Faint plumes of breath puffed from Sunny’s nostrils as he nickered his gratitude for the fresh water and hay Jared placed in his stall. The smart buckskin pawed the barn floor and knocked a hoof against the wooden wall. Jared gave Sunny a blank stare, then chuckled and doubled back to give the horse the attention he expected.
“Sorry about that, Sun. I got a lot on my mind this mornin.’” Jared gave his friend an affectionate pat on the neck. Sunny nudged Jared with his velvety nose then took the brim of Jared’s cowboy hat in his teeth and playfully tugged it down over his eyes.
“I know, I know,” Jared snickered, righting his hat. He tousled Sunny’s mane as the horse turned to his breakfast. “But I got a lot going on. On top of everything else, Ma goes and drags another stray home, and this time it’s not some scraggly kitten or homeless puppy.” He turned to look out the barn doors toward the house, leaned a shoulder against the stall post. “Nope. This one’s all kinds of different from the usual,” Jared said more to himself than the horse.
He’d thought things would look different in the light of a new day. As it turned out, he hadn’t gotten much sleep, thanks to the attractive guest snuggled up in bed in the big house. At least, that’s how he’d pictured Jessica spending her night, and it was maddening he couldn’t keep his thoughts off of her. His attraction to a complete stranger didn’t make sense, but it was entirely physical, and he could control that. Couldn’t he?
Doby and Daisy’s barks pulled Jared from his brooding. The rumble of a truck engine and the crunch of tires on dirt-and-gravel came a moment later. A heavy door slammed, and Jared shoved himself upright to head outside. But he stopped in his tracks when a slender brunette came around the corner and into the barn.
“Just the man I was looking for,” she said, a delighted smile spreading across her pretty face.
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