She found him sitting on the back veranda. She stepped out onto the patio, her eyes widening at the meal laid out. Candles, chilling wine and heavenly smelling food under those silver domes. "If you tell me you whipped this up, I quit, and you can take over the cooking."
He stood, pulling out a chair for her. "Not a chance. It's catered."
Her brows rose. "My, my."
"I figured you needed the break and I'm starved." Besides, he thought, he didn't want her to feel as if she had to cook, and the last thing he wanted was her attention diverted.
She slid into the chair, sighing deeply. She tipped her head back, staring at the stars as he poured her a glass of wine. "It's almost sinful doing this."
He eyed her. "You aren't going to refuse, are you?"
She shook her head as he pressed the goblet in her hand. "Of course not. I was going to suggest takeout or delivery."
"When was the last time you pampered yourself?"
Her forehead knitted.
"Can't remember, can you?" His expression was a little too assured for her liking. "Don't you think its about time?"
"I never had the money or the time, Nash, you know it."
He inched his chair closer, uncovering the meal. "I know, darlin', but for the next couple of days, just think of nothing but relaxing." And being with me, he thought.
She straightened in the chair, the aroma of food making her mouth water. "Sounds like a plan, and you don't have to tell me twice." She forked a bite of veal. "This was really sweet of you."
"I didn't do it to be sweet."
She glanced up, the bite halfway to her mouth. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Rayburn?"
His lips quirked. "Would it work?"
She smiled slightly. "Boy, is that a loaded question." She ate.
"Don't answer then, just let me dream."
His low tone made her skin go warm, the heat of it offering memories and a promise of more. She met his gaze. The air between them simmered with suppressed sexuality, melting away the barriers he'd struggled to erase all day. They dined and sipped wine, discussed politics, the twins, the ranch. They got into a heated debate over fertility and cloning, and Nash finally had to concede to her views. She was fighter, battling for the human race, and he was only seeing the way to breed a faster stronger horse.
God, he loved her mind.
And he wanted to love her body.
Relaxing in his chair, he couldn't take his gaze off her. The breeze lifted her red curls. She looked sated, her eyes closed, a small curiously private smile curving her lips. He squashed his need to pull her onto his lap and just shifted closer, facing her, then bent down to lift her feet onto his lap. She spared him a glance. He pulled off her sandals and massaged her feet. She moaned, going limp.
"Come with me," he said.
"For a ride."
She opened one eye.
"On my horse. What a trashy mind."
He provoked it, she thought. "Isn't it dangerous at night?"
"The moon is full and I know this land like I know my own hand."
"Go get your beast, Rayburn. I'll wait here."
He stood. "You aren't going to fall asleep on me, are you?"
"Just getting my second wind, honest." She waved, sinking into the chair.
Nash left and Hayley sighed. Relax. Enjoy it, she told herself. You'll soon be gone, and like everything else, you'll regret it if you don't. A few minutes later her ears pricked to the sound of hooves. She watched as he rode the horse across the patio, the sight somehow incredibly romantic. She stood up when he stopped in front of her, holding out his hand.
"There's no saddle," she said.
"Just put your foot on top of mine." He flicked his fingers. "I'll do the rest."
She grasped his hand, looking skeptical.
"Trust me, Hayley." Her gaze locked with his. "I won't let anything hurt you."
The words were soft, his look tender and holding more meaning than she wanted to see. Oh this is dangerous, she thought and put her foot atop his. He hauled her up before him.
"This is cool," she said with a glance back.
"It gets better."
He urged the horse into a canter, and they raced across the hill, heading for the line of trees a hundred yards away. Hayley laughed, and he gripped her tightly, leaning over the horse's neck with her. The moon shone brightly, turning everything silver, and as he headed into the trees, she tensed.
"It's okay," he said close to her ear. "Trust me."
Her body relaxed with each step and she sagged back against him as he maneuvered the horse through the forest. There must be a path, she thought, but she couldn't see one in the dark. Just when she thought the trees would shut out the moonlight completely, the beams speared through the branches, coloring the ground.