After watching the young horses frolic for a few minutes, Daryl and Amelia turned their mounts toward the barn. By the time they dismounted in the stable yard, Amelia felt like some sort of peaceful balance had been restored between them. She accepted Ned’s offer to remove Cleo’s saddle for her because she wasn’t certain she could manage it on her own, and the last thing she wanted was to end the ride landing on her butt in the dirt.
She did, however, insist on handling Cleo’s grooming herself. It was dirty, monotonous work, but it was the price you paid in return to the horse for the service it gave you. That, and a nice flake of hay. It was a toss-up which of the two Cleo enjoyed more. But at least the mare tore herself away from the treat to give Amelia a friendly head-butt as she patted her neck in farewell. Daryl was nowhere in sight, so she walked by herself back up to the main house, squelching the small pinch of disappointment.
After a glass of cold water in the kitchen to quench her parched throat, Amelia retreated to her bedroom, where she shed her borrowed boots, jeans—now well-secured thanks to a belt from Kim—and top, all of which smelled too much of horse to continue wearing for the rest of the day. She was dirty, sweaty, her muscles ached, and she was pretty sure she smelled as bad as her clothes.
She hadn’t been happier in years.
After a quick shower, she’d go back to the kitchen and help Kim with the evening meal. There had already been a few pots simmering on the stove, but she knew the chickens had yet to be seasoned for roasting, and there was a twenty-pound sack of potatoes that had her name written all over it.
Pinning her hair up to keep it dry, Amelia opened the door to the bathroom. She was reaching for the clasp on her bra when her brain caught up with her eyes and she realized there was already somebody else in the bathroom, stepping out of the shower.
And he was naked.
She froze. Time stopped. The world tilted. Every reasonable thought she’d ever had went flying out of her head. All she could do was stare at the long expanse of caramel-colored skin that faced her, still gleaming wet with water that ran down a strong back to the taut globes of his—
She must have made a noise because Daryl’s head whipped around, his eyes first widening then narrowing as he saw her standing there. With slow deliberateness, he reached over and dragged a towel off of the bar and wrapped it around his waist. Only then did he turn to face her.
The view was even better from this side, although some heretofore unknown part of her mourned the fact that he’d put the towel on first. His black hair was slicked back from his face, revealing its stark beauty of strong cheekbones and piercing eyes. There was a small smattering of the same dark hair running across a chest that was impressively well proportioned with his shoulders, which looked even broader now that there wasn’t a shirt hiding them. That line of hair arrowed down his belly and disappeared under the knot in the towel, leaving her imagination running riot over just what was concealed below it.
A small squeak erupted from her lips. She was ogling the man. But really, how could she not? He was in her bathroom. Naked. It wasn’t her fault that her eyes wouldn’t look away from his body. Not that she’d tried. Reluctantly, she did, managing to raise them back up that expansive chest and all the way to his face.
“I, ah, was going to take a shower.” The words were barely a whisper. “Why are you in my bathroom?” Because, God, he’d been naked.
One of Daryl’s dark brows raised in what might have been amusement. “It’s a Jack-and-Jill.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means it’s our bathroom.” He gestured behind him to the door standing open on the far end of the room. She’d just assumed it was a linen closet or something. Evidently, it led to another bedroom. His bedroom. Why hadn’t she considered that possibility?
Because she was an idiot.
“Oh.” There was no etiquette lesson for her to draw on that covered walking in on a naked man in the shower. “I’m sorry.” She stammered, even as that other naughty-minded part of her was willing the knot in the towel to give way. “I was going to take a shower.” She was repeating herself, but at this point she was lucky there were actual words coming out of her mouth.
Daryl’s lips twitched at the corners. “I can see that.”
He could…oh. Oh! She was standing there in nothing more than her bra and panties, which meant Daryl was getting almost as big an eyeful as she was. Horrified, she squeaked out, “Oh, my God!” and spun back into her room, slamming the door and leaning against it, hands covering her face in mortification. Not only had she walked in on him, but she’d stood there, staring, in her underwear.
She was never going to be able to face the man again.