Violetâs words sank in. She swallowed. Nor was she. She shot a backwards glance at Jim feeling like a child caught with her fingers in the honey pot. Only the slight reddening of his cheeks and the sparkle in his eyes gave any indication her proximity affected him. Violet sniggered, a staged noise belonging in the theatre. âDoes that mean you will be declining Mr Cecil Bryceâs offer?â India snapped her gaping mouth closed and glared at her sister. âYou donât know what youâre talking about.â Spinning on her heel she marched across the yard, every nerve ending aflame. Violet was impossible. Maestro might have kicked her head in and all because sheâd behaved like a trollop trying to attract Jimâs attention. Her sisterâs involvement in any matters outside the house would be limited and she would arrange for her to return to Sydney as soon as circumstances allowed. She stomped into the kitchen seeking Peggyâs tea and comfort.
Thirteen Jim studied Indiaâs ramrod back as she stalked away. The two sisters had their volatility in common although it was the first time heâd seen India lose control. He rather liked it. It hinted at a fiery streak in her nature he hadnât imagined. He understood and shared her passion for horses and the wasted possibilities for Helligen. What he didnât understand was the charged atmosphere heâd created by touching her. She aroused such a protective streak in him and his first thought when Maestro reared wasnât for Violetâs safety but Indiaâs. Only when Maestro settled did he consider Violet. From the moment he arrived India had fascinated him. If he wasnât so hell-bent on discovering the truth about Goodfellow he could imagine a hundred ways to explore the strange connection they had. The memory of her lithe body astride her horse stirred him as much as the feel of her in his arms. He shook the thought away. Lust, most likely . âAre you going to help me?â Violetâs strident tone set his teeth on edge and drawn from his contemplation of India, he turned around. She stood, one hand supporting her weight against the brick wall of his cottage while she fumbled with her ridiculous footwear with the other hand. âWhatâs the problem?â âI need some assistance returning to the house. As you can see the heel of my boot has broken.â She lifted her skirt a little and as no doubt intended he glimpsed a flash of ankle. âTake it off. Itâs not far to walk back to the house.â He headed off to the stables, his annoyance increasing with every step. The morning had all but passed and heâd made no progress. âI hoped I might lean on you.â A loud sigh escaped. âVery well.â He returned and offered his arm. The annoying woman draped herself around his neck. âIt would be so much easier if you could carry me. I fear I may have sprained an ankle.â She gave a pathetic hop and collapsed against him. Gritting his teeth Jim swept her up into his arms. The feather on her hat tickled his nose as he adjusted her purple-clad body before striding across to the stables. Violet gave a little giggle and snuggled closer. âI expected you to take me to the house.â Her cloying perfume made his nostrils twitch and he fought a sneeze. âIâm taking you to the house. However, I need to secure the gates on the stalls before I leave the horses.â âHow silly of me. Iâd forgotten the horses.â âIt appears to me you may have completely forgotten how to behave around horsesâif you ever knew,â he finished with a grunt. Her weight was nothing but her nearness and the way she clung to him made him want to slap her away like a buzzing mosquito. He dropped the hand supporting her back and unlatched the outside gate. Violet lifted her other arm and wrapped that too around his neck. âThis is such fun. I