In no time the kitchen smelled wonderful and homey, nothing a scented candle could provide.
The TV blared in from the living room and Piper smiled. He was watching bull riding and cheering like some men do with football or basketball. Her Ryan was bulls, horses and broncs all the way, baby.
She rested her palms on the edge of the granite counter and sighed as she closed her eyes and thanked God for so many things today. First, she was beyond relieved that Alex was alive and, for the most part, unharmed. Second, she was grateful nobody had been killed in that horrendous accident. But more than anything, she was beyond grateful Ryan was okay. Not only was he okay, he was dominating her television and recliner, and that was just fine with her.
If she ever decided to settle down and marry, Ryan Grant held all the right qualifications. Oh, she’d never put the moves on her best friend. That would be weird...wouldn’t it?
She’d be lying if she didn’t admit she used to wonder “what-if,” but Ryan never saw her as more than just one of the guys. So that was the role she stuck with.
Besides, even though he had stepped aside from the rodeo circuit, he still had that thrill for adventure and danger in his blood. She couldn’t live with that, not again. She’d spent years watching her mother suffer while her father chased danger on the circuit. Injury after injury, her mother swore she couldn’t handle it anymore.
And finally one day, she didn’t. They’d divorced and Piper had rarely seen her father again. She refused to do that to herself or her future children.
So, while she may be looking for a man just like Ryan Grant, there was no way she could make him Mr. Right. But having him for a friend was one of the best things that had ever happened to her.
She turned to see Ryan, arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the doorframe. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
Of all the times for a heat wave to sweep through Royal, Mother Nature decided now would be a good time. What happened to the cold spell they’d just had last month?
“Sorry about the air,” she told him. “Remodeling your own house can save a bunch of money, but there are certain drawbacks. I’m hoping to have the system put in next week. That’s why I keep the blinds down and fans on in every room. I also wasn’t expecting the temperatures to get back up to Hades levels this time of year.”
“I’m good,” he told her. “I’m more concerned about dinner.”
He smiled, but all Piper could think about was how he’d been flipped in his car only hours ago. Yet here he stood in her kitchen joking about the heat and dinner.
“You okay?” he asked.
Piper offered a smile. “I’m fine. Just slaving away in here while you do nothing. You were supposed to be resting in there, you know.”
He pushed off the frame and eased toward her in that easy way he moved, but she figured he did it now so she wouldn’t catch on to the fact he was still dizzy.
“I’m resting,” he assured her.
“You’re in the kitchen—that’s not resting.” She looked up at him when he came to stand within inches. “I can’t pamper you if you won’t let me.”
“Is that what you’re doing?” he asked with a crooked grin. “Pampering me?”
“Not if you don’t get your butt back in that recliner,” she insisted, hands on her hips. “Now get out of my space so I can work.”
“You’re trembling, Red.”
“It’s out of anger,” she lied. “You need to be relaxing.”
He stepped forward, she stepped back. They danced until she backed up against the countertop.
“I think you’re finally coming down from the adrenaline rush of your workday,” he told her, holding her gaze and invading her personal space. “I think you’re in here thanking God about Alex, about me.”
She narrowed her eyes. “You know me too well.”
He grinned, placing a hand beside her hip as he swayed slightly. “Yes, I do. And that’s how I know your trembling and feistiness stems from relief. You know how this day could’ve ended.”
Piper closed her eyes, an attempt to block out the initial images she’d conjured when she’d arrived on the scene...especially when she’d spotted his car. She’d have nightmares about that terrifying sight for weeks.
“You have no idea what went through my head when I saw your car,” she whispered. “I couldn’t take the time to single you out, I had a job to do and it nearly killed me.”