Resisting Her Rival

By: Sonya Weiss

“Okay, what do you want to argue about?” Abby tossed her pen aside and settled back in the leather chair.

“I don’t want to argue at all. I want to make plans.”


“For us.”

“You’re not serious.” Abby laughed, then sobered when he didn’t join in. “You are serious.”

He didn’t see a damn thing funny about the idea of the two of them as a couple. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because it’s ridiculous. There is no us and never will be,” Abby said, drumming her fingers rapidly on the desk.

“Again,” he said before he thought, trying to squash the memory of her lips moving across the tattoo on his chest.

“Again,” she acknowledged in a get-lost tone. She stopped drumming her fingers and started tapping a pen.

“Do I make you nervous?” He frowned at all the movement. Surely she didn’t feel threatened by him.

“Not at all.” She tossed the pen down.

“We have a problem.” Nick started over. “I think I can help.”

“I don’t need help, especially yours.”

“That’s right.” Nick slapped his forehead. “I forgot. I could haul away Mt. Rushmore a wheelbarrow load at a time before you’d ever admit you needed someone.”

“Nick.” She opened her mouth to say more, then apparently thought better of it and shook her head.

He tamped down his irritation. Why was it when he was around Abby, he always felt like he was guilty without the benefit of a trial? Hadn’t he experienced enough of that already? He knew he wasn’t the same guy he used to be and wanted others to see that, too, especially Abby. “I came to tell you that I have what I think is a good idea.”

“About what?”

“Hang on.” Using his elbow, he closed the door behind him and pulled a metal chair up beside her desk. Straddling it, he leaned forward. “You think that night was a mistake.”

“Right,” Abby said too quickly, busting his ego down a notch.

“I don’t agree,” he said, hoping that she didn’t really think the night was a mistake, but was doing her usual keep-every-guy-at-arm’s-length gig.

“You have the right to your opinion, however wrong it may be,” Abby said, batting her eyelashes at him.

He’d always been impressed by her quick wit and sense of humor, but he resisted the urge to laugh. The chance he was about to take was too important for her to think he was playing. “You and I could have a great casual relationship that would help us both, and I can prove it to you. Just listen with an open mind, okay? You want that building next door, same as I do.” He thought about telling Abby that being with her would hopefully help his business but decided against it.

Abby frowned. “After you told him you wanted it, too, Oscar’s determined not to pick either of us. He already made that clear.” Her voice still carried a hint of accusation.

Nick ignored the hint. “Yeah, I know. He said for us to work something out between the two of us.”

She rubbed her forehead. “Could you please get to the point? I have things I need to finish.”

“My point is that we can work this out easily. There doesn’t have to be an argument between us.” He opened his arms in a ta-da motion, nearly knocking a wooden figurine with raised, outstretched arms off a nearby shelf. He righted it and then picked up the miniscule paper card that had fallen with it. “Courage?”

“It’s from Willow Tree.”

Nick knew what the line of hand-carved figurines were because his brother had given a different one to their mother last year on her birthday. “What does this one mean to you?”

“It’s personal,” she said, plucking the card from his hand without elaborating. “You said we can work it out easily. How do we do that?” Abby paused to take a sip from a glass of water. Her expression still hadn’t lost the I-don’t-trust-you look.

“I bet that I can get you to agree to a relationship—hell, you might even fall in love with me—within thirty days. If I’m right, at the end of the thirty days, I get to buy the building. If I’m wrong, you get to buy it.”

Abby’s eyes widened. “Since I already know that I have no intention of having a relationship with you, much less falling in love with you, give me one good reason why I’d agree.”

“Because at the end of the thirty days, if you’re not in love with me, I’ll tell Oscar that we’ve agreed you can buy the building. Plus, I’ll do all the renovations for you and won’t charge you anything for the labor.”

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