Gentling the Cowboy (Page 6)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(6)
Author: Ruth Cardello

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.

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?

Oh, that happened when I mauled him even after he kept asking me to leave. You would have, too. He was gorgeous.

His hands dropped away and for a moment Sarah forgot why she’d followed him. You know, besides wanting to stare up at him speechlessly and drool for one last time before I leave.

“I can’t let you go . . .” he said.

Thank God.

“. . . until you contact someone. No telling where you’d end up on your own.”

Okay, that last part killed the mood a bit.

Now I remember why I want to write. Reality sucks. Watch out, Mr. Cowboy. When I put you in a book, you’re going to be kissing my feet and begging me to stay. Sarah raised her chin with renewed pride and said, “I’ll call them one more time, but I’m leaving even if they don’t answer. Where I end up is none of your concern.”

Now I sound like a heroine in a romance novel.

Take that, Mr. Sexy Cowboy.

Tony looped his thumbs through his belt and said, “In Texas, if you find someone in your shower, you’re responsible for their welfare for at least twenty-four hours.”

Sarah opened her mouth to argue the point, then cocked her head to the side and asked, “Did you just make another joke?”

The corners of his eyes crinkled ever so slightly. Note to self, dry humor in an otherwise stern character is intriguing—would even be sexy if I wasn’t the butt of his joke.

She defended her arrival. “I wouldn’t be here if all the damn ranches in Texas didn’t have the same name.”