Gentling the Cowboy(9)

By: Ruth Cardello


In the middle of an appreciative sigh, Sarah realized her gaze had followed her thoughts in a less-than-subtle ogling of his lower assets. She looked up quickly, her face heating with a blush when she met his eyes. Quick. Say something. “I like your . . . uh . . . jeans.”

Who the hell says that?

“Pardon the dust.” He brushed his hand down one thigh, a move that sent responding flicks of heat through Sarah. There it was again, that almost smile. “I usually shower when I get home, but it was already occupied.”

You could have joined me, Sarah thought, surprised at herself. Oh, my God, I’m smiling like some street lunatic. Don’t look guilty; look away or he’ll know what you were thinking. She met his eyes and the heat that flew between them made her start considering all sorts of impulsive things—many of which included the removal of some or all of their clothing.

Sarah gulped.

Okay, this is not a good idea. I don’t know this man.

But I’d like to.

Oh, how I’d like to.

Stop, that! she chastised her raging libido. This summer is about breaking free, living, finding my writer’s voice—not about having a one-night stand just because my sense of direction sucks.

She sought sanity by turning her attention to the table. The very long, very sturdy table. What would it be like to push the plates aside and . . .

A huge smile spread across her face as images of them entwined passionately elicited another thought. I have a naughty side.

Me.

Who knew? All I needed was the right inspiration!

Tony moved to stand behind one of the chairs and held it out for her to sit. When she did, he pushed it in with more force than she’d expected and she gasped. He took the seat across from her but looked far from happy about it, making her wonder if their attraction was indeed mutual.

Sarah had never considered herself a beauty, nor was she used to men glowering at her like she was an . . . uninvited guest? I’m such an idiot. He’s feeding me out of pity. This isn’t a date. No amount of leering at him will change that. Sarah groaned, pushed her seat back, and stood. “I should go.”

“Sit,” he said in an authoritative voice she was sure moved most people to obedience.

At first glance, she’d thought his eyes were hazel, but in the dim dining room lighting they were a deeper green. The air thickened with tension. Heart pounding in her chest, Sarah stood immobile, like prey frozen in a field.

What would it be like to be with a real man? One who wouldn’t fumble with a bra strap or ask you if you really wanted to do it so many times you began to ask yourself the same question. No, Tony would take what he wanted.

She shivered with pleasure at the thought.

Taken.

Now that would be something to write about.

“Sit,” he ordered again, more softly, and Sarah did so only because her knees gave out beneath her. He could ask me for almost anything in that tone and I wouldn’t refuse.

I should leave now.

He could be dangerous.

Or he could be the best mistake I’ve ever made.

The sound of Melanie organizing plates in the adjoining room shook Sarah free of her hormonal stupor. She said the first thing that came to her mind. “I saw your horses. They’re beautiful. How many do you have?” She wasn’t sure he was going to answer her at first. If the harsh set of Tony’s jaw was anything to go by, he was enjoying their time together much less than she was.

“Depends on the season,” he answered vaguely.

“And they’re all quarter horses?” Is it wrong to ask questions just so I can hear his knee-weakening drawl again?

“Most of ’em.”

Melanie placed two glasses of lemonade between them.

Sarah thanked her and took a long sip, half closing her eyes as she enjoyed its refreshing coolness. When she opened them, she noticed Tony looking at her intently, looking even less happy, if that were possible.

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