His bid for a bride(4)

By: Carole Mortimer




He was breathing deeply between pinched nostrils, his face white with anger as he swung down out of his saddle, his fingers tightly gripping Skye’s arm as he pulled her roughly from Storm’s back.



‘You little idiot!’ He shook her roughly, glaring down at her furiously. ‘You could have been killed!’



Skye smiled confidently. ‘No, I—’



‘Yes!’ Falkner ground out harshly. ‘Or Storm could!’ he added furiously.



Which was probably more to the point as far as he was concerned!



But before Skye could make any further protest Falkner’s mouth came roughly down on hers, the kiss he subjected her to owing nothing to gentleness and more to the anger that so obviously consumed him.



Nothing in Skye’s previously youthful experiences with the couple of boys she had so far dated had prepared her for this thoroughly adult kiss, Falkner giving no quarter as his mouth ruthlessly savaged hers, his arms like steel bands as he moulded her body so close to his she could hardly breathe.



Just when Skye thought she couldn’t stand it any more, that she was going to faint from sheer lack of breath in her lungs, Falkner thrust her roughly away from him, glaring down at her with eyes so pale a blue they were almost silver, breathing hard in his anger, every muscle and sinew of his body tensed with the fury that emanated from him.



‘You’re everything I thought you were earlier—and more!’ he told her coldly. ‘You’re also completely irresponsible. Spoilt. Reckless. But most of all—stupid!’ With one last disgusted look in her direction he swung himself up onto the stallion’s back, grabbed O’Hara’s Lad’s reins, and rode off.



Leaving Skye high and dry, in the middle of the Berkshire Downs, with only her legs to carry her back to the stable.



Where she knew, not only would Falkner Harrington’s anger be waiting there for her, but her father’s as well…



But worse than any of that, she knew that Falkner would never let her father buy Storm for her now.



CHAPTER ONE

‘JUST how much longer do you intend lying in this hospital bed feeling sorry for yourself?’



Skye stiffened at the first sound of that arrogant voice, quickly closing her eyes as if to shut out the man himself. It was over six years since she had last heard or seen Falkner Harrington, but she would nevertheless know that drawlingly confident voice anywhere!



‘I said—’



‘I heard what you said!’ Skye turned on him glaringly, recoiling slightly as she realized he had moved from the doorway to stand beside her bed, having to arch her neck in order to be able to look up at him, so tall and confident in casual denims and a black tee shirt.



Sexual attraction.



In spite of everything she had gone through—was still going through—the frisson of awareness that coursed through her body just from looking at Falkner told her that nothing had changed as regards her total physical awareness of him.



Although the man himself had subtly changed, she noted distractedly. Gone was the long hair, flecks of grey visible in the much shorter style, his face still as aristocratically handsome, those blue eyes coldly assessing as his gaze raked over her own changed appearance. But there were lines now beside his eyes and sculptured mouth that hadn’t been there six years ago, lines of pain as well as determination.



A week ago Skye would have known exactly what he would see as he looked at her, her hair cropped short now, the roundness of her face having thinned to leave hollow cheeks beneath blue eyes, her chin pointedly determined, and as for those voluptuous curves she had once coveted—if anything she was thinner now than she had been at eighteen, long hours of work having honed her body to perfect fitness.



Yes, a week ago she would have known exactly what Falkner would see as he looked at her, but she hadn’t looked in a mirror for a week, hadn’t brushed her hair or applied make-up during that time, either, even the gown she wore of the practical hospital variety.



‘Well?’ Falkner barked impatiently at her continued silence.



She gave a weary sigh, resenting him for making her exert herself enough even to answer him. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone? Why couldn’t everyone just leave her alone?



‘What are you doing here?’ she prompted heavily.



His mouth twisted derisively. ‘Visiting you.’ As if to prove the point he pulled back the chair beside her bed and eased himself down onto it, the stiffness of his right leg obvious as he did so.



Three years ago, Skye knew from reading the newspapers, this man had sustained dreadful injuries when his horse had gone down over one of the jumps, crushing Falkner beneath it, breaking both his legs, one of them so badly he had remained in hospital for almost six months. It was obvious from the pained way he still moved that the right leg, although healed, was no longer as straight as the other one.