Nash stopped in the front hall, catching a glimpse of her through the kitchen to where she sat at the counter. His chest clenched. She was crying. He loved her so much, but the inevitable still hovered like a dark cloud, threatening their happiness. He didn't want to see her so miserable. It hurt him that he might be pushing her without even realizing it. But he couldn't help it. He wanted her, and deep inside he wanted her to put him before her damned career.
Her quiet sobs came to him, driving their torment deeper. He cursed timing and circumstances and her stubbornness that kept them from a future. And he decided that he needed to do something about it and fast. Time was getting away from them.
That night Nash made her forget. He showered her with attention, offering her champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries, feeding her himself and playing games with the dark chocolate and then swimming naked with her in the pool. He made love to her under the midnight stars until she was breathless and begging him to stop. And then he loved her some more. He held her all night, unable to sleep for a secret feeling that if he did, she'd be gone when he awoke.
Hayley walked the long corridor of the barn. "Okay, boss-man. Horses are watered, that ornery stallion is prancing like a king in the paddock, and the chickens are fed. What next?"
"Wanna roll in the hay?" Nash said as she approached him. He tossed a forkful of hay into the stall.
She propped her shoulder on the wall and regarded him. Snug-fitting jeans showed off his trim hips, and that black T-shirt stretching over his muscled chest made her want to strip him naked and play with all that man lying beneath. But since the ranch hands had the day off, they had chores to do first.
She cocked her head and gave him a saucy smile. "You just want to ride something else besides a horse."
He grinned. "Now there's a thought." He bent and kissed her, snaking his arm around her and pulling her flush against him.
"I still have the pigs to feed."
His brow knitted. "Be careful," he warned.
"I'll just toss the grub and run."
He smiled, pecked her cheek, then let her go. "Git, then. I have plans for you later."
"Something I might enjoy?" She stepped toward the entrance.
He looked her over, long and hot. "So far you have."
"That's not what you said this morning."
She blushed. She'd awoken this morning from a fantastically erotic dream, aroused and hungry for him, and realized just as he'd pushed his body into hers that it wasn't a dream. "You took the advantage," she said.
"Guilty, darlin' guilty," he replied without remorse. "You lying next to me, all bare and rosy, was too much of a temptation."
Hayley was tempted to strip right then and there and tempt him again, since he looked so on edge. His eyes smoldered and her body pulsed with life. "How much longer?" she found herself asking.
"Another hour maybe."
She glanced at her watch. "Meet me on the veranda for lunch?"
His gaze slid over her. "I ought to be mighty hungry by then."
"I wasn't talking about food."
"Neither was I."
Laughing, she dashed out of the barn and headed to the pig sty. Threatening to make them into pork chops, she fed the beasts, then returned to the house. After a quick dip in the pool to cool off, she showered and slipped into gauzy dark blue slacks and a loose blouse. She looked forward to spending the day with him, and after running a load of laundry, she prepared lunch and waited.
Frowning at the time, she walked through the house, calling to him, and getting no answer, she left the house. Halfway to the barn, she heard a strange howl. She ran to the breeding barn, her bare feet slapping on the concrete floor.
She found him in a sanitized-looking stall with a mare. The animal's belly was full and moving, and Hayley realized, she was about to give birth. The fourth one since she'd arrived.
"Okay," she said. "I forgive you for being late. Want me to call the vet?"
He didn't glance up. "Already did. She's on her way, but there's no time." He looked up at her. "I need your help, honey."
She blinked at him, then the horse. "You're kidding, right?"
He shook his head. "Come on, baby, you're a doc. You can do this."
She stepped into the stall, grabbing a heavy vinyl apron to cover her clothes. "Tell me what to do."
"My hands are too big and she needs help."
Hayley nodded and knelt to examine the horse. "A hoof is caught and it's going to tear the uterus."
"That's what I was afraid of. Damn. I'd hate to lose this one."
It was a half-million-dollar horse, Hayley knew, and for a second she wondered if Nash cared about the expense or the animal. Then she saw him stroke the mare, whisper to her in soft cooing tones and she knew better.