The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)

By: Deanna Roy


He was going so fast that when he saw us, he couldn’t stop immediately. He drew up on the reins with a “Whooooa!” but was well past us by the time he got his horse to stop.

“I should have guessed,” Bennett said under his breath. He eased forward, ducking under the branch.

What was Quinn doing out here?

I followed Bennett back out onto the trail. It wasn’t wide enough for two to ride, so I halted behind him.

Quinn circled back around. His expression showed his displeasure at seeing his brother. “What are you doing out here?” he asked. “Don’t you have some memos to dictate?”

“I always take a trail ride on Tuesdays,” Bennett said evenly.

“With Juliet?”

“Now, that doesn’t seem possible since she only just arrived an hour ago.” Bennett’s voice remained calm and smooth.

Jezebelle seemed unnerved by the tension between the brothers. I had to pay attention to keep her calm, patting her and pulling the reins. “The trail seems a little crowded,” I said. “I’m going to head back.”

Both brothers said, “WAIT!” at the same time.

I took a few steps back with Jezebelle. “Are you two okay?”

Quinn forced his horse forward, nudging Bennett’s aside. His stallion snorted with annoyance.

“Juliet,” Quinn said. “I came out here to find you. Sawyer said you’d headed out on the trail.”

My heart sped up. “You came tearing out here like a bat out of hell to find me?”

Bennett’s horse snorted again as if he didn’t buy it either. Quinn nudged his horse closer to me. “Yes. I couldn’t leave it like it was. I wanted to talk to you. We used to ride together all the time.”

The sound coming from Bennett’s direction wasn’t his horse this time. “I’ll be on my way,” he said. His eyes met mine. “Be careful out here.” He looked right at his brother. “Mesquite trees have thorns.”

He pushed past Quinn and eased around Jezebelle to head back toward the stable. When he was clear of us, he pushed the racehorse into a run.

“Glad we got that unpleasantness behind us,” Quinn said. “I had no idea he still rode.”

I glanced down at his tennis gear. His bare knees were already red from rubbing against the horse. “You must have decided to saddle up at the last minute.”

He frowned down at his legs. “Probably not my smartest move. But I couldn’t wait.”

My throat felt thick. Quinn was that desperate to get to me?

“Don’t you have your tennis pro coming?” I asked.

“Adams can get her settled,” Quinn said. “I hated how we left things.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant. From the driveway? Or our friendship? Or that last night I was here, when he took off with the blond girl?

I didn’t have the courage to ask.

“Let’s ride,” Quinn said. “Slowly, so I can go easy on my knees.”

“You’re crazy,” I said, but I backed up so he could turn around on the trail.

“It’s worth it,” he said with a lazy grin.

He led us through the brush and out into the wide open field that had once been used for growing hay. Now it was wild and weedy with tall thin grass, burnt on the ends from the blistering summer sun.

“I remember the days we used to come out here,” Quinn said. “Things were so damn easy then.”

I turned my face to the sunshine. Despite the tension of a few minutes ago, everything about this moment was perfect. The smell of dirt and grass. Birds caw-cawing and the beat of their wings. The soft whinnies of the horses.

“Now that’s a picture,” Quinn said. He watched me from the middle of the field.

“What is?”

“You. A glorious bit of wild color in a sea of grass,” he said. “Soaking up all this beauty.”

His eyes on me made everything hum. I was acutely aware of the saddle beneath me, my knees locked against the horse.

I nudged Jezebelle forward. The two horses walked amicably together, side by side. A rabbit ran out ahead, pausing every few feet as if checking to see if we followed. With each step, a cluster of grasshoppers leaped out of our way.

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