She made a face at him, her hands on her hips. "Why didn't you tell me the twins were going to their grandmother's for the week?"

Nash shrugged, pulling the horse into the stall. "Slipped my mind."

"Your daughters are leaving, them being the reason you hired me, I might add, and it slipped your mind?"

"Yes, Hayley, it did." Stooping, he checked the animal's legs. "I have an international auction to prepare for. People will be coming and going for the next several days, getting starting bids, categorizing stock. I simply forgot. The girls usually spend two weeks with my mom around this time of year."

She cocked her head. "Then you don't need me anymore."

His insides clenched. "Far from it." He straightened, meeting her gaze. "I still need a cook and a housekeeper."

"But—"

He gave her a bland look, all business right now. "Is that a problem?"

"No, it's just that—"

"The girls were a nice barrier, right? You didn't have to deal with me directly with them between us."

"That's not true." It was and she knew it.

He ducked under the horse's neck, pausing to secure the leads to the bridle before he faced her. "Are you afraid to be alone with me?"

She scoffed, meeting his gaze. "You are the last person who scares me, Nash."

"Good, then we can just relax."

Relax. Right. If she was any more relaxed, she'd snap in two.

"Okay, so what do they need me to pack for them?"

"Why don't you call Mom and ask?"

"No."

He frowned. "Why not?"

"Because, well, you know—" she waved distractedly "—she knows about us."

He smirked. "I thought you weren't afraid?"

She wasn't. Not at all. Except that getting to know his mother, his family, was stepping over the line. Especially if she wanted to keep the lines clear. "Okay, fine. I'll call." She did an about-face and strode down the long corridor between the stalls. "But if she asks, I'm gonna tell her all the things you did when you were living in Georgia."

"The things I did or we did?"

She stopped short, then threw a look back over her shoulder.

He grinned.

"Then again, I ought to ask her all the things you did before we met."

"Go right ahead. I have no secrets." Not anymore, he thought.

Her brow worked for a second before she turned away.

His mother didn't know she was here. And Nash was looking forward to the moment when the two women met. And hoping he gained an ally.

They were ganging up on her.

"Nash's Hayley? Hayley Albright?" The shock in Mrs. Rayburn's voice made Hayley smile.

"Yes, ma'am," she said into the phone.

"I thought you were a doctor."

"I am. I'm working through my leave time before I continue my residency."

"Oh." A pause and then, "You didn't know this Wife Incorporated assignment was at River Willow, did you?"

The sympathy in her tone touched a needy spot in Hayley. "No, ma'am."

"Bet that was a shock." She laughed, a rich sound, as if she did it often.

"Oh, you could say that. I think Kat Davenport was playing matchmaker."

"She always did have a devilish streak, that girl. How is she, by the way?"

"Doing well. I haven't actually laid eyes on her in about seven months, ma'am."

"Stop ma'aming me, Hayley. Makes me feel ancient. Call me Grace."

Hayley relaxed for the first time since she'd dialed Nash's mother's phone number. "Okay, Grace, give me a rough idea of what I need to pack for the twins." Hayley listened and made a list. The girls came into the kitchen, and when they started to talk, Hayley motioned to the phone, then told them to hush before she went back to writing. "Got it. Tomorrow morning after breakfast. Sure, no problem. They're dancing around me right now."

Hayley handed Kate the phone and the pair, their faces pressed together, talked to their grandmother. They asked a dozen questions and made plans as Hayley went into the laundry room to do another load and make certain their jeans were clean for taking to Grace's place.

"She's so cool, Grandma," Kate said.

"We played dress-up and went swimming, and tonight we get to have a bubble bath," Kim said as if they'd be getting gold, instead of getting wet.

Hayley turned on the washer, not wanting to hear what the girls said, not wanting to love them, but she knew it was hopeless. She adored them, and knowing they'd be gone tomorrow made her throat constrict. She wouldn't get to see them again before she left for St. Anthony's hospital.

"Miss Hayley?"

She turned. Kim held out the phone. Hayley took it, saying, "Anything else we need to know?"

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