At the Brazilian's Command(4)

By: Susan Stephens

‘Don’t thank me. You’re strong. You’ll get over this.’ He glanced at the creep on the floor. ‘He won’t be bothering you again. I promise you that.’

‘I’m all right—really,’ she insisted, with a smile that didn’t make it to her eyes.

She didn’t want his pity. He could understand that. Danny wasn’t the type to make a fuss. She didn’t cry, or cling to him. She’d been one of the boys in Brazil, only caring for her horses and for her best friend—today’s bride, Lizzie. She had always lifted everyone’s spirits on Chico’s ranch.

He glanced again at Pintos in disgust. The creep had been so eager to recapture Danny he had forgotten to do up his flies. ‘I’ll stay with you until Security arrives,’ he reassured her, seeing she was still frightened of the man. ‘I’ll hand Pintos over to them and then I’ll take you back to the house.’

‘There’s no need for that,’ she insisted, shaking her head as she hugged herself defensively.

‘There’s every need,’ he argued. ‘You shouldn’t be on your own tonight. And you should get checked over.’

She shook her head slowly, as if she were reliving events. ‘I can’t believe I let this happen.’

‘You didn’t let this happen, Danny,’ he said firmly. ‘You’ve done nothing wrong.’

She glanced at him then, as if seeking reassurance. ‘Maybe I should take it as a sign that my time here’s done.’

‘Then don’t stay,’ he said with a shrug. ‘But just promise me you won’t make any hasty decisions while you’re upset.’

‘Upset?’ she scoffed. ‘I’m over it.’

He doubted that. ‘Good, but please sleep on it, and see how you feel in the morning. Maybe you’ll feel differently then.’

‘Or maybe I’ll think Clean page, new story.’

‘That’s also a possibility,’ he conceded.

‘But I can’t run away,’ she said softly, almost to herself. ‘I can’t run away from Carlos or from anything else.’

‘You don’t have to,’ he reassured her. ‘Change doesn’t always involve running away. Think carefully before you make any life-changing decisions. And don’t go wandering around on your own in the dark in future.’

‘Why?’ Her eyes cleared suddenly and she repaid him with a piercing look. ‘Because you won’t be around to save me?’

He met that stare and held it. ‘That’s right. I won’t.’

* * *

Danny’s feelings were in an uproar. Yes, she was shocked by what had happened in the stable, but standing next to Tiago Santos was incredible, and unreal, and incredibly unsettling even without having Carlos Pintos at her feet. She had been violently attracted to Tiago in Brazil. From the very first moment she had felt a connection between them, and it was still there.

Which only proved what a hopeless judge of men she was, Danny reflected. Tiago was a notorious playboy, and when they’d first met she had treated him as such—teasing him, yes, because that was in her nature, but keeping a safe distance from him, all the same. And now Tiago was handing out life advice. Was he the best person to do that?

Surprisingly, tonight she would say yes—because tonight he was talking to her as Lizzie would, and his concern for her appeared to be genuine.

‘Security’s here,’ he announced as two guards ran up. ‘We’ll go back to the house as soon as we’ve spoken to the police.’

‘I don’t need a chaperon, Tiago,’ she stressed.

‘That’s good, because I’m not for hire.’

‘Why don’t you go back to the party?’ she suggested, having no inclination to jump from the frying pan into the fire. ‘I feel really bad, keeping you here.’

‘You’re not keeping me,’ he insisted. ‘We’ll go back together. I have to know you’re safe.’

‘How much harm do you think can come to me between here and the front door?’

Tiago’s answer was to stare at her in a way that told her he wouldn’t be dissuaded, and in spite of his all too colourful reputation she had to admit she did feel safe with him. And she had to get over her schoolgirl crush fast, Danny cautioned herself. Tiago Santos was not for her.

‘Just a few more minutes,’ he said, staring at her with concern.

She smiled back at him, recognising that soothing, husky, faintly accented tone as the same voice he’d used to soothe his ponies in Brazil.

‘You don’t have to come back to the party, Danny. I’ll make your excuses for you.’