Quinn let out a grunt and stepped past me, grabbing a chair and dragging it near the fireplace. “Sit down,” he ordered. “You look cold and tired.”
Glancing down at my mud-soaked jeans, I grumbled, “I can’t. I don’t want to mess up your chair.”
He let out an irritated growl, pushing the chair against the backs of my knees, forcing me to sit down. “Female, it’s a chair. I can clean it.”
I sat there blinking for a moment, both stunned and irritated. If I weren’t so grateful to have a warm place to sit and be safe from the mutant wolf, I wouldn’t have let the incident go without saying something. But I was exhausted, shivery, and in pain.
I rubbed my hands together to get warm, with teeth chattering and fingertips still burning a little. “It’s July. Why is it still so damn cold outside?” I grumbled.
Ignoring my question, he demanded, “What in the hell is that on your feet?”
I peered up and saw Quinn standing over me again with a scowl on his face as he gazed down at my ruined footwear. It had taken me forever to save up for these designer boots, and now they were destroyed.
“Three paychecks of buttery Italian leather,” I admitted.
Quinn huffed in annoyance before leaning down to grab my foot.
I stiffened. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Taking off these ridiculous things.” He yanked off one boot before I could protest, startling me with his deftness.
His huge, callused hands enveloped my chilled foot, sending a tingling electric warmth racing up my leg. The foot massage left me lolling in my chair. My entire body swayed in time to the tender pressure of his fingers and palms on my foot as the pain and cold retreated. Frankly, it was weird that this giant of a man was rubbing my feet with all the attentiveness of a lover. But I didn’t give a shit as long as he didn’t stop.
Please don’t stop.
My eyes slid closed, with everything in me focusing on the amazing sensation. They popped open when a low growl sound reached my ears.
“Was that you?” I squeaked.
He coughed. “Yes. Allergies.” He gently dropped my foot and grabbed the other, pulling off my other boot. This time, as Quinn rubbed the circulation back into my toes, I tried to distract myself by looking around.
The place was a little more rustic than I was used to, but everything about it spoke of expensive high quality. Heavy timber furniture, saddle-leather upholstery, thick log walls with contrasting soft, rich fabrics, and a variety of forged iron reliefs.
Fascinated, I stared at the artwork above the fireplace—it was a forged relief depicting three wolves, a jaguar, lion, tiger, and a bear, gathered around a raging fire like it was some sort of social event.
A moment later, I heard quick steps and then saw the older woman returning.
“Here you go, dear.” She bundled a big, fluffy white towel around my shoulders. The woman lifted a well-manicured brow at Quinn, who abruptly stopped rubbing my feet and moved slightly away from me.
I grabbed the towel gratefully to rub it over my wet hair. “Thank you,” I replied softly.
“It’s no trouble,” she chirped. “I’m worried about that bump on your head. We don’t have any pain medication, but maybe a bag of cold peas pressed against it will fix it right up.”
“It’s okay,” I answered. “I’m more concerned about warming up.”
I liked the woman immediately because of the way she hovered with worry like a mother. The maternal care was foreign to me but welcomed. It was something I’d never experienced when I was young and growing up, bouncing from one foster home to another.
“You said you got directions?” the woman requested.
I cleared my throat. “Yes. I’m here for a job interview. I followed the directions as best I could, but unfortunately, I just didn’t make it that far.”
Quinn stared at me with a confused expression.
The woman’s brows furrowed slightly. “That’s strange.” She tilted her head, inspecting me. “What’s your name, dear?” she asked. “And who gave you the directions?”
“My name is Imani Parker. I came here to be interviewed for an executive chef position at a bed-and-breakfast owned by a woman named Piper Bane.”
Quinn and the woman exchanged startled looks before the woman offered a smile that looked a little forced. “Well, I’m Piper Bane. And I own a bed-and-breakfast that needs an executive chef. So maybe we can talk about that once you’ve recovered.”
“Wait.” I darted my eyes between the two of them. “You mean I actually made it to the right place?”
How the hell did I even do that?