Nestled within the hills of central Texas is a special ranch. A place that defies the laws of physics—that of time, space, and dimensions. It’s a place where normal morphs with the paranormal and supernatural. A place that seems to know what a person’s true desires and needs are, and then allows the right circumstances to occur to fulfill those wishes.Welcome to the Gateway Ranch.Your gateway to all things possible…
As Gavin made sure they were secured behind the gates with plenty of water and some hay and feed, I strolled down the center walkway. Two horses had been left behind from the morning’s rides, but they didn’t seem too upset. I cooed at them as I passed by. When I arrived at the end, I peeked down the left row and the right one, taking in all the tack and saddles hanging on the wall and lining the workbenches on either side of a few doorways.
“Ari? You okay?”
“Yes, just being nosy,” I replied and turned to head back over to Gavin, who happened to be leaning up against one of the empty stalls next to the horse, Ebony, I’d ridden. He’d hooked his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans and had one booted foot up against the door. The tilt of his head and hat cast shadows, nicely shading the angles and planes of his face. Dust from the trail coated his boots and some of his clothes.
Perfectly rugged and sexy.
The artist in me wished I’d brought sketching materials along so I could capture the moment. Or better yet have kept my phone on me. I could have snapped a picture and then painted him later in the privacy of my own space where I could let my fantasies flow free.
A slight movement on his part revealed his eyes. The intense, direct stare of his gaze made me question my decision to roam the building. Unsure of the nearby exits, I glanced away from him and closed my eyes.
I had to fight the panic sprouting within me. Ever since childhood, when my friends and I almost couldn’t escape a theater during an emergency, not knowing escape routes tended to give me anxiety. Chad hadn’t helped either. When his treatment grew rougher, I always tried to make sure I had a way to leave. Not knowing if a doorway leading to the outside was behind me or not made me antsy.
Gavin’s not that lying cheater Chad. Gavin wouldn’t hurt me.
But did I really know that for sure?
Slowly, I turned my head and opened my eyes. An empty stall containing what looked to be fresh hay sitting in a pile in the back corner caught my attention. The ground appeared to have been cleaned.
Fighting the urge to run, I looked back at him.
His gaze had grown passionate, and his lips had curled into a rakish smile.
My heart fluttered. My knees went weak. The atmosphere seemed electrified.
Any hints of anxiety were swept away due to the sensual magnetism pulsating between us, and all my thoughts fled. Save for one.
What would it be like to have a roll in the hay?
The hard composite of her firearm shifted against her lower back.
Well, if push comes to shove, I can protect myself. I’ll shoot the bastard if he shows up and tries anything.
Eventually, her nerves calmed enough so she could move without feeling ill.
She rose and stripped out of her clothes, put her weapon on the counter, then stepped into the shower. The hard and hot spray beat on her, helping her to feel something other than worry about potential rumors or her ex finding her. Kat bowed her head, placed her hands above the faucets. The water sluiced down her hair, cascaded in wide streams over her back. More time passed. Relaxed and clear headed, she finished her shower and was about to open the door when a thud and click sounded on the other side.
Gripping the towel wrapped around her body, she snatched her weapon, opened the door, and cautiously looked out into the room.
Dakota lounged on the bed, one leg bent, his hat propped on that leg’s knee. His hair stuck up in clumpy spikes. He ran a dirty hand through his dark brown locks.
Kat released a pent-up breath, lowered her weapon, and placed the Glock on a counter next to the bathroom door. “How’d you get in here?”
Tired eyes gazed at her. “I’m manager on duty while the Taggerts are away, ’member? Got a bunch of master keys.” Dak held up the ring of them. “You okay? When you didn’t come back, I got worried.”
“I’m fine. I think the humidity got to me. Along with the dirt.”
“Sure. The humidity. You tell me that you’re afraid a man is going to come after you, or rather us. We hear about the vehicle. You turn white as one of our ghosts and run off. Who was in the car, Kat?”
“Hell if I know. I’ve been with you all day. I didn’t see the fancy black car or who was in it.”
“You don’t have a clue as to who was in the car? I’m not buying it.”
“Buy it or don’t.” She crossed her arms over her stomach. “I really don’t know. It could have been Nero. It could have been his goons. It could have been a neighbor of yours or one of the party guests Kent mentioned. I. Wasn’t. There. I. Didn’t. See.”
Dakota flung himself off the bed and slammed the hat on his head. “Get dressed. You’ll come with me while I get cleaned up then we’ll go hang out in the rec hall.”
“You know what, Dak? I appreciate the Boy Scout approach, and how you’re trying to get a merit badge for babysitting, but all I want is to lie down and take a nap.”
“Kat, please. I’m hot, dirty, and tired. I don’t want to argue.” He strode to the door. “Get dressed so we can get going.” His gaze flashed darkly, roamed over her with an appraising glance. A slow grin tipped up the corner of his lips.