Geez, he makes as good a cowboy as he does a businessman.

Turning up the volume, she listened. “…along with his family at Drake Realty Plus, has created over fifty new jobs in the construction industry. And every holiday season their turkey-and-trimmings giveaway helps families in need. For over fifty years, in Paradise Cove the Drake name has been synonymous with helping people and making progress. As your mayor, Niko Drake plans to continue this legacy.”

The image dissolved from one of the rolling hills of Paradise Valley, to an area of farmland bordering Paradise Cove, to one of Niko perched casually on his desk. He wore a black suit with matching tie and a smile.

“Hello. I’m Niko Drake. And I approve this message.”

Monique didn’t even realize that she’d leaned forward until she had to sit back. He’s extremely photogenic. That ad for him works perfectly. She had no doubt that more female votes were garnered every time it ran.

“That’s what I need, a public service announcement.”

Reaching for her phone, she quickly tapped the screen showing his number. As always, simply hearing his voice did things to her body and mind. “Hello, beautiful.”

“Good morning, Niko.”

“Whoa! Is it? You sound horrible.”

“My campaign manager just said the same thing.”

“Do you need for me to bring you anything? Orange juice maybe, or soup?”

“That’s nice of you, but no, I’ll be all right.”

“What do you have over there for that cold, or flu, or whatever it is?”

“I took the last of my Alka-Seltzer Plus last night. I’ll get some more when I go out later this afternoon.”

“No, you won’t. Give me an hour and I’ll be over.”

“You don’t know my address.”

“You’re going to tell me.”

“Niko, why do we keep having this conversation? This is a small town. You know how I feel about our being linked socially.”

“I’ll disguise myself as a deliveryman and be there in an hour.”

Her laugh turned into a coughing fit.

“I won’t take no for an answer.”

Begrudingly, she gave her address. “But, Niko, wait.”

He didn’t. She called his name again and was answered by dead air.

“Just great,” she moaned, dragging herself off the couch. With company coming over, the least she could do was jump in the shower and put on some clothes.

On second thought, given who was getting ready to darken her doorstep and donning attire…maybe not.

Chapter 17

Just a little over an hour later, her doorbell rang. She threw back the knitted afghan that covered her and padded over to the door. Her eyes narrowed as she looked out of her peephole. After another look, she opened the door.

“You’re crazy,” she said by way of greeting. She stepped aside to let him in.

“How’d I do?”

Niko stood in front of her wearing a tan workman’s shirt, tan slacks, tennis shoes and a baseball cap. For him he was dressed down, but nothing could mask the tall, lean body and, now that he’d taken off his sunglasses, those sexy, dark eyes.

“I guess you could pass for a repairman if one didn’t get too close.” They stepped inside her living room. “How’d you get here? That fancy sports car that was parked in your garage?”

“No, a man on a worker’s salary couldn’t afford that. I borrowed one of my employee’s vehicles.”

“What does he drive?”

“A ’94 Jeep.”

Monique stood there shaking her head. She looked at the bag he held. “What’s all in there?”

“Stuff to make you feel better.” He walked into her kitchen as if he owned it, setting down the bag and pulling out its contents. “This is the best chicken noodle soup in town.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“My mama’s kitchen.”

Monique stepped over and pulled off the lid. She was immediately assailed by the smell of spices, and steam wafting up from the still-warm broth. “Yum,” she said as she sniffed. “Your mother made this?”

“Her chef did.” He continued pulling out products. “Here we have orange juice, fresh lemons, honey, cayenne pepper—”