Needed: a mother for his son
Caitlin had kept her promise!
His rush of relief made Matt realise just how anxious he'd been. But too quickly that feeling ebbed, leaving a gut-wrenching ache of desire.
He braced an arm on the partition between the stalls and watched her work. Her long slender legs bent slightly at the knees as she held the pony's hind leg off the ground.
Black denim pulled tautly across her backside, large pockets flattened to the curve of each buttock. The knitted fabric of her bright red t-shirt had come away from the waistband of her jeans. He could see the shallow indented line of her spine in the expanse of exposed creamy skin.
A loose ponytail tamed her dark curls, leaving her nape tantalising bare. A sensitive area for her? Would she murmur encouragement if he pressed his lips to the milky skin, bit gently on the smooth flesh?
What would happen if he scooped her up and laid her on the stack of straw bales at the back of the stall? What would happen if he followed her down, matching his body to the length of hers? It was all he could do to stop himself from groaning aloud. He clenched his jaw, looking away for a few moments until he had himself under control.
Madness to think having her stay in Garrangay was a good idea. Madness.
He ducked under one of the ropes that clipped the pony into the stall and moved closer.
Her name snapped out, harsh and short. She jolted upright and spun to face him. Wide grey eyes met his as she stepped back into the pony's flank. Startled, the stocky chestnut shifted its weight, catapulting her forward.
Matt reached out to catch her.
Caitlin gasped as her foot landed on a shifting surface. Lurching awkwardly, she looked down to see the grooming kit wrapped around her ankle. A split second later, she found herself plastered against the front of Matt's shirt, her hands clutching at the soft knit as she tried to find her balance.
"Do you think we've got time for this, honey?"
She could hear the husky laughter in his voice, feel his chuckle rumbling in his chest, the warmth of his hands wrapped around her upper arms.
"Very funny, to be sure." She tipped her head back so she could scowl at his grinning face. His body heat radiated into her, making her desperately aware of him and of her own turbulent response. "Stop blathering like an eejit and help me up."
His hands shifted, wrapping snugly around her waist. A moment later she realised his intention and grabbed his shoulders as her feet dangled clear of the ground. The grooming kit fell off with a dull clatter. Instead of releasing her, he kept her close. She could feel her breasts flattened against his chest.
They were nose to nose, would have been touching if she hadn't arched her head back slightly. With their eyes level, she was trapped by his shimmering dark green stare.
"Is that better?"
She nearly gulped at the husky growl in his voice.
"No. Yes. No. That's not what I..." She swallowed, wrenching her gaze away from the emerald eyes to the strong, angular bones of his face. "Um, not what I meant. Put... put me down, please."
Her relief at his ready agreement was short-lived. The slow slide down his torso tormented her already sensitised breasts, made her aware of his solid strength. Made her aware of her needs and vulnerability. The few seconds that it must have taken for her feet to touch the ground seemed endless. Delicious torture.
She could feel the slight bunching of her t-shirt at her solar plexus where it had been pushed up. If she could gather her wits, she would move to straighten it. As soon as she'd completed the thought, Matt's hands moved, his fingers brushing the unbelievably sensitive skin at her waist.
She closed her eyes, feeling her shallow gasping breaths, clutching at his upper arms, as an avalanche of sensations raced through her. Her heart pounded, the hard beats shattering all hope of composure. Surely he could hear them, feel them. With the way they were standing, how could he not?
Opening her eyes, she found her gaze drawn to his mouth. He wasn't smiling any more.
Her gaze slid down, away from his face, away from the shapely fullness of his bottom lip to the column of his throat. His carotid pulse was surging just as erratically as hers was. The evidence of his vulnerability was deeply moving. She lifted her gaze, compelled to meet his.
He was closer, intent plain in his half-closed eyes.
His head tilted, angling so his mouth could meet hers. There was plenty of time to say no. She didn't want to stop him, but some small spark of sanity insisted on making an attempt at protest.
"Is this wise, Matthew?" The words came out low and husky, disturbingly unlike her voice. Her hands flexed around his upper arms, over the solid muscle.
"Wise? No. But I don't care."
The whisper of his breath passed over her waiting lips. Her eyelids fluttered down as his mouth settled over hers.
She'd waited forever for a kiss like this. A tantalising invitation to get to know him better. Utterly lost in the gentle teasing contact, time was suspended.
But then... it wasn't enough. She wanted, no, needed, more. She moaned softly, sliding her palms up over his shoulders and running her fingers into his short thick hair.
Pressing closer, she felt him move back until with a small bump he reached the wooden partition.
The kiss deepened, his lips sliding over hers, warm and firm and confident. His hands on her back, arms wrapping around her ribs, small delightful points of pressure as his fingers pressed into her flesh. All the while the wonderful, moist caress continued, promising excitement, hinting at greater pleasure. Her entire body hummed to the thrill of it. She felt at once energised and on the verge of fainting with pleasure.
A sudden clatter, loud and metallic, from a nearby stall ripped her out of the moment. She pulled back, desperately sucking in a chestful of air. Lord, what was she doing? She scrambled away to stare dumbly at Matt. The shock she felt was reflected in his dark eyes.
He stood, his back to the wall, legs braced apart. His arms stretched out towards her, the gesture almost a plea. If she wanted to, if she was brave enough, foolish enough, she could step forward, fit back into his embrace. Press her lips back to his glistening mouth. But the heady, seductive moment was gone and in its place, the dousing chill of sanity.
And a split second later came a child's shriek, then a strident neigh from further away.
His hands slowly returned to his sides.
"Oh, Lord." She backed away another step as she raised unsteady fingers to her lips, feeling their fullness and sensitivity. "We must be gone in the head."
He looked at her blankly. "Sorry?"
"Daft, we must be daft."
Despite the balmy warmth of the day, he felt almost cold where her body had been pressed against him.
He grunted, straightening away from the partition as he ran his fingers through his hair and around the back of his neck. The kiss had exploded in his brain, leaving him dazed and barely able to string coherent thoughts together.
Should he apologise? He didn't feel like it.
Caitlin touched her mouth, then snatched her hand away when she realised he was watching her. She scowled at him. "You - you must be wondering where Nicky is."
"Of course," he said, his voice gravelly.
Her speedy composure felt like an insult. He wanted to see if it would hold if he dragged her back into his arms.
"He lost his number. Doreen's taken him to find another. They should be back any moment..." She glanced around. "Any moment."
She looked as though she'd have liked to suggest he wait somewhere else but in the end she said, "Right. I'll - I'll finish Sheba's feet, then."
"Yes." He watched as she bent to gather the scattered grooming gear. Her hands were shaking. Not so composed after all. Elation thundered through him.