Duncan's Bride(9)

By: Linda Howard

None of that decreased his physical response to her one whit. He'd been attracted to a lot of women at first sight, but not like this, not like a slam in the gut. This wasn't just attraction, a mild word to describe a mild interest; this was strong and wrenching, flooding his body with heat, making him grow hard even though he sure as hell didn't want to here in the middle of the airport. His hands actually hurt from wanting to touch her, to smooth over her breast and hip in a braille investigation of those sleek curves.

He felt a twinge of regret that she was so out of place, so totally unsuitable for his purposes. Walking beside her, he saw the sidelong glances that other men were giving her. Women like her just naturally attracted male speculation, and he wished he could afford to keep her, but she was too expensive for him. Reese was broke now, but at one time he had been accustomed to money; he knew how it looked and smelled and tasted, and how it fit. It fit Madelyn Patterson as perfectly as her silky skin did. She was slim and bright in her Paris-made suit, and the perfume sweetened by her warm flesh cost over two hundred dollars an ounce. He knew because it was one of his favorites. He couldn't even afford to keep her in perfume, much less clothes.

"What sort of work do you do?" he asked as they stepped into the bright sunshine. Those terse little letters she'd written hadn't revealed much.

She made a face, wrinkling her nose. "I work in an office without a window, doing nothing important, in my stepbrother's company. It's one of those jobs made for family." She didn't tell him that she'd turned in her notice, because he might assume she had done it thinking that she would be moving to Montana, and the one had nothing to do with the other. But her racing pulse told her that if he asked, she'd be packed and moved in with him so fast he'd think she owned her own moving company.

"Have you ever been on a ranch?" He asked it even though he already knew the answer.

"No." Madelyn looked up at him, something she still had to do despite her three-inch heels.

"But I do know how to ride." She was actually a very good horsewoman, courtesy of her college roommate in Virginia, who had been horse mad.

He dismissed any riding she might have done. Recreational riding was a far cry from riding a workhorse, and that was what his horses were, trained and as valuable in their own way as a racehorse. It was just one more area where she didn't measure up.

They reached his truck, and he watched to see if she turned up her nose at it, as dusty and battered as it was. She didn't blink an eye, just stood to the side while he unlocked the door and placed her bag on the middle of the seat. Then he stepped back for her to get in. Madelyn tried to seat herself and found that she couldn't. An astonished expression crossed her face; then she began to laugh as she realized her skirt was too tight. She couldn't lift her legs enough to climb up on the seat. "What women won't do for vanity," she said in a voice full of humor at her own expense and began tugging up the hem of the skirt. "I wore this because I wanted to look nice, but it would have been smarter to have worn slacks." Reese's throat locked as he watched her pull up the skirt, exposing increasing amounts of her slim thighs. Heat exploded through him, making him feel as if his entire body were expanding. The thought flashed through his mind that he wouldn't be able to stand it if she pulled that skirt up one more inch, and in the next split second his hands shot out, catching her around the waist and lifting her onto the seat. She gave a startled little cry at his abrupt movement and grabbed his forearms to brace herself.

His mouth was dry, and sweat beaded on his forehead. "Don't pull up your skirt around me again, unless you want me to do something about it," he said in a guttural tone. His pulse was throbbing through him. She had the best legs he'd ever seen, long and strong, with sleek muscles. She'd be able to lock them around him and hang on, no matter how wild the ride. Madelyn couldn't speak. Tension stretched between them, heavy and dark. Fierce, open lust burned in his narrowed eyes, and she couldn't look away, caught in the silent intensity. She was still gripping his forearms, and she felt the heat of his arms, the steely muscles bunched iron-hard under her fingers. Her heart lurched at the sharp realization that he felt some of the turmoil she had been feeling.

She began babbling an apology. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend – that is, I didn't realize – " She stopped, because she couldn't come right out and say that she hadn't meant to arouse him. No matter how she reacted to him, he was still essentially a stranger.

He looked down at her legs, with the skirt still halfway up them, and his hands involuntarily tightened on her waist before he forced himself to release her. "Yeah, I know. It's all right," he muttered. His voice was still hoarse. It wasn't all right. Every muscle in his body was tight. He stepped back before he could give in to the impulse to move forward instead, putting himself between her legs and opening them wider. All he would have to do would be to slide his hands under the skirt to push it up the rest of the way – He crushed the thought, because if he'd let himself finish it, his control would have shattered.

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