A hint of a smile curled one side of his mouth. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Just give me the phone,” Sarah said, and stepped past him.
He caught her arms midstep, spun her, and held her just in front of him. The hot look in his eyes sent another rush of desire through Sarah. He wants me. Her mouth went dry and she flicked her tongue over her bottom lip.
The move caught his eye, but instead of crushing her to him with the kiss she anticipated, he eased her back from him again and said, “My number is near the phone if you want your friends to call you back here.”
With that, he turned on his heel and left.
Fanning her face, Sarah picked up the nondescript black phone and reluctantly dialed her friend’s number.
Lucy is probably frantic by now.
The phone rang once. Then twice.
A machine picked up after the fifth ring. “Hi, Lucy. It’s Sarah. I had a little trouble finding your place, so I am at—I’m at a friend’s house. Anyway, when you get this message please call me.” She left Tony’s number and hung up the phone.
He wanted me.
I know he did.
Or I’m desperate enough to see only what I want to see . . . like a cattle ranch where there are only horses.
The cooler evening air helped clear Tony’s head as he leaned against the gate of Scooter’s paddock. That woman has to go. He wasn’t celibate, but the women he’d been with had no illusions about why they were together. He didn’t have to make excuses or pretend to want to stay with them until morning.
None of them had ever looked up at him with the open innocence of his little blonde intruder. He’d bet money on two things: she was a virgin and she wanted him. Her interest had been obvious, but in an entirely different way than the bold women he was used to.
A woman like Sarah would think sex came with a commitment. She’d be hurt when I asked her to leave. Exploring that tight little body of hers wouldn’t be worth the aggravation that would likely follow. He went instantly, painfully hard as he remembered how she’d looked, mostly naked, in his shower. During his celebrity years, he’d encountered many beautiful women. Women who were taller than Sarah, thinner, more polished. He didn’t remember any of them taking his breath away or scattering his thoughts with a simple smile. Dinner had made the situation worse rather than better and triggered an uncomfortable realization: One night wouldn’t be enough.
He sensed Sarah’s approach even before he heard her soft footsteps, but he didn’t turn to look at her. Her image was already too vivid in his mind, and all he would see was a woman who had to leave. Now rather than later.
She stepped onto the bottom wooden panel of the paddock fence next to him and leaned forward to call her horse, which met her caressing hand eagerly.
“I put my luggage back in my SUV. All that’s left is to load Scooter and I’ll be on my way.”
Don’t ask. It’s better not to know. “Did you finally reach your friends?” And don’t look. He did and lost himself for a moment in those large brown eyes of hers.
“No, but they know I’m coming. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll find a gas station on the way and buy a map.” The forced optimism in her voice didn’t fool him.
Don’t get involved. “No.”
A wrinkle of confusion creased her flawless forehead. “I’m sorry?”
“You’re not leaving tonight.”
Delicious pink lips pursed in displeasure. “I don’t remember asking if I could.” She seemed to consider her own statement and said, “If you’re worried about me, I can call you when I get there so you’ll know that I made it okay.”
A reasonable solution. So why was everything in him rejecting the idea? “I’ll call Melanie and have her prepare the guest room for you.”
With a hand on one hip, his little blonde angel said, “I’m perfectly capable of finding Lucy’s place. I made it here on my own.” When he opened his mouth to reply, she cut him off and said, “By here, I mean Texas.” She raised one hand between them to silence him. “Don’t say it. I appreciate your offer of a room, but I can’t stay here.”
Walk away. She’s not your problem. Nod, shake her hand, and head back into the house. The impatience he felt toward himself echoed in his curt tone as he said, “You’re tired. Your horse is tired. It’s almost a day’s trip. It doesn’t make sense to leave tonight.”
Arms resting on the fence, Sarah chewed her bottom lip and studied her horse. “Is there a hotel nearby? I’d have to leave Scooter here for the night, but I could pay you.”
“I don’t want your money, and town is an hour away.” God help him, he didn’t want to be paid—he wanted her.
He leaned down, close enough so that when she turned her head he could almost taste her lips beneath his. The soft scent of her filled him with a desire to lay her down and claim her right then and there. She licked her bottom lip. The tip of her tongue left a wet trail that he eagerly wanted to follow.
She whispered. “I don’t know you.”
We can remedy that.
She was innocently wanton. Did she have any idea what her pose was doing to him? With one high-heeled foot hitched up on the lower plank, and leaning forward as she was, she was offering a temptation any man would have trouble resisting.
Didn’t I just decide she was off limits? Nothing has changed. The best thing I can do is agree and let her go. Even if, more than anything, I want her to stay. Tony straightened and took a step back; his next words were a concession to the inner battle he was losing. “I want you to stay.”
She looked over her shoulder at him, the crease returned to her forehead. “Do you always get what you want?”
He turned away, adjusted his hat, and rested his forearms on the top of the fence a foot away from hers. In a tired voice he said, “Never.”
Oh, now that’s just not fair.
I already want to throw all decorum to the wind and jump him—do you have to make me like him, too?
All that manly talk and now a hint of save-me sadness? Where do I sign up for this ride?
I should write that down.
Which doesn’t mean I can stay here tonight.
I can’t because . . .
Wait, I don’t have a boyfriend, a job, or, apparently, even reliable friends. If I leave now, it’s a slap in the face of fate. Opportunities like this don’t just happen. They’re a gift.