Gambling On A Secret
Book 1 of The Colton Gamblers….
In anticipation of the June release of Book 3: Gambling On A Dream, Kensington Publishing has put Book 1: Gambling On A Secret on sale!
***ON SALE FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY FOR $0.99***
When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?
Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.
Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.
When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?
COVER QUOTE: “Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!”
Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author.
Ms. Brown also named Gambling On A Secret as one of her favorite romance reads in 2012 in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today.
“HONESTLY this was a FABULOUS read. Gambling on a Secret is a gripping, entertaining and an absolutely delightful romantic read which is set in the town of Colton located in Texas. Sara Walter Ellwood has scored with this book. This has been one of my favourite reads for 2013…” Read the rest of this 5 Satin Pillow review at Satin Sheets Romance .
Dylan regarded her for a long moment and cocked a brow. Damn, was he making fun of her? He looked her up and down. “Wouldn’t a woman like you be more comfortable getting manicures and massages in a Dallas spa, not worrying about cattle breeds and barn roofs? It’s no secret around town you’re the heiress to the Monroe Farm Equipment fortune, and you sold a huge ranch in Oklahoma your grandfather left you. Why on Earth did you buy a dump like this?”
Now he’d pissed her off. Charli might have more money than she’d ever dreamed of having. She might like to dress in designer clothes, but it was none of this jerk’s business which ranch she bought. Or why she wanted it. She had a business plan and a vision for the ranch; what else mattered? “I happen to like this place. It suits me better than the ranch I sold.”
“Is that so? Did you bring any equipment with you? A tractor, a planter, hay mower, baler, anything?”
He would bring up one of the stupidest things she’d done. Sighing, she admitted, “I sold the equipment with the ranch when I decided to leave Oklahoma. One more reason I need a manager.”
Her cheeks burned. “When I sold the ranch after inheriting it, I didn’t intend to buy another.”
“Why did you buy another ranch?” He slid his gaze back to hers and peered at her as if he could read her every thought--but what had her swallowing hard was the spark of something hot in his eyes.
She tightened her arms in the hug she gave herself--a self-protecting, insecure gesture she’d acquired while she lived with her abusive lover in Las Vegas as a teenage runaway.
“Buying a ranch the size of this one isn’t something most folks just wake up and decide to do, Miss Monroe. A ten-thousand-acre spread takes commitment and dedication and is damned hard work.”
Yeah, she knew that.
He looked down at her multicolored Manolo Blahnik five-inch heeled slides. The ghost of a smile touched his lips again, but this time little crinkles formed at the corners of his eyes, which held a spark of interest she didn’t want.
Damn, he was good-looking. She squelched that notion like the roach she’d killed earlier in the house. Hadn’t her life with Ricardo taught her a handsome face meant nothing but trouble?
“I can’t imagine you stuffing those pampered and polished feet into rubber boots to muck around in the barn.”
Me, either. But she would if she had to.
She drew in a breath and dropped her arms to her sides. “I think we should get back to asking questions about you. When your sister called about my newspaper ad, she said you were exactly what I’m looking for.”
He shrugged again in a not-a-care-in-the-world way again. What was this guy’s problem? If she weren’t running out of time, she would tell him to leave. She couldn’t waste this year, which meant she had to get someone hired. And her prospects were limited.
“Can you do the job?”
She waited for him to elaborate, but when he didn’t, she frowned. “Do you have any references?”
“I expected you to ask. Everything you need to know should be in here.”
She moved closer and took the folded sheet of paper he held out the window. After glancing at it, she wasn’t surprised it was a resume, but his listed experience had her heart beating a little faster. She looked up at him. “You have a degree in agricultural business from Texas A & M, started up your own ranch and served in the Army?”
He looked off in the distance. “I was in the service for thirteen years, three years in the Corps of Engineers, four in Airborne and the last six in Special Forces.” His jaw clenched, making his face the chiseled block of cold stone again. “And I know something about building. When I wasn’t deployed, I built the house and barn on my two-hundred acre ranch.”
“You don’t own the ranch now?”
“No. My ex-wife got it in our divorce settlement. I planned to get out of the Army after my last tour in Afghanistan and raise cattle. But things never happen the way we want them to.”
The bitterness of his tone had her stepping away. She shivered again and busied herself with looking at the resume. Whatever his ex-wife had done to him, it wasn’t good. “Your reference list is pretty skimpy.”
“The first name is my old commander, but I just got word he’s shipped out on a secret mission.”
Something wasn’t adding up. Either he was hiding something or his sister had lied about his experience. “Your sister said you worked on Oak Springs Ranch while in high school, but it’s not listed on your resume. Are you related to the owner, Leon Ferguson? You said your mother grew up there.”
His eyes narrowed and his lips thinned into a tight line. “Leon is my mother’s stepbrother. While my grandfather was still alive and ran the ranch, I worked there until I joined the Army after he died. I chose not to mention it.”
But why? She didn’t press the matter. She wasn’t seriously considering him for the job anyway, was she?
She studied the resume again. “Brenda Dailey. Is this person off-limits, too? Or can I speak with her?”
“My ex-wife. I’d appreciate it if you don’t involve her. I put her on there because of the ranch.”
She looked up at him. “The divorce that bad, huh?”
Dylan shrugged and looked away. He gripped the top of the steering wheel hard enough to whiten his knuckles. “Suppose it’s no secret. Our divorce has only been final four months, and she married her baby-daddy the day after it became official. You figure it out.”
“Ouch. Okay, I won’t call your ex. Nevertheless, I’d like to see your house. Your sister mentioned you were a carpenter.” She glanced at the address of his former ranch. “Killeen’s south of here?”
He nodded. “It’s your two hours and tank of gas.”
“Thank you for stopping by. Your number’s on here. I’ll call you.”
“Thanks for your time, Miss Monroe. Good luck with this place.” He looked around at the buildings and over her before he turned the key in the ignition. The rusted bucket of bolts sputtered and the starter groaned before the engine turned over.
As he pulled away, she looked at the piece of paper in her shaky hand and studied his name at the top.
Damn, she’d hoped he was the one.
She crumpled the paper, and the memory of his weathered eyes, as dull and gray as her ranch buildings, came to her. What ghosts did he see when he closed them?
She opened her palm and stared at the wad of paper. Feeling haunted by the past was something she understood very well.
Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia. Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also publishes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.