At the Brazilian's Command(3)

By: Susan Stephens

Carlos Pintos!

He loathed the man. Pintos gave polo a bad name. A cheat on the field of play, as well as in life, he was also Danny’s ex—who had brutalised her, by all accounts, he remembered now. Toeing the inert figure with the tip of his boot, he reassured himself that Pintos wasn’t going anywhere before calling Chico on his phone.

A few terse words later, he turned back to Danny.

‘Don’t,’ she said, holding up her hands as if to ward him off.

They’d had many a run-in during Danny’s time in Brazil, but theirs had always been a good-natured battleground, where he teased and she flirted. It had never gone any further than that.

‘Thank you would suffice,’ he commented mildly. ‘And please let me assure you that I have absolutely no intention of touching you.’

He was assessing her injuries as he spoke. Judging them superficial, he considered the subject closed—though the police would have to be alerted, and he would wait until he was sure Pintos was safely under lock and key.

‘Thank you,’ Danny muttered, frowning as she stared up at him from beneath her eyelashes.

Straightening his suit jacket, he brushed his hair back and then asked bluntly, ‘Did he touch you?’

‘What do you think?’

‘I can see the obvious bruises, but I think you know what I mean.’

Grimly, she shook her head. ‘He didn’t do what you’re thinking. You men all think the same.’

She was upset, but he wouldn’t stand for that. ‘Don’t tar me with the same brush as Pintos. And you still haven’t told me why you’re out here on your own.’

‘I was in the stable block checking out the horses,’ she explained grudgingly.

He didn’t believe her for a minute. Chico had staff to do that, and even Danny wasn’t so closely welded to her job.

‘I’ve lived here all my life,’ she murmured, ‘and I’ve always felt safe here. Nothing like this has ever happened before. And if you must know,’ she added, flashing a glance up at him, ‘I wanted to be alone. I wanted to think...away from the noise of the party.’

‘I can understand you wanting some quiet time,’ he agreed—he’d felt the same. ‘But times change, Danny.’

‘Yes,’ she said ruefully. ‘Everything changes. But I’m still here.’

He guessed she would miss her friend Lizzie now she had married Chico, and perhaps Danny’s scholarship to train horses in Brazil hadn’t been the golden ticket she’d hoped for. ‘It takes time to establish a career—especially a career with horses.’

‘And money,’ she said. ‘Lots of money that I just don’t have. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I can’t have everything in life.’

‘You’re wrong. Look at me.’

She smiled at his arrogance, but he knew that self-confidence was the first step towards building any successful career. If he hadn’t believed in himself, who would have?

‘It’s possible for you to do this too,’ he said, and when she started to argue, he added, ‘I admit I was in the right place at the right time, but I worked all the hours under the sun for that luck—as you do. I always had a vision of what my future would hold. You have the same. So go for it, Danny,’ he advised. ‘Don’t hold back.’

If there was one thing he couldn’t tolerate it was bullies, and he hated seeing what Pintos had done to this woman—stripping away Danny’s spirit and leaving only the doubt underneath. He found himself willing his strength into her.

He’d never been in this position with a woman before; communicating with women on a serious level had never been necessary. His life was full of women, and he had never wanted this type of interaction with one of them. But to keep Danny steady after her ordeal, he continued on with his theme.

‘When we first met on Chico’s ranch in Brazil you wanted your own horse-training establishment. Am I right?’

‘Yes,’ she agreed, but she was shaking her head. ‘I was idealistic then. I hadn’t thought through all the pitfalls ahead of me.’

‘And you think it’s been easy for me?’

His face was close. Her scent bewitched him. He was pleased when her flickering gaze steadied on his, telling him she was calming down.

“I worked hard and never gave up my dream. And neither must you, Danny. Never...never give up your dream.’

Her gaze strayed to Pintos.

‘Don’t look at him. Look at me.’

He was relieved when she did so.

‘Thank you.’ Her eyes were wide and wounded. ‘Thank you for reminding me what I want out of life, and that he has no part in it.’