NACHO FIGURERAS PRESENTS: RIDE FREE by Jessica Whitman (July 26, 2016; Forever Trade Paperback, Mass Market, eBook; The Polo Season Series #3)
World-renowned polo player and global face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras dives into the world of scandal and seduction with a new fiction series set in the glamorous, treacherous world of high-stakes polo competition.
Antonia Black has always known her place with the Del Campo family-a bastard daughter. And it will take a lot more than her skill with horses to truly belong within the wealthy polo dynasty. In fact, she’s been shuttled around so much in her life, she doesn’t even know what “home” means. Until one man shows her exactly how it feels to be safe, to be free, to be loved.
Enzo Rivas knows Noni is way out of his league. After all, he’s the stablemaster, and she’s the boss’s sister. But he can’t see the hurt in her eyes and not want to protect her. And he can no longer deny the electric tension jumping between them. Yet just when he’s ready to risk it all and change their relationship forever, a secret from her past makes him question everything he thought he knew about her…
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When Sunny started crow-hopping, Enzo Rivas didn’t worry. The big mare had always been hot, and it wasn’t out of character for her to occasionally get a little bored and try to test her rider.
But when Sunny started to buck, Enzo knew something was seriously wrong.
The pony threw her head down, kicked out her legs, and whinnied fearfully, almost sending Enzo out of the saddle. He pressed his knees against the saddle, grabbed the reins, and battled to pull her head back up. She fought him, flinging her head down again and heaving her back legs into the air.
For a moment, he thought he was going to be thrown, and his body automatically tensed, preparing to hit the ground, hard.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Enzo lost his seat to an unruly horse. It was part of his job, after all. Nobody trained horses and didn’t occasionally get thrown. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t fight it.
Sunny came back down onto all four legs again, and Enzo, sensing a split second of opportunity, yanked the reins sharply to the right, forcing the pony’s head so far over that her nose touched his knee. She screamed in outrage and spun in a circle, but she was powerless to kick her hind legs from this position.
Enzo kept her in that stance, letting her spin as many times as she wanted, speaking to her softly in Spanish, until he could feel her temper start to ebb and her muscles soften, one by one, under him.
He relaxed the reins and let the pony’s head back up. As they cantered forward, he noticed a large, bald-faced hornet floating away from them.
“Ah. Poor girl,” he said, “you got stung.”
Sunny snorted complacently as if in agreement, then reared up, threw Enzo backward into the grass, and bolted, riderless, down the pitch.
Enzo lay there for a moment, the breath knocked out of him, staring at the cloudless Florida sky. It had not been a bad fall, as falls went, and he knew that once he could breathe again, he’d be fine. But he was also pissed, and he knew it would be better to get his temper under control before he chased down the errant horse. It never helped to be mad when dealing with ponies.
“Rivas?” came a distant voice that made him close his eyes and smile ruefully. Of course she would find him like this.
“Enzo, are you okay?”
She was closer.
He struggled to a sitting position, still a little winded but determined not to be on his back when she reached him.
“I’m fine,” he said, and then almost fell over again, he was so dizzy. Damn that horse. He bent his head to his knees and closed his eyes.
“You don’t look fine. You look like you got knocked on your ass.”
He slowly turned his gaze up toward Antonia Black and felt his heart speed up in a way that had nothing to do with his fall.
It was getting worse. He could hardly look at her anymore without being filled with an almost paralyzing ache of attraction.
She reached out her hand, her dark eyes twinkling with amusement, and after a beat of hesitation, he took it and let her help him to his feet.
For a moment after he stood, he let his hand linger in hers, allowing himself the luxury of feeling the tingling heat that seemed to generate from her skin into his. But then he dropped it, remembering the runaway horse.
“Did you see where Sunny went?” he asked.
She laughed. “She pranced right into the barn. I’m sure one of the grooms has her by now.”
He nodded and winced, already sore from the fall. “She got stung,” he said.
“Oh,” said Noni, “I know. I saw the whole thing.”
He smiled and rubbed his neck. “Hot horse,” he said ruefully.
She smiled back. He felt his chest squeeze in response. “Hot horse,” she agreed. She looked him over. “You sure you’re all right?”
He nodded. “I’ll probably be sore, but nothing is broken.”
“Good,” she said.
They gazed at each other for a moment.
“Are you going to Hendy’s party tonight?” he finally said, needing to break the tension.
Her mood suddenly changed. She frowned, and a red flush touched the creamy skin of her cheeks and chest. “Yeah, I guess,” she said in an abrupt tone. “Anyway, if you’re really okay, I’m going to head on home.” She quickly turned to go. “I’ll see you at the party.”
He watched Antonia walk away, heading for her truck. He had the impulse to call out, stop her, ask her what was wrong. But before he could act, Noni swung up into her truck, her platinum blond hair streaming behind her, slammed the door with a bang, and was gone in a cloud of dust.
He clenched and unclenched his fist, reminding himself that every time she slipped away, it was better for both of them. Less complicated, safer.
Nothing good, he reminded himself sternly for the ten millionth time as he started back toward the barn, could come from anything happening between us.
She is my boss’s sister. She is a Del Campo. I would only end up hurting her.
The words were his litany, but lately they were starting to lose their power.
He shook his head. Being stern with himself wasn’t working anymore. He could feel that he was starting to weaken. Being around her at work, being her friend and confidant, without ever hinting at his real feelings, had begun to exhaust him.
It was a part he knew he could not play much longer. All his good reasons for keeping his distance, all the rules of the barn and vows to himself that he had clung to over the years had started to feel weightless compared to his growing feelings for this woman. The many times he had repeated to himself that it was unprofessional, that he wasn’t fit to be in a relationship, that he didn’t deserve her, that she was too fragile… it was all beginning to feel as insubstantial as a fairy story. A cautionary tale he’d heard as a child, meant to keep him away from gingerbread houses and wolves in the woods.
Because she was different these days. She was stronger and happier and more stable. And her happiness made her all the more irresistible.
And maybe, he thought, I’m different, too…
He turned back around at the barn door, watching the lingering trail of dust that her old blue truck had left behind. He thought of a moment in the barn earlier that day, when he had held the head of a pony for her while she bent over its hind leg, hammering in a new shoe. For just the quickest second, she had looked up and met his eyes, and a devilish smile had danced over her mouth. It had been the kind of carefree grin he would never have imagined on her face when he had first come to know her. It seemed to prove that she was finally mended. Certainly, she was a changed woman from the one he’d met all those years ago.
Argentine polo player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras has become one of the most recognizable and talented polo players in the world. He is currently the captain and co-owner of the Black Watch polo team. In addition to playing polo, Nacho has been featured as a face of Ralph Lauren and its Black Watch clothing and watch collection since 2000. In June 2009, he was voted the second most handsome man in the world by the readers of Vanity Fair and has appeared on numerous television shows, such as Oprah and Chelsea Handler. Nacho currently splits his time between Miami and Argentina with his wife, Delfina and their four children, Hilario, Aurora, Artemio, and Alba.
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