Softhearted

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Dang, the man had skills. “Will you please stop flirting with me?”

He drove her crazy. And though she tried to follow her question with a glare of frustration, she failed epically. It came out more like an absurdly fierce smile. Try as she might, she couldn’t stop the creepy smile from spreading into a real one as he stared back. He didn’t say a word, but his look said everything.

“You’re incorrigible,” she told him, now half laughing, and more than half turned on. “I was just asking you a question. Making small talk. It’s called conversation.”

“Oh, I know what conversation is. And yes, I’ll be there”—he let his gaze dip over her body once again—“hoping to . . . converse with you some more.”

She rolled her eyes at him. Then, realizing they’d stopped walking at some point, she put her feet back in motion. Only, this time she took the lead.

He didn’t trail for long, though, and they soon walked side by side as they made their way up the slight incline toward the barn. When they were within feet of the car, Waylon looked over. “For the record, I’m still not going to stop flirting with you. I like it more every day.” He put the boxes in the back of her SUV. “I also like you more every day.”

“That’s a line if ever I’ve heard one.” She pushed the button to close the rear door. “And I can say that with confidence because you haven’t even seen me in days.”

“Yet my ‘like level’ has still increased.”

She shook her head at that. “You’re so full of it. And for the record, my ‘like level’ has not. I refuse to let myself like someone who might be too young for me.” She flashed him an accusing smirk. “I did notice that you skirted that question the other day, by the way.”

Waylon cocked his head as he studied her. “Are you telling me that if I share my age, then you’ll like me more?”

“I’m not saying . . .” She let her words trail off with a soft puff of air. Because this very much felt like a losing battle. “You’re skirting the question again.”

“Yes, I am. But that’s okay because I’m cute.” He smiled brilliantly at her, his dimples flashing deep, and for the first time in her life, she understood what it felt like to be on the receiving end of someone trying to use their dimples to charm. “Some would even say I’m irresistible,” he added. And he gave her the smile again. “What do you think, Heather?”

She thought she wanted to kiss the outlandish smile right off the man’s smug face. But she couldn’t very well tell him that.

“Don’t worry.” He winked at her. “I think you’re cute, too.” He dropped his gaze by about two feet. “Even if you do wear a bit of dessert on your hips.”

She gasped.

Then she shoved him.

The push forced him to dance a couple of feet backward in order not to land on his behind, but Heather didn’t care. She wished he’d gone down flat on his ass.

“I can’t believe you said that to me!” she sputtered out.

He captured her hand when she went for another shove, and that time it was her doing a dance to keep from losing her balance.

“And I can’t believe you’re so easy,” he taunted as she stumbled toward him. “Seriously, you’re fun.”

“Fun?” The man said the strangest things. “Why? Because you like to tease me?”

He kept her hand in his. “No. Because you like being teased.”

“I do not. And that doesn’t even make sense, anyway.” Using her free hand, she attempted to pry his fingers from hers, but she ended up with both of her hands trapped between both of his.

Not what she’d intended at all.

“Sure it does.” He scooted in closer. “Teasing is a form of flirting. Which you enjoy.” He separated their hands so that each of his now held one of hers. “And we’ve already established that I enjoy flirting with you.”

She swallowed. They were standing out in the open, holding hands, and staring at each other in a way that only people who intended to do something about it should be staring at each other.

“I caught you singing to Ollie again the other day, by the way.” His voice lowered to barely more than a whisper, and his breath was as warm as his hands. “I didn’t let you know I was in the barn, but I stayed and listened. It was the same song you sang that first night.”

Embarrassment had her dropping her gaze. She’d known she shouldn’t have eaten lunch in the barn that day.

He finally released one of her hands, but only to touch a finger under her chin, and at the contact, she had to bite her lip to keep from moaning. What was it about this man? Did he bathe in pheromones?

“It’s an incredibly attractive quality, you know. Being romantic.”

She did not need to hear what he found attractive about her. “It’s not romanticism,” she denied. “I just like horses.”

Her mother had sung to their horses.

“You ever ride anymore?”

Heather’s breath caught at the way he’d phrased the question. Did she ride anymore?

Clearly, he did know how her parents had died.

The thought of him standing there looking down at her. Feeling sorry for her. Made her want to turn and run. She didn’t want to think about her parents’ death.

She didn’t want him thinking about their deaths.

But they had died. And she’d not only lost both of her parents due to the fire, but the family horses as well. And every good thing she’d ever shared with either her father or her mother.

 

Deep In the Heart: Book Two
April 10, 2018

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