‘It’s not funny, you little savage!’
The baboon screamed defiance at her. A moment later, he scooted along the branch and was lost in the foliage. He reappeared suddenly and before Sophie could blink, something exploded against her chest—a large, over-ripe guava. Juice, pips and flesh soaked into her shirt and dripped down her front.
With a shout of triumph, the baboon disappeared along the branch, still clutching the tyre iron. Sophie decided to give up. She’d go back to the truck and radio for help, after she’d changed her shirt. She had a spare in her vehicle.
She took the shirt off to avoid the sticky mess seeping through to her bra and stomped off across the grass. She was several metres from the vehicle when she noticed a man standing beside it. He was in tailored chinos that sported perfectly pressed seams. His shirt was pale blue and the shoes were probably Italian leather.
Sophie tried with as much finesse as possible to unfurl the shirt scrunched into a ball in her hands as the veld began to run out between herself and the vehicle. She pressed the material to her chest, ignoring the squelch of guava flesh against her skin.
A more pragmatic part of Sophie’s brain said: not your fault, can’t be helped. She strode towards the man, doing her best to carry off her approach with as much dignity as her white, lacy bra would allow.
When she got within a couple of feet of him, her heart began to jump up and down like that crazy baboon. The man waiting at the vehicle was Reuben Manning. Sophie groaned.
She recognised him from the photos she’d seen on the internet. If he’d been handsome in photographs, in person he was devastating. For one thing, those pictures hadn’t given the full effect of his broad shoulders and height of at least six foot three. And it wasn’t his height alone that was impressive: it was also the high forehead, sculpted cheekbones, square jaw, thick dark hair; the early morning sun glinting off an undulating wave. No wonder he’d done so well in business. She didn’t think there was a man or woman alive who could possibly say no to him.
But it was the eyes that started a pounding in her chest: they were the closest to navy blue she had ever seen. There was an unusual intensity to them as they slid towards her chest, narrowed and lingered there. Her chest!
Sophie pressed the shirt to her sternum, trying to control the breathlessness that made her full breasts even more noticeable as they moved up and down, up and down.
Neither spoke. His eyes met hers and Sophie quickly looked away from the energy that flashed from them. Not a man to be trifled with. The thought flitted through her mind as she watched the breeze ruffle his hair. She glanced at the sensuous mouth, now drawn into a hard line, the strong jaw. Everything about this man exuded power and success. She hoped he wasn’t cruel.
You’re a professional, Sophie told herself. You’ve worked hard for this, so show him who you really are.
‘Hello, Mr Manning. My name’s Sophie Kyle. I’m your new conservationist.’