Usually when he worked with first- time riders he had to
remind them to sit up straight. Apparently he wouldn’t
have to remind Anastasia. Pride, and maybe a lingering
touch of fear, kept her back straight as a lodge pole pine.
Her wide smile of accomplishment tinged with panic
tugged at his heart. He’d never helped someone overcome
a handicap, and that’s what her fear had become.
Being a part of her struggle was an honor.
He snapped several pictures from different angles. You could never have enough of a good thing.
“Let me check them out.” He scrolled through the pictures,
knowing they were fine but also wanting a chance
to send one to his cell. He didn’t ask her if he could have
one. He just did it without worrying about why.
After he’d sent it over, he glanced up. “Want to take a look?”
“No, I want to get down. Adrenaline rush. Feeling a little wobbly.”
He could hear it in her voice. The party was over for
today. “Stay right there. I’ll help you.” He tucked her
phone away and walked over. The last thing she needed
was to take a tumble climbing off the horse because she
wasn’t steady on her pins.
“I feel silly. I was fine a minute ago, and now I’m shaking all over.”
“Probably a combination of adrenaline and lack of food.”
She chuckled softly. “And lack of sleep.”
“That, too. Grab on to the horn and slide your right foot out of the stirrup.”
“Okay.” She white- knuckled the saddle horn. “What next?”
He assessed the situation. She wasn’t kidding about
being shaky. He could see her trembling and he didn’t
want to take any chances. Tomorrow she could dismount on her own.
“Slide your left foot out, too. I’m going to lift you
down.” Reaching up, he grasped her around the waist.
“Mac, I can—”
“Tomorrow you can. Now let go of the horn.”
“I feel like such a baby.” But she put both hands on his shoulders.
“You’re not a baby.” She sure as hell was a woman,
though. The second he’d touched her, he’d been forcefully
reminded of that. She was so warm.
The dismount wasn’t smooth, but it would have been
a lot worse without him holding on to her. She hadn’t
taken her right foot completely out of the stirrup, so she
got hung up as she tried to lift her leg over the saddle.
While she worked her way out of that tangle, his hat fell
off and her breasts quivered within inches of his face.
Finally she got loose and made it to the ground, although
she was off balance. He continued to steady her as she searched for her footing.
“Sorry.” With a breathless little laugh, she glanced up
once she had both feet planted. “That was awkward.”
“Not too bad.” Now was the time he should let go of
her and she should let go of him. It didn’t seem to be
happening. “At least you didn’t fall.”
“Thanks to you.”
“You okay?” He was stalling. If she lifted her hands
from his shoulders, he’d release her and step back. If she
didn’t, then he was going to kiss her.
She knew it. Her eyes had a gleam that told him she
was thinking about what that would be like. She was curious about so many things. She was probably curious
about that, too.
“I’m fine.” She said it softly, as if she didn’t want to break the mood. Her fingers tightened against the fabric
of his shirt. Instead of letting go, she was hanging on.
His heart beat faster. She wanted him to kiss her. In that case, he was about to satisfy the lady’s curiosity.