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Authors: Janet Dailey

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BOOK: Six White Horses
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After the coffeepot was filled with coffee and water, Patty set it on the gas burner of the small stove and began putting back the breakable items she had packed away before the morning's journey. She was in the bedroom setting the clock on the small shelf near the bed when her grandfather came in.

"The coffee isn't quite done yet," she called out to him. "Do you want to shower and change while you wait?"

"No, I don't think so," he answered.

"I think I will," speaking her thoughts aloud without actually addressing her comment to him. She ran a hand over her hair. "And wash my hair, too."

"You go ahead, girl," nodded her grandfather as she stepped from the bedroom into the narrow hallway and opened the door containing the bath towels. "I'll have to check
on Libbie later on. After that I'll clean up."

Patty leaned against the closet, drawing her brows together in a serious expression. "Gramps, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about."

"Do you want to save it for another time, honey?" he asked as he bent his lean flame to peer out of the window of the trailer. "Pete Barber just walked by and I wanted to talk to him about when we can use the arena tomorrow for practice. We'll discuss it later, okay?"

With a wave of his hand, he was walking out the door.

With a shrugging sigh, Patty hung the bath towels on the rack beside the shower stall, walked into the small kitchen to turn down the fire under the bubbling coffee pot and returned to adjust the water temperature for her shower. A few minutes later she was beneath the refreshing spray, the tingling jets of water massaging her tired muscles as it and the soap washed her clean.

She had just lathered her hair when she heard the trailer door open and her grandfather walk in again. "The coffee is done. You can pour yourself a cup now."

Ducking her head under the spray to rinse away the shampoo, Patty called out again. "The thing I wanted to talk to you about was next year's bookings. I'd like to change our tour to another circuit."

"Why?" was his answering question.

Her hair squeaked clean and she turned off the water, stepping from the shower to wrap her head in one towel as she dried herself with the other.

"I know all the arguments for staying here," she replied. "It's closer to home. The dates are all fairly close, so we don't have very many long trips to make from one rodeo to the other. And we've performed in all these places before so they know us and it's easier to book. But I think it's time we made a change, saw a different part of the country."

She paused, staring at the wall as if she could see through it to the kitchen on the other side. Her mouth twisted wryly.

"The truth is I want to get away from all these old faces, all the people that have known me since I started in the business. They all remember me as that pigtailed little kid that followed Lije around. And I'm tired of their amused sympathy."

An angry toss of the towel onto the rack followed the last clipped statement. "Especially Morgan Kincaid! I know you like him, but I really can't stand him!"

Reaching for the robe that she usually kept on the bathroom hook, Patty discovered it wasn't there. The clink of a cup against a saucer sounded from the kitchen as she reached for the damp towel on the rack and wrapped it sarong-wise around her body.

"Before you start telling me all the reasons why it's impossible to switch circuits, pour me a cup of coffee," she called out.

Her grandfather's muffled okay was followed by movements in the kitchen and another clink of a cup while Patty wiped up the scattered droplets of water that had escaped from the shower. She and her grandfather had discussed the possibility of changing their tour before, shortly after Lije was married. At the time she had been too miserable to argue and had been easily persuaded by his arguments to stay with the same circuit. Now she felt distinctly refreshed and ready to do battle. He would find that she wouldn't be so easily convinced this time!

As she stepped from the small bathroom into the equally small hallway, a cup of coffee was held out to her.

Patty froze at the sight of the large hand that held it, her gaze springing to its owner. The searing flames in her cheeks were not the result of the warm shower, but from the appraising look Morgan Kincaid was giving her as he inspected her from bare head to bare toe, taking his leisure to study all the bareness the towel exposed in between.

"What are you doing here? Where's grandpa?" Patty breathed, unable to meet the bright gleam in his eyes or see past the massive shoulders to the living area of the small trailer.

"Outside, talking to Pete." The hand holding the cup moved forward. "Don't you want your coffee now?"

With fumbling fingers, she took the cup from him, her knees quivering at the familiar and insulting way he kept looking at her. The warmth from the cup was comforting and she wrapped her fingers around it to draw strength.

"Was that you I heard come into the trailer? Grandpa didn't—" Her voice began to tremble, too.

"Gramps didn't hear a word you said. You'll have to repeat your carefully rehearsed speech again," Morgan smiled at her with infuriating complacency.

"You knew I thought it was grandpa out here. You could have let me know," she accused resentfully.

"I didn't find out anything that I didn't already know, so what's the harm?" One shoulder was lifted in a mocking shrug.

"There is no harm. I can't stand you, and I'll gladly say it to your face!" Patty retorted. "But it was supposed to be a private conversation. If you had any manners or sense of decency, you would have let me know you were here." She placed, a hand on her hip in rigid challenge. "Exactly why are you here?"

"I wanted to talk to you and gramps together," Morgan replied easily, the glitter never leaving the sapphire depths of his eyes. "He was busy with Pete, so he suggested that I come in here and wait. The coffee was your idea. Incidentally, you make very good coffee."

"I wish you'd choke on it!" Patty hissed, spinning away to stalk to her bedroom in the rear of the trailer, the spurt of temper giving strength to her previously unsteady legs.

"So you've decided to run, have you?" Morgan drawled.

"It is not running!" she answered vehemently. "It's a new start." She stopped short beside her bed, stamping a bare foot in frustration.

"I don't know why I'm explaining my reasons to you. It's none of your business!"

"I don't suppose so," he agreed lazily.

Whether it had been the furious pounding of blood in her ears or a subconscious belief that Morgan wouldn't follow her or a combination of both, Patty hadn't heard the footsteps following her to the bedroom. Not until his voice came from inside the doorway did she realize he was behind her.

"Get out of my bedroom!"

The towel almost slipped loose when she pivoted sharply around. The quick movement of her hand saved her from an embarrassing incident.

"Is this yours?" His gaze swung with casual interest around the small cubicle. "I didn't know if you or your grandfather slept here.

"Grandpa sleeps on the couch. I want to get dressed. Will you leave?"

Her teeth were grinding together as her nerves reacted to his dark form that nearly filled the room. The force of his masculinity was overpoweringly apparent.

"It's a shame that you wear jeans all the time," he commented, ignoring her biting order. "They cover up a very attractive pair of legs. They're very nicely shaped."
 

His lazy glance moved from the bareness of her thighs to the shadowy cleft between her breasts, partially visible above the towel wrapped around her body. "—Along with other things," Morgan added suggestively.

A crimson flush tinted her cheeks as she hitched the towel higher. The protective gesture drew a smile on the hard male mouth.

"I have to get dressed," Patty repeated, less vigorously than before as a nervous awareness took hold of her.

"Don't mind me." he shrugged.

The casual step he took farther into the room prompted Patty to take an immediate step backward. Her complete concentration on his presence blocked out the memory of how close she was to the bed. She backed into it, lost her balance, and started to fall onto its softness.

Morgan's reflexes were swifter. With lithe coordination, a saving arm was circled around her waist while his other hand removed the spilling cup of hot coffee from hers.

The next breath she took, she found herself being held closely against his chest, the towel around her wet hair brushing his tanned cheek. The rough denim material of his Levi's was rubbing against her thighs while one of her hands clutched the cotton material of his shirt and the other had a death grip on the towel.

Drawing a shaky breath, Patty tilted her head back to meet the amused glitter shining through the smoky veil of his half-closed lashes. The pressure of the hand against the small of her back increased to arch her closer. Her coffee cup was now sitting on the shelf near her bed and his free hand moved slowly up her arm to caress a smooth white shoulder.

Her heart gave a frightened leap as she noticed the deliberately slow descent of his mouth. Twisting her head out of its path, she gasped at the provocative touch of his lips along her neck. Flames of sensuous delight licked her skin, emanating from the sensitive area he was exploring.

"Let me go," she breathed erratically, afraid to struggle too vigorously and loosen the precarious hold on her bath towel.
 

"Kissing you seems to have become a habit with me lately," he murmured against her neck.

"It's a bad habit," Patty answered in an angry whisper, fighting the involuntary shudders quaking to her toes.

Her head was twisted as far to the side as it could go, but his slowly searching mouth was making its way surely to hers. She tried to elude him by turning her face to the opposite side, an action Morgan had anticipated. His hand was thereto halt her chin so the drugging warmness of his mouth could find hers.

The possessive firmness of his kiss acted like a hallucinogen as a psychedelic display of rainbow colors exploded in her mind. Patty resisted the fascinating pull of the whirling display just as she resisted the pressure of his hands and the expert persuasion of his mouth.

The awkwardness of maintaining her scanty attire kept her attempts weak and unsuccessful. Only when Morgan chose to end the embrace was she allowed to pull free.

Wide, accusing eyes snapped their displeasure as she put a hasty step between them. The direction of the movement was toward the hallway door so she could escape should he try to approach her again. Her jerky, uncoordinated move had loosened the tuck she had made to keep the towel around her. When she tried to refasten it and watch Morgan at the same time, her fingers turned into thumbs of awkwardness.

"Here, kid, let me do that for you," Morgan said grinning.

"Don't you come near me!" she warned in a husky voice, clutching the loosened towel with both hands.

But he took a step toward her anyway, catching her by the waist with a second step when she turned to run down the hallway. She twisted and wiggled to be free, kicking at him with her bare feet and encountering only the hard leather of his cowboy boots.

"If you don't stop it," a gleam of amused indulgence glittered in his face despite the firmness in his voice, "I'm going to throw you on that bed. Now, stand still."

Patty started to ignore his command and continue her struggles, until she felt his hands on her waist and her feet being lifted from the floor.

"All right!" she said, gasping out her agreement in a panicked voice.

Morgan set her on the floor. "You're the hardest person in the world to help." His large hands retained their grip on her waist as he expected her to start fighting him again.

"Nobody likes to accept help from people they don't like," Patty jeered. "And if you were truly interested in helping me and not embarrassing me, you would leave this room and give me privacy to get dressed."

An uncaring shrug moved the shoulders in front of her. "You may be right. I'll try to remember that the next time something like this occurs."

Patty breathed in sharply in anger, ready to issue a cutting retort, only to have her breath stolen as he pulled the edges of the towel from her fingers. His movements were swift and sure. Before she could recover from her surprise, the towel was firmly in place. The tingling warmth in the breast he had accidentally touched sent hot flames of embarrassment up her neck.

"You're all cinched up again," Morgan laughed sensuously. "Do you feel better?"

"I won't feel better or safe until you're out of my sight!" she retorted.

The grooves remained around his mouth as his gaze narrowed on her face. The hand that had been negligently hooked in his waistband moved to capture her chin.

"I'd hate to have you find out you're wrong about thinking that way," he murmured.

Her fingers closed over the steel sinews in his wrist, trying to push his hand away from her chin. Then the firm pressure of his mouth was against hers, lingering and warm. Patty halted her useless efforts to push his hand away and worked on the strong chin and powerful jaw.

BOOK: Six White Horses
10.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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