Broken: The Cavanaugh Brothers...James Cavanaugh
Sheridan looked from one saddled horse to the next. They were stunning, amazing creatures. She shook her head. “Pass.”
He came toward her. “What’s got you so scared? These mares are gentle. And we won’t be doing anything but a walk. I swear it.”
Her eyes fell to her boots. They weren’t the riding kind, just pretty. “It’s not the horse, it’s the height.”
“You’re afraid of heights?”
“I’ve been known to be, yes.”
“But you rode with me before.”
“That was an emergency situation.”
She felt his hand under her chin, and then he was lifting her face and her eyes to his. They were deep blue and filled with lighthearted warmth. “You’re going to enjoy it. Trust me.”
Her heart stuttered and everything south of her belly button warmed. “Trust you? I barely know you.”
He grinned and took her hand. Back in Dallas, in the Cavanaugh Towers, every hand she shook was smooth, even the men’s. Now, against her palm, she felt calluses and strength, pure rugged masculinity that stated very clearly that the man doing the holding wasn’t getting manicures or lotioning up after his shower every night. This man worked with animals and rope, with his hands, pushed his body to the limit, and didn’t give a lick about hydration or grooming.
“Besides,” he said, leading her over to the mare. “If you’re going to be hanging out with me, Ms. O’Neil, horses are part of the package.”
“Hanging out with you?” she said, the air inside her lungs vanishing. “So we’re buddies now?”
He turned to look at her, those blue eyes vivid under a dusty, black Stetson. He could seriously make a girl melt with just that look alone. It wasn’t fair.
He held out the stirrup. “Put your boot in here, buddy.”
Her heart was beating furiously inside her chest. For so many reasons. What did she do? Run? Fake a hamstring injury? There was about three things she was actually afraid of in her life – and dammit, twof them centered around heights. And, she had the feeling that if she refused, James wouldn’t go either. Then it would be her fault if they didn’t see the ranch land. Oh, those potentially homeless mustangs...
Dammit again. With a quick prayer for her safe return and the hope that there would be no symptoms of vertigo, she muttered a terse, “fine,” and slipped her foot into the stirrup. She was about to pull herself up when she felt James’s hands around her hips. In one smooth movement, he lifted her up and placed her in the saddle. Totally breathless, her hips humming with a tingling sensation, she grabbed hold of the horn. At least that’s what she believed it was called.
James crossed his arms over his very impressive and stared up at her. “You need more pancakes, Sheridan. That was like lifting a butterfly. I was scared I’d rip a wing.”
Her knuckles white as she gripped the “horn”, she glared down at him. “I’m rolling my eyes right now, in case you can’t see me through that mist of bullshit.”
No doubt he was saying that to lighten the mood and calm her fears. Which, she had to admit, was kind of sweet – even though it wasn’t working.
He pretended to look hurt. “No bull. I’m serious. You’re a skinny thing.” He scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “Not everywhere of course. Not where a woman outa have some extra, if you don’t mind me sayin so.”
Oh my god. She blushed terribly. Her cheeks, and maybe other more intimate places too. He was talking about her chest, right?
“I might need to take you out for a meal or two,” he continued. “Make sure you’re getting enough.”
The horse shifted beneath Sheridan and she inhaled sharply. “That’s totally unnecessary. I eat plenty – as you saw. I just have a fast metabolism. No need to meet me at the diner--”
“Doesn’t have to be the diner,” he interrupted, attaching a rope from his horse to hers. “We could go to the Bull’s Eye. May not look it, but they have some pretty decent grub.”
“Be careful, Mr. Cavanaugh,” she said as he jumped up and settled himself on the horse she believed was called Bridget.
He tipped his hat back an inch. “Of what, Miss O’Neil?”
“You’re getting awfully close to this sounding like a date.”