Nicki leaned against the fence, watching the newborn in the corral with his mother. She sighed and tried to pinpoint what she was feeling. Contentment, she decided. She finally felt semi-safe for the first time in a month of being on the run. Although she feared she would never be truly safe again. Not as long as the man she was hiding from still lived and breathed. At least she could allow herself to relax just a little bit here at the farm.
She was about as far from New York as she could get. Who would think to look for her buried away here in the Deep South on a small horse-breeding farm? Certainly not the thick-necked imbecile she'd run from. As long as the Gordon family accepted her without question, and continued to pay her in cash and give her a place to live, she was set. She could drop off the radar indefinitely.
The colt walked slowly up to the fence and nuzzled her hand. She ran her hand over him. "You are such a sweetie."
"Why thank you, darlin'."
The deep voice caused Nicki to startle. She let out a squeak of fear, spooking the colt. He took off running for his mother.
She turned to look at the stranger, heart pounding until she saw his face. He was so much like the other two Gordon brothers, right down to the way he stood and talked, she knew who he was immediately. Relieved and feeling a little silly for thinking her enemies could find her all the way out here, she smiled in greeting. "You must be Jack."
He raised a brow. "I must be. You know me, but who might you be, darlin'?"
Mmm, mmm. How she loved the way southern men sounded. So much nicer than the horrid accents she'd grown up around in New York. The accents from the five boroughs of New York City and Long Island made her cringe. But a southern man could practically make a girl's panties fall right off just by talking to her.
She nearly shook herself to regain her senses. This was no time to be thinking about romance, or sex, or whatever this feeling was that Jack caused. She was in hiding. Besides that, this particular Gordon man was only here temporarily from what she'd heard. Good thing too. He was much too yummy and tempting to have around for very long. She sure did like the way he called her darlin' though.
"I'm Nicki." She offered him her hand.
His handshake was warm and slow. But then, everything in the south seemed warm and slow. She imagined what else might be warm and slow with him...
"Nicki...?" He apparently wanted her to elaborate.
"Camp. Nicki Camp." The guilt of the lie hit her hard. Did it show as obviously on her face as it felt on her tongue? If it did sound like a lie to him, the expression on Jack's face didn't show it.
He was still holding her hand in his big, strong one when he crooned, "Nice to meet you, Nicki Camp."
Slightly shaky, she pulled her hand back and then glanced up at his face again. His hair was a bit more golden brown than his brothers', and his hazel eyes had flecks of green and gold in them. Stop it, Niccolina. She was in no position to be checking this guy out. No matter how cute and charming he was.
"So what brings you here to Pigeon Hollow, Miss Nicki Camp? You don't sound like a local girl."
Nicki considered her answer carefully. She didn't think she had a New York accent. As a teenager, she'd worked damn hard to make sure of that. It had been important to her then because she'd wanted to sound more sophisticated. It was even more important now. It was a matter of life and death that no one knew where she was from. But Jack was right. She didn't sound like a native southerner. She didn't think she could pull that off no matter how many times she watched Gone with the Wind.
"Oh, you know. Just seeing the country." Yeah, that didn't sound too lame.
He took one step closer, and she resisted the urge to take a step back as he towered over her.
"Well, I sure am glad you decided to settle here for a bit." He smiled as his eyes twinkled.
Another few minutes of this onslaught of charm and Nicki didn't know what she'd do. Thank goodness, Jared chose that moment to interrupt them. Otherwise, she may have swooned like in all those old movies where southern men made the belle of the ball faint.
"Steer clear of my help before you scare her away." Jared shot Jack a stern look, and then smiled and winked in her direction.
She decided to make a joke of her own and get the hell out of there before Jack wedged her any farther between him and the fence. "Not much scares me, except my boss finding me loafing around not doing my job. I better get back to it."