The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)

By: Deanna Roy


This happiness was effortless. Jezebelle was doing all the work.

I ducked beneath a sprig of a tree branch that jutted out into the trail. When I lifted my head, Jezebelle suddenly slowed.

“What is it, girl?”

We rounded a curve and I saw him.

Face to face.

Horse to horse.

Bennett.

Serious as always.

I drew Jezebelle up short. Bennett also halted his racehorse.

We ended up side by side, facing opposite directions. Like the night I left, Bennett’s gaze slid down my body, taking in the red tank top and jeans.

“You left behind the suit,” he said.

“So did you.”

He glanced down at his riding outfit. No cowboy look here. All water-wicking advanced outdoor wear. It fit him like a second skin.

He was muscled and way more buff than I would have pegged a businessman like him to be. He must take his workouts as seriously as he did the company.

“Not very Texas of you,” I said.

He shrugged. “I don’t wear togas in Rome either.”

I had nothing to say to that. Jezebelle nickered and pranced, feeling anxious so close to the stallion. I drew up the reins and patted her neck.

Bennett shifted his horse over a little. “It looks like New York agreed with you.” His eyes slid over me again.

My body zinged with a tremor that moved from stirrups to reins. I tried not to stare at his thighs bulging on either side of the horse. “Thank you.”

“You here for long?” he asked.

“About a month.”

His eyebrows lifted, and I remembered that same surprised expression from the last night before I left town. My face burned remembering my pronouncement about my love for Quinn. And Bennett’s response that his brother wasn’t who I thought he was.

“That’s a nice visit,” he said. “Did you take a leave from your troupe?”

“We have a break between seasons,” I said.

Bennett sat back on his saddle. He seemed pleased that I was staying. My brain couldn’t comprehend why. He had been only marginally tolerant of my friendship with Quinn when we were kids.

The racehorse danced a few steps, annoyed with the stillness. But Bennett persisted. “You sure surprised everyone, showing up like you did.”

Now it felt like he was stalling. He wanted to keep talking to me? We had about as much in common as a duke and a parlor maid.

“I’m hoping no one will tip off my mom.” I tilted my head. “Can I count on your discretion?”

A slow smile spread across his face. “Scout’s honor.”

I laughed. “You were never a Boy Scout. I was here, you know!”

His grin revealed a dimple I’d never seen on his cheek. “You were.” Then his expression sobered. His voice was completely serious as he said, “You were here all along.”

The change in tone was unsettling. Jezebelle felt my discomfort and lifted her nose, fighting the tightly held reins. I stroked her long neck. “Well, thank you for keeping the secret,” I said. “I’m going to keep my ride short to make sure I don’t miss her.”

Our eyes clashed again and the moment lengthened. I was about to break the intensity when we heard the unmistakable thunder of a running horse coming up the trail.

“What the hell?” Bennett said with a curse. He nudged his horse forward and motioned me to follow him into the brush. We were on a curve and whoever was hightailing it along the narrow trail would run us right over if we didn’t get out of the way.

The horses shifted with unease as the sound grew louder. Bennett had to duck to avoid getting entangled with a low branch overhead. “If it’s one of the trainers, I’ll have their head on a platter,” he said.

Sitting under the tree on horses, waiting on the arrival of some mad rider, made me feel like we were in a knights-of-the-round-table movie. “This is crazy,” I whispered to Bennett.

He laughed quietly. “I feel like Robin Hood.”

I watched him hunkered down over his horse. This was sort of fun. With Bennett. Who would have guessed that?

The ground thudded as the rider got closer. I half expected to see a man in black armor by the time the bushes began to quiver.

But when the horse came around the curve, it was someone we both knew quite well.

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