Emerald Mistress. Lynne Graham

Emerald Mistress - Lynne Graham

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mine,’ she said breathlessly, fighting to think of something more interesting to say but finding her mind a horrific blank. Her eyes met his and a tight, hard knot of excitement spread a starburst of heat low in her tummy.

      ‘Dine with me tonight?’ Rafael murmured lazily, deciding to put his acquisition plans for her property on temporary hold.

      With astonishing difficulty she recalled the Amazonian goddess, reputedly in current residence beneath his roof. ‘Your girlfriend—’

      He shrugged a shoulder in a fluid gesture of unconcern. ‘Bianca’s history.’

      His complete indifference to the reality that the blonde was watching them from about twenty yards away chilled Harriet to the marrow. ‘But she’s here—’

      ‘She knows it’s over. She’s leaving this afternoon. Dinner?’ he prompted drily.

      Harriet backed off a step from him. He embodied every warning she had ever heard or read about a man: arrogant and emotionally detached, he was a pure-bred predator—absolutely not her type. She could not overlook or excuse his attitude to the unfortunate Bianca. ‘Sorry, but no thanks. I’m not thinking of dating anyone at the minute.’

      ‘I haven’t dated since I was fourteen.’ Rafael was wondering whether she imagined that a brief pretence of uninterest would increase his ardour—because he could not credit that she could be saying no to him.

      ‘I was engaged until quite recently, and I’m still getting over that.’

      ‘I’ll get you over it,’ Rafael promised in a low, earthy tone.

      ‘I’m also incredibly busy right now,’ Harriet muttered uncomfortably, backing away another couple of steps, intimidated by the effect of that full-on charge of raw charisma.

      Rafael watched her retreat with concealed disbelief. He could not understand what her game was. Of course it was a game: in his experience all women played games. But she was playing to weird rules he did not recognise.

      ‘Nice talking to you,’ Harriet mumbled, and bolted, wincing at her own awkwardness.

      There he was: literally the man of her dreams. But he was not the sort of guy she would dare to begin seeing or risk feeling anything for. Goodness, he had just dumped a woman who was so gorgeous people stopped dead to marvel at her! Off with the old, on with the new. Although she was certain that he had to be looking on her as more of a snack than a full banquet. After all, she couldn’t hold a candle to his ex-girlfriend. She couldn’t quite accept that he truly had asked her out to dinner. Her—Harriet Carmichael—dressed in muddy jeans and wellies, with no make-up, and probably a few pounds heavier than she’d used to be when she was with Luke.

      Luke…The wash of humiliating memory sobered her feverish reflections. Perhaps she took life too seriously. Perhaps she needed to learn how to be more casual when it came to the opposite sex. Apart from a couple of boyfriends in her teen years, she had only had Luke in her life. Now she was back being single, and, though she might be twenty-eight years old, she felt no more confident or knowledgeable about men than she had done at twenty.

      Hadn’t she just made the ridiculous error of trying to mentally measure up Rafael Flynn as a potential life partner? Were her nesting instincts sending her to the outer edge of craziness? He was fling material—wild fling material. He was racy, shameless and…exciting. If she was honest, he was more exciting than Luke had ever been. She should have had the courage to say yes to dinner and seduction. It might have made her feel a little less inadequate when she thought about Alice and Luke as a couple.

      ‘Harriet…’ Una approached her, her expressive face full of concern. ‘I think you should steer clear of Rafael Flynn.’

      Although her own knee jerk reaction had been to run a mile from him, Harriet was already experiencing a certain amount of regret, self-doubt and confusion about that response. ‘Why?’

      ‘You’re too nice for him—you’re gentle and trusting. He’ll think that’s so dumb and he’ll break your heart.’

      ‘I haven’t got one to break right now. Someone got there before Mr Flynn,’ Harriet confided ruefully. ‘But thanks for caring.’

      ‘I’d hate to see you hurt—’

      ‘Is he really that bad?’ Harriet’s plea for further explanation was unconsciously wistful in tone.

      Una flushed. ‘It’s not that he’s bad,’ the teenager disclaimed hurriedly. ‘Just from a different world. You’d be oil and water and he’d walk all over you.’

      ‘No…he wouldn’t do that,’ Harriet countered with quiet but firm conviction.

      Una did not look convinced. ‘If an international supermodel can’t hold him for five minutes, who can?’

      A woman with the strength to be tough and subject him to a locked room and chains, Harriet thought abstractedly. Implanting a few basic standards in the midst of the smash and grab ethics that drove him might not go amiss either.

      That evening, two prospective clients took a tour of the yard. Harriet had mapped out a business plan and drawn up a basic livery contract before she’d even arrived in Ballyflynn. Now she sat up late working out how many boarders she’d require to break even. She was also thinking of opening a tack shop that sold feed and basic supplies, as there was nowhere local meeting that demand. She didn’t need to make a fortune, only a living, she reminded herself resolutely. She had downshifted to make a dream come true and enjoy a more simple life. And leading a successful simple life, she told herself censoriously, did not include any dealings whatsoever with the type of male who had affairs with fabulous fashion models.

      On Monday morning Harriet received a call from the solicitor, Eugene McNally, and was surprised to be told that he was anxious to see her on a matter of some urgency.

      The older man greeted Harriet at his office with perceptible discomfiture. ‘I’m afraid that I’ve been notified of a substantial claim against Kathleen Gallagher’s estate.’

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