The Playboy of Argentina(2)

By: Bella Frances


But Frankie Ryan wasn’t drooling or licking her lips. Oh, no.

She was rolling her eyes and shaking her head. As much at herself for her stupid reaction—thankfully she now had that under total control—as at the flirty polo groupies all around her.

The fact that Rocco Hermida was here, playing, was completely irrelevant. It really was.

He probably didn’t even remember her …

Which was actually the most galling thing of all. While she had burned with shame and then fury on learning that he’d bought Ipanema, and had then been sent off to the convent, he had appeared in her life like a meteor, blazed a trail and as quickly blazed off. He’d never been back in touch. He’d taken her pride and then her joy. But she had learned a lesson. Letting anyone get under her skin like that was never going to happen again.

She had a perfectly legitimate reason for being here that had nothing to do with Rocco Hermida. She might look like a tourist today, but she was full of business. Landing a job as product development manager at Evaña Cosmetics, after slogging her guts out as an overgrown intern and then an underpaid assistant just so she could sock it to her old man was a dream come true!

She could think of worse things than travelling to the Dominican Republic and then Argentina in search of the perfect aloe vera plantation. And she could think of much worse things than an overnighter in Buenos Aires to lap up the polo followed by a weekend at her friend Esme’s place in Punta del Este to lap up the sun and the sea.

Bliss.

She got another drink—why not? As long as she was fresh enough to start on her presentation tomorrow she could have a little downtime today. It might even do her good to relax before she went out on her last trips. She still had plenty of time to put it all together into a report before the long flight home and her moment in the boardroom spotlight.

It was such a big deal. She’d spent so long convincing the directors to take this leap of faith, to look farther than their own backyard for organic ingredients, to have a unique selling point that was truly unique. So while she could play the tourist here today, the last thing she’d do was jeopardise it by getting all caught up in Rocco damn Hermida.

She began to thread and weave through the contrasting mix of casual porteños and glamorous internationals. On the other side of the giant field, spread out like bunting, she spotted the exclusive white hospitality tents. Esme would be in one of them, playing hostess, smiling and chatting and posing for pictures. As the Palm Beach captain’s wife, she was part of the package. Frankie could imagine nothing worse.

An announcement rang like a call to prayer, and another headshot loomed on the giant screens. There he was again. The default scowl back in position, the dark hair swept back and landing in that flop across his golden brow. He was in the team colours, scarlet and black, white breeches and boots. As the camera panned out, she instinctively looked at his thighs. Under the breeches they were hard, strong and covered in the perfect dusting of hair. She knew. She remembered. She’d kissed them.

For a moment she felt dazed, lost in a mist of girlish memories. Her first crush, her first kiss, her first broken heart. All thanks to that man. She drew her eyes off the screen again, scowled at it. Muttered words under her breath that her mother would be shocked to hear, let them slide into the wind with the commentator’s jabbering biography—a ‘what’s not to love?’ on the Hurricane—and the brassy notes of a gaudy marching band.

The first chukka was about to start. The air around her sparkled with eager anticipation. She could take her place—she could watch this—and if he turned her stomach with his arrogance she could cheer on Palm Beach. Even if two of his ponies were from Ipanema, the Rocco Hermida on those screens was just an imprint of a figment of a teenage girl’s infatuation. She owed him nothing.

If only it was that simple.

He was electric.

Each chukka was more dramatic and stunning than the one before.

He galloped like the wind and turned on a sixpence. His scowl was caught on camera, a picture of composed concentration, and when he scored—which he did, ten times—a flash of white teeth was his momentary gift to the crowd.

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