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The Black Sheep And The Hidden Beauty
They're back--the boys you go out looking for precisely because your mother warned you not to--the bad boys every good girl needs at least once, if not twice...
Raphael "Rafe" Santiago may have left the streets years ago, but the street has never left him. A rough childhood in the Bronx taught him never to let his guard down, to keep everything in order, and always to trust that little voice in his gut that tells him when someone's got something to hide. horse trainer Elena Caulfield, is definitely hiding something, and Rafe intends to find out what it is and take care of it--his way.
But his way wasn't supposed to include feeling an intense attraction to the tomboyish Elena. With her mud-caked boots, quiet strength, and gentle manner, she's nothing like the flashy, seductive, overtly feminine women Rafe usually beds. The closer he gets to her, the harder it is to control that fiery passion he's worked hard to keep cooled, the kind that can catch a man off guard and leave him open to danger--because whatever secret Elena's protecting, it's big...and worth killing for. Because when you're from the Bronx, you take care of what you love--or die trying...
USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman has seen her books reviewed in venues ranging from Kirkus to Library Journal to Entertainment Weekly. A RITA finalist, she lives in Virginia with her teenage sons and a growing menagerie of animals. Donna loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her through her website at www.donnakauffman.com.
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December 17, 2007
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Excerpt from The Black Sheep And The Hidden Beauty by Donna Kauffman
He found himself watching her. Again. Not his type. And yet, more and more often, Raphael Santiago was making excuses to leave his offices in the main house and wander down to the paddocks. He'd stroll the fence line. And watch her. He'd reasoned that it was his fascination with the horses, and yet he'd been on Dalton Downs property going on two years now, and it had only been in the past several months that he'd found them suddenly intriguing--a time frame that just happened to coincide with when she'd taken over as stable manager and head trainer.
He never lingered, never spoke to her. He'd wander on along, stopping by Kate's office, or head on down to Mac's place farther back on the property, if it was after work hours. Yet he missed very little.
She was graceful in movement, yet strong and controlled. Gentle in tone and demeanor, yet brooked no argument from the half-ton beasts she trained as easily as if they were puppies. She fascinated him, when she shouldn't.
She wasn't his type. Not even close.
He walked along the worn path to the outer barns, careful not to step in anything that would make him regret not changing out of his Italian, hand-tooled shoes, wondering what the hell he was doing. Given that he was headed toward the stables used by employees only, it wasn't to see Kate. Or Mac.
No, he was walking all the way out here because of another man. Not that he had any claim on her. They'd done nothing more than exchange the occasional nod. And it wasn't as if he kept tabs on her personal time, but Dalton Downs was private property, so he'd have noticed if she'd had regular company. And, to his knowledge, this was her first visitor since coming here. Which he gave less than a damn about. Or would have.
Except he'd been heading down to Kate's office, hoping to catch Mac about some questions on one of their case files, denying it was just another excuse to watch her, when the guy had shown up. She'd been surprised to see him, and, from what he could tell of her expression, not entirely happily so. In fact, she'd darted a gaze around, as if concerned to be seen talking to him.
She'd ended her training session with the horse immediately, a poor wretch of a thing she, Kate, and Mac had recently rescued, and handed him over to one of the help, before giving the newcomer a fast, tight hug. Next thing he knew, she was leading the older guy out to the employee barns, away from the hustle and bustle of Kate's teaching program. And, perhaps, the watching eyes of her coworkers.
Rafe certainly hadn't intended to follow them. What she did and with whom was her business. He had more than enough of his own to handle at the moment.
But something simply hadn't seemed right about that brief episode. That look on her face, perhaps, in that split second before she'd smiled and waved hello to her guest. Something. All he knew was that whatever that something was, it had made the hairs prickle along his neck. And the next thing he knew, he was picking his way along the path to the outer stables, trying not to ruin a pair of three-hundred-dollar shoes.
Mac would chalk it up to wanting sex. Kate would scold him for potentially disrupting her program. His mother would have a coronary if she knew he'd spent more then forty dollars for a pair of shoes.
But none of that mattered at the moment. Something wasn't right here. And if there was one thing Mac, Finn, and Rafe firmly believed in, it was following gut instinct. Maybe that was what had called to him about her all along. That, despite appearances to the contrary, something wasn't what it seemed with Elena Caulfield. It was almost a relief to have an actual reason for his otherwise unusual fascination with her.
She wasn't his type.
Not that she was particularly hard on the eyes. And he admired a woman who didn't mind getting her hands dirty. But from what he'd come to learn about her, she spent a good chunk of her day with at least some part of her person covered in mud or muck. Or worse. And didn't much seem to mind. She wore little or no makeup, as far as he could tell, and pulled her dark hair straight back in a simple, single braid that swung halfway to her ass. An ass even he couldn't make out in the baggy overalls she favored.
Long hair. That part was nice. And he'd have been lying if he said he hadn't spent at least a few minutes wondering what it would look like all loose and wavy. He was a man, after all. But it was clear she wasn't all that caught up in the more conventional rituals of being female, something Rafe unapologetically enjoyed in the women of his acquaintance. Tomboys had their appeal to some men, but he liked a woman who reveled in her femininity.