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Tall, Dark and Bad – Guest Post by Sara Walter Elwood, Author of Gambling On A Secret

Gambling on a Secret, a contemporary western romance by Sara Walter ElwoodTall, Dark and Bad

My Love Affair with Damaged Heroes…. I hope my husband isn’t reading this!

What is it about the un-approachable, damaged bad-boy that makes us fall in love as fast as the heroine? Does the attraction come from our need to “fix” things? Or is it something even more primal such as our need to take care of someone else? Does the feelings come from rush of danger? Or is it simply that we find them hot? Of course, those of us spinning the stories always makes sure our heroes are swoon worthy in whatever attire we dress them in—leather pants and fangs or jeans and cowboy hats.

I have no answer, but I do know what attracts me to my heroes and it’s a bit of all these things. I enjoy writing heroes who deal with their emotional baggage by building thick walls around themselves, but the events in their stories and the heroine always shatters those walls to smithereens

In Gambling On A Secret, Dylan Quinn is an ex-Special Forces commander whose Delta Team is ambushed and over half of his men are either killed or wounded. Due to the way his wife dumped him (by a Dear John letter two days before the mission), he doesn’t trust or believe in love any more. He has PTSD and is the town drunk. The very last thing he is looking for when he meets Charli Monroe is romance.

However, Charli brings out the part of Dylan that he thought was long dead—his need to protect. And when his step-uncle sets his sights on her and her ranch, he can’t imagine not becoming her protector—whether she wants it or not. And that need to keep Charli safe from something that he perceives as a threat, is what cracks his shell. Dylan is rough. He’s complicated and he’s got more than his share of scars—both emotional and physical—but I will always love him as much as Charli does.  Shhh… Don’t tell my husband!

Gambling on a Heart, a contemporary western romance by Sara Walter ElwoodIn the second book of this series, Gambling On A Heart, Zack Cartwright has been dumped on by the heroine. A confused eighteen-year-old Tracy Quinn (in her misguided belief someone like Zack could never love her) lets herself be lied to and seduced by Zack’s best friend. Zack leaves and eventually joins the Marines. He sees action in the war and is shot. When he comes out of his coma, he has PTSD and realizes he doesn’t or hasn’t ever loved his wife. When she is killed, leaving him a single father, he blames himself for her death.

The last person he ever wants is Tracy, but when they are forced to work together, all of those old loves and hurts come boiling to the surface as fast as a Texas oil gusher. Although Zack isn’t anywhere near as damaged as Dylan, his shell is a tough one. But under it is a cowboy who I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life with.  Emmm…. My hubby don’t need to know that either.

Heartstrings stars the first cowboy I’ve ever written. On the surface Seth Kendall’s every dream has come true. He’s a mega star country singer and wealth enough to make the richest entertainers list in Forbes Magazine. He has it all—except the one thing he hasn’t ever believed himself worthy of having—his daughter. Seth grew up believing his mother hated him and that he was the reason she committed suicide when he was only three years old. His father abused him and hated the one comfort Seth found in life: his music. When he wins a national talent show and gets a record deal when he’s eighteen, he wants his seventeen year old pregnant girlfriend to go with him to Nashville. But Abby Crawford is chased by her own demons and tells him that she doesn’t love him and marries his best friend. Seth makes the very human mistake of thinking his baby is better off without him—after all he’s just like his parents, right?

Heartstrings, a contemporary western romance by Sara Walter ElwoodWhen events bring him back to McAllister fourteen years later, he realizes he’s made a horrible mistake, but how can he be a parent when his were so horrible? And how is he going to resist the love he’s never stopped feeling for Abby? Seth was a complicated character to write and he is the one that pulls at my own heartstrings the most.  In Seth, I not only see the big gorgeous man with a voice as smooth as Tennessee whiskey, but also the little boy that stares down at his dead mamma and wonders why she hated him so much (the prologue scene). I just want to bring him home and keep him safe—besides other things.  Uhhh… Not sure that would go over so well with the hubby though.

And those are just my cowboys. I haven’t even mentioned my love for Ian and Austin—The vampires in my paranormals. Can a husband have grounds for divorce if his wife is in love with the men in her head?

Of course, the man I love the most is my very normal, very un-damaged, real hero husband…. >grin<

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Gambling On A Secret
Book 1 of The Colton Gamblers

Blurb:

When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?

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?

Excerpt

“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.”

“We’ll see.”

“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”

Gambling On A Secret:

Lyrical Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

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Gambling On A Heart
Book 2 of The Colton Gamblers

Blurb:

She once lost his heart on a bluff. Will she risk everything to win it back?

Beautician Tracy Quinn spends her days making the women of Colton, Texas beautiful, while living down the nickname of Olive Oyl, given to her by the only man she has ever loved—Zack Cartwright. She spends her nights alone, despite what her ex husband wants their friends and neighbors to think.

Ex-rodeo cowboy. Ex-bad-boy. Ex-Marine. Widower and single dad Sheriff Zack Cartwright can describe his life in exes. One ex in particular reminds him of what’s missing in his workaholic life: Tracy Quinn. For years since she broke his heart, he’s practically made avoiding her a second job. He still wants her, but can never go after her.

When cattle rustlers target her brother’s ranch, Tracy and Zack are stuck working together. Her son could use a positive male role model, and his daughter is wild for a chance at a “substitute” mom. But Tracy’s ex threatens to sue if she lets Zack near her son, and the Colton grapevine is abuzz with rumors about their past relationship. Is it worth the gamble to see if what they have is more than lust?

Excerpt

“I was hoping you could keep me company this afternoon.” He skimmed his fingers over her cheek.

Her insides, heating up like lava under the surface of the earth, pooled in her low belly. Her lips parted.

Against her lips, he whispered, “Tracy, I want you.”

She had thought of little else since he’d left her standing on her porch Friday night. He was asking her to enter into a sexual relationship without any hope of a future–without love.

But she was already in love with Zack.

Both of their kids would benefit from them being together. Hadn’t that been what she’d decided while she tossed and turned in her big, empty bed?

With her gaze locked on his, she murmured, “I want you, too, but I have a stipulation.”

He leaned back. “What is it?”

“I’m no one’s bed-buddy, Zack. I know what my reputation is in this town, but it’s all wrong.” She swallowed her rapidly thumping heart back into place. “I’ll only go through with this, if you promise to treat me as a serious girlfriend. That means we date, we visit with our families and we share our kids.” When his expression hardened, she quickly added, “Mandy likes me. And I adore her. I’d like to bring her here, to the shop, for a few hours and play. And take her shopping. I know your mom tries, but she’s busy with her foundations and charities she does for the Junior League.”

The breath she sucked in was full of Zack’s scent of sage and leather. “Meanwhile, you can teach Bobby how to ride and maybe take him to the sheriff’s department and show him around. Jake won’t like it, but I’ll deal with him.” Having laid her demands out on the proverbial table, she held her breath, waiting for him to tell her what she could do with herself. After all, a man of Zack’s caliber could have any damned woman he wanted. Tracy was just handy, and according to the gossip of her ex-husband and mother-in-law, she was easy.

He studied her for a few moments. “That’s more than one stipulation.”

“Take it or leave it.”

“Tracy, it won’t change what I told you Friday night. I’m never getting married again.”

His words stung as much now as they had the other night, but she didn’t show him how much. She kept her face determined, as if she were haggling over one of his horses, rather than her body and soul.

“Fine. But I’m not a floozy. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. But I have my son to consider. And I’d hope you’d feel the same about Mandy. They’re bound to see us together. What do you plan on telling your six-year-old daughter when she asks about me? That I’m your friend with benefits? I know that isn’t what I want to be teaching my son.” Moreover, she didn’t want to give credence to Jake’s claim that she had no sexual morals.

“Okay,” he said at last. “We’ll play the game your way.” He pressed her against him. “Luck would have it I’m off this afternoon, too. I’ve already put in sixteen hours.”

When his lips captured hers, she knew she’d made a pact with the devil, but she couldn’t stop the elation surging through her. There was something he wanted from her. Sex was a big portion of it, but something else kept Zack from walking away and hooking up with any one of the many available women in town.

Gambling On A Heart:

Lyrical Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

~*~

Heartstrings

Blurb:

He’s determined to set things right, no matter the cost.

The last person Abby Crawford wants to face down is country music superstar Seth Kendall. Last time she did, she flat-out lied so he’d go to Nashville without her. She’s never understood why their mutual best friend proposed, but she went with it so her baby wouldn’t be fatherless. Now she’s a divorced mother of a teenager, and secretly Seth’s biggest fan.

Seth is home in McAllister, Texas for his father’s funeral…and a chance to meet the daughter he’s never known. He’s willing to face the music of his own making and admit he’s known about his little girl all along. For fifteen years he’s kept his distance because Abby told him to follow his dreams without her, insisting she didn’t love him. But now he won’t leave until he knows his daughter and she knows him, even if it means facing the woman who broke his heart for good.

Confessing she’s lied about her daughter’s paternity all these years won’t be easy for Abby, especially with her ex blackmailing her to keep the secret. And Seth doesn’t know the hardest truth of all: Every love song he plays on his guitar still plucks her heartstrings.

Excerpt 

Seth leaned in. His lips were close enough to kiss, and his scent of sandalwood and something exotic enveloped her, taking her back to that night on the beach. His eyes flashed with the dangerous fire of his temper. It was similar to the flame of the passion she’d once seen in the green depths. Abby didn’t expect or want the heat curling in her belly, and shivered with a sudden and fierce desire.

“I’m her father, Abigail. I wanted to be her father after she was born. It was you and Mike who insisted I had no business messing things up.”

“I never said any such thing. You never tried. You just left.”

He pounded a fist on the counter top so hard she jumped. “Yes, I left! I wasn’t welcome at home. Dad ran me off with a shotgun. Mike wouldn’t even let me see my daughter. He made it quite clear you and he were happily married, and I had no place in your life. I was under contract to be in Nashville to start recording my first album.”

What did he mean, Mike wouldn’t let him see Emily?

Before she had a chance to voice her question, his eyes darkened as the pupils dilated, obscuring the stormy green. “But I’m no longer nineteen and scared shitless. I could make things very rough for you and this fantasy you’ve got working.”

A cold lump quickly replaced the tangle of heat in her belly. “What-what do you mean?”

He backed off and tapped the countertop. “I’m talking a custody battle. I could have a judge order a paternity test. I think we both know the media hoopla the results would cause.”

Her heart slammed into her chest wall. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“Try me. Now that I’ve met Emily, I want to get to know her.” He walked over to look out the kitchen window. The hard line of his jaw melted, and he swallowed so hard his throat moved up and down. “I was a fool when I let Mike talk me out of being in her life after she was born.”

“What do you mean?”

He glanced at her. “Don’t pretend you don’t know.”

The strings of guitar music provided a soft counterpoint to the hard tension in the kitchen. Emily was outside on the patio playing around with her guitar, waiting for them to finish with the dishes she and Seth had insisted on doing.

“All I want is to have some time with my daughter. That’s all I’m asking for.” When he looked over his shoulder at her, sadness replaced the anger in his eyes. “I’ll keep your little secret. I’ll just be her favorite singer. The family friend who made it big in Nashville. I don’t want to hurt her. As much as it galls the hell out of me, I see what Mike means to her.”

He moved toward her and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Besides, I don’t want to hurt Carolann or Frank any more than you do.” He glanced outside again, his voice husky as he spoke. “But I’ll sue you if I have to.”

A part of her wanted to give in to him, but a larger part wanted to punish him. Let him take her to court; she’d make sure the world knew what kind of jerk Seth Kendall really was.

She gritted her teeth and fisted her hands by her sides. “I’ll let you have tonight, Seth. But don’t ask for more.”

She turned away and strode through the French doors.

Heartstrings:

Lyrical Press | Amazon | Barns and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

 ~*~

Sara Walter Ellwood, author of Heartstrings, a contemporary western romanceAbout Sara…

Although Sara Walter Ellwood 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 contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 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 has paranormal romantic suspense published under the pen name Cera duBois.

Author links:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter Signup

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Follow the Second Honeymoon Blog Tour HERE

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Rafflecopter Giveaway:

Sara is giving away a beautiful treasure box full of goodies:

1. A thumb drive containing Sara’s novella The Birthday Fantasy and her paranormals A Hunter’s Angel and A Hunter’s Blade

2. A signed paperback copy of Carolyn Brown’s Just a Cowboy and His Baby

3. A retractable black ink pen

4. A decorative diary style notebook

5. A mouse pad

6. Sara’s own custom designed jewelry (necklace and earring set)

7. $10 Starbucks gift card and more.

A total prize package valued at $100.

The giveaway ends April 30 and the winner of the Swag Pack will be announced on May 1, 2014. Must be 18 years old or older and a resident of the USA to qualify. Void where prohibited by law. See http://sarawalterellwood.wordpress.com/giveaway-rules/ for complete list of terms and rules.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/a5c2547/

Second Honeymoon Blog Tour, contemporary western romance by Sara Walter Elwood

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