Publicist Marnie Roberts knows bad days--and today is the worst. A ruined suit, a broken heel... and her client just shot a man. Even worse: the victim is the father of a man Marnie knows a little too well....Eight years ago Marnie experienced seven days of bliss with Australian horse trainer Daniel Whittleson. But after good times, hot sex and what she thought was true love, Daniel disappeared without a goodbye. Now Marnie is going Down Under to defend her trigger-happy client...and finally confront the man she's never been able to forget.
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Flirting with Trouble by Elizabeth Bevarly
As he settled his hand on the corral gate and shot his gaze over virtually miles of white plank fencing that crisscrossed and enclosed Quest Stables, it occurred to Daniel Whittleson that a June morning in Kentucky was about as close to heaven as a man could find. And this was only the first of the month. Sure, the dogwoods and redbuds had stopped blooming by now, but the surly spring weather had mellowed into steady blue skies and balmy breezes, and the smothering heat of July and August was still weeks away. The colts of Quest Stables, where he was senior trainer, were confident and playful by now, and they'd discovered the joys of losing themselves to running. A handful of them were doing that now, at the farthest edge of the pasture beyond the corral.
The elegant, shallow hills of Woodford County were awash in the deep green of the bluegrass, dotted here and there with copses of broad, leafy sugar maples and towering oaks. At not quite 7:00 a.m., the sun had just crested one of those hills, tinting the sky with a mellow pink and orange and spilling a wide trail of luscious gold across the pasture.
There must be something about the curvature of the earth at this latitude that made the sunlight do that, Daniel thought. He'd lived and traveled all over the world, and he'd never seen the land glow the way it did in Kentucky when the sun's rays were at their longest. He ran a work-roughened hand through his hair, noting without much surprise that he was way overdue for a cut. Then he lifted the gate's handle and entered the corral, whistling for the chestnut stallion on the other side. The horse's ears stitched forward as he whinnied his objection to being interrupted in his own enjoyment of the morning, then he obediently, though reluctantly, trotted across the corral to where Daniel stood. The horse, Flirting with Trouble, certainly lived up to his name.
He was a spirited two-year-old Daniel was hoping to whip into shape by next year's Kentucky Derby, but so far, Trouble wasn't cooperating. For now, Daniel worked mostly on winning the animal's trust and forging a bond between them. He was confident Trouble would come around. Eventually. Daniel was a firm believer in the old adage about good things coming to those who waited.
Summer wasn't the busiest time of the year for Thoroughbred trainers, but neither was it in any way slow. This year's Derby and Preakness were over--both won handily by Leopold's Legacy, a Quest Thoroughbred, Daniel thought smugly--but the Belmont Stakes were less than two weeks away. And if things went the way they were supposed to, Leopold's Legacy would take that race, too, making him only the twelfth horse in history to earn the Triple Crown.
Daniel hadn't trained Legacy himself, though. That honor had fallen to Robbie Preston, whose family owned Quest Stables, the first of many major wins the young trainer would doubtless see in his life--provided he got over his impatience and learned to handle the pressures that came with the job. Although Daniel wouldn't be part of the group accompanying the horse to New York, he still had plenty to keep him busy on the farm. Which was good, because he thrived on the extra work. Hell, work was what kept him going. Work was the only thing he knew. Well, work and horses. Those he knew better than he did even a lot of people.
And working with horses--and knowing them well--was in the Whittleson blood. Daniel's father, Sam, was also a trainer, respected throughout the Thoroughbred industry worldwide. Respect for his father had come grudgingly for Daniel, however, and even now was restricted to the man's professional skills. Sam had been so serious about horses when Daniel was a child that it had cost the elder Whittleson his family.
The Australian Sam had abandoned Daniel and his American mother before Daniel started school, and Lois Whittleson had been forced to return to the States and work three jobs to keep their heads above water--until her death when Daniel was only fourteen.
At times he'd been convinced it was more the work than the cancer that had killed his mother. And he'd never quite been able to stop blaming his father for that.
Daniel had gone back to live with Sam in Australia following his mother's death, and it had taken years for the two Whittleson men to start communicating like a father and son--however tenuously. It had taken longer for the two of them to settle on an uneasy truce. Daniel supposed he would always harbor some resentment toward his father for not being around when he'd needed him as a child. But Sam had done his best to make amends to his son.
Daniel knew his father cared for him as much as Sam could. But he also knew his father was a horseman first and father second. As an adult, Daniel understood how that could be. Some people simply weren't cut out to be parents. He was a case in point--as guilty as his father when it came to putting his career before anything else