My second book, The Dance, will be released on July 10, Thursday. Set in the San Juan Islands, it's actually the first full-length novel I ever completed. While I wouldn't exactly bill it as equestrian fiction, it does have horses in it, specifically an Andalusian named Sueno. Here's a blurb and an excerpt from the first chapter:
Siren Publishing, July 10
What's a girl to do after her former fiancé declares that she's frigid?
Mariah Baker decides to take a jaunt on her wild side--if she can find it. The scruffy Puerto Rican leasing the waterfront house next door appears to be just the man for the mission. After all, what better way to defrost than with a sexy Latin lover? Only time is the enemy, and Rico isn't who she thinks he is.
Rico finds fashion-obsessed Mariah intriguing and unique. For starters, she makes horses dance, and his heart does its own tango for her. Besides, a hot summer fling is a welcome distraction from his depressing, uncertain future and dysfunctional, freeloading family.
As their summer together comes to an end, Rico’s phobia toward falling in love and Mariah’s insecurities are a recipe for a trouble in paradise; but in the magic of the San Juan Islands, anything is possible. Or is it?
Okay, who turned out the lights?
Was she dead? Did they have mud in heaven? Sticky, gooey, cold mud? Certainly heaven’s mud wouldn't smell like rank fertilizer and stale water. A distant voice penetrated her muddled brain.
Mariah Baker wiggled her toes and fingers to test each one. Lifting her head, she scraped the mud from her face with her gloved hand. Her blurry eyes focused on two large cowboy boots about a foot away. Angels didn't have big feet and wear scuffed cowboy boots.
“Are you okay?” A deep, sexy voice vibrated with concern.
She tried to raise her head higher. A large hand to match those big feet entered her field of vision. “What happened...?”
“You fell off your horse.”
Oh, yeah, she remembered now. An invisible horse-eating troll lurking in the nearby woods scared her ditz-brained gelding. He’d bucked and sent her flying like a rag doll, ending with an ungraceful face plant. At least it was a soft landing, as last night’s rain had transformed the footing in her riding arena into a mud bog.
“Are you all right?” The man sounded rattled.
“Don’t move. You might have broken something.”
“Nothing’s broken. I just had...the wind knocked out of me.” She choked and spit out a mouthful of mud. The owner of the cowboy boots squatted next to her. Long legs, strong thighs, narrow hips, broad chest. Definitely heaven.
With a groan, Mariah pushed herself to a kneeling position and came face-to-face with Adonis. Well, at least he could have doubled for a Greek god. His appearance tickled her memory, yet she was certain she’d never met him. She blinked a few times to clear her vision and stared.
Heaven wouldn’t have temptations like him. He’d turn any good girl into a very bad girl.
A day’s growth of beard darkened his handsome face. His unruly brown hair begged for attention from a decent stylist. He wore clothes most garage sales wouldn’t bother to sell. His threadbare jeans had never seen a designer label. Yet his disheveled appearance didn’t come close to concealing his model good looks. Suffice it to say, the man fit every clichéd description of a hero in a romance novel, despite his scruffiness.
Too bad she'd sworn off men as of last night. So what if he was kiss-your-heart-goodbye gorgeous? Unfortunately, her heart wasn’t listening. Instead, it told her brain to get lost and snuggled up next to Mr. Scruffy, at least in its dreams.
He might appear scruffy, but he smelled wonderful in a clean, masculine sorta way. His scent actually permeated the smell of rancid mud that clung to her body. Without thinking, she leaned closer to get a better whiff of his expensive aftershave. A dedicated shopper, Mariah knew expensive when she saw it or smelled it. She’d also bet a winning lotto ticket he wore a Rolex watch and Gucci sunglasses.
Raising her gaze back to his face, she found him staring at her. He removed his sunglasses and shifted his gaze from her lips to her eyes. The man had the most incredible brown eyes, as yummy as a chocolate mocha espresso fringed with long, black eyelashes. Now why did guys always have eyelashes like that when they never appreciated them?
Those mocha eyes sucked her in like dust bunnies sucked into a vacuum cleaner. She felt light-headed. And hot. Really hot. Taking a deep breath, Mariah gathered her composure—and her dust bunnies—about her like a suit of armor.
Relax, girl, relax. This guy radiated sexual energy like the sun radiated heat. She’d just been gobbled up by his magnetic sensuality. He was dangerous, and she didn’t need a guy like that to complicate her life. Get rid of him, the sooner the better, her boring good girl side warned her.
“I’m Ric...” He hesitated. “I’m Rodrigo Perez.” He studied her with interest, as if waiting for a reaction. “I’m staying at the Delgado’s vacation house for a month. That’d make me your neighbor.” He held out his hand to her.
She stared at it, while her mind stalled somewhere between fantasy and reality. He cleared his throat to get her attention. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. He grinned with amusement. His hand still hovered in mid-air. Mechanically, she removed a mud-encrusted glove and offered her hand to him. His long fingers surrounded her smaller hand with a firm but gentle hold. His thumb traced a sensuous circle on her palm. He lifted her fingers to his lips. His warm mouth grazed her trembling knuckles, lingering on each one. All the while, his dark eyes never left hers. Mariah fell for his technique, hook, line, and sinker; stupid, gullible woman that she was.
A five-alarm siren clanged in her head, and she jerked her hand away. The sudden movement dislodged a mud clump from her riding helmet, and it plopped onto her nose. The irritating man raised one dark eyebrow . His mouth twitched in a suppressed smile as he dabbed the mud with his thumb. It was a good thing she was still kneeling or she’d have crumpled to the ground in a heap of female hormonal mush.
“And you are?”
“I’m Mariah,” she croaked, feeling like an idiot.
“Well, Mariah, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Rodrigo straightened to his full height, leaving Mariah to stare at his belt buckle, tight jeans, and... Oh, my.
“Can you stand?” He didn’t wait for an answer but bent down to help her. Avoiding his touch,
Mariah scrambled to her feet.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Concern gentled his brown eyes.
“I am. Really. I’ve fallen off many times. It’s nothing. Something in the woods scared my horse.”
“Can’t imagine what that would be.” He shrugged and looked away, shifting his weight from one cowboy boot to another.
Sueño, her gray gelding and the guilty party, wandered over and stuck his head between them. Mariah picked up his reins.
“Where did you...? I mean, how did you...?” Her brain couldn’t seem to form words. His amused grin didn’t help.
“I was walking along the road and saw you launched into the air like a human catapult. I ran over to check on you.”
“Thank you for helping me.” She wiped her face with the bottom of her T-shirt. She must look a fright. And she considered him scruffy?
“I’m just glad to see you’re okay.” A slight accent blended with the rich timbre of his voice. A handsome man with an accent made for an even more deadly combination.
Attempting to be inconspicuous, she rubbed her clammy hands on her thighs. Her horse stirred beside her, and she glanced at him. The big busybody hadn’t missed a thing. One furry ear swiveled to catch each tidbit of conversation. His eyes followed their every move with interest.
Mariah glared at Sueño. Maybe you’d like some popcorn and a beer while you watch me squirm? Whose side are you on? After all, who feeds you? Help me out here, will you?
Sueño shook his long forelock over his eyes and ignored her.
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Cannot be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without expressly permitted to do so in writing from the publisher.