The Playboy of Argentina(5)

By: Bella Frances

He smoothed a look of hunger all over her face. And her whole body throbbed.

‘You’ve got no chance,’ she hissed.

A smile—just a flash. Then his mouth pursed in rebuttal. A shake of his head.

It was enough. She put her hands on him and shoved. Utterly solid—she hadn’t a hope. He growled a laugh, but he moved. Stepped to the side.

His tone changed. ‘Your horses are resting. They played well. In the stalls at the top. Take your time.’

She pushed past him, desperate to escape from this man, but two steps away she stopped.

She swallowed. ‘Thank you.’

‘The pleasure is mine, Frankie.’ He whispered it, threatened it. ‘And I aim to repeat it.’

He left her there. She didn’t so much hear him go as feel a dip in the charge in the air. The ponies looked round at her—sympathising, no doubt, with how hard it was to share breathing space with someone who needed his own solar system.

She found her mares. Saw their Irish names—Roisin and Orla—and their white stars, but most of all their infamously wonderful natures, marking them out as Ipanema’s. She could never criticise what he had done with them—the effort and love he poured into all of his stock was legendary. And she was proud that Ipanema’s bloodlines were here, in one of the best strings in the world. If only Ipanema was still here, too …

Her brother Mark would be delighted. His own expertise was phenomenal in the field of equine genetics and this line had put their stud farm on the map. She knew he kept in touch with Rocco, sharing professional knowledge from time to time, while her father had fumed silently every time his name was mentioned. His suspicions had never been proved, but he’d never let her forget that he had them. Oh, no. And he’d punished her by sending her off to the convent to learn to ‘behave’.

But she’d been away from Ireland five years now. Away from that life and forging her own. Madrid was her home; Evaña was her world. Her father had passed the business to Mark and all her contact with beautiful creatures like these was sadly limited to the infrequent trips she made to see him.

She kissed their polished necks and they whickered their appreciation, soothing her heated blood before she went back out into the day.

Sometimes animals were a lot easier to deal with than people. Actually, animals had always been easier than people. They had their moods and their own personalities, of course, but they never judged, never made her feel like the slightly gawky, awkward tomboy that everyone else did. Especially Ipanema. Being given her as a foal to bring on had changed her life completely.

She’d loved that pony, and Ipanema had loved her right back, and when she’d been sold to Rocco her heart had taken its first battering.

She stepped out into the warm afternoon. The thrill and roar of the crowd had died down, but the celebrations were only just beginning. There was to be a party at the Molina Lario Hotel later, hosted by the champagne sponsors. Esme had told her to join her there.

It’s only the most talked-about event in the charity polo circuit after Dubai and Deauville! You need to let your hair down—there’s more to life than work!

But Rocco would most likely be there. And her reserves were running low. Maybe she’d call it a day, lap up the night safe in bed and swerve the whole unfolding drama attached to seeing him again.

She pushed her glasses back up her nose and wound her way round to the flotilla of white hospitality tents, her legs more obedient, less shaky now. But she should have known better than to think she was home free. At the edge of the field and up on the screens were four tall men in red, black and white, four in blue and yellow. All were standing on the podium, and every eye was drawn to them. Even hers.

Round about them were all the beautiful people. She hung back, watched.

A cheer … The cup being passed over, held up. Dante beaming his easy, confident golden smile. Rocco curling his lip. The crowd adoring.

They stepped down and into the flow of people—mostly girls, she noticed. Well, they were nothing but obliging! Letting themselves get all wrapped up in them, posing together in a spray of champagne, moving to another little group. Another pose, a squeeze, kisses on cheeks.

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