His bid for a bride

By: Carole Mortimer

PROLOGUE

IT WAS sexual attraction.



Pure and simple.



Except there was nothing pure or simple about the way Skye felt right now.



She was hot and feverish, knew her eyes must be overbright, her cheeks flushed, each breath she took painful with the effort it took to complete even such an instinctive function. Her breasts were pert, nipples hard with arousal beneath the fitted pink sweater she wore, and as for the heated desire between her thighs—!



She could feel all that—and yet she wasn’t sure she even liked the man responsible for all these totally new, confusing feelings.



‘Connor, I have no intention of selling Storm to you just so that he can break your beautiful daughter’s neck for her the first time she tries to show off riding him in front of her friends,’ Falkner Harrington now told Skye’s father scathingly.



Falkner Harrington.



Arrogant. Condescending. Mocking. Handsome as the Vikings represented by that unusual first name!



Overlong blond hair, which should have looked ridiculous in this age of much shorter styles, merely added to this man’s already overt masculinity, the sharpness of his features; straight brows over hard blue eyes, his nose an arrogant slash, sensual mouth twisted with derision now, his chin square and determined—all these things merely emphasized the man’s untameable appearance.



Her more conservative father, in his business suit, shirt and tie, Skye acknowledged ruefully, looked more like a domesticated cat facing the fierceness of a jungle feline.



Her father shook his head smilingly. ‘Skye could ride before she could walk,’ he told the other man with dismissive affection. ‘Falkner, I promised to buy Skye an Arabian as an eighteenth birthday present,’ he added before the younger man could voice any more of the derision he made no effort to hide in that arrogantly handsome face. ‘More to the point, Falkner,’ her father added ruefully as he could obviously see the younger man’s disinterest in such a promise, ‘you and I both know that Storm’s unpredictable temperament just isn’t suited to the showjumping circuit.’



Falkner Harrington, at thirty-two years of age, was one of the top riders of the world showjumping circuit, and had been so for the last ten years.



But, as Skye also knew from numerous newspapers articles about the man, he was as much known for his prowess off the showjumping circuit as he was on it!



But, nevertheless, he had some nerve talking to her father in that condescending manner—because her father’s whiskey company had been this man’s sponsor for the last seven years.



She also didn’t like the fact that Falkner Harrington seemed to see her as some little rich girl who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other, merely wanted his precious Arabian as a fashion accessory to show off to her friends.



‘Skye?’ the younger man echoed mockingly, icy blue gaze flickering over her with scathing dismissal. ‘With a surname like O’Hara, wouldn’t Scarlett have been a more apt preface?’ he added derisively.



The taunt, Skye was sure, had more to do with her almost waist-length copper-red hair, confined in a ponytail at the moment, than it did with her surname!



Heated colour warmed her cheeks at this man’s deliberate rudeness; as if his own first name were so ordinary. Although, Skye had to admit, there was no denying how perfectly it suited his look of Viking fierceness…



‘My eyes are a sky-blue.’ She spoke for the first time, defensively, her voice husky, the slight Irish lilt making it more so.



Eyes of the same clear blue met her gaze with bold amusement. ‘So they are,’ Falkner Harrington acknowledged mockingly, that gaze raking over her with merciless assessment now, taking in the rounded beauty of her youthful face, the pink sweater over pert breasts, denims fitting tightly over the long length of her legs. ‘And you’re almost eighteen,’ he echoed sceptically, obviously finding that very hard to believe.



She was five feet six inches tall, not that short for a woman, her hair, when it wasn’t confined, a mixture of blonde, cinnamon and copper, her skin, now that she had at last passed through puberty, pale and flawless, her figure perhaps a little on the slender side rather than voluptuous, but there was time for that.



There was certainly nothing about her, Skye decided indignantly, that warranted this man looking at her as if she were no more than a precocious child!



‘Come on, Falkner,’ her father cajoled. ‘Just letting Skye take a look at the stallion isn’t going to do any harm, surely?’



‘No harm, no…’ the younger man agreed slowly, still looking assessingly at Skye.