Jessie watched Nate hobble from the barn to the main house, the limp he’d developed after his tumble from Diablo growing worse with each passing day. And even though she’d managed to avoid him since their encounter at the park, she couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he’d been doing a little avoiding himself.
Sitting on the porch swing, the late evening sun warming her face, she stared after his retreating figure.
Enough was enough. If she didn’t make the first move now, she might never have the guts or the chance to face him again. She pushed herself from the chair, flexed her fingers as she sauntered across the yard. Nervousness tightened her stomach, dampened her palms. Rapping her knuckles against the frame of the screen door, she waited and worried. Would Nate slam the door in her face?
God, she’d missed him. A day and a half without seeing him and it felt like an eternity. His tall frame filled the tiny entranceway, expected, yet unexpected, taking her breath away.
She forced a smile, self-conscious, uncertain, feeling suddenly foolish. “Howdy, neighbor.”
“Everything all right at home? How’s Maude doing?”
“As well as can be expected. George was here to see her again this morning. Did you know he calls you his bread-and-butter patient?” Another grin escaped, this one more relaxed. “Are you hiding from him, Nate? Chicken he might decide you need one of his monstrous needles up your—”
“I’ve been busy, Jess. We’re mending fences up in the north pasture.”
His face was shadowed in the dim hallway, but she’d have to be blind not to notice the firm clench to his jaw, the rigid stance that screamed stay away. Well, too bad. She wasn’t staying away any longer. She couldn’t. In fact, she wasn’t leaving till she got a whole lot closer than they were right now. She dragged the door open. Nate stepped back, caught himself, his gaze narrowing on her face, guarded, wary.
“I think you made a mistake, Jess.”
Amused by his unexpected nervousness, her own eased. “How’s that?”
“You live down the lane. Remember? Want me to show you the way home?”
When she stepped inside and let the screen door bang shut behind her, he took another step back, caught himself again and froze. “What are you doing here?”
“We’ve known each other a long time now, haven’t we, Nate?”
Her voice softened to a purr. “I used to watch you do your John Wayne swagger after football practice. You fooled everyone but me.”
His brows lowered into a frown. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, you do.” She stepped closer, pleased when he didn’t shift away, and stopped only inches from his chest. “But tonight, you look a might too painful for even that.”
His mouth barely moved. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not.”
Jessie slid her arms around his waist and pressed her fingers into the stiff muscles of his lower back. Nate jumped like a steer being branded, clamped his hands on her shoulders and squeezed, gentle but firm enough to make her cautious.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to give you a massage...like I used to.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish