O'Brien's Lady - By Marsha Doss



Sondra Mead turned her head in the direction of the hauntingly familiar voice and her gaze fell upon the heavy-featured face of Michael O'Brien. Four years in Paris had not altered the magnetism that drew her to him, for even in the crowded San Francisco airport, his presence was compelling.

His stride was as slow and deliberate as a sleek panther. Sonny braced herself as Michael moved closer, his eyes never leaving her face. His dark unruly hair and thick eyebrows accentuated skin that had been bronzed by constant exposure to the sun and wind. The broad, angular face with the deep indention in his chin, made him no more attractive than any other man. But, he possessed character and raw appeal, the kind male models strive so hard to achieve. How often had she looked for those qualities in her own photo sessions, only to settle for something less.

"Welcome home, Sonny." Michael's voice was deep and raspy and a curiously familiar look passed through his eyes as she stiffened under his open appraisal.

"I wish I were her under different circumstances," Sonny answered.

"I'm sorry about your father. If I can do anything…"

Sonny could not think clearly with Michael standing so near. She inhaled the smell of outdoors that he had brought with him.

"Thank you, Michael. My flight gave me time to think things through."

"You know you have the O'Brien's to help you. Dad and Katy are anxious to have you home."

Sonny's chin tilted upward as large blue eyes peeped from under the black hat that dipped stylishly over her face.

"Oh, but I'm not really coming home."

"What's that mean?" Michael asked.

"There's nothing for me at Pinebrook now that Dad's gone, and I can't be in two places at once."

Sonny maneuvered the strap of her camera carrying case on the shoulder of her red suit jacket. She envied women who carry bags on their shoulders. Hers were narrow and the straps kept sliding down her arm.

"So, you're going to stay in Paris?"

Sonny thought she detected a note of disappointment in his voice as he spoke.

"Of course." She quickly moved away, hoping Michael would not see the doubt that must have shown in her face. She wanted him to see that she was now sophisticated and able to handle her own life.

Michael followed her to the baggage claim area, her heels clicking on the floor with her short, quick steps. She reminded him of the fine Thoroughbreds he trained. She was proud and independent, yet there was a softness and certain vulnerability that contradicted her inherited aloofness. While he had fought with that stubbornness and self-reliance, he had admired her in more ways than he cared to remember. She had disappeared from his life four years ago as a head-strong teenager who wanted a glamorous career. Now, as his eyes fixed on her shapely legs and hips that moved seductively from side to side, he longed to hold her in his arms and…

Michael's attention was riveted back to reality and he abandoned the thoughts that filled his mind and threatened to re-kindle the feelings he wanted to suppress.

"Those are mine," Sonny announced, pointing to the black leather luggage appearing on the baggage carousel.

With one easy movement Michael had one tucked under his arm and held the other at his side. When they reached the second floor of the airport parking lot, he hoisted her bags into the bed of his white pick-up truck, then opened the door and helped her onto the front seat.

Sonny removed the shoulder strap of her carrying case, placing it between them.

"I thought Will might be picking me up," she said, trying to keep her voice light and her reasons hidden. What she had hoped for was a trip home without seeing Michael O'Brien.

"Dad had some paper work that has to be finished tonight, so I was elected," Michael answered honestly.

Sonny smiled. Will O'Brien had been stable manager for her father for as long as she could remember, and he loved his work. She stared straight ahead as thoughts of Pinebrook Farm invaded her mind. With J.B. gone, the responsibility would fall on her shoulders. The worst part was that she was about to inherit the very world she had tried so hard to


Michael maneuvered the truck out of the crowded Airport and onto the freeway. He tried to keep his eyes on the road, but became distracted when Sonny removed her hat, allowing blond waves to fall loosely over her shoulders. Her profile was a combination of finely chiseled