“I did ride a little when I was young. Growing up in the country, most of my friends had horses. I never had one of my own until…”
Brian lifted an eyebrow at her.
“Jeremy bought me one as a wedding gift.” She cringed as if she’d just spoke an absolute horror.
“Oh,” he said flatly.
“And after I got attached to her, he sold her to a feed mill as one of my punishments.”
“Punishment? For what?” He knew she liked to avoid all conversations involving the hell her ex-husband had put her through, but he thought sharing what had happened was healthier for her. And he was more than happy to have additional reasons to hate Jeremy Condaroy. The guy was at the very top of his shit list.
She shrugged. “I don’t remember.” She leaned into her horse and yelled, “Race you to that bent palm tree!”
Her horse dashed off at a sprint, and Brian’s mount took a cue from Myrna’s and raced after her. The sand blurred beneath him as sure and steady hooves closed the distance between the two horses. Brian could almost understand why some people enjoyed this—the wind in his hair was exhilarating—but he didn’t feel he had enough control of the enormous animal with a mind of its own.
Up ahead, a pair of riders approached. Myrna didn’t seem to notice as she was determined to be the first to reach the bent palm tree in the distance. Brian recognized the riders almost at once: Kev and Gail. Was it coincidence that they’d decided to ride horses on the same day at the same time and on the same beach where Brian and Myrna rode? Brian sincerely doubted it. He reckoned that Gail had been eavesdropping on his and Myrna’s plans for the day.
Annoyed, Brian yanked the reins to turn his galloping horse in the opposite direction. The animal apparently didn’t appreciate his rough treatment, but he did turn. Directly toward the ocean. The horse dashed into the oncoming waves and deciding at the last moment he didn’t want to take a swim came to a sudden halt. Brian went sailing over the horse’s head and landed with an enormous splash somewhere in the Caribbean.
When Myrna figured out who the pair of riders approaching and waving excitedly were, she cringed. What was with this Kev guy and his soon-to-be wife? She glanced over her shoulder to see if Brian had recognized their uninvited company. She wasn’t sure why Brian was racing directly toward the water, but her heart stopped for several beats when she watched his horse stop short. Brian flew through air and landed in the water with an impressive splash. At least he had a relatively soft landing. He was never going to let her plan an outing again.
She slowed her horse and turned her in the opposite direction, hurrying to check on Brian and make sure he hadn’t drowned. Even though he surfaced immediately, her heart was thundering in her chest and her palms had grown slick with sweat.
“Brian!” she called as she dismounted and rushed into the surf to check on him. “Are you okay?”
“I hate fucking horses!” he grumbled as he slogged toward the shore. Water flattened his dark shoulder-length hair and dripped from his strong jawline. His off-black cotton shirt and shorts were plastered to his body.
Myrna decided not to point out that it had been operator error that had sent him on a trajectory with a dip in the ocean. Or that she thought he looked sexy soaking wet.
“I’m sure the horse didn’t mean to throw you,” Myrna said.
She glanced over her shoulder at the guilty animal and had to admit that the horse looked rather amused. She cringed, hoping Brian didn’t notice that more than likely the beast had purposefully gotten his revenge for being improperly handled by an amateur.
Brian stalked past her and stood looking up the beach with his fists resting on his hips. His fury wasn’t directed at the gray horse that had discovered a stray bit of grass to nibble. Brian’s anger was about to be unleashed upon the smiling couple headed their way.
Myrna hurried to stand in front of him to try to calm his fury. He tended to be easy-going until he got pissed, and then he became a bit of a hothead.
“Brian, please be reasonable. He’s just a fan who wants to spend time with you. He doesn’t mean any harm.”
Her words seemed to bounce right off of him; he didn’t even acknowledge that she’d spoken. Touching his arm, shaking his shoulder, putting her face in his—nothing worked. He completely ignored her.
“You said I could punch him in the nose the next time he bugged us. You wouldn’t go back on your word now, would you?”
He lifted a hand to silence her, and she automatically flinched. She didn’t think he would hit her—she knew he wouldn’t—but she’d been hit enough times in the past that it had become an instinctual reaction.
She opened her eyes at his inrush of breath.
“You thought I was going to hit you,” he said, gathering her in his arms.
She pulled away—because he was wet, not because she was afraid of him.
“I would never . . . ” he said in a raw voice. “Myrna, I would never hit you. Ever.”
“I know that,” she said, but she didn’t have time to explain further, because they suddenly had company.
“Dude,” Kev said with a hearty chuckle, “are you okay? I saw you take a dive off that horse.”
“Yeah, I meant to do that,” Brian said dully and reached for Myrna’s hand.
He stared at her, his head shaking back and forth slightly as if he was too stunned to put his thoughts into words. And they couldn’t very well have a very personal conversation with Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber hanging on their every word.
She needed these two to get a clue. Immediately.
“I know you’re excited about meeting Brian,” Myrna said to Kev, “but it’s incredibly rude of you to continue to harass him. To harass us. How would you feel if someone you didn’t know followed you everywhere and interrupted your honeymoon?” She looked from Kev to Gail and back to Kev. Both of them seemed to be surprised that she knew how to speak. “Well?”
“I dunno.” Kev shrugged. “I guess I figured he was used to it by now.”
“Considering that this is his first honeymoon in Aruba, how could he be used to it?”
“Myrna,” Brian murmured, still looking entirely shell-shocked.
“I meant,” Kev said, “he should be used to people wanting to meet him.”
“You already met him,” Myrna pointed out.