She smiled, a bright burst of light in dimples and dark-brown eyes. It hit him like a punch to the gut and rocked him to his boot heels. He could get used to seeing that every day, he thought as she took off like a shot, as usual, to the house to change her clothes. Someone ought to tie her down. But he was afraid if someone did, her impatient energy would drill a hole straight to China.
Two hours later Hayley drove back up the long gravel lane in his sedan. A Mercedes sedan, she thought, running her hand over the leather-covered steering wheel. The corporate car, he'd called it. It looked as if it had never been used. Even smelled new—and expensive. But then, he could afford to be extravagant. Before she and the twins had left, he'd told her to charge all she needed on his credit line, and anyone else might have been tempted to go hog-wild. But Hayley had pinched pennies for too long to go loose now.
She frowned when she pulled into the spot nearest the house and realized her car was missing. Climbing out, she shooed the girls inside and went to the trunk for the groceries. She had two sacks in her arms when Nash, on a beautiful chestnut stallion, rode down from the hill. He stopped on the edge of the driveway, and she tried not to notice how sexy he looked.
"Where's my car?" she asked.
"I had it towed."
Her gaze narrowed and she cocked her head. "Excuse me?"
"It's a piece of junk and dangerous, Hayley."
"And it's my piece of junk, not yours."
"If you're worried about your things, I had them delivered to your room."
How good of His Lordship, she thought. "It's my car, Nash."
His brow knitted. "Lurlene is held together with tape, panty hose and gum, darlin'. Give her a decent burial and get another."
"If I could afford one, don't you think I would be driving it?"
"I'll buy you one, then."
Instantly she dumped the bags back in the trunk.
"Get down off that horse so I can yell at you right proper." She pointed to the ground in case he misunderstood.
Smothering a smile, he swung down, tugging the fingers of his gloves as he walked closer.
She was in his face. "I don't need your charity, Nash Rayburn. And I resent the hell out of you taking charge of my car."
"If you want it back, I'll just make a call."
Her anger withered a bit. "Yes, I do. You do that. Right now."
He nudged his hat back. "I was only trying to help."
"You were manipulating. Doing what you damn well please because you have the money. Here's a novel approach," she said, wide-eyed and sarcastic. "How about asking me how I feel?"
"You would have said no."
"But you went ahead, pretty as you please."
"I can't have you driving that thing."
His superior look made her want to kick him. "Why? An embarrassment to you?"
"No, dammit, you could get hurt."
She held his gaze steadily, yet her voice wavered. "Any more than I already have been shouldn't matter to you, Nash."
She turned away and grabbed the grocery bags, sidestepping out of his reach when he tried to help.
"Don't talk to me till Lurlene is sitting next your stuck-up sedan!"
She didn't talk to him. She wouldn't even acknowledge him at dinner until the tow truck pulled away. And then she just gave him a "Don't try that again or you'll be sorry" glare and headed into the house, his five-year-old traitors tucked by her side.
He looked at the rusted blue two-door coupe. Then he kicked it. The bumper fell off the back.
"I saw that!" came a voice from the house, and Nash had to smile. Having Hayley Albright around certainly made life interesting. Again.
* * *
He'd been fine.
Just damn fine, controlling his desire for her, avoiding her when he wanted to touch her so badly. Until he'd walked around the back of the house, purely by chance to look for his misplaced pocket knife, and saw her naked.
Well, almost naked.
Bare-chested, Nash slammed the ax into the wood, its splintering crack vibrating over the hillside.
She might as well have been naked for all the skin that bathing suit hid.
He kept his back to the house and put another log on the stump, bringing the ax down again. Then another and another, until the waistband of his jeans was drenched with sweat. It didn't do a damn thing for the unsatisfied desire running heavily through his blood.
He split another log, then threw down the ax, and stacked the wood for curing till winter. He didn't look toward the house or the pool deck. Because she was there. In a hot pink bikini. Tonga style. He closed his eyes and briefly shook his head. He was in real danger and hoped the ranch hands didn't get a look at all that flesh.