Ride-Off Excerpt and Contest
So far, this is your third chance to win. First is over at Chris' blog, Stumbling Over Chaos (see my previous post and easy click to link), the next is on Facebook or LJ, and lastly, here. So three chances all in all to win a freebie.
Ride-Off is a sequel to Fire Horse which released last April. Readers were drawn to this epic romance spanning 35 years. Two years have passed since our lovers were reunited and now the hard part begins. Trying to blend families is always a challenge, especially when the players are no longer children.
Preston and Konrad find themselves caught in one contentious argument after another as their strong-willed progeny vie for their places in this new family dynamic. We've met or heard about most of these characters in Fire Horse but now we get a chance to peel off layers and find out what makes them do what they do. There are a couple of new characters that insinuate themselves into this family saga. Some are most welcome, and others, not so much. Here's an except that hasn't been posted anywhere else. Read, enjoy, and don't forget to comment to enter the contest. For those of you who would rather bet on a sure thing, the buy link will take you directly to the Dreamspinner site where you can pre-order the book.
Here's the excerpt.....
“My God,” Preston exclaimed when he opened the door of his suite and set eyes on his errant daughter for the first time in years. “You’re lovely.”
“Nice to see you too,” Sasha said, inserting himself between the pair. He was hardly able to keep the sneer out of his voice. Clearly, sharing the spotlight with anyone, even his half sister, bothered him more than he cared to admit.
Preston tore his eyes away from Paloma and rewarded his son with a kiss and a hearty slap on the back. “How are you holding up, kiddo?”
“I’m fine, Dad.”
Satisfied, Preston turned back to the young woman who’d been watching the exchange intently. “This is unexpected, Paloma.”
“Are you upset?”
“Not unless your mother has called Interpol.”
“I’ll get in touch with her once I’m settled,” Paloma assured him.
“She must be out of her mind wondering where you are. You should call her right now.”
“I don’t want to.”
He picked up the phone and handed it to her.
“But I haven’t met anyone,” she whined. “Won’t you introduce me to your companions?”
Preston frowned and took a deep breath, then reached for Paloma’s hand, and led her toward a door which opened after one knock. “Kon, this is Paloma.”
“What a nice surprise,” Konrad said, shaking her hand and then drawing her forward for a kiss. “I’d hoped to meet you someday, and here you are.” He was staring at her with a look of wonder written all over his face. “You’re Preston’s spitting image.”
“May I call you Uncle?” she asked.
“I’d be mighty pleased if you would, young lady.”
“Come on,” Pres said impatiently, pulling her toward another door on the opposite side of the large seating area.
Sasha couldn’t help but notice the suite was twice the size of his apartment and probably cost more per night than his monthly rent. He wondered what it would be like to live as a prince instead of a starving young pauper. He tracked his sister’s progress and watched when Bandi opened his bedroom door and studied Paloma with interest. His cousin was in a red polo shirt, with the RL logo on the pocket, and a pair of faded jeans that hugged his slim hips, drawing attention to his bulging package. Paloma scanned him from top to bottom and settled on one spot just below the sterling silver buckle. She looked a little dazed when Bandi reached out to shake her hand, drawing her eyes away from his groin.
“Mu...mucho gusto," she stammered, reverting to Spanish. She was blushing and looked ill at ease while Bandi appeared unaffected by the stir he was causing.
Ned peeked over Bandi’s shoulder to see what was going on. When he saw Paloma, his face lit up and he greeted her with enthusiasm, studying her as if she were some rare archeological find. “My goodness,” he exclaimed, “there’s no denying your sire, is there?”
“Ned,” Pres rebuked. “She’s not a prized bull.”
“No, but she’s definitely a thoroughbred. Who knew you could make such lovely children, Preston?”
Sasha noticed that his father appeared entirely too smug for someone who’d barely had a hand in Paloma’s upbringing. Being a baby daddy hardly counted as parenting in Sasha’s book.
“Something good did come out of my wild youth,” Pres responded. “Speaking of parents,” he said, turning Paloma toward the sitting room and the phone, “let’s go call your mother.”
“I wish we could wait until I’m settled,” Paloma protested.
“Trust me,” he said confidently. “This will go down much better if we keep her informed every step of the way.”
Paloma rolled her eyes but sat down on the chair closest to the phone while the hotel operator connected them. Within minutes, she was defending her impetuous decision to come to America in faltering Spanish. She spoke slowly, so Sasha could understand every other word, and it appeared the conversation was not going the way she’d planned. Apparently Preston caught the gist as well and hit the button, putting the other party on speakerphone.
“Lorena,” he boomed, “Preston here. Paloma is safe so get off your high horse for a minute and let the girl talk.”
Everyone listened while the voice on the other end screeched her reply in guttural Spanish. “I know she was wrong to run off,” Preston interrupted, hoping to reassure the harried female on the other line, “but she’s with family so you can stop worrying.”
It wasn’t working, because there were more invectives, and she shifted her anger to Preston as if all of this was his fault.
Paloma looked mortified as the conversation went from bad to worse. She began chewing on a lock of her hair in a nervous gesture. Every time she tried to explain, her mother cut her off with a sharp reply. For the first time since her arrival, Sasha felt sympathetic. Hell, he would have run away as well if his mother treated him like a child, which was obviously the case. Preston put an end to the bitter diatribe by pressing the disconnect button.
“Well, that went well,” he remarked.
Paloma let out an explosive breath and began to cry. He gathered her in his arms and patted her on the back as if she were, indeed, ten years old, instead of a grown woman. “Don’t you worry about a thing, honey.”
“Will you send me back?” she blubbered.
“Thank you,” she replied. The relief on her face was pitiful. “She’s so controlling,” Paloma added in case anyone was too dumb to figure it out.
“She had to let you go at some point,” Preston mused. “We’ll get you set up with school and a place to live before we call her back, okay?”
She nodded, looking at her father like he was her savior.
“Is anyone in the mood for a drink?” Sasha asked. “I could use a frozen margarita myself.”
“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all night,” Preston replied. “Do you need a minute to fix your face?” he asked Paloma.
She gave him a grateful look and escaped into one of the bedrooms.
“That poor girl,” Ned commented.
“Now maybe you can understand why the marriage didn’t work out,” Preston said humorlessly.
“Bullocks,” Ned rebuked. “It didn’t work out because Lorena didn’t have a penis.”
Everyone erupted into laughter, easing the tension brought on by the melodramatic phone call.
When Paloma reappeared, she looked much more serene. She’d brushed her hair and it fell softly on her shoulders in shiny waves. Her lips glowed with a fresh application of plum-colored lip gloss, and the mischievous sparkle was back in her eyes. Preston smiled at her appreciatively and the girl visibly preened under his scrutiny.
It was a joint decision to have dinner at The Champagne Bar in the hotel rather than trying to find available seating for six at another five-star restaurant in town on a Friday night. As guests, they’d be guaranteed a table without a long wait. Preston ordered a round of drinks for everyone, and they opted to wait in their suite until the table was ready downstairs.
Sasha’s phone chimed and he saw that Jeremy had sent him a text telling him he’d procured the tickets for tomorrow night’s show. Did he want them delivered in person or left at the “Will Call” window?
“Dad, would you mind if Jeremy joined us?” Sasha asked, breaking into the usual discussion on polo. Paloma was listening intently while sipping her glass of white wine.
“Who’s Jeremy?” Preston asked.
“Dad,” Sasha said, sighing impatiently. “You’ve met him once before.”
“Is he the one with the eyeliner?” Preston asked.
Sasha nodded. “He’s got the tickets for tomorrow’s performance.”
“Sure. I’ll have them add another chair for dinner.”
Sasha texted : bring tickets but ditch Barbra. u’ve been invited to dinner. Jeremy would be thrilled. He’d met Preston briefly and was eager to meet everyone else in the family. He’d heard the tales and ogled the photos of polo players but tonight would be his first face-to-face appearance with the lot. Sasha hoped he’d make a good impression. He wasn’t sure how they’d handle Jem’s sequined alter ego, so he thought it best to leave her behind.
He should have known better. When Jeremy showed up, he wasn’t in drag, but he may as well have been. His eyes were lined, his lashes were darkened with navy blue mascara, and he’d glossed his lips to make them exceedingly kissable. Black leather pants showed off his long legs, and the platform boots made him appear taller than the tallest man in the room. Mouths gaped as he sauntered in, unwinding the hot pink scarf from around his neck. “Ta-dah,” he declared, pirouetting gracefully. Sasha avoided rolling his eyes but couldn’t help the grin that curved his lips. He noticed that Uncle Ned was smiling as well, and he was the first to step forward and introduce himself.
“Ned Temple,” he said, extending his hand.
“My pleasure, sir; I’ve heard wonderful things about you.”
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Ned replied. “I know nothing about you.” Turning to Sasha, Ned asked, “Why have you never mentioned Jeremy before?”
Jeremy countered immediately. “I’m sure it was an oversight.”
Catching his tone, Sasha could tell his best friend was a little hurt he’d never mentioned his name in passing. “Jeremy’s the company makeup artist,” Sasha said, “and the only person in the world who understands theater people. I rely on his advice as well as his company,” he added, hoping that praise would make a difference.
“Oh, brother,” Jeremy replied, masking his emotions with a nonchalant air. “Sash exaggerates. You know how these actors are, don’t you, Ned? May I call you Ned?”
“By all means,” Uncle Ned said, visibly amused.
Continuing, Jeremy declaimed, “Actors are worse than children, vying for my attention constantly. I’ve learned to grunt and nod at proper intervals while they talk incessantly about themselves. All of a sudden I’m the best friend and the best listener,” Jeremy added, slinging his own arrow.
“Whatever,” Sasha countered. “Isn’t it time to go downstairs?” The rest of the group had been listening to the exchange between Ned and Jeremy with the rapt attention of moviegoers watching a 3D horror show. They couldn’t seem to take their eyes off the flamboyant young man. “Hello!” Sasha called out again. “Is anyone listening?”
Preston started when he heard Sasha’s voice and picked up the house phone to check on their table. After a second, he put it down. “They’re ready for us,” he said, giving Kon a look that spoke volumes. Anyone who wasn't a polo player or somehow involved in the sport was treated like an alien, and that included artists and other intriguing theater personalities. Ned, on the other hand, was his usual gracious self and offered Jeremy an arm while Bandi trailed behind.
Seizing her chance, Paloma sidled up to Bandi and held his hand tentatively. “Shall we go?”
“What?” Bandi said, taking his eyes off Jeremy for a second. He glanced down at their clasped hands and gently pulled away. “After you.”
Sasha nudged Paloma aside and let the rest of the group step into the waiting elevator. When the doors closed with a whisper he rounded on Paloma. “Are you crazy? Bandi is gay, and furthermore, he’s your cousin. Keep your distance!”
Paloma looked at him in surprise and raised one eyebrow in a classic Preston move. “He’s not my cousin.”
“Of course he is.”
“Eres un tonto," she said as an aside.
“I’m not stupid.”
“Oh, so you do understand Spanish.”
“Bits and pieces. I know when I’m being insulted, so you can stuff your remarks.”
“I will if you stop meddling in my life.”