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“Could you put Migo there?” She pointed to the counter beside the sink.
“Sure.” Manuel hoisted the Lab as if he weighed no more than a cream puff.
Watching him lift her dog, Catalina couldn’t help but notice the bulge of Manuel’s biceps and the corded strength of the tendons in his forearms.
Her mouth went dry as sawdust. The air in the kitchen felt close. She swallowed hard and fought the urge to fan herself. Like Super Glue, her gaze was locked on his muscular arms. Not only did he look like a bear, if she were any judge, he was as strong as one.
Standing this close to his raw masculine strength and with the soapy-clean, man-smell of him tantalizing her senses, her stomach muscles tightened. And lower, she felt the old, familiar stinging ache.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ve got him. Bring on the soap and alcohol.”
She jerked her head up, and a flash of heat basted her face. She’d been daydreaming—or fantasizing.
She grabbed a bar of soap and the bottle of alcohol she kept by the sink. Then she turned on the water faucet and lathered her hands with soap. She grasped one of her dog's hind legs and worked the lather into his fur.
Migo whined and tried to wriggle away, but Manuel clamped down, holding him still and soothing him with low words.
She focused on Migo, not daring to look at Manuel or accidentally brush against him. After liberally soaping the cuts, she used a wet dishtowel to rinse them. Then she bent over to examine the wounds.
“They’re not deep,” he said.
His voice, rumbling from the expanse of his broad chest, forced her to glance up. Her gaze met his. This close, she could see the thick fringe of his eyelashes framing his brown eyes. He had a small bump in the middle of his nose. An old break—maybe from a fistfight?
But as strong as he was, she couldn’t imagine him fighting. There was something innately gentle about Manuel Batista. Even the firm but tender way he held Migo.
A lump lodged in her throat. What she wouldn’t give to be held like that. How long had it been since someone had protected and cherished her? She closed her eyes, fighting an overpowering urge to bury her face in Manuel’s broad chest. And just as swiftly as the urge swept over her, she recoiled.
What was wrong with her? Had she flipped out?