To Thine Own Self (Chapter Four, page 1 of 8)

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The weekend before her guests were scheduled to arrive, they finally found the time to scout out a trail. They left Natalie, Mathew and Destiny with a sitter. Jonathan was practicing with some friends for a band they were forming. Maybe the band would help settle him down. Jonathan said Alex had told him to ask her for permission. If her answer had been no, he would have again put her in a position where she would be to blame for Jonathan's state of unhappiness. Why didn't Alex make the decision? Had their discussion been for nothing?

They rode double on Ed from the house to the stable. There, Carmen saddled Princess while Alex waited.

"Today is Ed's birthday," she told him as she tightened the cinch. "He's 23 years old."

Alex nodded, his gaze drifting over her body. "He's in good condition," he said absently.

Normally she would have welcomed the attention, but his expression was not pleased. She had specifically selected her clothing today to please him. Maybe he thought the weather was too cool for bare shoulders and midriff. It was overcast, but warm. The knit pants hugged her figure, but they were comfortable and stretched when she did.

His gaze lifted to her face. "You're not going to wear that when you take the guys on a tour, are you?"

Warmth flooded her cheeks as she met his gaze.

"If you didn't trust me with other men, why did you encourage it?"

He frowned. "I didn't say that. I didn't think that."

She mounted Princess and gazed down at him. "You didn't say those words, but you implied I would lead them on."

The furrows between his brows deepened. "I did not. I only wanted to know …" He paused and the furrows vanished as his brows lifted.

"If I would dress this way when I took them on a tour." She concluded. "No. I dressed this way because I thought you would like it."

His gaze drifted over her body again and then lifted to her face. "I like it."

For a moment they looked into each other's eyes, and then he turned to Ed. He put a foot into the stirrup and mounted in one lithe movement. Turning Ed toward the gate, he leaned over, lifted the latch and pushed it open. Pulling Ed to the side, he allowed Carmen to go through the gate first. As she passed, he grinned.

She smiled and nudged Princess into a lope, leaving him to shut the gate and catch up. It still rankled that he thought she had to be reminded to dress in a professional way. It wasn't the first time he had made a remark that indicated he was less than pleased about the way she dressed. Did it embarrass him? While the clothes she wore today were comfortable, they certainly wouldn't have been her choice. Katie chose them, but he thought they were suggestive. When she selected her clothing, he thought it was old fashioned. Before the guests arrived, she'd do some shopping on her own. Maybe Alex wouldn't like that either, but she would.

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