Taken, Not Spurred (Page 42)

Taken, Not Spurred (Lone Star Burn #1)(42)
Author: Ruth Cardello

David whistled and raised his hat in admiration. “Tony needs someone like you.”

Truly surprised, Sarah said, “Thank you.”

David replaced his hat and said, “I just hope he’s not too much of a damn fool to realize it.” He walked away and left Sarah standing there, thinking about what he’d said.

I hope so, too.

Unable to concentrate enough to work with the horses, Tony tried to release some of his frustration through good old-fashioned manual labor. He cleaned, he stacked—anything to keep his mind off Sarah. When he saw her talking to David, his stomach clenched with an emotion he refused to acknowledge.

I’m not jealous.

She can talk to whoever she wants to.

He watched as David leaned down to hear something she said and they both smiled. Oh, hell no. Find your own Yankee. Tony fought the urge to stride over there and punch his manager. Fortunately, David walked away.

Sarah headed toward her SUV. Where the hell is she going?

The question had barely registered when Tony realized he’d dropped the bale of hay he’d been holding and then practically sprinted over to her vehicle. She was already in the driver’s seat, lowering the automatic windows to cool off the car. He grabbed the handle and opened the car door next to her. “What are you doing?”

She kept both hands on the steering wheel. “I told you that I have to organize things for tonight. We need some supplies, so I’m driving into town.”

“Not alone, you’re not.” He hadn’t planned to say that and he wasn’t entirely sure why he had.

She rounded her eyes innocently and asked, “Should I ask one of the ranch hands to come with me?”

“No,” he growled. The idea of her spending the day with another man was enough to set his heart pounding in his chest angrily.

“Did you want to come with me?” She asked so sweetly he knew she was deliberately trying to push his buttons. Going to town was the last thing he wanted to do. He wanted to run his hands down the long expanse of bare thigh that her shorts revealed. Too vividly, he could imagine sliding his hand into the open neckline of her shirt and beneath the pink lace of the bra it displayed. “There is no way in hell you’re going to Fort Mavis dressed like that.”

Sarah’s lovely breasts heaved with irritation. “I don’t remember giving you the right to tell me what to wear.”

“Do you want people to think that you’re a . . .” He stopped before he said the word.

Sarah jumped on his omission and snapped, “Whore? You mean like someone who would stay with you as your own personal sex toy? Someone you could buy with a favor or a promise of cash? Someone like that?”

Between gritted teeth, Tony said, “That’s not how I see you.”

With cheeks red with anger, Sarah said, “Yes, it is. If you think you can trade favors for sex with me, that’s exactly what you think.”

Tony removed his hat and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “You have me so crazy, I don’t know what I’m saying half the time.”

Sarah unclipped her seat belt and turned toward him, her legs dangling out of the open door. “That is the nicest thing you have said to me so far.”

He buried a hand in the back of her hair and claimed her mouth with all the emotion swirling between them. So close to her, he could barely think. He thrust his tongue between her lips and savored how she eagerly welcomed him. His other hand went to her hip to edge her closer to him. He hungrily kissed her exposed collarbone and the curve of her neck. “Let’s go inside and forget about everything else.”

With a hand cupping either side of his jaw, she raised his face from her and said, “No.”

Aroused, confused, angry—he would have been hard-pressed to describe how he felt in that turbulent moment. He bent down to claim her lips again, sure he could change her mind, but she scooted away from him.

She folded her arms across her chest. “This is important to me. You can come with me or I can go alone, but I’m going into town.” When he didn’t say anything, she softened a bit and said, “I will gladly put on jeans and a T-shirt if you ask me to.”

Why did women have to make everything into an issue? Couldn’t she simply go change because she knew it was what he wanted? Apparently not, since she sat there, out of his reach, waiting for him to speak. Frustration rumbled in his chest.

Still, she waited.

He caved and ordered, “Go change.”

Suddenly excited, she leaned forward and rewarded him with a quick kiss on the lips. “And you’ll come with me?”

Hell no.

Then he tasted her and nodded wordlessly, forgetting everything in the fire of their kiss. Too soon, she broke it off and stepped away, saying, “I’ll be right back.”

I’ll be right here, Tony thought angrily. Trying to figure out exactly what the hell just happened.

Chapter Seventeen

Tony drove into Fort Mavis, and Sarah thoroughly enjoyed everything they passed to get to the center of town. The streets were wide and flanked with a mixture of historical and renovated buildings. The tall doors on the storefronts were freshly painted in white and black. Through their glass windows, Sarah glimpsed a variety of wares: jewelry, clothing, and hardware. There was even a bookstore inside a historic theater whose billboard promised vintage movies once a month.

They parked in front of what looked like a general store. Tony walked around the SUV to open Sarah’s door, and the guarded look in his eyes pulled at her heart. He slammed the door after she stepped out and stood protectively beside her. Sarah looked around and understood his earlier reluctance. People on the sidewalks stopped and stared. Faces peeked out from inside restaurant windows. She touched Tony’s arm, felt the tension building within him, and slid her hand down to hold his.

His eyes flew to hers, their green turning dark with emotion. She entwined her fingers with his and gave a supportive squeeze. He looked away, but his hand tightened on hers. He cleared his throat. “I’m not well-liked in this town.” His warning melted her heart.

“I don’t believe that.”

They stepped up onto the sidewalk together. “It may have something to do with how many times I’ve told them all to go to hell.”

Sarah held in the chuckle that his self-revelation inspired and said, “Then today, try saying hello instead.”

He stopped walking and halted her, waiting until she looked up at him before he said, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”