Gentling the Cowboy(10)

By: Ruth Cardello


She grew nervous, and when she was nervous she tended to ramble. “Did you see Scooter outside?” she asked, but continued without waiting for his answer. “I put him in a paddock because it was too hot to leave him in the trailer. I hope that was okay. I thought I was at Lucy’s place when I did it.”

“Are you married?” His voice broke through her monologue like a bolt of lightning.

“No,” she said quickly, her mouth working faster than her brain. “I’m single. Totally single.” She grabbed a napkin and practically shoved it in her mouth to stop the flow of words. Could I be more obvious?

Think.

Think of something cool to say.

Nothing came to mind.

Melanie returned with generous platters of steak and vegetables, explaining she would be back in the morning to clean up. The click of the outside door announced her departure and echoed through the quiet house. They ate in silence for what seemed like an eternity.

“I don’t usually do this,” Sarah blurted out. “Not that we’re doing anything more than eating. And of course I do that on a regular basis. Eat, I mean. I just don’t . . .”

“Do more than dinner?” he asked, his expression unreadable as he laid his fork down beside his plate.

She nodded. “Yes, that part. I don’t want you to think because you saw me in a towel . . .”

The corners of his eyes crinkled with humor.

Oh, God, he’s laughing. My fantasy cowboy is laughing at me.

Embarrassed, she threw her napkin at him. “It’s not funny.”

A slow smile spread across his face. “It is, actually.”

Sarah crossed her arms with a bit of a huff. “It had to be said or things could get awkward.”

“You mean more than this?” His grin was unrepentant.

Imagining the evening through his eyes, Sarah groaned. He was probably hoping she would talk less, eat more, and get out of there quickly. “I do appreciate you not calling the police when you found me here.”

“The sheriff would have loved that. Best breakin story ever.”

“I didn’t break in—” she started to say, but stopped when all the emotions of the day rushed in and, combined with her sudden fatigue, brought an embarrassing sheen of tears to her eyes.

All humor left Tony’s face. He looked at the door quickly as if that would somehow conjure up his housekeeper. “Don’t cry . . .”

“I’m not crying,” Sarah denied hotly and sniffed. Great, I bet my nose is turning red. A man like Tony probably dated sophisticated women: women who would know exactly how to flirt with him. They’d entice rather than entertain him.

What do I do when I’m given an evening alone with the sexiest man I’ve ever met? Sarah sniffed again and looked around for a tissue. Nothing worth documenting unless I decide to write an article about how to make an idiot of myself in ten easy steps.

He stood abruptly; his chair teetered and almost toppled behind him. “You should try calling your friends again.”

Party’s over.

Get out.

Sarah stood and followed him back to the living room and the phone.

Hey, Texas, so far you’re not that good for my ego.

“Thanks, but it’s probably best if I just load Scooter and go. Sounds like I have a night of driving ahead of me.”

He stopped and turned so abruptly that she walked straight into him. Everything she’d admired earlier was acutely more amazing pressed up against her. He steadied her with a hand on either arm and eased her back, but not before she’d experienced her first dose of gut-clenching lust that tempted her to launch herself back into his arms.

Although that would make a good story to tell my friends.

I thought you said he didn’t call the sheriff when you broke into his house, so how did you end up arrested?

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