Home > Mackenzie's Magic (Mackenzie Family #4)(9)

Mackenzie's Magic (Mackenzie Family #4)(9)
Author: Linda Howard

He had resented his inability to ignore her as easily as she ignored him. She had a very still, intense quality about her, a focus that bespoke a will of iron. She was as absorbed in her job as he was in his, to the point that he'd thought she didn't even know he existed as a person, much less as a man. The idea had been strangely disturbing. He'd needed to blend in, but instead he'd found himself wanting to stand out, so that she would look at him with recognition in her eyes instead of a blank stare. Night after night he'd lain alone and thought about her, resenting both the fact that he couldn't seem to stop and the fact that she was oblivious to him. He wanted her to be as aware of him as he was of her, wanted to know that she, too, twisted on lonely sheets and thought of him in bed with her. He wanted her with an intensity that infuriated him. Everything about her appealed to him, and that was surprising in itself, because there was nothing overtly sexual about her manner. She was pure business; she never flirted, never played favorites with the men under her authority, never made a suggestive remark, didn't go out of her way to make herself more attractive. Not that she had to; he couldn't have been more aware of her than if she made a practice of parading naked in front of him.

He knew exactly how her jeans clung to her curvy little ass, had imagined more than once gripping those round cheeks in his hands and lifting her into his thrust. He'd studied the shape of her high, round breasts underneath the flannel shirts she wore and, considering the slightness of her build, driven himself crazy thinking about how tight she would be when he slid into her. He'd had all the normal, heated sexual thoughts. But he'd also found himself absorbed in the satiny texture of her skin, as flawless as if she didn't spend countless hours outdoors. No woman should have skin like that, as pure as a child's, and so trans-lucent he could see the fragile blue veins in her temples. He would look at her pale brown hair, bleached by the sun into streaks of ashy blond, and think of how it would trail across his arm like a fall of silk. Her eyes were as black as night, fey and unfathomable, tempting a man to try to plumb those mysterious depths.

Desire, like heat, was measured in degrees, and ran the gamut from lukewarm to vaporization. She had long since turned him to steam, he thought; it was nothing short of a miracle that he'd held her in his arms all night and done nothing more than that, even though all she was wearing was a pair of skimpy, blood-pressure-raising panties and his own T-shirt, which was so large on her that it kept slipping down to reveal one silky shoulder.

This was desire, all right, and more. It was want carried to a higher degree than he'd ever before experienced, a fever that refused to cool, a need he hadn't let himself satisfy. Until last night, he hadn't even let himself talk to her, even though he'd known he should, to see what, if anything, he could find out from her. Oddly enough, she had seemed to avoid him, too, though he'd noticed immediately that Ms. Mackenzie was a hands-on trainer who knew everyone working under her and was on easy terms with them. She was pure magic with the horses and a tyrant when it came to their care, but a benevolent tyrant, and everyone from the stable hands to the riders seemed to treat her with varying degrees of respect and adoration. It was out of character for her to avoid him, but that was exactly what she'd done.

It had made him suspicious. It was his job to be suspicious, to notice anything out of the ordinary, and her behavior toward him had made him wonder if something about him had made her suspicious, put her on guard. With his background, he was familiar with horses, which had made him the logical choice for the job, and he'd tried to blend in. Still, he was always aware that his training had permanently changed him, and a sharp eye might be able to spot the little things that forever set him apart from others: the extraordinary alertness, so that he was aware of every little detail of the activity going on around him; his sharp, fast reflexes; his unconscious habit of placing himself in positions that could be defended.

And she had spotted those details, known what they meant. He didn't at all like the swiftness with which she had sized him up and said, "You're a cop," even if her actions of the night before had already convinced him that she wasn't involved in the ring that killed racehorses and collected the insurance money. She saw too much, with those black eyes of hers, and now she was looking at him as if she could see into his soul.

Honesty prodded at him. Even though every hormone in his body was roaring at him not to do anything to jeopardize his current position, to stay right where he was, on top of her and all but between her legs, he ground his teeth and said what he knew be had to say. "Marriage? You must be hurt worse than I thought, since you're delirious."

She didn't take offense. Instead, she curled her arms around his neck and gave him that small, inscrutable, damnably female smile again. "I understand. She said gently. "You need time to get used to the idea, and you have a job to do. This can wait. Right now, you have to catch some damn horse killers. Chapter Five

She needed to clear her head, needed some time away from him so that her nerves would settle down. Maris pushed lightly against his shoulders; he hesitated, but then rolled to the side, freeing her from his weight. The loss of that heavy pressure, the vital heat, was so unexpectedly painful that she almost reached out to pull him over her again. One glance at the straining fabric of his shorts told her that he might not be able to withstand any more temptation, and while her entire body yearned for him, she wanted to be able to fully enjoy their first time together. She had a concussion, and there were an unknown number of people after them who would likely try to kill them, as well as Sole Pleasure, powerful distractions, indeed.

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