Carmen woke to a dim light shinning through her bedroom window - only the window was in the wrong place - and the bed was hard. Something was stuck under her nose and when she tried to move her hand, something tugged on it. She tried to sit up and push the hot covers away. Hands urged her back to the bed, and a masculine voice whispered. “Shhh. Try to sleep. I’ll stay here with you.” “Alex?” She managed to croak. The hands weren’t as gentle as she remembered them. And then everything went black again. The next time she opened her eyes, sunshine filtered through alabaster blinds on a hospital window. An old woman in the next bed spoke to her in a gravely voice that quavered with age. “Are you feeling better, honey?” Carmen tried to sit up again. That was when she realized she had an IV in her hand and an oxygen hose under her nose. Surely she couldn’t be that sick. She glanced at the woman, trying a scratchy voice. “I guess I must be better. I’m awake. What time is it? I must have slept through the whole night.” The woman craned her neck to look at something on a table behind the drawn curtain. “It’s ten O’clock, and you’ve been sleeping longer than you think. They brought you in here Monday evening, and this is Wednesday morning. They said you had double pneumonia or something like that. You were one very sick girl.” A dark head peeked around the door and Katie stepped into the room. “You’re awake - and lucid.” She placed a bouquet of brightly colored flowers on the table. “These are from Alex.” Carmen admired the flowers. “They’re beautiful - so cheerful.” She glanced up at Katie. “Where is he?” “Alex?” Katie turned the crank at the base of the bed. “In Houston, I expect.” The head of the bed rose so Carmen had a better view of Katie.
“When did he leave?”
Katie stared at her. “You have been sick. He left four weeks ago. Don’t you remember?” Carmen frowned. “But I thought he was here last night. I must have been dreaming.” Katie shook her head and nodded at the recliner. “Probably Josh. He spent last night in that chair.” “Josh? Why would he do that?” Katie rolled her eyes. “Girl, you must have amnesia or something. He’s your boyfriend. Remember good old Josh?” She straightened the sheet. “Fine thing. He spends the night worrying over your bed while you’re dreaming about Alex.” Carmen blushed. “I wasn’t dreaming about Alex. I just thought . . . well, it never occurred to me that Josh would do such a thing.” Obviously Katie didn’t know they had split up. Katie laughed shortly. “But you thought Alex would come all this way to hang over your bed?” Her expression turned anxious. “Do you have something you want to tell me?” Carmen knew her face must be scarlet. “I wasn’t completely awake. I wasn’t thinking right. Where is Josh now?” “He went to get something to eat.” Carmen threw the sheets back. “I’ve got to get out of here. Who’s taking care of the farm?” Katie gave her an exasperated look. “Don’t you ever think of anything but that farm? I took care of the goats this morning and Josh will take care of them tonight. We turned the chickens lose so they could fend for themselves. There’s enough green stuff out there now and they’re starting to lay again. Bill is helping out when he gets off work. We’ve got it all under control, so just relax and get well.” “I’m sorry. I hate putting you out this way.” The import of Katie’s words struck with a vengeance. “Josh? Josh is taking care of the goats?” A tall lean figure stepped into the room and cool gray eyes surveyed her. “I’ve been running a farm all my life. Why is it so surprising that I can run yours? Goats have two spigots instead of four, but the milking machinery is basically the same.” He dropped into the chair and slung a long leg over the arm. “I never thought I’d hear you say that,” Carmen retorted dryly, and then realized she had nothing on but the thin hospital gown. She snatched the blanket and modestly drew it up to her chin. Josh grinned. “So, how are you feeling?” She smiled bravely. “I’m fine now. I’m ready to go home.” He laughed shortly. “You might as well settle down, Shorty. The doctor says you’re going to be here for a few more days.” “But I can’t ask you two to take care of my farm that long. Anyway, I simply can’t afford it.” Josh shrugged. “Then you’d better start making funeral arrangements.” Leave it to Josh to be so callused. And yet, it had been Josh who had stood vigil beside her sick bed, not Alex. She wasn’t being completely fair, though. What commitment had Alex made? Zilch. She was on her own. His silence was proof enough. It would be wise to flush him from her mind - day and night. She slept most of that day and the next, and by Friday she was slept out. Feeling better than she had in months, she nagged the doctor to discharge her from the hospital. He frowned at her over the rim of his thick glasses.
“If your fever stays down, I’ll let you go home tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I have chores to do and I can’t afford this hospital bill, anyway.” He shrugged. “I understand you have friends doing your chores, and your hospital bill has already been paid through tomorrow, so stop worrying and complete your convalescence.” She sat up and stared at him. “Someone paid my hospital bill? Who?” He shrugged again, writing something on her chart. “I don’t know. I’ve been taking care of you since you were born. I was concerned that you would insist on checking out too early, so I stopped by the office to see what arrangements could be made for paying your bill. Does it matter?” “Of course it matters. I need to know who to reimburse.” He tucked the pen in his pocket and returned the chart to the end of her bed. “Let me guess. You don’t take charity. Anyway, I thought you didn’t have the money for the bill. How are you going to pay them back?” She rolled her eyes and dropped back on the pillow. “I didn’t say that. I said I couldn’t afford it. I have some money saved back for emergencies.” She gave him a sour look. “I pay my own bills. If I was incapable, that would be different.” He lifted a silver brow. “The way you go on all the time, someone must have thought you were incapable.” He winked. “Or maybe they wanted you to stay in the hospital a little longer so they could enjoy some peace and quiet while you’re away.” “Very funny.” She lifted her hand and the IV cord hung limply. “When do I get this umbilical cord removed?” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his smock. “As soon as you start eating better.” She scowled at him. “I eat.” He smiled. “Sure, the nurses tell me you’re not eating much of anything. Are you feeling poorly?” “No.” Her answer came swift and certain. He laughed. “You’re a terrible patient, you know that? We’re all going to be glad to see you leave.” His eyes were dancing with humor. “And you have a lousy bedside manner,” she grinned. “I promise to eat everything on my plate, warden.” He nodded. “See that you do.” She made a point of eating everything on her plate and even wore a trail down the hallway with her portable IV carrier. Surely that would convince them that she was healthy enough to go home. Yet, when Josh arrived that evening, she was napping. He grinned. “What’s this? I thought you were ready to go home.” The nurse smiled up at him on her way out of the room. “She’s been up and down the hall all day walking her pet.” She pointed at the IV carrier. Carmen sat up in the bed, holding the sheet securely over her gown.
“The doctor says I can go home tomorrow.”
Josh nodded. “You just remember. When you get there, you need to rest. I’ll be over to help.” She smiled at him. “I was beginning to think I’d never see you again.” He met her gaze solemnly. “Did that thought bother you?” She nodded with equal sincerity. “Immensely. I missed you.” He nodded. “I’m right down the road. All you had to do was holler.”
He glanced up sharply at someone in the doorway and Carmen followed his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as a lean figure in a business suit entered the room. Delicious chocolate eyes twinkled down at her as he pinched her toe.
“Hey, Heidi.” “Alex,” she gasped. “When did you get in?” He lifted a sleeve and consulted his watch. “Exactly thirty three minutes ago. I went from the office to class and then from class to the plane. Are you impressed?” She frowned. “Class?” Josh stood and cleared his throat. “Well, visiting time is almost over. I need to get back to the house.” He offered a hand to Alex. “Thanks for coming up.” Alex accepted his hand. “Thanks for looking after the girls.” Josh shrugged and glanced at Carmen. “I’ve always been there when they needed me.” “He has, for a fact,” Carmen instantly agreed. “Even when I was a little girl. I remember the time he was . . .” but Josh lifted a hand. “I remember it all like it was yesterday,” he answered in a forlorn tone. “See you later.” And then he was gone. Carmen stared after him. They had shared so many memories - so many good times. When had he stopped viewing her as a little sister? More important, when would she stop viewing him as a big brother?” Alex sauntered over to the bed and gazed down at her with a strange expression.
“He’s very special to you, isn’t he?” His voice was gentle, and yet it seemed a little pensive.
She smiled up at him. “Of course. We grew up together.” She tucked the sheet under her arms and rested her chin on her hands. “Now tell me what kind of class you’re attending.” He tousled her hair. “Veterinary medicine, but don’t tell Katie. I want it to be a surprise. I graduate next month, so I’ll let her know with an invitation.” She caught her breath. “Veterinary medicine? How long have you been . . . So that was why you came up to watch the goats kid.” “Yeah,” he responded dryly. “We don’t have any goats down in Texas.” He leaned a shoulder against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. “So, how are you feeling?” So he had come up to entice Katie back. Apparently he had seen how futile it was, though. That would explain his silence. But why was he back now? She sighed. “Too good to be in the hospital. The doctor says I can go home tomorrow, though. I can hardly wait.” He nodded, watching her with a skeptical expression. “So you can work yourself back in here again?” She wrinkled her nose at him. “A little work is good for convalescence. I’m fine. I just caught a little cold, that’s all.” The dark eyes studied her reflectively. “Sure, everyone winds up in the hospital when they catch a cold. It’s routine.”
He felt her forehead and she grinned up at him.
“I already have a doctor. I don’t need a vet.” He traced her jaw line with a finger. “Don’t you?” He smiled tenderly. “I can’t get that kiss out of my mind.” Warmth flooded up her neck and her heart hammered against her ribs. So he was still interested - and yet . . . She wrinkled her nose at him.
“Sure. It kept your mind so busy that you’re hands didn’t get a chance to write.”
The dark eyes lost some of their softness. “I’m sorry, but I was busy.” She pushed his hand away. “So was I.” His eyes flashed, but his tone remained conversational. “That would explain the fact that you didn’t write either, wouldn’t it?” She dropped back on the pillow and smiled up at him. “I hate it when you do that.” “What?” He straightened her IV cord. “You know.” His amused gaze returned to her face.
“Sure, but I want to hear it from your lips.”
She rolled her eyes. “When you’re right.” He chuckled. “Sweet music to my ears.” “Stop gloating. It doesn’t become you.” He laughed and leaned down, kissing her cheek. “Good night, Heidi. I’ll pick you up in the morning.” “Alex?” “Hum?” “What are you going to do when you graduate? I mean - well, you have a good job . . .” He took her hand in his. “A very good job. It put me through school and, along with the interest from my inheritance, gave me enough to start a clinic.” He hesitated, and then shrugged. “I never intended to be a salesman all my life, and the company hasn’t been the same since it changed hands. Ethics have gone out the door and greed is in. They figure if it makes money, it must be a wise business choice. I don’t like operating that way - or representing a company that does. I figure if you have to sacrifice your ethics to keep a job, it’s time to look for another one. I always wanted to be a veterinarian, so I decided to fulfill that dream. I’ve made arrangements to quit my job this fall and work my residency at a clinic in Houston.” She smiled up at him and squeezed his hand. “Good for you - but why the big secret?” He shrugged again and looked uncomfortable. “I guess I just like surprises. Kind of silly, when you get to thinking about it, I guess.” She gazed up into those warm eyes. “I think it’s sweet.” His neck darkened, but he continued to hold her hand. “Now don’t go mushy on me.” She laughed softly. “Katie has no idea how lucky she was to have you to look after her back then, does she? I worry about her sometimes. I know Bill will take good care of her, but . . .” Alex grimaced. “She’s not heavily endowed with common sense or ambition, but she does have attributes.” “Of course,” Carmen answered instantly. Did he think she was trying to say Katie was stupid? “I just thought . . . well, you must have had a rough time trying to raise her.” He laughed shortly. “Yeah, my only child.” She turned her hand over, so that her palm touched the warmth of his. “It’s not too late for you to start a family, you know.” He dropped her hand as if it had suddenly become too hot to hold, and glanced at his watch. “Well, I’d better get out of here before they kick me out.” Warmth flooded up her neck and she avoided his eyes. “I suppose so.” She bit her lip and stared at the blanket. How could she have been so bold - so desperate? So fickle. Hadn’t she been considering Josh as a partner lest than thirty minutes ago? After Alex left, she stared at the empty doorway.
Had Alex written off marriage completely? And why should it matter to her? After all, they came from two different worlds. She didn’t want to live in Houston any more than he wanted to live on a goat farm. Not that he was interested anyway. Obviously he had reconsidered his intentions toward her - or had she misread them from the start?
She shook her head and dropped back on the pillow. Why was she even considering a man who didn’t want children? For the right man, she might give up the farm and go live in the city, but children? No, there could be no compromise on that subject. But then, many a man didn’t want children until he had them. Maybe Alex was simply burned out on raising children after giving up so much for Katie - only to have her run away. If that were the case, his attitude would change quickly enough when he held his first baby. She woke early the next morning and dressed, making a trip to the office before Alex arrived. She had expected to find Alex had paid the hospital bill, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, she discovered it was Josh. Why would Josh pay something so expensive? Was he trying to buy her back? No, that wasn’t his style. Still, she felt guilty - and confused. She had missed Josh, but it wasn’t the gut-wrenching loneliness she felt when Alex left. Maybe that was because Josh was only a mile down the road. Why was she so infatuated with Alex? Was he merely a change in pace? Was it his money? No, the idea turned her stomach. Anyway, if money were the only issue, she should find Josh irresistible. Maybe it was because Alex was so attractive. Of course, Josh was as good looking, if not better looking in a rugged kind of way. Then what? She couldn’t be in love with Alex. They hadn’t known each other long enough. Yet she had an ever growing feeling that Alex was the one. Until last night, she had been convinced that he was too sophisticated to be interested in farming. But now? She sighed. It was ridiculous. The only reason Alex was here right now was to help Katie run the farm - and maybe convince her to go back to Houston with him. Yet according to Katie, she had told him she would never move back to Houston; that she intended to marry Bill. A brisk step in the hallway brought her attention sharply back to the present. Her heart did a flip-flop as Alex came through the door, dressed in a blue western shirt and denim jeans. He was so elegant in a suit and so masculine in western attire. Which was the real Alex? His dark eyes lit up when he saw her and he smiled warmly. “I see you’re ready to go. They were dispatching a wheelchair for you when I came in.” Her heart was pounding for a man who didn’t think of her as anything more than a little sister.
“I don’t need a wheel chair,” she grumbled.
He chuckled. “I told them they’d have to strap you down to get you into it. They weren’t impressed. In fact, I think they were looking forward to it.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “It’s hospital policy. Humor them. Otherwise, I’ll have to carry you down to the car.” She smiled reluctantly. “In the interest of safety,” she answered dryly, “I think I’ll take the wheel chair.” This light banter was one of the things she had missed most about him - that and his confidence. Was it merely a facade, or did he always have a clear view of where he was headed and the confidence to get him there? Again she wondered why he had never married. He must have loved her deeply - that girl who had walked all over his heart. Could the footprints ever be removed? They talked all the way to the car and all the way home. Yet she couldn’t remember anything of importance that they had discussed. It was simply idle conversation about everything from the weather to politics. He certainly was a good conversationalist. Carmen had barely settled in at home before Lori drove up and whisked Alex away. Reminding herself that Alex had made no commitment, she still couldn’t put the picture of him opening the car door for Lori out of her mind. Lori was so tall and sophisticated - the kind of woman he would want to marry. She tried to feel happy for them, but all she could feel was animosity toward Lori. It wasn’t as if Lori would know how she felt. Everyone still thought she was going to marry Josh. Sitting on the couch feeling sorry for herself wasn’t accomplishing anything. What she needed was something to get her mind off Alex and Lori. Some work in the barn would be nice. Alex and Lori had been gone over two hours when Josh drove into the yard. Carmen was scooping hay out of one of the kidding stalls when he found her at the barn. He scowled from the doorway. “I thought Alex was going to help you girls. You shouldn’t be out here working like that. You’re going to get sick again.” She smiled up at him. “I’m fine - and Alex doesn’t even know I’m out here.” “What about Katie?” “She’s in the house sewing. I snuck out, so don’t go blaming anyone else.” He leaned against the barn door jam and frowned at her. “You’re crazy, you know that?” Tires crunched on gravel and he glanced out the door. It was Lori and Alex. Alex got out of the car and leaned down to say something to Lori. Then he shut the door and glanced at Josh’s truck - and the barn. He headed for the house as Lori turned the car around. “What are they up to?” Josh asked. Carmen shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s none of my business. Oh, and that reminds me. I owe you some money.” He shifted his attention to her. “How’s that?” “The hospital bill. Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Why did you pay it?” He shrugged. “You had enough to worry about. Anyway, I wanted to do something.” She rolled her eyes. “You were doing something. You were doing my chores.” He shrugged again. “It wasn’t enough. I felt bad about . . . I just wanted to help.” “You felt bad? How do you think I would have felt if I couldn’t pay you back?” “I never intended for you to pay me back. Anyway,” he smiled wryly, “when we get married it will be my bill.” She stabbed the pitchfork into the dirt floor. “Now there’s a good reason to get married,” she said sourly. He crammed his hands into his pockets and stared down at her. “We have a lot more reasons than that, don’t we? We’ve been dating since high school. Has there ever been anyone else you considered marrying?” He was watching her intently. He wanted to know where she stood with Alex. Actually, until she met Alex, even she had assumed that Josh would eventually be her husband - though she wasn’t in any big hurry. But was it Alex who had come between them, or did he simply show up at a critical time? Hadn’t she been drifting from Josh for the last few months - before she knew anything about Alex? And what did it matter? Alex was interested in Lori, so he was out of the picture anyway. Still, marrying Josh while another man was so capable of lighting her fire didn’t seem fair - especially when Josh couldn’t. “It’s Alex, isn’t it?” When she glanced up questioningly, he shook his head. “I knew it when he walked into the hospital room last night. Your face never lit up that way for me. What’s he got that I don’t have?” She gnawed on her lower lip and finally met his gaze. “I have no idea. Maybe nothing, but I need the time to be sure.” She might as well have punched him in the stomach. He winced visibly. “Well, that’s trite.” It was her turn to flinch at the sting of his words. “I’m sorry, Josh. But when I get married, I intend to take my vows seriously. I don’t want any unfinished business cropping up later.” In two long strides he was standing before her, gathering her into his arms and kissing her.
“I love you, Carmen. I always have. That ought to be worth something. Haven’t I always been there for you?”
It was true. He was everything a woman could ask for. And yet, where was the excitement? She stretched as far as she could and laced her fingers behind his neck, pulling his mouth down to hers again. With all her heart, she tried to create the excitement she had felt when Alex kissed her. It had to be there, somewhere. But all she managed to do was arouse Josh. He lifted her by the waist and crushed her body against his, bruising her lips passionately. Her feet literally inches from the floor, she could do nothing but endure his onslaught. Finally he released her, and when her feet touched the floor again, she took a deep breath. Apparently he mistook her breathless state as an indication of passion. He smiled down at her smugly. “Think about that for a while.” She would - unfortunately. He swung on one heel and left the barn, striding to his truck. Without looking back, he hopped into his truck and drove away. In that moment, she knew they would never be man and wife. Her only hope was to retain his friendship. The sadness she felt as his truck disappeared down the road was borne of fear. Fear that she was also loosing the only brother she had ever known. “Well, wasn’t that a touching scene?” The voice was caustic. She caught her breath, squinting into the shadows. “Alex?” It sounded like his voice, but she had never heard that tone. He moved out of the shadows. “No wonder he keeps hanging around. You must be proud. Keeping both of us on the string like that.” It was so unfair - so true. And what right did he have to talk? He’d spent the last few hours with Lori. Tears of anger and shame burned her eyes as she swung away from him. “Shut up!”
The words were strangled from her throat by a sob. She couldn’t let him see her cry. She darted for the door.
Alex grabbed her arm as she passed, whirling her to face him.
“Whoa, there. What’s this?”
“Let me go.” She jerked her arm, but his grip was strong. She turned her face away from him so he wouldn’t see the tears coursing down her cheeks. He pulled her close. “Don’t confuse love with pity, Carmen. I did that once, and I nearly made the mistake of my life. Don’t let him force you into a decision you’re not ready to make.” She jerked her head around and stared up at him. “Pity? Josh? Why would I pity him?” He gazed down at her for a moment.
“Because he loves a woman who can’t return his love?”
“I love him.” His dark gaze was intense. “Do you? Then how do you explain this?”
He pulled her into his arms and claimed her lips. It was all wrong, and all she felt was anger. She jerked away from him and swung a hand at his face.
He grabbed her hand.
“All right, so now you’re angry. But tell me you didn’t feel anything the last time we kissed. Tell me you don’t feel anything for me at all, and I’ll leave - and never come back.” She stared at him mutely. She couldn’t tell him. Not only because it would be a lie, but also because she didn’t want him to leave and never come back. He smiled wryly. “That’s what I thought. So why are you going to marry him? Because you can’t let him down?” She snatched her hand from his grip. “What do you care?” He gazed down at her for a moment, his eyes dark with emotion.
“Because I care about your happiness. I thought we were friends.”
Only friends? She met his gaze and knew her lip was quivering. She swallowed down a lump in her throat and tore her gaze from his.
“We are.” She turned toward the door.
“I came in here to tell you something.” His voice followed her and when she stopped, he continued.
“After this last incident, Bill insisted that Katie get a phone. I know it’s a major expense, so I made arrangements today. Just send me the bill and I’ll take care of it.”
She swung around and faced him. “You took care of it? What is this, a contest between you guys? How much testosterone does it take to manage a farm? I’m sick and tired of you guys butting into my financial affairs. If Bill wants . . .” “That’s enough, Carmen.” His voice was controlled. “Bill is right. If it had been Katie who was sick, would you have been able to get her into the truck and to the hospital?” She stared up at him. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Probably because she wasn’t in a financial situation to do anything about it anyway. She turned away from him so that he couldn’t see she was ready to cry again. What was it with the tears lately, anyway?
“I suppose you’re right,” she muttered as she headed for the door.
“Carmen.” He reached for her arm, but she evaded his grasp and continued toward the door. Not now, she couldn’t let him see her cry - couldn’t let him feel pity for her. But he called after her.
“It isn’t violating any moral issue for you, is it?” She stopped, and glanced over her shoulder. “Moral issue? A telephone?”
He took a step toward her. “I know you don’t have a TV. I thought . . .” “I don’t have anything against a telephone.” She kept her back to him. The diversion was helping her get her emotions under control. “Only the two grand it will take to put the lines down this way, and cell phone reception is unreliable. I can’t imagine what would make you think such a thing.” A pause, then, “You have such old fashioned ideas sometimes.” She nodded. “So I’ve been told. A product of being an only child of aging parents, no doubt.” She wiped the tears from her cheek. “I don’t ask people to adhere to my values, but I do ask that they respect my right to exercise my own. If you thought it might offend me, why didn’t you ask me first?” He was silent and she glanced around to gage his response. His neck was red and for the first time since she had met him, he didn’t have a quick answer. Finally he shrugged. “I’m not used to asking permission. I guess I was out of line, but . . .” He shrugged again. “I’m sorry.” She gazed up at him with newfound admiration. “I respect a man who is decisive and follows through - as long as he confines it to his own household.” His brows shot up. “Coming from a liberated woman like you, that sounds a little strange. Couldn’t you be tried by the women’s movement for treason?”
There was a twinkle in his eye that coaxed a smile to her lips.
“Make no mistake. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, but if you think I want to spend the rest of my life like this, you don’t know me at all. I have no intention of marrying a man for support - financial or any other. But when I do marry, he’s going to be man enough to wear the pants - and he will.” He eyed her skeptically. “I’ve heard a few women claim they believed that, but it’s a little hard to believe, in this day. A woman turning her life over to a man is . . .” “I didn’t say anything about turning my life over to a man,” she interrupted sternly. “A marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Still, what business could survive without a person with final authority on decisions? And how could that person make wise decisions without the input from the accounting department, the lawyer and sales? Someone has to be head of the household - final authority. I’m old fashioned enough to believe it should be the man - as long as he’s the most qualified. And the man I marry will have to qualify.” He gazed down at her. “A tall order to fill.” She shrugged. “Not necessarily. I’ve met three men in my life that qualify on those grounds, and I don’t get around that much. There are a lot of good men out there.” “Three?” His eyes began to twinkle again. “I’d bet one was your father, or you wouldn’t feel this way. Another would be Josh, because you are still considering him. Who’s the third?” Warmth crawled up her neck and she smiled up at him wryly.
“We kind of strayed from the subject, didn’t we? As I recall, I was telling you guys to keep your own stables clean.”
He was silent a moment, and his gaze became guarded. “Meaning, if I can’t take care of my own stable, I shouldn’t be meddling in yours?” He would take it that way. Was he referring to his failed romance? She shook her head. “No, meaning you should mind your own business - meaning this isn’t your stable.” He quirked a brow, and the dark eyes twinkled with the very devil.
She stared up at him. He was teasing, of course. He found this entire conversation amusing. And what was worse, now he thought she was setting a trap for him. Why couldn’t she learn to keep her big mouth shut? When his humor failed to bring a smile to her lips he crammed his hands into his pockets and stared at the ground.
“I suppose a guy should be careful whose filly he’s trying to shoo into his stable - especially when she’s still wearing another man’s halter.”
He glanced up and smiled at her. “Of course, she might be skittish if she didn’t know how secure the structure was. A man would have to be careful not to move too fast.”
She stared at him. Was he trying to say he was interested in marriage? Alex? No. He said he wanted her, but in truth, he was still involved with the past. She met his gaze.
“Any filly would be skittish about going into a stable where the ghost of another lingered.”
The smile faded from his lips and the dark eyes veiled over again. Was he angry? Hurt? It was true, though. Alex wasn’t over his last relationship yet. His silence was all the proof she needed. He was the third man - the only man for her, because he could do something that neither her father nor Josh could. He could make her enjoy being second mate. And with that thought she was certain she loved him. Was there a chance for them - if she was willing to wait?