Stolen the billionaire d.., p.13
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       The Billionaire Deception, p.13
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         Part #1 of Stolen series by Holly Rayner

  We got to the stables and checked in. I had reserved a couple of horses and a picnic basket ahead of time. I was praying that riding a horse was comparable to riding a bike and you never forgot. The people at the stables were really nice. A young man named Sam selected a soft black bay mare for me and he asked me if I wanted to saddle her myself.

  “Sure… I haven’t done it in a while. You’ll check it for me when I’m done, right?” He laughed and said he would. Seth stood and watched as I threw the blanket and then the saddle up on the horse and strapped and tightened the cinch. I lowered the stirrup and turned towards him and Sam. Sam was nodding and Seth looked impressed. I was proud of myself. Sam checked mine as his partner was leading out another horse, this one a dark gray gelding, for Seth. I heard the guide ask if he wanted to saddle her.

  “I’d prefer it if you did it,” Seth said. I had the feeling that wherever it was he rode before, he had stable boys looking out for him and doing the grunt work. I tucked a toe into the stirrup and swung up into the saddle of mine as Sam held onto the reins. I watched as Seth mounted his and then Sam attached the picnic basket and a red blanket to the strap that would normally hold on the saddle bags. He gave us a rundown of “do’s” and “don’ts” and a map of the park and we headed out in the direction he pointed us in.

  We rode along the trails that wound through the giant park. It never failed to amaze me how you could disappear into the park in one of the largest cities in the world and feel like you were a million miles from the concrete jungle. The season was changing and the harshness of summer was dying. The leaves on the trees were changing from light and dark greens to bright golds, oranges and reds. Some of them had already begun to drift to the ground and they crunched underneath our horses hooves as we pranced on top of them. After we rode for a few minutes, the skinny trail widened and Seth came up from where he had been behind to ride alongside me.

  “You look good on a horse,” he said with a smile.

  “So do you. I have to admit, I was a little worried about you back there at the stables.”

  “I’ve never saddled a horse,” he admitted. “The last time I actually rode was at our house in Martha’s Vineyard. When my mother was alive we used to go there a couple times a year. We had stables and horses but we also had staff so if I wanted to ride, mother would call out to the stables and when I got there, the horse would be ready.”

  “We didn’t have our own horses. My father used to take me riding at some stables up near where we lived whenever he had the chance. The man that owned the stables was really nice. He used to say you shouldn’t ride something you didn’t know how to take care of. He showed me how to saddle and bridle a horse and then how to cool them down and put them away when you’re finished riding.”

  “You talk about doing things with your dad a lot. You had a good relationship with him?”

  “Yeah, it was the best,” I said. I had to be careful here… I could feel the tears springing to my eyes and I had to fight them back.

  “My mother and I had that kind of relationship.”

  “But not your dad?” I asked.

  “No,” he said, simply. The trail narrowed again and he dropped back. When we came to the little pond that wound through part of the park I stopped and slid off my horse. I forgot to anticipate how numb my legs were going to be. When I hit the ground it felt like there was nothing to hold onto me. I staggered back into my horse. The horse snorted at me, but held firm thank goodness. Her bulk kept me from falling to the ground on my butt.

  Seth slid quickly off of his horse. “Are you okay?”

  Embarrassed, I giggled and said, “Yeah. My legs went numb. I just got down too fast.” I stretched and walked around as the horses got a drink of water. We had stopped in a really pretty, secluded spot. The grass was thick and green underneath our feet and the trees formed a canopy of colorful leaves above our heads to block out the late season sun. “Do you want to eat here?” I asked him.

  “Sure,” Seth said. “Are you feeling better?”

  “Yeah, the feeling is coming back slowly.” Unfortunately as the blood began circulating I could feel how sore my muscles were. We had been riding for at least an hour and it was my first time on a horse in a decade. I stood underneath one of the trees, looking into the pond and worked the muscles in the back of my neck with my fingers. I felt Seth step up next to me as I slid my hand down and began to knead the places I could reach in my lower back. Then suddenly I felt his strong fingers on my neck. He was massaging the sore muscles and sending little jolts of electricity down my spine and arms as he did.

  “Oh wow, that feels so good.” He didn’t say anything and he didn’t stop. A few seconds later I felt his hands move to my shoulders and I was practically comatose as they moved down my sides across my ribs and to my lower back. My body was like warm butter in his hands, delighting at his every touch. “You missed your calling,” I told him. “You should have been a masseuse.” I had my eyes closed when I felt him take me on either side of my waist and spin me around to face him. Then his lips came down to kiss mine and the electricity I had felt before sparked up and ignited. When we came up for air I said, “I take it back.”

  “You don’t think I’m a great masseuse?” he said in a breathless voice, still kneading the muscles along my shoulders and upper arms.

  “You’re a fantastic masseuse,” I told him. “But I think you’d make even more money as a professional kisser.”

  Seth bent down and ran his tongue along my lips. In a voice that was low and husky he said, “Unless you want to pay for it, I wouldn’t make a dime. I’ve decided that I don’t want to kiss anyone else but you.”

  My whole body shuddered and I could feel my limbs shaking with desire for this man who I was supposed to hate… who I was fated to destroy. I forced my eyes open and took a step back. With a shaky smile I said, “Do you want to have our picnic here?”

  He had his head cocked to the side and he was looking at me curiously with those sexy blue eyes. “Sure. Did I say something wrong?”

  “No, not at all,” I told him. It was me. I was feeling guilty about the one thing that had been most important in my life for over a decade. I forced another smile and then reaching up, I ran my hand alongside his beautiful face and said, “I’m just a little shaky from the horseback ride. Let’s eat and refuel. I’ll be as good as new.”

  He took down the picnic basket and the blanket and we spread it out underneath one of the trees in the soft, green grass next to the clear little pond. I sat down on a flat rock and he took a seat next to me on the blanket. We spent the next twenty minutes feasting on cold cuts, cheeses and crackers. They had even put in a couple of little bottles of wine. I hadn’t been on a picnic since I was a little girl. The weather was beautiful and the air smelled like the flowers that bloomed in the gardens not far away. There was a bird in the trees above us that seemed to be singing a serenade as we ate and talked. We kept the conversation light and when I finished eating, I laid back on the rock and closed my eyes. The sun was so warm and it all felt so good on my sore muscles.

  Embarrassingly enough, I think I drifted off for a few seconds or maybe longer. The next thing I consciously registered was the feel of Seth’s fingers gently twisting the curls around my face and then sliding them down along my jawline. I opened my eyes to look at him, squinting against the bright sun. He smiled at me and I felt my heart racing as once again he closed in for a kiss. When we broke it he smiled again and said, “Did you have a nice nap?”

  “The best,” I said. “I should come out here and nap every day and then you can come out and wake me up just like that.”

  “It sounds like a fine idea, but it’s a ways from the office. You’d need at least a three hour lunch… longer if you were going to get a good nap…”

  Closing my eyes again I said, “If I were CEO everyone would get a nap. It would be mandatory.”

  “Really? What else would you change if you were CEO?”
  The name of the company. Damn! I let the conversation take a turn right back to where I needed to be, but didn’t want to go. I took a deep breath and said, “I wouldn’t have to change much else. The current CEO is doing a great job.”

  I pushed myself back up to a sitting position as Seth said, “Why thank you. Our CMBO is pretty amazing herself.”

  “Did you always want to go into business?” I asked him then.

  He looked thoughtful for a few moments, like he was trying to decide how to answer that. Finally, with a pained expression he said, “I honestly never had a choice, not unless I was willing to walk away from my father.” My heart ached when he got that look in his eye. I was beginning to think that James Hunter had been as bad of a father as he was a human being. Wanting nothing more at that moment than to make it better, I wrapped my arms around him in a tight embrace. He held me like that for a long time. When I finally pushed back he said, “I’m so glad I met you, Erin Summers.” I had to wonder how glad he was going to be when he finally learned the truth.




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