Being a hero can be a police officer or military man or bodyguard putting their life on the line, saving people. But sometimes it’s the little things that make a guy heroic. Especially if you’ve been on the road for 16 hours and come home, exhausted, to find an empty house, uncleaned stables, and hungry and thirsty horses. Especially after your truck’s broken down…
Copyright © 2010* by Leah Braemel
Dillon hopped out, walked around the front of the truck and opened her door, holding his hand out to help her down. The moment their palms touched, a spark of electricity pulsed between them. Nikki stared at their joined hands then looked up to find Dillon watching her, desire bright in his eyes. His thumb swept over the pad at the base of her thumb. The spark between them shot straight up her arm and spread out like fork lightning to every part of her body.
“Why don’t I help you get Bashir settled in?”
I’d rather you helped me settle in for the night.
Flustered at how her body softened just from imagining cuddling up to him, Nikki nodded and slid out from the truck. Instead of letting go of her once her feet were on the ground, he slammed the door shut and walked with her to the back of the trailer, her hand still in his.
Once there, he had to release her so she could unlock the door. She backed her newest acquisition out the trailer and led him toward the barn, concentrating on where she was putting her feet along the rutted path.
A two-pitched bray started up from the pasture and a donkey trotted out from the ink-black night and butted his nose into Nikki’s stomach.
“Hey, Merlin, you miss me?” Chuckling, she stopped to scratch behind his ears.
“He acts like he hasn’t seen you in a couple weeks.” Dillon reached out and scratched the other side of the donkey’s neck. “Heya, buddy. How you doin’?”
Merlin quickly abandoned Nikki, switching his attention to Dillon.
“Traitor,” she muttered.
Throwing the latch on the barn, she opened the door and was nearly knocked over by her part-mastiff, part German shepherd. The huge dog barked and ran circles around her before haring off across the fields. “Rascal? What were you doing locked in the barn?”
Shaking her head, she led Bashir into the barn and switched on the light. “Oh, shit! Phil, you lazy ass.”
“Mmm, shit is about right.” Dillon gestured to her oldest mare Witness’s stall. “Looks like no one’s cleaned out for a couple of days.”
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Dillon frowned as the mare at first balked then limped from the stall. “From the way she’s movin’, I’m bettin’ he hasn’t given the poor old girl her meds today.”
Cursing her brother, Nikki tied up the mare by the door and checked the other horses. “Crap. None of them have any water. All the buckets are dry.”
A check of the feed room had her swearing even harder. “Damn it, there are as many feed bags as when I left.” She wheeled back to face Dillon and found him watching her again. His eyes swept down her in a slow glide. The track of his gaze branded every inch it touched as if he were staking a claim.
“I-I must have told him a dozen times he needed to check the troughs and make sure they had enough water.” She wasn’t imagining the look he’d just given her, not this time. She forced herself to concentrate instead of indulging in the fantasy Dillon Barnett might actually be interested— sexually—in her. As if he would be thinking about sex in the heat and the stench of the barn. “It looks like he hasn’t done anything since I left.”
Between the two of them, they cleaned out Witness’s stall. Dillon disposed of the soiled bedding and replaced it with fresh straw while Nikki filled first the water bucket, then stuffed a hay bag and hung it in the corner. Once the mare was back in place and munching on the fresh hay, Nikki checked the horse’s swollen joints. “I swear some days I want to just hit that lazy brother of mine up the back of the head. You’d think he’d be glad to be living with me instead of in a halfway house with a bunch of strangers.”
“Yeah, well, Phil doesn’t seem to like getting off his keister unless someone’s prodding his sorry ass with a pitchfork. I say we march up to the house and make him come down and muck out while we watch.”
Straightening, Nikki turned her attention from the mare and watched Dillon, who was working on the next stall. The barn still held the day’s heat, so he’d ditched his shirt. The muscles of his back rippled as he dug into the soiled bedding with the pitchfork then hefted it into a wheelbarrow. The overhead light glistened off a bead of sweat at the top of his neck. Nikki forced air into her lungs as the bead trickled down over his spine, disappearing into his jeans.
*HARLEQUIN COVER ART: Cover Art Copyright© 2010/2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. © and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.
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