Hello everyone! I’m so excited to announce the release of my 25th Harlequin, A Bull Rider to Depend On. It was really exciting to receive the notification, because I had miscounted. I thought A Bull Rider to Depend On was my 24th book. Math never was my strong point.
To celebrate this milestone, I’m posting an excerpt and giving a way an autographed copy of the book to someone who comments. Yay!
A little background before the excerpt. Tyler and Jess Hayward are bull riding twins. Tyler is the wild child and Jess is the responsible twin. Tyler has had a crush on Skye Larkin forever, but Skye never approved of his wild ways and eventually married one of his friends.
Now Skye is a widow and in deep financial trouble. Ty offers to help, only to discover that Skye thinks he encouraged her late husband to gamble away the ranch emergency fund. He’s just discovered that she blames him for the state she’s in and he’s not going to have it…
Skye started walking toward where Ty stood beside his truck, stony expression firmly in place. Her hair was pulled into a sophisticated looking bun thing instead of tumbling around her shoulders in dark waves as usual, and she wore a light blue dress with sensible heels.
He instantly surmised that she’d been to another bank and that things had not gone well. Ty told himself he didn’t care.
“Hello, Tyler.” She came to a stop a few feet away from him, just as she had the day before, and adjusted the position of the purse strap on her shoulder, keeping her fingers lightly curled around the black leather.
“What brings you here today?”
Coolly spoken words, but Ty read uncertainty in her expression. Guilt, perhaps…?
“I’m for sure not here to offer you money.” He took a lazy step forward. “I want you to set the record straight.”
His voice grew hard as he said, “Where do you come off telling people that I’m trying to buy a clear conscience?”
Skye gaped at him. “What?”
He cocked his head. “What part needs repeating?”
“I never told anyone you were trying to buy a clear conscience.”
“Well, that’s the story going around, Skye. I wonder how it started?” He took another step forward, doing his best to ignore the fact that she looked utterly confused. “I tried to help you, Skye. I wanted to help you. It had nothing—not one thing—to do with my conscience.”
Her chin went up at that. “Nothing?”
He shook his head, realizing then just how deeply engrained her dislike of him was. She was never going to believe anything but the worst of him and he wasn’t going to try to convince her otherwise. “I’m wasting my time here.” He turned and started back across the drive toward his truck, cursing his stupidity in driving to her ranch. The damage was done. And realistically, he’d never expected her to be able to make the situation better, but he wanted her to know what she’d done so that she didn’t do it again. Mission accomplished.
He jerked the truck door open, then, because this could well be the last time they ever spoke, he said, “For the record, I never gambled with your husband.”
An expression of patent disbelief crossed Skye’s face, but before she could speak, he said, “I know it’s really handy to blame me, since you’ve never cared for me. I’m a nice easy target to make you feel better about things, but here’s the deal—I don’t gamble.”
“More like never as in…never.”
“You’re saying my husband lied to me.”
Sorry, Mason, but the roosters have come home to roost. “I’m saying he used me as an excuse.”
“You never partied with him.”
“Of course I partied with him. We drank together. A lot. But we never went gambling.”
She looked at him as if he was missing the point. “If Mason had stayed in at night, if he hadn’t drunk too much, then he wouldn’t have gambled. But would you leave him alone? No.”
“He never once said anything about wanting to stay in.” That was the honest truth. “He never acted like he wanted to stay in.” And Tyler hadn’t seen the danger of encouraging him to go out until it was too late. But Mason would have gone out no matter what. Tyler was convinced of that.
“Or you’re not presenting things the way they really were.”
Ty’s eyes narrowed. “Why would I present things any other way?” In other words, why would he lie?
“I don’t know. Guilt, maybe? Public image?”
“I’m not lying, Skye. I know you believe that I’m the reason you’re broke. I’m the reason Mason had hangovers. Yes, you asked me to leave him alone. No, I didn’t do it. But I didn’t encourage him to gamble and lose all of his money—or to gamble some more to try and make it all back. That was fully his thing.”
Tyler’s jaw tightened as he fought the urge to tell Skye the whole truth. To tell her what her husband was like on the road. To tell her that gambling wasn’t the only vice Mason indulged in.
But angry as he was, he couldn’t do that to her.
He also couldn’t handle being in her presence any longer. “You want to hide behind a lie? Fine. Have a good life, Skye.” The words came out bitterly, as if he cared in some way about what she thought, but he didn’t.
“You too,” Skye said in a stony voice, before walking past him, her heels tilting in the gravel as she made her way around his truck. She was almost directly in front of the vehicle when she stopped dead in her tracks.
Ty followed her line of vision and instantly saw the problem. One of her horses was down, next to the water trough, and from the way it was lying with its neck stretched out and its head at an odd angle, he didn’t think it was napping. He got back out of his truck at the same moment that Skye started running toward the pasture in her heels.
He might be angry. He might have been happy to never see Skye again. But no way was he going to drive away when she had a horse down.
The horse needed help even if Skye didn’t.
Yes, I know–Skye seems kind of cranky. She’s scared and hurting, but eventually she comes around. Tyler becomes the man he needs to be and she learns to trust again. I just turned in Jess’s book and had as much fun writing the responsible twin as the wild twin. I guess that’s because I gave him a heroine to drive him nuts.
And to complete my twin theme–we just had twin calves! It was very touch-and-go saving them, since it was breach birth to begin with, but they’re thriving now. Here are the adorable little guys minutes after birth.
This is me in full farm gear!
Do you know any twins? If they were identical, did you find them hard to tell apart once you knew them? I’m looking forward to reading your answers! I’ll post a winner on Saturday.