Her Alpha Saviors

By: Zara Chase

Chapter One

“Go, baby! Let’s do it.”

Skye shortened her reins and leaned forward over Rio’s withers. Exhilaration streaked through her as her mare responded to the light pressure of Skye’s thighs against her flanks and extended her stride. The beautiful palomino thrust her neck forward, put in a playful buck just like she always did, and then broke into a flat-out gallop. Without a crash hat, Skye’s unruly hair didn’t stand a prayer of staying confined to a scrunchy she’d wound round it and soon made an unauthorised bid for freedom. A bit like her, she supposed, grinning into the wind.

Skye’s hair snapped out behind her like a flag caught in a sudden gust of wind, escaping just like her. She revelled in the temporary release her spontaneous decision to drop everything and go for a horseback ride afforded her. Something inside her must have been telling her just how badly she needed this. It was as though a switch had flipped inside her head and weeks’ worth of tension drained out of her almost as fast as the ground sped past beneath Rio’s flying hooves. She was tempted to shout aloud, simply with the joy of living, wondering when she’d lost her British reserve enough to even consider something so impulsive.

This was living. It made the agony of her failures seem less significant somehow. They could take away her job, her home, her independence, her raison d’être. They could destroy her confidence and her pride but no one, especially not the bossy Yank who was due to pitch up tomorrow and tear her business plan to shreds, could take away the simple pleasure of riding a spirited horse at breakneck speed across open common land. Especially when she had it all to herself that early in the morning. Especially when she was playing hooky. She ought to be in her office, slaving away over the endless columns of figures that simply refused to tally. Right now she didn’t give a shit.

What would the American be like, she wondered, leaning forward a little more and encouraging Rio to leap over a fallen log. The little mare gathered her haunches beneath her and took off on a perfect stride, ears pricked, enjoying herself as much as Skye. The Yank had sounded businesslike to the point of being brusque during the few telephone conversations they’d had. His e-mails were brutally frank, not offering any clues as to his personality, which seemed unfair when he’d probably done his research and knew so much about her.

Skye hated being at a disadvantage and had wasted precious time doing countless Internet searches, looking for anything she could find about Mr. Jay Blanchard. She learned lots about the man’s business acumen, which was apparently legendary. Well, it would be. Otherwise he wouldn’t have earned a reputation for one hundred percent success in rescuing ailing businesses and turning them round—in return for a healthy chunk of the profits, naturally. The strange thing was that she couldn’t find out anything about the man himself. Not a single picture graced the World Wide Web, which seemed a bit odd. Blanchard wasn’t just a recluse. He was a fricking phantom. She had no idea how old he was, if he was married, why he’d chosen to relocate to England. He was a complete enigma, which bothered Skye.

“He’s probably sixty if he’s a day,” she told Rio as she reluctantly turned toward home and slowed to a walk. Her horse was bathed in sweat, steam rose from her flanks, and she needed to cool down before they got back to the yard. “I expect he’s fat, dictatorial, and a right know-it-all. He might be clever with money, but I’m willing to bet that he knows sod all about the complexities of running a country pub.”

And the bugger of it was that she’d have to bow to his dictates, however impossible they might be. He was her last hope to save the tavern that had been in her family for generations. If she couldn’t convince him that her business plan would actually work if she had an injection of cash to bring it about, then the bank would repossess and she would be homeless.

“It’s not going to happen,” she said to Rio, arriving back at the ramshackle yard where the horse was stabled and slipping nimbly from the saddle. “I shall save The Fox if I have to sell my body to do it. There, now you know how desperate I’m feeling, old girl, but keep it to yourself, right?”

Rio turned her beautiful head and nudged Skye’s hip, almost as if she realized that she’d been entrusted with her owner’s darkest secret. Either that or she was after a treat. Laughing, Skye delved into her pocket and produced a packet of mints.

Skye worked quickly and efficiently. She removed Rio’s saddle and rubbed her down, all the while talking aloud to her. Rio, munching on a hay net, was a good listener and didn’t interrupt, making do with twitching her ears as though she understood every word. Skye was convinced that she did.

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