Charli: Hi Piper! Dylan and I were so excited to be seeing you again. We feel we know you almost as well as we know Sara.
Dylan: (Chuckles) Yeah, but we didn’t invade your dreams like we did Sara’s.
Charli: Hush! Let the poor woman ask us some questions. I think we probably tormented her enough when she edited our book.
When you two met, did you feel an instant attraction?
Charli: Lord knows I did and it was the very last thing I wanted.
Dylan: I honestly don’t remember. I was a little drunk when I went to the interview. But I remember thinking she had the longest legs and I still don’t know how she walked around on those sky-high heels. (He shrugs) Yeah, I thought she was hot—and scared probably of me.
Please compare/contrast your current squeeze to your “first love”. How is he/she different, and the same?
Charli: How do you compare an honest, loyal man with a drug dealer? Or my second love who was my abusive pimp, to a man like Dylan? You can’t. I never knew anyone like him. After meeting Dylan, I’m not even sure I’ve ever felt like this for anyone else.
Dylan: (Smiles at Charli and squeezes her hand) I met my first love who became my wife in ninth grade, after moving to Colton from Germany when Dad went off to fight in the Gulf War. She’s never been anything like Charli. Now looking back, I don’t know what I ever saw in Brenda. She was popular, the head cheerleader and self-absorbed. Charli is the most caring person I know. There’s no way to compare them.
If your town had a betting pool, which of you would have been given the best odds for staying single for life?
Charli: (snorts) I think the good people of Colton figured I’d marry Leon Ferguson.
Dylan: That’s because the town is full of damned fools who bought his bullshit without ever thinking about it. Anyway, I’m pretty certain, the Colton Grapevine had me dead by the end of summer. After all, I was the town drunk.
Which of you first knew you two would be a lasting item?
Charli: I’m not sure either of us figured that out until the end. But I think I was the first. (Looks over at Dylan)
Dylan: (Shrugs and rubs a hand over the back of his neck) I probably figured it out when she came to me after Leon caught us on the porch. But if I tell you more, I’ll give too much of the story away. And then I’ll be in trouble—again.
Charli: (Smiles) He’s learning.
Who is the better dancer? Cook? Singer?
Dylan: Emm... She’s got all three over me. Since she was a stripper she has some moves that make me...(He grins and looks at Charli) You get the idea. As for cooking... Although my mother is a world-class chef, I was too busy messing around with carpentry and horses to learn much from her. And Charli’s even got me beat when it comes to singing... It’s in her blood. Her half-brother is a famous country singer.
Charli: Well, I can’t rebuild a house... and a barn and... Well, we had to rebuild about everything on the ranch. I could never do that without you.
Who is the better driver (and yes, I like stirring up trouble!)?
Dylan: And I like getting into it. Hell, I am.
Charli: (Narrows her eyes at him and crosses her arms in front of her) You can only say that because YOU never let me drive.
Dylan: Do you honestly think I’d ever be caught dead in that sissy car of yours?
Charli: There’s nothing wrong with my Lexus.
Dylan: (Raises a brow) I told you there’s nothing wrong with your car, just I don’t like it.
Charli: It’s better than that bucket of rust and bolts you drive.
Dylan: My truck would out-run that—
Sara: (Scowls at both of them as they glare at each other) See what you started. It think I need to take these two home. You should have known better than asking this.
Charli: I’m not fighting about this now. People will think that’s all we do.
Dylan: (Mumbles under his breath) Yeah, but the make-up sex is great.
Charli: (Slaps his hand, but gives him a small pout that cause him to chuckle) This argument is not over. You wait until we get home. Piper, it was a lot of fun coming to your blog. Thank you so much for having us.
CONTENT WARNING: Details abuse of a minor, drug abuse, alcoholism, swearing, spicy sex, murder.
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 of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.
Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.
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.
“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.
Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”
“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of his voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”
“Mr. Quinn, please.” She turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”
He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”
Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”
“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”
She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t sit right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.
“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. Whiskey tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”
She could protect herself. Dylan Quinn wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from him, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Quinn, I can handle this.”
She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”
“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going, unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”
Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word exterminator. “No, Mr. Quinn is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”
“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “It’s good to see you up among the living again.”
Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”
Upon hearing the jibe, Leon’s shoulders jerked in mid-stride.
Rattled by Leon’s attention and the snake fiasco, she turned on Dylan. “You aren’t off the hook. I want those snakes gone.”
“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”
Sara Walter Ellwood is an award winning author whose novel Gambling On A Secret was named by bestselling author Carolyn Brown in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today as one of her favorite romances of 2012. Although Sara 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 stories. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for nearly 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.
She also writes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name of Cera duBois.
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