she cut a look to the rearview mirror.
made a face.
place is because I talk about these things openly with my readers. Bad dates,
bad job interviews, bad—”
under her breasts, and glanced out the side window to sulk. Rolling bright
green hills, acres of fields, and thick wooded areas passed by. The sky
overhead was a rich blue and cloudless, and sun beat through the car windows,
warming her arm despite the blasting air conditioning. Still, the beautiful
June day did nothing to brighten her sour mood.
seat as he glanced back at her. His auburn hair stuck up in all directions, and
Dani had to suppress the urge—again—to offer him a comb. He shifted, leaning
his tall, broad frame back in the seat which was already pushed far back to
give him leg room. “Discussing the threats publicly could trigger him.”
life? For how long? There was a big “ON HIATUS” notice at the top of her blog
now. As of this morning, it had nine hundred and thirteen comments, and she
hadn’t had time to read them all before her best friend Therese and boyfriend
Randy were there to pick her up for the long drive into the country. And now
her apartment was closed up, she was on a leave of absence from her part time
job at a coffee shop—a job she actually liked—and with no idea of how
long it would be for. Sure, the good doctor thought staying low while they
collected her email and snail mail, intercepted her calls, and monitored her
website was a good idea. They might be able to narrow down exactly who they
were dealing with. And maybe he was right. But at the same time, she loathed
the fact that some creep with too much time on his hands could run her out of
her own life like that.
glasses shifted and he pushed them higher on the bridge of his nose, then
offered a half-hearted smile.
years, Randy for three, and neither put up with her attitude.
only left two and a half hours ago. The nearest town out here for miles was an
itty bitty, country bumpkin place called Stirling Falls—a real
blink-or-you’ll-miss-it kind of deal. She was going to lose her mind.
but it didn’t chip. How long that would last, she didn’t know—since everyone at
Thompson Hills Quarter Horses had no idea why she was coming to stay
there, the story passed around was that she’d be working. Dani had no problem
with a hard day’s work; her blog picked up initially as she chronicled her days
as a clown at a child’s birthday party, then a clerk at a sex toy shop, then
the assistant for an eccentric modern artist, then during her very brief stint
making donuts. No, her problem was that she had to be a farmhand and couldn’t
document it, couldn’t talk about it—couldn’t reveal where she was, or why she’d
gone, or be herself. After years of cultivating a persona and defining
who Danyiah “Dani Girl” Jackson was, she had to stop.
right. Dani gazed between the seats and glimpsed the long, dusty road leading
through tall gates. Log fencing sectioned off the front field and horses grazed
over grass, some lifting their heads to face the approaching car and others
preoccupied with food. Multiple buildings stood in the distance, barns tall and
new-looking, and at the far end of the road sat the sprawling one story ranch
road. Dani glanced around, nervousness rising in her stomach. Out in the middle
of nowhere—they probably didn’t have WiFi. She might not even be able to check
around and take me home now,” she said.
her shoulders. “You don’t have a hundred million dollars.”
was allowed to blog about this.”
in front of the ranch house. It was moments before the dust settled outside her
door. Dani grasped the strap of her pale blue coach purse, sighed, and hauled
open the door.
overhead, and a cough sputtered past her lips—apparently the dust wasn’t that
settled after all. She gave a groan of displeasure and stepped out of the car.
Gravel crunched under her heels as she stood straight and shifted, smoothing
her jeans subconsciously. She slid the strap of her bag over her arm and pulled
the sunglasses off the top of her head down to cover her eyes, then kicked the
door shut with her heel.
themselves, and car doors slammed behind her as she took in a view of the farm
again. The air was tinged with the scent of animals and wind blew, tossing her
dark hair around her shoulders.
standing in the open doorway to the ranch house. He was an old friend of her
late father’s, in his sixties with no family, and owned acres of ranch land.
Gus had been kind to her for as long as she could remember and there seemed no
better place to hide out for a while. He was taller than he looked, leaning
heavily on a cane held in his left hand. The heat didn’t agree with him,
dappling his broad forehead with moisture, and she figured he was doubly warm
in the red plaid shirt tucked over his girth and pair of worn dark jeans.
who carted her bags out from the trunk.
stump of a tail struggling to wag, and long pink tongue rolling form its mouth.
It paused for a moment by Dani, let her give it a scratch behind the ears, then
raced in the direction of the fields in the distance.
plenty to get along with. Danyiah took several steps from the car while Gus, Therese,
and Randy spoke, glancing around.
or without a dog to keep me company.
And maybe when everything was sorted out and they were able to catch and put a
stop to whatever loser had been threatening her, she could post everything
she’d documented. In fact, she’d be set for blog posts for maybe a month or so
when she got back.
the most boring place ever. Which was
possible, but then Dani Girl was known for finding something funny with
everything. Its writer stalked, threatened, sent into hiding, working as a
farmhand? Oh yeah. It would be funny.
away. She took a few steps toward them, grinning. One was a bay, the other
palomino, both hanging their heads over the top of the fence.
flew and a huge brown horse came barreling toward her at full speed, blond mane
flying and dark eyes wide.
One deep voice carried over the beat of hooves, hollering for her to stop it.
the horse neared, she squealed and covered her eyes, shoulders turning inward
in a cringe as she braced to be run down.
for a moment as the horse passed. She peeled her fingers back one by one,
glanced down to see she was fine. A little dusty, but all in one piece. She
breathed out a sigh of relief just as the pair of figures beat around the side
of the barn after the horse.
her, tipping his head in her direction with a grin. “Ma’am.” And off he went,
in pursuit of the enormous horse who had his head stuck in a barrel against the
side of the house.
vlog topic—she could get really animated in her telling of it and do sound
effects and stuff.
the other white man.
over his face—but she glimpsed enough of his expression to see it was a scowl.
Brows pulled low over dark eyes, and his chiseled jaw was scruffy with
something well past five o’clock shadow. As for the rest of him, he stood over
a head above her, and a white T-shirt streaked with dirt stretched over his
powerful shoulders and chest.
to pick her jaw off the ground; instead, she prickled with irritation and
crossed her arms under her breasts. “Excuse me?”
your eyes? Just standing there? I repeat, what the hell is wrong with you?”
could’ve killed me! Was I supposed to grab on? Stop it with my mutant psychic
powers or something? Create a force field?”
under his feet and cane. “Look there, Dewey’s got him. Everything’s fine.”
her shoulder did she realize just how tightly she was wound. Dani sucked in a
breath, trying to calm her nerves, but glowered still at the stranger who
glared right back at her.
could say,” Gus said, gesturing at her. “She’ll be staying here for a bit.” He
turned to her next. “Danyiah Jackson, meet my head horse wrangler, Adam
appeared in her peripheral vision along with the guy—Dewey, Gus had called him—leading
him with firm hand on the halter. Cooper said nothing more, just reached for
the horse and swung onto him bareback.
discuss this with you later.”
Dewey jogged at his side, turning just once to nod again at Dani before
house. “Let’s get you settled inside. Adam will warm up the more you talk to
him, you’ll see.”