Beneath These Scars (Page 57)

The groom ran through some basic instructions and then offered me a mounting block.

Oh hell. Here we go. I stepped up on the block, my stomach tumbling. A big hand landed on the left side of my waist.

“You’re going to do great, Yve.” Lucas’s other hand closed around my right side. “You want me to get you up there?”

I glanced toward where the groom had been standing, wondering what he thought about Lucas’s offer, but he’d already made himself scarce.

“Sure,” I said, my voice wavering a little. “I can do this, right?”

I wasn’t really posing the question to Lucas, but he answered anyway. “Of course you can.”

He lifted me up, and with one smooth movement, I swung my leg over the other side. Belle shifted, and I grabbed the edge of the saddle in front of me.

“Where’s that little handle thingy? Why don’t I have one of those?”

“This is a hunt seat, not Western.”

“I think I like Western better.”

Lucas laughed again, and I decided I could get used to that sound. It was deep, dark, and rolling. It was almost becoming . . . comforting.

He mounted his horse and came up beside me before I could figure out what the hell my brain meant by that. Then he reached out and grabbed my reins, positioning them in my hands with his.

“Okay, so Chris gave you the basics, but we’re going to take it slow for a little while with a walk. We’ll work up to a trot, and you can learn to post.”

“Uh, walking’s good. I’d prefer to only get back on the ground when I want to, not when I fall off.”

Lucas’s hand closed over mine where I clutched the reins for dear life. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

My eyes darted up to meet his. They were solemn and serious, at odds with the lightheartedness he’d been showing.

“I promise,” he added.

They were just two words, but in that moment, coming from Lucas’s lips, they felt like a vow. It seemed like he was talking about so much more than what could happen on this horse.

“I trust you.” My response, while unexpected, was totally honest. I wasn’t sure when it had happened, but I did trust Lucas.

His gaze dropped away from mine, and he released my hands. “About this, you should. About everything else, that’s a bad bet.” The subject was clearly closed, because he added, “Pull your reins to the right. Let’s go.”

Why wouldn’t he want me to trust him? Why was he warning me off? It was as if he was pulling me in with one hand, but holding me off with the other. Did he have secrets to rival my own?

My curiosity demanded I find out.

As the horses walked in the direction of a trail that cut into the trees, I concentrated on letting my body rock with the movement of Belle’s stride. Once I got comfortable with it, my mind wandered right back to the man beside me. I dared to take my eyes off my horse and glance at him. Lucas sat easily in the saddle, looking as if he was as comfortable there as behind a desk.

“Do you come out here a lot?” I asked.

“I’ve been a few times,” he said, keeping his eyes ahead.

“You don’t seem like the kind of man to take quite so long to make a decision.”

“And what makes you think you understand what kind of man I am?”

My horse slowed as we reached a fork in the trail, and I felt like I was living a Robert Frost poem. One trail was sunny and bright while the other was darker, more shaded by the stately trees.

Two paths diverged in a yellow wood.

And sorry I could not travel both.

I’d already decided I trusted a man most considered a villain. Was I making a mistake? I guess I’ll find out.

Lucas pulled his horse to a halt. “Which path do you want to take, Yve?”

I met his eyes. “I’m following you, Lucas. Lead the way.”

My decision had been made.

We finally slowed near a big man-made lake. I had no idea how far we’d gone because I’d lost myself in the rhythm of Belle’s movements and Lucas’s surprisingly comfortable companionship. We hadn’t talked much, just a few comments from him about my form, mostly along the lines of “heels down” and “good seat.” Still, it was nice just to be.

Lucas dismounted and looped his horse’s reins around a post that appeared to have been placed there for that purpose. He was at my side and lifting me down before I realized what was happening. When my feet hit the ground, I stumbled, but Lucas was prepared. He kept hold of my waist as I grabbed his shoulders.

“Whoa,” I said, surprised when my legs shook.

“Easy. You’re not used to sitting astride for that long. Takes a little getting used to for your muscles.” He lowered his head to my ear. “I’ve neglected putting you on top. My mistake. Then you would’ve had some conditioning.”

I shoved his shoulder. “You’re such a guy.”

Lucas squeezed my waist. “One who is ready to fix that situation.”

“I doubt my legs could hold me right now,” I said with a laugh.

Lucas turned and pulled me into his side, his arm dropping around my shoulders. “Come on, let’s walk, get you stretched out, and then you can ride me.”

I jerked my head to look up at him. “You mean ride back.”

Lucas’s seductive grin was in place. “Do I?”

I didn’t think before I said, “You know, you really can be charming as hell when you’re not being a dick.”

One eyebrow quirked up, and I waited for the walls to slam down into place. And waited.