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Despite their chilly past, Torie Barron and Alex Carmichael’s identical goals drive them toward a headlong collision over the horse farm they both covet, until a family tragedy puts an end to Torie’s dreams. As her life is swept down an unexpected and rocky path, she turns to the man who has been so infuriating yet intriguing. The man who stomped her heart into the ground when they were teens. Will Alex be her savior, or the one who stands in the way of all she’s ever wanted?
Victoria Barron strode up the aisle past the empty stalls, inhaling the woody scent of fresh shavings combined with the distinct essence of horse. She stole a glance over her shoulder in time to see the smoke-colored limo pull past the door at the end of the barn. It would be back in two hours.
Torie bit her lip. Just once she wished she could walk home instead of being carted around in the “family car”. Or, heaven forbid, have a bicycle she could ride back and forth.
At least the limo didn’t wait outside the barn for her anymore. When she first started riding at Carter Hill Stables, the driver had been instructed to stay until her riding session finished.
She slowed her pace as she reached the office at the opposite end of the barn. The pale wall gave way to a picture window, which looked into the lounge.
She peeked inside before proceeding.
Gabriella Marino sat on the couch, her leg stretched across Alex Carmichael’s lap. Heat coiled up from Torie’s heart and crept stealthily into her cheeks. She could only imagine how red her face had become, and she touched a cheek, feeling the warmth that hadn’t been there a moment ago.
Ducking back, she leaned against the wall and squeezed her eyes shut.
She fought to keep her breathing normal. How she longed to be in Gabriella’s place, so casually touching Alex. There’d been many times she let her imagination run wild, and she could see Alex treating her like that—gazing into her eyes as if she were the only girl in the world.
What a fantasy. And what a joke.
With a gulp of air, she shook off the jittery sensation pulsating in her hands, pushed away from the wall, and walked into the office.
“Good morning,” she greeted lightly.
Gabriella rose to her feet first. Although the look in her cinnamon-colored eyes gave away only minimal guilt, she acted as if she and Alex hadn’t been caught in a compromising position.
Torie couldn’t look at Alex as he unfolded himself from the worn tweed couch. She knew if she did, her knees would turn to jelly and she’d blush so hard she’d never be able to disguise her discomfort. She kept her eyes pinned on Gabriella, lifted her chin just a little and smiled, pretending Alex wasn’t even there.
“So, are we trail riding or jumping?” Torie asked with forced confidence.
Gabriella tilted her head.
“Honey, it’s too nice to be stuck in the ring. Let’s get out for a while. Alex, will you tack up Casey for me?”
Torie watched Gabriella closely. She didn’t know why the girl attempted to hide her feelings for Alex. Though Gabriella could turn on the “boss’s daughter” role at the drop of a hat, Torie didn’t think there was anyone who didn’t know what went on between the two. Well, except for Gabriella’s parents. If they knew, it’d be curtains for Alex.
No one messed with Frank Marino’s daughter. Certainly not a boy from “the cottages” who mucked stalls for a living.
Torie snuck a look at Alex. His eyes were pinned on Gabriella anyway. Torie could’ve danced naked in front of him and he wouldn’t know it. Not when Gabriella was in the room.
He was the most handsome boy she’d ever seen—tall with broad shoulders, dark curling hair and eyes that danced somewhere between green and brown. Though only a year or so older than she, he looked so mature, so much more serious than a boy should be.
As serious as Torie. At sixteen, life hadn’t offered her much to laugh over. She thought of the limo that would return to the barn in two hours. Whoever said money couldn’t buy happiness knew what they were talking about.
Alex walked past her without a word, without so much as a glance. She noted his clenched jaw, though, and how his eyes narrowed just slightly.
She sighed inwardly. Gabriella gave her a wink and followed him, leaving Torie to take up the rear.
“Sharon,” Alex called, as he passed the tack room, “get Lucky saddled up. Don’t want to keep Miss Barron waiting.”
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 300
Paper Weight (lb): 12.6
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