Lorraine took a deep breath as the silence between her and Leif lengthened. “I didn’t mean to berate your brother,” she said, inching closer to the stall gate that separated them. “Sometimes my loose tongue gets the best of me.”
Leif’s mind meandered over her choice of words. The subject of her tongue, and all the things it could do, clouded his brain. “No need to apologize. I enjoyed every blessed minute of it. Not many women can put Kristoff in his place.” He finished securing the throat latch on Freyja’s bridle and led her out of the stall. “Are you still ready to go on that ride with me?”
“Of course. Is this my horse for the day?”
“Indeed. Her name’s Freyja.”
“Isn’t that the name of a Norse goddess? Goddess of passionate love and fertility?”
“Freshman English lit teacher. He was a big fan of mythology.” Lorraine looked the horse over. “She’s beautiful.”
Leif watched as she reached out and pet the horse’s muzzle, her dainty fingers running smoothly over its forehead. For once, he was envious of his mare, wishing he could feel the soft stroke of her hand on his starved body. He didn’t care where. At this point, he’d take an innocent caress across his own forehead if it suited her.
He cleared his throat, trying to steer his thoughts to the plans ahead of them. “You hungry? I figured after we pay the good doc a visit, I’ll take you to Joe Watty’s and you can taste those famous fish ‘n chips I told you about—if you’re not opposed to eating lunch for breakfast.”
“I can eat anything, no matter what time of day it is,” she confessed. “But really, I’m fine. We don’t have to bother the doctor.”
“It’s not a bother. I promised you, and that’s what we’re doing.”
“Seriously, there’s no need. I’m much better now.”
Leif cocked his brow, his inner voice arguing against her. “And what if you get hurt on this horse today because your wits are still jumbled? I’d never forgive myself.”
“My wits are fine,” she stated soundly. “Test me if you don’t believe me.”
Leif’s mouth twitched in a grin, partial to the way she dared him. “All right,” he muttered, taking one step closer, his body inches from hers. “What day is it?” he asked, slowly leaning forward and tucking his nose just beneath her jaw. He took in a long breath, smelling the warm scent of her skin and letting his lips barely brush over her neck. To his surprise, she rattled off her answer with no hesitation.
“It’s Wednesday, June fifteenth, two thousand eleven, which means I have less than two days to figure out what I’m giving you for your birthday, if, in fact, the seventeenth is really the date of your birth.”
Leif pulled away and gazed into her eyes, taking in the clarity of their color. She stood before him confident, unwavering in her response. “Well done,” he said almost disappointed, though he hardly thought he could be as poised if she’d done the same to him. “But I’m still keeping my eye on you. One slip up and I’m dragging you to Dr. O’Donnell’s residence. By your hair, if I have to. Understand?”
“If you must.”
Leif liked her a lot. Everything about her made him crazy; her beautiful green eyes, her light airy scent, her feisty façade, her daring replies…every little thing enticed him to be brazen and bold. To forget his good manners and throw that cursed gentlemanly demeanor out the door.
Knowing better than to give into temptation, he fetched Thor from the other stall, the smell of her skin lingering all around him. Hell, if she smelled that divine, he knew she’d have to taste twice as good.
“You know,” Lorraine hummed dulcetly as she mounted, “for someone who’s supposed to have their wits about them, you sure act as if yours have slipped further than mine.”
Leif eyed her curiously. “What do you mean?”
She adjusted herself in the saddle and slipped her right foot in the stirrup without taking her eyes off him. “You never answered me.”
He mounted his horse in one swift motion, pondering her statement. “I don’t recall you ever asking me a question.”
“Technically, no, I never asked you a question. But I did make a statement that warranted a response. So, is your birthday really on the seventeenth, or is that just the day of the celebration?”
A slight chuckle escaped him as he trotted along side her. He tightened up on his reins, holding his anxious horse at bay. “My birthday is not the seventeenth. And no gifts are necessary.”
As Lorraine urged her horse forward and she cast a look over her shoulder. “Do I get to know the date of your birth?”
“That knowledge is usually saved for my closest friends. So, we’ll see how the day goes.”
With a grin that would light up the darkest night, she turned completely around in her saddle, her hand resting on Freyja’s rump. “Am I on a trial run or something?”
Leif returned the smile as he looked up to the sky, the weather appearing to cooperate with the plans he’d made. “Let’s just say you’re lucky I’m willing to overlook yesterday and start today on a clean slate.”
“Need I even ask how I’m doing thus far?”
Leif trotted forward, riding abreast of her. “So far, so good.”
She shrugged her shoulders as if mildly impressed. “I suppose that makes you just as fortunate that I feel the same.”
He reached over and grabbed her left hand, raising it out of respect. He locked eyes with her and bowed slightly. “I am fortunate.”
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