His Christmas Cowgirl(9)

By: Alissa Callen


Warmth flared in Peta’s cheeks at the memory of Garrett’s hard packed ridges that were pure muscle. “I’m used to sizing up cattle not cowboys… maybe two hundred pounds.”

Ivy didn’t immediately reply. Instead she swung around and said over her shoulder. “That’s close enough to what Saul would be.”

To Peta’s horror she watched Ivy open the bridal salon door as a denim jacketed cowboy strode by. Peta closed her eyes. And not just any cowboy. The one overbearing, broad-shouldered cowboy who should have been miles away at her ranch.

*

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

Garrett smiled at the petite brunette who barely reached his shoulder. He’d taken an instant liking to the quick-witted and no-nonsense Ivy when they’d met at Grey’s. “Not at all. It won’t take long to try on a suit.”

But as he removed his hat and followed Ivy into the sweet-smelling bridal salon he realized that yet again he hadn’t read the fine print. The bridesmaid he was to partner, even if it was only for a five minute suit fitting, was his boss.

His grip on his hat tightened. A boss who stood on a small round platform like a princess on a pedestal. A boss whose bountiful curves were showcased in a fitted blue dress that left little to the imagination. A boss whose chin tilted as he approached.

“Peta.” He nodded and hoped the gesture didn’t reveal how the sight of her kicked up the tempo of his heartbeat.

“Garrett.”

Her tone was as cool as the fall breeze that had followed him down Main Street and chilled his neck.

He caught Ivy looking between the two of them before she introduced the dark-haired woman kneeling at Peta’s feet, pinning the hem of her long dress.

“Lisa, this is Garrett and he’s kindly agreed to be Saul for the fitting.”

The bridal shop owner came to her feet. “Hi.” She cast a practiced eye over him. “You walking by was perfect timing. Saul’s suit will be a good fit.” She grinned. “So what type of pizza did Ivy offer you afterwards?”

“No pizza. I’m happy to help out.”

Ivy and Lisa exchanged smiles but Peta’s expression remained set. If he didn’t know better he would have said she appeared uncomfortable. But the way she stood with her shoulders back and her hands now on her hips suggested she was more likely bored or impatient.

He accepted the suit Lisa handed him and went to change. When he emerged from the dressing room, Peta had stepped off the round platform. She turned sideways and he caught the flash of a creamy curve not quite covered by the bodice of her dress. His jaw tightened even as his blood heated. His testosterone needed to heed the memo that glamorous and socially-absorbed Peta would be nothing but trouble.

To ease his tension he adjusted the royal blue silken tie that matched the blue of his vest beneath his jacket. He then bent his arm to adjust his shirt cuff. Peta’s gaze narrowed and her attention switched from his shirt cuff to the cowboy boots he still wore.

Lisa brushed a speck of lint from off his sleeve. “The jacket shoulders are a tad too small but otherwise the suit’s a good fit. Ivy, you’ll get a good idea of how Peta’s dress will look alongside Saul’s suit.”

“I sure will.” Ivy slipped her phone out of her stylish red handbag. “Okay, you two, cozy on up so I can get a photo of you side-by-side.”

Peta’s mouth tensed but then she flashed him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Seeing as I’ve a hem full of pins, you might like to come over here.”

He nodded, taking his time to walk over. He hadn’t imagined the hint of challenge that edged her words. As he drew near, he offered her his arm. She slid her hand over his forearm, her touch light.

He looked at Ivy. “How’s this? Cozy enough for you.”

“Yes. Perfect.”

Garrett focused on keeping his expression casual and not on how good the woman beside him smelled. Last night she’d worn a distinctive French perfume but today she wore a more subtle scent that reminded him of apple blossoms. The change surprised him.

Beside him, Peta shifted as she edged away.

“Just a couple more,” Ivy said, as she refocused her phone and captured some final images.

Even before Ivy had lowered the phone Peta moved. He didn’t know what happened next, only that her grip on his forearm tightened and she pitched toward him. Without thought he held his arm firm to support her and caught her with his other hand. Her apple blossom scent filled his senses, her warmth and softness filled his arms.

He gazed into eyes wide with shock and an unexpected vulnerability.