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With one finger, he pushed the Stetson back on his head. A wisp of dark brown hair fell from under the hat.
"Ma'am. Is there something we can help you with?" he asked; his dark, dark brown eyes softened as he smiled at her. They were the eyes that had haunted her dreams since coming to Paintbrush.
"I ... ah." All of a sudden her breath caught and her knees jellified. Weak-kneed. She couldn't believe it. She'd read about that flaw of damsels in romance novels, but she'd never actually known anyone afflicted by it.
No man had ever made her want to collapse in a heap onto the ground, much less had she ever been rendered stupid. Zan cleared her throat, "I'm looking for Doc. She asked me to drop something off for her."
"Ah, yes, you must be Suzanne Walters, the wonder assistant." An odd look crossed his face, but he immediately hid any and all expression, making his face neutral. He leaned forward, extending his hand. "I'm Jacob Bowman, the ranch foreman. And this is Hank Calhoun."
She stared at Jacob, then her manners kicked in. She reached out and gripped his calloused hand and took a long deep breath--musky. She fought off a moan as warmth shot up her arm and she let go abruptly. "Zan."
"Excuse me?" Jacob's forehead scrunched.
"Please call me Zan. It's short for Suzanne."
"Zan it is. Doc's up at the house. Lisa made them take the pup up to her room."
"Thanks." Zan left the two men standing by the barn. When she stepped up on the porch leading to the house, she turned to find them both staring at her with openly curious gazes. Her stomach did a little flop and heat crawled up her face as her eyes locked with Jacob's chocolate browngaze. A charming grin spread across his face and he tipped his hat.
"They don't grow them quite like that in Texas," she said under her breath, pulling the door open. "Too bad I've sworn off men," she reminded herself.
"Damn, what a looker, that one." Hank nudged Jacob.
Jacob hadn't moved since one Miss Suzanne call-me-Zan Walters had disappeared into the Cates' house. He'd dreamed about the woman every night since she blew past him at the diner.
Clad in a pair of tan pants and one of the funky hospital-type shirts all the vets wore, she shouldn't look sexy as hell, but she did. The red highlights in her hair shone like fire in the setting sun, more so than the first time he saw her. Hair that still looked wild and arousing, like it might look after spending the night in bed. He could barely contain the groan that wanted to escape.
Had Jacob detected a flash of wonder in those gray eyes of hers when she looked at him--almost as if she'd been surprised and happy to see him? That was just stupid. He didn't know her from Eve.
He sure as hell never imagined she was Doc's new assistant.
When Hank nudged him again, somehow Jacob managed to find a small amount of composure and tore his gaze away from the back door.
"What's gotten into you, boy? Never seen you dumbstruck before." Hank's voice was filled with amusement.
"Nothing." Jacob couldn't believe what the brief encounter with Suzanne--Zan--did to him. He'd fantasized about her for two weeks, and then to see her standing in front of him, he didn't know how he'd managed to stay on his feet.
Shaking clear his thoughts, Jacob stalked past the old hand. "I need to head out to the back pasture. Willard thinks a fence may have gone down."
When Jacob returned to the house two hours later, Zan was struggling with a large box, trying to load it into the back her Plymouth. She turned it this way and that, and each time one of the corners hung on the lip of the trunk. He couldn't help but laugh while getting out of his truck.
When he got close enough, he saw her shiver. The pushed-up sleeves did little to protect her against the evening air, which had cooled considerably. He contemplated mentioning the briskness of Wyoming weather, just to speak to her again, but another thought came to him. "Where's your friend?"
She jumped. "GEEZ!" The box fell to the ground and the contents spilled.
"Damn. Sorry." Jacob squatted and shoved scattered clothing back into the box. "Didn't mean to startle you."
Zan smiled. "It's okay. No harm done." She reached for a sweater that had landed on her foot.
Jacob loaded the box in her trunk like it weighed nothing--all but flexing his muscles and hollering "look at me". "What's all this?" He motioned to the clothes.
"Mrs. Cates doesn't think a Texas gal could possibly have enough warm clothes so she raided her closet." Zan tossed the sweater in and lowered the trunk, then shivered again as a breeze blew across them.
"Imagine that." He chuckled. He could hear her laugh, but couldn't see her face for her bent head. He didn't understand the sudden desire to see her relaxed.
When she looked back at him though, her brows scrunched. "What friend were you talking about?"
The hitch in his chest at her steady gaze stammered him. "I, uh ... the first time I saw your car there was a three-foot bear in the passenger seat."
"Four foot. Randall is very particular--" she cupped her hand to her mouth, "--about being vertically challenged. Bear envy. One of my nieces has a five-foot bear her ex-boyfriend got her."
They both laughed and he started to say something, but Imogene, the Cates' housekeeper and cook, stuck her head out the back door looking for him.
"Food's on," Imogene said. "Miss Walters. I didn't know you were still here. Why don't you stay for supper? There's plenty."
"No ... I couldn't. But..."
"Nonsense." Jacob took her elbow. "You'll hurt Imogene's feelings if you don't stay." Thank you, Imogene. He couldn't believe his luck. Before she had another chance to decline, he led her to the house. "C'mon. Let's eat."