He put his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels, lifted expressive dark brows and with a grin he said, “Well, not all over.”
“Oh, that’s disgusting,” she returned, disapproval sounding loud.
“Well, it’s not nice to talk meanly about past girlfriends.”
“I bet she looked great in a string bikini,” Annie said with a snort.
“Just unbelievable,” he said, clearly taunting her. “Now, why would you be so jealous? You don’t even know poor, thin Susanna. For all you know, she’s a sweet, caring, genuine person and I was horrible to her.” And he said all this with a sly smile.
“I am certainly not jealous! Curious, but not jealous!”
“Green as a bullfrog,” he accused.
“Oh, bloody hell. Listen, I’m shot. Long day. Gotta go.” She grabbed her purse and jacket and whirled out of the kitchen. And got lost. She found herself in the wide hall that led to the bedrooms. She found her way back to the great room, then to the kitchen. “Where the hell is the door?”
He swept an arm wide toward the door that led to the garage, still wearing that superior smile. What an egomaniac, she thought, heading for the door.
When she got to her car, she thought, well, that was perfectly awful. What’s more, he saw right through her. She was attracted to him, and because she knew there had probably been many beautiful women in his past, she’d let it goad her into some grotesque and envious remarks about the only one she knew of, Susanna. The child-woman who obviously had a little butt and nice rack. Why in the world would she do that? What did she care?
It probably had something to do with touring a four-thousand-square-foot custom home, beautifully furnished, across the compound from a spacious stable with a couple of horse trailers her dad would have killed for. Well, what was one to expect from a veterinary practice that served so many, over such a wide area? And not a new practice, either, but a mature one—probably forty years old. Established. Lucrative.
She’d grown up in a three-bedroom, hundred-year-old farmhouse. Her three brothers shared a bedroom and never let her forget it for a second. They all shared one very small bathroom. But she loved the way she’d grown up and had never been jealous a day in her life—why would she be now? Could it be that in addition to all that, she’d never gone to special, private schools, never worn custom-tailored riding gear, never could afford the best riding lessons or most prestigious competitions? Also, she had wide hips, big feet and a less-than-memorable bustline. “Oh, for God’s sake, Annie,” she said to herself. “Since when have you even thought about those things!”
How long had she been sitting here in her car? Long enough to get cold, that was how long. Well, it was time to suck it up. She’d go back in there and just tell him she was cranky, that being one of those “sturdy” farm girls who owns exactly one pair of high heels she can barely walk in, it just rubbed her the wrong way hearing about the kind of woman who could get the attention of one of the county’s few bachelors. Not that she wanted his attention, but just the same…..She’d apologize and promise never to act that way again. She wasn’t usually emotional. Or irrational.
She walked back into the still-open garage, up to the back door and gave a short tap. It flew open. He reached out and grabbed her wrist, pulled her roughly into the house, put his arms around her, pressed her up against the kitchen wall just inside the door, and kissed her! His mouth came down on hers so fiercely, with such dominance and confidence, her eyes flew open in shock. Then he began to move over her mouth while he held her against the wall with his wide, hard chest, his big hands running up and down her rib cage, over her hips.
She couldn’t move. She couldn’t raise her arms or let her eyes drift closed or even kiss back. She held her breath. What the hell…..?
He finally lifted his lips off hers and said, “You like me. I knew it.”
“I don’t like you that much. Never do that again,” she said.
“You want me,” he said, smiling. “And I’m going to let you have me.”
“You’re conceited. I do not want you.”
He kissed her again, and again her eyes flew open. This time she worked her arms free and pushed against his chest.
“Well, hell, just kiss me back and see if I start to grow on you,” he said.
“No. Because you think this is funny. I came back in here to apologize for being crabby. I don’t care about that skinny woman. Girl. I’m just a little tired.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Annie. I think it’s kind of cute. But you don’t have to be jealous of Susanna. She’s long gone and I hardly even missed her. We weren’t right for each other. At all.”
“That’s what my dad said.”
“Hank said that?”
“What did he say? Exactly?” Nate wanted to know.
She shouldn’t. But she did. “He said I’d be more your type, but I’d have had to kill the skinny blonde first. He said she looked near death, anyway.”
Nate thought that was hilarious. He laughed for a long time, but he didn’t let go of her. “Good thing she left, then. She couldn’t hold her own in any kind of fight. She cried if she broke a nail.”
“I bet she was just one of many.”
He withdrew a little, but the amusement stayed in his eyes. “You think I’m a player.”
“How could you not be? It’s not like I don’t know about those rich horse people. And you’re the doctor! Of course you’ve had a million girlfriends.”
The smile finally vanished. “No,” he said. “I’m not that guy, Annie. Just ’cause I’ve been around those folks doesn’t mean I’m that kind of guy.”
“Well, there are the girl vets you’re going to the islands with,” she reminded him.