Apparently Mark Briar wasn’t used to anyone telling him no, be it the girlfriend who’d just sent him a Dear John letter or some lonely widow he was magnanimously offering sexual favors to. Hearing the aggressive edge creeping into his voice, Olivia wondered what terrible sin she’d committed to be finding herself stuck in the front seat of a tired little pickup with the employee from hell. Not only did Mark keep trying to point out what she’d be missing if she didn’t come to the bunkhouse tonight, it appeared that her repeatedly gentle but firm refusals were making him angry.
Well, and the Dear John letter he’d crumpled into a ball and thrown at her feet after reading the more interesting parts to her. Added to that, his driving had gone from reckless to downright scary. What had she been thinking when she’d asked if they could use his pickup to go after the heater? If she’d taken ten minutes to pull the rear seat out of her van, she’d be in only half the mess she was in now; she might still be dealing with an angry young man, but at least the pine trees wouldn’t be speeding by in a blur.
Olivia decided that when they met the school bus, she and Sophie were walking the last three miles to Inglenook. Look, Mark,” she said calmly, even as she checked the buckle on her seat belt, it’s not that I’m not flattered by your offer, but I have a very firm rule about fraternizing with my employees.”
Employee. You have one. So it’s not like anyone can complain the boss is playing favorites or anything.”
When camp’s in session I have fifteen people on the payroll: seven who live at Inglenookyou, the cook, and several counselorsand eight locals who show up every day at the crack of dawn,” she said, getting a bit angry herself.
His eyes narrowed menacingly. What about the campers? You got any rules about fraternizing with them?” He snorted. Or is that how you fill up your single-father sessions year after year?”
Olivia counted to ten to keep from smacking the belligerent snot, wanting worse than anything to get out of this damn truck. Ohmigod!” she shouted, pointing out the windshield. Quick, pull off the road!”
Mark hit the brakes in surprise, then veered into a small gravel pit before bringing the truck to a sliding stop and shutting off the engine. What did you see?” he asked, looking around.
Olivia immediately undid her seat belt and got out. A moose just crossed the road in front of us,” she said, pointing toward the trees when he also got out. And where there’s one, there’s usually more. Hitting an animal that size would total your truck.”
I didn’t see anything.” His complexion darkened, his anger returning as suddenly as it had left. You just made that up,” he said, storming around the front of the truck. What in hell is it with you women, anyway? You think you can just dump me like yesterday’s trash to go after some rich guy just because he’s got a career and drives a Porsche?”
Hey, wait a minute.” Olivia started walking backward. I’m not your girlfriend; I’m your boss.”
Not anymore, you’re not, because I quit.”
Well, that took care of that little problem. Now she just had to deal with being in the middle of nowhere with this idiot. Growing somewhat alarmed when he continued advancing, Olivia weighed her chances of making a run for it over convincing him she was considering coming to the bunkhouse tonight.
Wait,” she said, holding up her hand to stop him. I . . . um, you have to give me time to consider your offer, Mark. I mean, I’m not opposed to getting together with you,” she said, matching him step for step when he didn’t stop. It’s just that you caught me off guard earlier.”
He finally stopped and looked around the small gravel pit, then back at her, his eyes growing suspicious again. So what say we get a little practice in right now, to help you decide?”
Was he for real?
Okay, maybe running would be wiser. Olivia bolted for the woods, figuring Mark would probably beat her in an open footrace down the road. Beside, maybe she could find a stick and beat some sense into the idiot.
Only he caught her before she made it ten feet. She shouted in surprise when he grabbed her shoulder and spun her around, and then yelped in pain when she stumbled to her knees and he landed on top of her.
For the love of God, this couldn’t be happening. He was just a kid!
But his grip was as strong as a man’s. Olivia tried shoving him away, but he stuck to her like glue; his fingers biting into her arms as he rolled her over to face him. The air left her lungs in a painful whoosh when he landed on top of her again, and she cried out when his mouth slammed against hers.
Okay, it was time to panic; they were in the middle of nowhere, she couldn’t seem to get control of the situation, and the idiot was flat-out attacking her! Olivia kicked at his legs and squirmed to push him off as she fought to breathe. Trying to jerk her hands free only ended up wrenching her wrist in his unbreakable grip, but she did manage to twist away from his punishing mouth.
Mark! Stop this!” she cried. You need to stop!”
What in hell kind of camp doesn’t have girls?”
Olivia stopped struggling. Talking was good. If she could keep him talking, then maybe he’d calm down. Th-there will be girls your age in town once college lets out,” she said, panting raggedly as his weight crushed her into the gravel.
That’s more than two months away!”
Olivia shouted in outrage as she turned away from his descending mouth and put all her strength into bucking him off even as she drove her fist into his ribs. He reared up, his own shout ending on a strangled yelp as his weight suddenly lifted off her. Olivia rolled away, then stumbled to her feet, scrambling around Mark’s truckonly to run straight into another vehicle.
She stumbled back to her feet just as she heard Mark shout again and started running toward him when she saw a stranger drive his fist into Mark’s stomach. The boy hadn’t even doubled over when the man’s fist slammed into his jaw, tossing him into the air to land on the ground on his back, out cold.
No!” Olivia cried, grabbing the stranger’s arm to stop him from going after Mark again. Don’t hurt him anymore!”
The man shrugged her off and turned toward her, the dangerous look in his sharp green eyes making her take a step back. Forgive me,” he said gutturally. I was under the impression the bastard was attacking you.” He gestured toward Mark even as he gave a slight bow. I will leave you to your little game, then,” he said, turning away and striding to his truck.
Olivia ran after him. No, don’t leave! He was attacking me.”
He stopped so suddenly she bumped into him and would have fallen if he hadn’t grabbed her shoulders. And that’s when Olivia’s knees buckled, the magnitude of what had nearly happened turning her into a quivering blob of jelly.
Her rescuer swept her off her feet before she reached the ground. He carried her to a small mound of...