Horse Play (Horse Play #1)(7)

By: A. D. Ryan

Jensen quickly snapped his head around, looking flustered because I had clearly just caught them flirting. “No need to worry. We don’t care if you feel the need to fraternize. Just keep it professional when on the job, and should it not work out … well, don’t let it affect your work.” I tried to keep the experience on the subject from my voice, but I wondered if a little of it had maybe slipped out. If so, I chose to ignore it.

Without a word to me, Jill turned and headed toward the viewing gallery with a little extra bounce in her step. She opened the door to the indoor arena and disappeared from sight.

Rolling my eyes, I pushed past Jensen as he stood there, stunned, and stopped in the far corner where my locker was. Lifting the saddle over my head, I tried to slide it onto its mount, but unfortunately, at five-foot-five I was too short, and the stepladder had gone missing a few weeks ago. I grunted and stood on my tip-toes, but I was still unsuccessful. Suddenly, two warm hands brushed mine, and I could feel the heat of a body directly behind me as I gripped the pommel of the saddle and tried not to pass out from the bizarre fog that instantly filled my head.

I was acting like a swoony little schoolgirl at the scent of his cologne, and it should have bothered me.

“Allow me,” Jensen crooned, the warmth of his breath dancing across the exposed skin of my neck. My skin prickled all over my body. Apparently my brain hadn’t passed the memo along to the rest of me yet that I had sworn off men, because I was instantly overcome with the need to do very, very bad things to him. A lot.

Once the saddle was secure on its rack, I quickly ducked out from under his arm. “Uh, thanks. I should, um … get back to Hails,” I stammered as I backed out of the locker room, leaving Jensen there staring at what I could only assume was a cloud of dust shaped like my retreating form.

When I reached my mare’s side, I rested my forehead on her neck and took several deep breaths to calm my nerves. I couldn’t understand it, but when his hands touched mine, a tiny current of electricity had passed through us. I could only wonder if he felt it, too.

“Halley, huh?” Jensen said from behind me, shocking me once more.

I turned around abruptly, causing Halley to throw her head up in fright. “Wh-what?” I stammered.

Jensen stepped closer to me, his deep blue eyes locked on mine. His eyelashes were thick and dark, accentuating the color of his eyes. I was sure women were envious of them. I kind of was.

When he lifted his arm, I watched nervously as it got closer to me, and then passed me to run over Halley’s face. Now that it was right in front of me, I was able to see the tattoos on his arm a little better. The colors were vibrant and the designs exquisite in the way they all tied together to tell a story I was suddenly curious to learn more about.

Halley exhaled heavily through her nostrils, and I turned to look at her. Her eyes lulled shut as he stroked the white streak and chuckled. She trusted him within seconds, and I knew she was generally a pretty good judge of character …

If only he hadn’t been such a jerk earlier.

“Like the comet. Clever.”

“I tend to be, yes,” I quipped, turning away from him so I could groom Halley and go about my day.

“So, is there anything I should know before I officially start tomorrow?” he asked, still petting Halley’s face as her breathing deepened.

I laughed. The sound echoed through the barn, startling the barn cats that were sleeping peacefully in a vacant stall. “No, I think you pretty much know everything, now don’t you?”

“Touché,” he replied with a chuckle. “Well, I’m just going to walk the grounds and learn where everything is at so I can properly navigate with little to no instructions needed.” Jensen headed for the doorway before turning back. “I look forward to working with you, Madi.”

My knees threatened to buckle as the low vibrato of his voice moved through me. Instead of answering, because I couldn’t trust my own voice to remain steady, I raised my hand without turning to him and waved it dismissively so I could finish up Halley’s grooming. Once she was cleaned up, I knelt down next to her and rubbed her ointment on her leg before wrapping it with bandages and putting her in her paddock.