main Street below. A large bed sat in one corner, the rest of the place devoted to racks of clothes and fabrics, tables and sewing machines.
“Pay no attention to the sweat shop I live in. I’m trying to get ahead on orders before we move.” She pulled open the mini-fridge of the wet-bar that must serve as her kitchen. “Beer, wine, or whiskey?”
“Beer is fine.” She handed him a bottle before uncorking her wine with a pop and pouring herself a healthy glass. Brightly colored fabrics were piled high in a stack on the closest table. “I’ve never seen you in neon.”
She gave a quick laugh. “I love hot pink, but I have to keep it to gray or black at the restaurant. Uncle Ben’s orders. Someday I’ll design dresses all day, but for now dress-up aprons pay the bills.”
She nodded and crossed the room to open a large box. She set her wine on a table before digging inside and then turning to show him a small blue and brown apron. “Can you guess?”
He stalled, and then it came to him. “Cinderella?”
She nodded. “Before the fairy godmother.” She selected a pale blue version. “And this is after. They’re my best sellers, though every time a new princess movie comes out I get a boost.”
He shook his head, inadequacy hitting him anew. He’d never thought to get April dress-up anything. And he probably should. “Do you have really small ones?”
“Is it going to put you in dad mode if I say yes?” She walked back to her boxes and pulled out a tiny one with a cow print skirt and fringe.
“It doesn’t go away.” He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to tamp it down.
Jules folded the apron, then picked up her wine and came back to where he stood. She held out her hand. “Keys?”
He dug them out of his pocket, feeling his brow furrow. She set the apron on the counter and placed his keys on top.
“You’re a good man, Slade Weston.” She looked at him over her glass as she took a slow sip. “But we can’t do this if you’re going to do something stupid like fall in love with me.”
“I could say the same to you.” He took a long pull from his beer, a lighter brew than the one he’d enjoyed downstairs. Chick beer. Which meant she didn’t do this often enough to keep her fridge stocked. With as easily as she’d suggested this, he’d wondered about that.
“Oh, not a problem. You’re everything I don’t want.”
“Um, okay?” He couldn’t help the grin.
“I mean, physically you’re delicious. But two kids and a cattle ranch?” She placed a hand on her waist and cocked her hip out. “Do I look like that kind of girl?”
He shook his head. Not in a million years. Her strappy heels alone tossed her out of the running. And then there was her slight frame, the sexy dress, flashy jewelry, makeup, and not a hair out of place. Not to mention the eight-year age difference. She wouldn’t fit into any of the boxes he’d checked on Not My 1st Rodeo.
And yet, here he stood, his body tight with desire and smoldering with heat. She was stunning, determined, and heading out of town in a matter of weeks. He needed someone modest, practical and within reach. Two people couldn’t be more different. She was an adventure straight off the pages of a fashion magazine, and he was rooted to the land, a fifth generation cattle rancher. He’d never leave, and she’d never stay.