“That bad, huh?” Sam said, hiding her smile in her cup, but Mike didn’t seem to hear the sarcasm in her voice.
“We all felt we were justified in what we did. We put them on the wildest horses we could find. We used to take them into the Rocky Mountains and leave them alone at night with no food or water, without any covering.”
“Wasn’t that dangerous?”
“Hell, no, not to a Montgomery. As far as we could tell, they’re not killable. One of my brothers took one of them out, put the son of a gun at the end of a rope, lowered the rope down a cliffside, and went off and left my cousin hanging there.” Mike smiled in memory. “It was two hundred feet down.”
“What did your cousin do?”
“I don’t know. Somehow, she got back up the rope. She wasn’t even late for dinner.”
It was the “she” that made Samantha start laughing. Setting her orange juice on the bedside table, she put her hands over her stomach and laughed hard. “Mike, you’re dreadful,” she said, now realizing that he had been joking all along, creating the story (or, at the very least, exaggerating extravagantly) to entertain her, to make her laugh.
As Michael lay on the bed, he smiled at her, looking thoroughly pleased with himself, the cheshire cat, the cat that ate the cream. His smile made her certain his story hadn’t been serious at all, that he had meant to amuse her and was glad he’d done so.
“I’m glad to see that you can laugh,” he said, reaching into one of the bags and withdrawing a delicious-smelling muffin. “I got this especially for you.”
As she took it from his hand, she thought, He feeds me and he makes me laugh. “What kind is it?”
Regretfully, she handed the muffin back to him. “Too fattening. I can’t eat it.”
Sprawling back on the bed, he didn’t take the muffin from her. “Just as I thought.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. I just won a bet with myself. You don’t drink any alcohol to speak of, and left on your own, you dress like an old woman. You ever eat any food that isn’t good for you? I’m sure you’ve never even been
tempted to do drugs.”
She glared at him. “Hand me that pat of butter. Better yet, hand me two pats.”
Smiling at her suggestively, he passed her the butter and a plastic knife. “If you’re worried about working those calories off, I know a great exercise.”
Samantha was too intent on her utterly delicious muffin to pay any attention to him. Chocolate chips. Soft white dough. Melted butter.
“Damn it, Samantha, stop looking at food like that,” Mike said, genuine anger in his voice. Grabbing her hand, he pulled it toward his mouth and took a bite out of her muffin, catching one of her fingers in his soft, warm mouth and licking butter from it. As he did so, he looked at her with hot eyes.
She snatched her hand away. “Does anything, anything at all, discourage you?”
“No,” he said without much concern, licking his fingers. Lazily, he got up off the bed and stretched.
Watching him, Samantha halted with her muffin halfway to her mouth. He had broad shoulders, a slim waist, and heavy thighs, and the sight of Michael’s body displayed that way was enough to make her forget even chocolate.
When he stopped flexing, she looked away quickly before he saw her gawking. Bending agilely, he shoved leftover food back into the bags.
“Why do you…I mean,” she said, clearing her throat. “Why do you look as you do?”
“What do you mean?” he asked with exaggerated innocence.
Samantha knew he was trying to get a compliment from her. No doubt he wanted her to say, Why are you dripping muscle? Why do you look like a Greek god? Why do you have a body that Michelangelo would have loved to sculpt? Instead of the words he wanted to hear and the words that came to her mind, she gave him a look that said, You know very well what I mean.
“Power lifting,” he said, picking up the tray and setting it on her father’s desk.
“Like in the Olympics?”
Mike gave a snort of derision. “Pretty boys. That’s Olympic lifting and what Schwarzenegger does is bodybuilding. I power lifted in college in competitions. Heavy stuff. Now I just do what I can to maintain.”