Monday, 27 March 2017

Mathias insists on him being Ava's guide through the mountains...

Tango Prelude II

 “Highest mountain in the Andes, you know.” Matthias nodded to it. “Acongagua.” 
            Ava grimaced through the pain in her bruised ribs and side. “I know. I hiked its National Park last week.” 
             He looked down, solicitous to the pain in her voice.  “I think a rest will do you good. Come.” He opened the door, and Ava drank in the sight of a large, airy bedroom, graced by a wooden four-poster bed. Windows overlooked the mountains, this side of the house cool in the shadows. A breeze fluttered the light blue curtains, bringing a sweet smell of lilac with it. Lilac, she must be going mad...
            “…and here is your bathroom. Now, I’ll head down to the dorms and get your bag. Lie down and try to rest.” Matthias placed the jug on the prejut and left. 
            Ava sat on the window seat, although her eyes soon became too heavy. Not resisting the fatigue, she stripped to her underwear, wincing as she did so and clambered between the cool clean sheets. Heaven. Magnificant to be able to relax 100%, not to worry about other people coming in and disturbing, or to fret about her things and passport. And …
            She woke briefly in the gloom of the evening to see a bowl of fruit and a fresh jug of lemonade had been placed on the bedside table and her backpack leaned against the wardrobe. Slight discord jangled within her at the thought that someone had been in here whilst she slept, but sleep soon re-claimed her. 
            The next few days passed by in a haze. Ava hadn’t known quite how exhausted she had been, but one thing she realised; she was darned lucky to be getting such a fabulous rest. Food and water       were changed over between her sleeps and she soon relaxed completely. Fragments of images of a tall, dark and handsome man lingered in the consciousness but when she went to claim them, they disappeared into the ether. There were times when she woke, hovering on the cusp of sleep and waking, sure someone was in her room. But rather than be alarmed, she was soothed by the fact that someone was watching over her. Once the click of the door shutting brought her into wakefullness, and she lay there, consumed by loss for whatever had been there had gone. 
            One morning – when, she had no idea – she woke and stretched. Damn but she felt good. She sat up and padded into her marble bathroom, eyeing up the shower as she did so. Despite not having done anything in the past couple of days, she felt grubby and soon luxuriated in a long hot power shower. Heaven just kept on getting better. 
            She walked back into the bedroom, with just a towel wrapped around her when she heard a tap on the door.
            “Come in.” She called before she knew it and as the door opened to admit Matthias, her heart clutched at her chest. “Hang on.” She grabbed her backpack and backed into the bathroom to throw some clothes on. Darn, why hadn’t she got anything sexy to wear? Her habitual shorts and t-shirt would have to do. 
            She came into the bedroom to be greeted by the smell of coffee and fresh croissants. 
            “Something smells fabulous.” Her stomach growled in appreciation and she walked over to the desk, where a breakfast tray was laid out. 
            “I thought you may be ready for some food as you haven’t had anything substantial to eat for the past three days.” The low words in the Argentine accent caused warmth to swirl around her body, starting a low flush in her neck. She reached up to clutch at her opal and pressed it’s smoothness to her lips. Perhaps she could attribute her light head to the lack of food in her belly. Perhaps
            “Three days?” Have I been out of it for three whole days? 
            He nodded. “Eat.” 
            “Er, yes thank you very much.” Although she moistened her lips in anticipation of the food, she couldn’t pick it up and eat in front of him. Deciding upon a compromise, she raised the coffee jug to him, relieved when he shook his head.
            “I checked in on you as you slept. I hope you don’t mind.”
Ava put down the cup. “You? I thought it was your mother?” Panic fluttered in her throat at the thought he had seen her sleeping and dreaming. She had mistakenly thought the safe presence a maternal one, although if she’d listened to her instincts she’d have known better
Safe, certainly. Maternal? Never. 
Shivers made the hair at the nape of her neck stand. 
            Matthias said nothing but quirked an eyebrow. “Maman had business in Mendoza. You seem good.”
            “I am, thanks.” The coffee was short and strong, and sharpened her wits for her. She refilled her cup.
“So?” he looked questioningly at her.
“What were you doing in one of my training barns?” 
Nothing very well.
Instead she cleared her throat. “I wanted to get used to Red Sox before she led me across the Andes.” She risked a peek at him. He maintained a low steady stare. 
“Well I hope you’ve got some time, because judging by your ineptitude on Red Sox, who never lets her rider fall, it’s going to take quite a while to – what did you call it? – get used to her.” 
 “Time I don’t have. I have a week’s riding holiday booked, leaving tomorrow. I’ve already wasted too much time here”
Ominous silence greeted her, one eyebrow went down whilst the other remained up. How did he do that? She expelled a long breath and tried to get through to him again. “I’ve travelled around the world for eleven months now, and it’s my dream to finish off with a horse-riding holiday in the Andes. I go home in two weeks.”
More silence. 
“Look, I couldn’t rock climb before I spent a while in the Grampians in Australia, now I can climb, not brilliantly but I can do it. I intend to do the same with riding.” This riding holiday was the culmination of all her travels, a fantastic high to carry her home. She wasn’t about to give it up. 
  He straightened, planting his feet apart. Pushover, this man certainly was not. 
The clock on the wall tick-tocked the seconds away.
 “Fine. But the only way you can take off into the mountains is for me to go with you.” Something had changed in him in that pause. He had distanced himself.  
Ava put her cup on the table with a clatter. 
“You? There’s no need – Alessandro is booked to take me.” The ranch catered for riding holidays over the Andes, offering a choice of having a guide or going it alone. As Ava didn’t know the area and – okay wasn’t quite the best at riding – she had booked a guide. 
“Me. I’m the very best there is. So that’s your option. Take it or your dream of riding through the mountains will remain just that – a dream.” He brushed his hair from his forehead, and placed his hands on his hips. “What’s it to be?”
Ava tried to hide her expression from his hawk like eyes. Eyes she felt sure could see her contrary thoughts. She couldn’t do it. How would she protect herself against the masculinity that imbued the air around him with danger? On a more trivial note, what would they talk about? 
She’d make a fool of herself, he’d allow his laughter out and she’d scurry home with her tail between her legs. 
NO! She was going to do it, damnit. Opportunity of a lifetime and all that. This time next month she’d be home, sweet, safe home, with no disturbingly beautiful men around. 
She flicked her damp hair back from her face, and feathered the fringe down, just for good affect. Steeling herself to meet his deep brown gaze, she stuck a hand out.  “Deal.” 

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