His bid for a bride(3)

By: Carole Mortimer




Well, they would be, Skye thought disgruntledly; O’Hara Whiskey, her father’s company, paid for most of that!



But as Skye accompanied the two men outside, for all the resentment she now felt towards Falkner Harrington, both on her own and her father’s behalf, she realized that the sexual attraction she felt towards him was increasing to an almost overpowering degree.



The man was obviously lean and fit, his arrogant good looks beyond question, but it was the animal magnetism he exuded that made her tremble with longing, that made her aware of every aching inch of her own body in a way she never had been before.



But even those feelings faded to insignificance as they entered the cobbled stableyard and Skye fell in love for the first time in her life…



He was wonderful. Tall, dark, and so handsome he took her breath away, his face aristocratically beautiful as he looked down his long nose at her in arrogant query.



Storm.



Her father had told her the stallion was magnificent, pure black, with the fine delicacy Arabians were so known for, but he hadn’t told her how absolutely breathtakingly beautiful Storm was.



‘Thanks, Jim.’ Falkner Harrington took the reins from the groom who had just returned from exercising the magnificent stallion, patting the horse’s neck even as he spoke gently into one of the sensitively flicking ears.



‘What did I tell you, Skye?’ her father enthused happily beside her. ‘Isn’t he the most darlin’—?’



‘Sorry to interrupt.’ A softly spoken middle-aged woman crossed the yard towards them. ‘There’s a telephone call for you at the house, Mr O’Hara,’ she informed him lightly.



‘Ah.’ He nodded knowingly. ‘Can I leave Skye with you for a few minutes, Falkner? I really need to take this call.’



‘Go ahead.’ The younger man gave an abrupt inclination of his head. ‘Skye will be perfectly safe with me,’ he added tauntingly.



She gave him a sharp look before turning to give her father a reassuring smile, knowing he had been expecting this call from his older brother, Skye’s uncle Seamus, in Ireland.



‘You see what I mean.’ Falkner Harrington barely waited long enough for her father to follow the other woman out of the yard before turning scathingly to Skye, Storm moving skittishly on the reins, the beautiful brown eyes glaring his displeasure at this change in his morning routine. ‘Storm just isn’t suitable for a lightweight amateur,’ he added disgustedly.



‘Lightweight—!’



Her father really wasn’t exaggerating when he said she had been riding horses before she could walk. Her mother had died when Skye was less than a year old, and immediately after the funeral in England her father had sold up there and returned to his native Ireland to take over the running of the family business from his father, Old Seamus, taking baby Skye with him.



Instead of engaging a nanny to look after her, as most men would have done in the same circumstances, her father had simply taken her with him, either when working in his office, or in the stables that were really his first love.



Skye had been crawling under horses’ legs, and put up on their backs before she could even stand on her own two legs, leading the huge animals about by their reins by the time she was two years old, riding out with the grooms on their daily exercise by the time she was eight.



How dared this man call her an amateur?



She could never afterwards have even begun to explain what prompted her into her next action, even to herself; she seemed to see her own actions as if in slow motion.



She grabbed the reins from Falkner Harrington’s unsuspecting grasp, foot in the stirrup as she swung herself agilely up into the saddle, before galloping out of the stableyard up onto the downs she could see behind the house.



It was exhilarating, Storm responding to the lightest touch as he was allowed to do what he obviously loved best: running like the wind, his black mane flowing free, body stretched fully as hooves pounded easily across the grassy ground, almost seeming to fly as he jumped a hedge with effortless ease.



Riding Storm was the most thrilling experience of Skye’s young life, and she knew herself completely lost in the sheer ecstasy of the moment.



So much so that she had no idea she was no longer alone until a hand reached out to tightly clasp the reins, pulling sharply back on them, Skye almost tumbling over Storm’s head as he came to a shuddering, quivering stop.



‘Are you insane?’ Skye turned angrily on Falkner Harrington as he sat astride the showjumping horse Skye easily recognized as O’Hara’s Lad. ‘You could have knocked me off,’ she accused indignantly.