His bid for a bride(2)

By: Carole Mortimer




A look she deeply resented. If he would just once let her near the stallion then she would show him—



She drew in a deeply controlling breath, forcing herself to smile naturally—which wasn’t easy when she considered this man had insulted both her father and herself in the last few minutes! ‘I really would like to see Storm, Mr Harrington; my father has done nothing but sing his praises since he saw him last week,’ she added encouragingly.



That deep blue gaze flickered briefly in the older man’s direction. ‘I wasn’t aware you had been to see Storm, Connor,’ he murmured softly—dangerously so.



Skye glanced at her father too, knowing by the slightly reproachful look he shot at her that she had just said something indiscreet.



‘I happened to be in this area on business last week,’ her father told the younger man with a dismissive shrug. ‘You were away at a competition at the time, but your groom kindly let me take a look at the stallion you’ve told me so much about.’



‘Really?’ The younger man’s relaxed demeanour hadn’t changed by so much as a flicker of the eyelids, and yet his displeasure at this revelation was nonetheless tangible.



Skye didn’t hold out much hope of the groom escaping verbally unscathed from this disclosure. ‘Surely it’s only reasonable for my father to want to take a look at something he intends offering to buy?’ she dismissed lightly.



Falkner Harrington looked at her coldly. ‘Reasonable, yes—if I had had any idea your father intended offering to buy one of my horses at all,’ he rasped. ‘Least of all Storm.’



‘But why would you want to keep him if he’s unsuitable for jumping?’ Skye continued recklessly; goodness knew her father, as this man’s sponsor, knew what it cost to stable, train, and compete horses who were suitable for the circuit, let alone ones that weren’t in that class.



Falkner Harrington looked down his arrogant nose at her impertinence. ‘Could it just be that perhaps it’s because he’s unsuitable for that purpose that I have my doubts about selling him to a young girl barely out of braces?’ he rasped harshly.



The twin spots of angry colour in her cheeks clashed wildly with the redness of her hair; how could this man possibly know that until a few months ago she had worn braces on her teeth?



Skye could see from the corner of her eye as her father shifted in his chair at this visible display of her rising temper, but she was too indignantly furious now to heed that subtle warning.



‘So you’re unwilling to even let me see Storm?’ she snapped between clenched teeth.



Falkner Harrington shrugged broad shoulders. ‘I have no problem at all with your seeing him.’



‘Then—’



‘Merely with your ever owning him,’ he concluded scathingly.



Skye opened her mouth, closing it again with a snap as her father sat forward slightly and lightly touched her arm. She glanced up at him, knowing her frustration must be evident from her expression.



He gave a barely perceptible shake of his head before turning back to the younger man. ‘As you know, Falkner, I have a pretty impressive stable myself in Ireland. I taught Skye to ride there,’ he added lightly. ‘She really is a very capable horsewoman,’ he assured the other man. ‘Professional standard, in fact,’ he added firmly.



That cold blue gaze flickered over her briefly before Falkner gave another shake of his head. ‘We’ve already agreed Storm’s temperament isn’t suited to that way of life.’



‘We’ll settle for just seeing him,’ Connor cajoled.



‘If you insist!’ Falkner Harrington accepted impatiently after a brief glance at his wrist-watch, obviously aware that he owed at least this much politeness to the man whose company was his professional sponsor. ‘Storm should be back from his gallop by now.’ He rose abruptly to his feet, at once revealing why he had looked down his arrogant nose at Skye’s own height minutes ago; at least six feet four inches tall himself, he must tower over almost everyone he met!



Her father, a man Skye had looked up to and admired her whole life, looked positively short beside the younger man, even the breadth and power of the older man’s shoulders doing nothing to allay that impression; Falkner Harrington had wide, powerful shoulders himself beneath the black jumper he wore, his waist and thighs muscular in cream riding trousers and boots.



The Falkner stable, as Skye had discovered for herself when she and her father had driven into the yard in their hire car a few minutes ago, was a large concern, and although the house itself was slightly run-down, both inside and out, the stables and training grounds were of the very highest standard.