The Vasquez Mistress

By: Sarah Morgan


SHE sat straight as a warrior on the horse, her hair gleaming like liquid gold under the baking Argentine sun.

When he’d first noticed her in the distance his reaction had been one of irritation, partly because the horse had been galloping hard in the ferocious heat, but mostly because he’d been seeking solitude, not company. And if there was one thing that the Argentine pampas offered in abundance it was the opportunity for solitude.

Endless grassland stretched far into the distance, the horizon so perfectly straight and flat that it might have been drawn with a ruler.

Irritation had turned to concern as horse and rider had drawn closer and he’d recognised the animal she was riding.

He felt a flash of anger towards whomever had allowed her to take that particular horse out alone and made a mental note to find the culprit. And then anger faded to slow, simmering masculine appraisal as he scanned the delicate lines of her features.

He had spent his life surrounded by exceptionally beautiful women, all of them more groomed than this girl, and yet he couldn’t drag his eyes away from her face. She was fair-skinned and delicate, her body a mouth-watering combination of slender limbs and perfect curves. It was as if she’d been created by the gods and thrown onto Earth for the simple purpose of tempting man.

Her creamy skin and flushed cheeks gave her an air of innocence and he gave a wry smile, surprised that he was even capable of recognising that particular quality given how rarely he’d met with it before.

In fact his cynicism was so deep-rooted that his first thought when he’d noticed her on the horizon had been to assume that she’d somehow tracked him down and followed him. But he’d dismissed that possibility instantly, knowing that her presence could only be coincidence.

A happy coincidence, he thought idly, his eyes resting on her soft mouth. A very happy coincidence indeed.

* * *

The horse flattened his ears, arched his back and gave a ferocious buck that should have unseated her.

Faith gritted her teeth and managed to stay glued to the saddle. ‘You really are in a horrible mood today, Fuego. It’s no wonder everyone is afraid of you,’ she muttered. ‘I’m not falling off here. We’re miles from home. Wherever you go, I go and the sooner you realise that the better for both of us.’

The heat was stifling and she reached for her bottle of water and then froze as she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head, the breath jamming in her throat as she saw a man watching her.

She’d been concentrating so hard on not falling off the horse, that she hadn’t noticed him.

But she noticed him now.

He was the most staggeringly handsome man she’d ever met and since she’d arrived in Argentina, she’d met quite a few. His body was lean and hard, his shoulders broad and powerful but what really disrupted the steady rhythm of her heart was the sheer raw sexuality that surrounded him like a forcefield.

‘You’re staring, signorina.’ His deep, male voice trickled through her veins like a drug and her limbs weakened.

Her horse, sensing a lack of concentration on her part, chose that moment to give another determined buck and Faith flew into the air and landed on her bottom in the dust.

‘For crying out loud!’ Pain shot through her and she sat for a moment, working out whether anything was broken. ‘That horse needs a psychiatrist.’

A pair of strong male hands closed around her waist and lifted her easily to her feet. ‘He needs a male rider.’ His eyes blazed fiercely into hers and she felt her heart stumble and trip.

‘There’s nothing wrong with my riding. It’s your fault for jumping out on me with no warning …’ Her voice tailed off because the sudden narrowing of his beautiful, sexy eyes drove all thoughts from her head.

‘I assumed you’d seen me. The Argentine grassland hardly offers a large number of hiding places.’

‘I was concentrating on my horse.’

‘You were riding too fast.’

‘Tell that to the horse, not me. I suppose that’s why they called him Fuego—my Spanish isn’t great, but I know it means “fire”.’ Faith dragged her gaze away from his handsome face in the hope that not looking at him might help her slow the crazy beating of her heart. ‘I didn’t choose the pace. With that particular horse, you always get more than you bargain for.’ What was the matter with her? She felt light-headed and dizzy and her body felt alarmingly lethargic.

It was the heat, she told herself quickly. Just the relentless, baking heat that turned the entire landscape into a throbbing, sultry outdoor sauna.

‘You are staying at the Estancia La Lucia?’ He glanced behind him even though the elegant colonial house was over an hour away. ‘You shouldn’t be riding alone. What happened to the rest of your party? You should have a groom with you.’

‘Oh, please.’ Baking hot from the relentless sunshine and aching from her fall, Faith shot him a warning look. ‘I’m just not in the mood for all that macho Argentine-man thing. Not right now.’