Where did her boots go? Sonya hurriedly searched her neat home for the cowgirl boots she usually wore to go riding. Her friend, Desiree, expected her any minute at her new ranch to both visit and practice riding on the mare Sonya had adopted from the shelter.
"Aha!" Sonya unearthed her boots in the back of her closet and grabbed her things, now ready to get to the ranch that was a few minutes outside of town.
As she drove, she sang happily to a familiar song on the radio, excitement coursing through her veins because she finally had time to get on her beautiful horse and enjoy the wind ruffling through her hair. Riding horses was one of Sonya's favorite pastimes, and it had become way more affordable and enjoyable since Desiree and her husband opened their ranch and hardly charged her anything to board. She would have kept Donna at her own house since she has a couple acres, but it was difficult to find time and money to put into fixing the place up to be suitable for a horse. They need care, exercise, and socialization. Donna got all that at the Kovac Ranch.
She pulled her somewhat newer model Ford Explorer into the dirt drive, thinking of the quickly kindling friendship she had formed with Desiree in the last several months. She understood Sonya in a few ways and was cheery and easy to get along with. Of course, her current pregnancy made her mood a little cloudy, but who wouldn't feel that way with a six-plus pound human being trying to break out of them?
Finally, the house and stable came into view, larger buildings that still took some getting used to. Parking next to a strange silver truck, she stepped out gracefully and made her way toward the stable. The noon sun beat over head, making everything around them look just as hot and dry as everyone felt this time of year. California had brutal sunny weather. Even in the Sierra Nevada mountains, August could take its toll on those who lived there.
Sonya passed a new ranch hand. His authoritative stance and voice, as he directed another man in his early twenties, suggested he was higher on the payroll. Maybe the foreman?
If a blush could show on her cheeks, the heat she felt surface on them would surely be a giveaway to her thoughts. The man was handsome, probably around her age, and stood a good six inches taller, or more, than her five-foot-seven, which seemed tall for a female–at least in her opinion. He was almost too good looking, she thought, feeling discouraged. The man seemed to be around her age, had an extremely fit physique, and black skin that looked nearly flawless in the sunlight. She'd always found darker men attractive, but this one in particular took the cake.
His gaze flicked to her and stuck as she passed him. Sonya tried hard not to stare at him too intensely. Suddenly she stopped, realizing she had no idea where she was going or where her horse was stabled. Great, now she had to muster the little courage she had in order to speak to him.
"Excuse me," her voice was scarcely audible. He angled an amused grin at her and crossed his arms.
"Hi. What can I help you with? I'm Dominic, by the way. Foreman around here." His smile only got bigger as he extended his hand to shake hers.
"I'm Sonya. I'm looking for my horse that I board here. Donna. She's a bay Quarter Horse. I'm friends with Desiree." She was uncomfortable now. His pretty brown eyes unnerved her and seemed to notice more than she cared to share.
"Oh! Donna! She's such a sweetie. A little skittish sometimes, but we've become good friends. Follow me, Sonya." He stuck off, the strength eminating from him as he led her into the roomy stable.
Now, she had a chance too look at his profile more closely as he chatted away, her replies single syllabled. Dominic was something over six-foot with broad shoulders that tapered down to lean hips. His Wranglers looked new but bore the dirt of a hard days work. His stride was confident and fluid, mesmerizing Sonya for a moment.
She looked back up to his face. His hair was dark and tightly curled, cropped close to his scalp in a neat style. His eyes were round and expressive as was his mouth. When he smiled it reached all the way to his eyes and caused deep dimples in his cheeks. With a strong jawline shaved clean of any stubble, his only flaw seemed to be his nose. Right in the middle of the bridge was a crooked bump. She guessed a fistfight of some kind had caused a break that didn't heal properly.
"Here she is. We moved her from the place she was at before. Sorry I didn't meet you that day, I was out in the fields with the guys doing the last of the fence work." He unlatched the gate and cast her another of those charming smiles. Her heart beat hard in her chest as he looked over her face. At least he didn't do the whole body sweep, Sonya thought as she stepped inside the stall to greet her mare. Maybe she had him pegged wrong.
Dear Lord, have mercy, Dominic thought. He had to get out of that barn. After excusing himself and letting her know where he'd be, Dominic left the beautiful woman to spend time with her horse.
Gulps of fresh air helped ease the feeling like he had swallowed a mouthful of dirt as he looked out at the outdoor training corrals.
Sonya was drop dead gorgeous. With a head full of wavy medium-length black hair, toffee colored eyes, and a perfectly bowed set of lips, he'd about swallowed his tongue when she opened her mouth to talk to him. Once he'd gotten a look at the rest of her, he'd wanted to slap himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
A knockout. That's what she was. How was he supposed to refrain from sex when he had to watch such a gorgeous woman flit around with those long denim sheathed legs, topped off by flaring wide hips, a proportional waist, and toned upper body. Her breasts weren't large, but they'd probably fit just perfectly in his hands.
The thought that sobered him was the reminder that he wanted to find happiness, not just casual sex, no matter how mind blowing it might possibly be. Plus, this girl had an innocence about her that reminded him of his mother's advice when he started dating.
"Don't mess with innocent girls, unless you're set on putting a ring on it." Because of those words, he'd steered clear of girls who had that pure shine to them, not wishing to hurt them or his conscience.
She seemed sweet, Dominic thought as he walked back into the stable. It was time to get another horse in the training ring and exercise the next one on the schedule for today. Thanks to Eli's organized nature, there was a couple weeks worth of schedules both printed out and in e-mail form. It was handy to have work schedules and daily itineraries at the tips of your fingers.
As he haltered a large black horse named Zeke, Dominic heard Sonya's quiet voice approaching in the aisle. Eavesdropping, he listened to the quiet conversation between woman and horse. She seemed so quiet and sweet when he'd talked to her, barely responding to his questions and statements, but now she was having a full-fledged conversation with the equine as if it had something better than a human to say.
Maybe she was onto something. Most horses were incredibly gentle, emotional, and instinctive. They picked up on things humans didn't and responded with body language, which could be more powerful than words.
He peeked out to watch her pass and gazed thoughtfully at her once he felt she wouldn't look back and catch him staring. She was an introvert who loved talking, but not to him. Most women wouldn't shut their mouths once Dominic spoke to them, sometimes rambling about interesting things and sometimes not. Sonya was different and interesting. Her aura pulled him to her as well, making him interested mentally and not just physically.
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