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Victoria Schulman was hugging his horse.
If that wasn’t enough to piss a man off, Eli Turnbull didn’t know what was. That she was doing it in one of those fussy satin shirts only made it worse.
The woman was tiny, a paisley-covered speck against his horse’s wide black head. Eli had some inclination to worry about Victoria—about her thinness, and the dark circles under her eyes—but he ignored it.
And he felt bad bullying a woman who clearly needed not only a good meal but someone to take care of her. But every time he tried to be nice—thinking about honey versus vinegar and all that shit—something about her would just make him crazy.
Like, right now, her shoes. They were red and they had bows.
How in the world could she put on those shoes and say “yeah, I’ll be a rancher”?
Honestly, he wanted to be nice, but she was just so ridiculous.
“You need boots if you’re going to be in here.”
His voice cut up the distance between them and she stepped away from his horse.
Not very nice.
Instead of flinching, she lifted her chin as if they were about to box. He’d give her points for foolish courage, but foolish courage never helped anyone.
“I . . . ah . . .” She glanced down at the silly shoes on her feet. “I suppose you’re right.”
He stepped across the wide aisle between the tack room and the stall where he kept Patience, his mare. Victoria didn’t back away. Her hands flexed into fists for a moment, but then she spread them wide and ran them down the edges of her skirt.
Her efforts at control were totally ruined by her eyes. Their navy-blue depths betrayed her interest. He felt her gaze travel across his chest, his arms. Felt it linger at the base of his throat where the sweat ran down his shirt.
She tried to act nonchalant, she really did, but she failed.
“Ah . . . Ruby said you were looking for me,” she said.
“It’s nine. I was looking for you at seven this morning.” Okay, that wasn’t nice either, but he couldn’t resist pointing out how terribly unsuited she was for this place. For this job she’d taken on.
“I have a son, Eli. I can’t drop everything when you need me.”
Biting his tongue, he opened the stall to lead Patience into the aisle.
“Careful,” he said when Victoria stumbled out of the way.
She glared up at him as if she knew what he was doing, how he was trying to bully her.
He gave a smile another shot.
“Oh, you can stop the act, Eli. I know you’re mad.”
“I’m not mad.”
“Eli, it’s not like I’m doing this to hurt you.” The brief touch of her hand against his back, like lightning over the high pastures, lit him up from the inside.
This time he shied away, feeling the burn of her hand under his skin.
“Of course not. You’re taking over the ranch because you have a deep and abiding love of the land.”
“Is that so hard to believe?”
He looked pointedly at her hair, pulled so tight from her face, that stupid ruffled collar, her stick-thin legs beneath the hem of her skirt. Those ridiculous shoes.
Two hours ago he’d had a plan for this conversation; now he had to get going, and Victoria was wearing those stupid shoes and he was angry when he’d intended to be nice.
“Fine. All right. Look, Eli, we both know I have no clue what I’m doing with this ranch, but I want to learn. I want . . .” She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders.
Oh crap. She was going to reveal something now. Something that was supposed to make him feel bad, make him want to help her.
Don’t, he wanted to say. Don’t hand me any more weapons to use against you.
“I want to be good at this.”
“Because you’ve failed at everything else?”
Color rose in her cheeks and he smiled in the face of her shame. Through convoluted means she’d gained control of this ranch that should by rights be his, and he just had to correct the mistake. Which he could do, right now.
“I was looking for you this morning because I can make you an offer.”
Be. Nice. “For the ranch.”
Ah, the Scarecrow was cute when she was confused.
“A year from now when the ranch is out of escrow and you’re begging your brother to sell this place, you won’t get that kind of offer. And two million dollars will buy a lot of security for you and your son.”
That pushed her back on her heels.
“You . . . there’s no way you have that kind of money.”
To his ears it sounded like she was wavering, and his heart pounded hard in his throat. This was it. His hands went numb.
“I can get it by tomorrow. Then you can go back to throwing parties and buying curtains and whatever the hell else it is women like you do.”
Oddly, she smiled. And for a moment, surrounded by sun-shot dust motes, he saw the girl she’d been years before, when her father had forced her to come down to this ranch for the summer. Sweet and out of place, she’d followed Eli around like a shadow, even though she was older. She’d been game, always game. And he’d liked her. A lot.
But when she’d arrived at the ranch a few months ago when Lyle Baker was dying, he’d been unable to find any of that girl in the pinched, angry, and scared woman she’d become.
A woman who hadn’t even recognized him at first. She’d looked down at him as if he were a servant. A slow and clumsy waiter.
He didn’t want to see that girl now, not when he was doing his best to crush the woman under his boot heel.
“Do I seem so useless?”
“You know the answer to that.”
The barb sunk deep but instead of curling in on herself, she stood up straighter and somehow, he realized too late, he’d galvanized her.
“I’m sorry, Eli—”
Sorry? His guts twisted. “Didn’t you hear me? I said two million dollars.”
“Two million dollars won’t buy me any pride. Or self-respect.”
“And when you fail at this? How much pride are you going to have then?”
“I’m not going to fail.”
He laughed at her then. Right at her. And that smile faded, replaced by the most ridiculous determination. The most asinine belief in herself. It was like watching a house cat trying to be a tiger.
“Not if you help me. I’m uninformed, Eli. Not stupid. And I want to learn. I want . . . I want—”
“To be good at this, yeah, you said.” He managed to dismiss all of her good intentions, all of her noble and brave efforts, with a curt wave of his hand.
Victoria Schulman, the society widow, who had lost her fortune, had just turned down two million dollars. And Eli was back in the same position he’d been in for the past ten years of his life—throwing money at a Baker who just wouldn’t take it.
He slipped a padded blue saddle blanket over Patience’s back while she sidestepped and shook out her mane. Heaving the saddle on next, he fumed. Victoria was still standing there. Still expecting his help. He put his knee in Patience’s belly as he tightened the saddle cinch. If only every woman in his life were this easy to manage.
But the truth was that Victoria had given him the tools to make her fail, to ensure her defeat. The poor woman had been too honest; she couldn’t even hide her desire for him . . . her curiosity. The way her eyes clung to his body for just a moment too long.
Between his own father and Lyle Baker, the man he’d worked for his entire life, Eli had learned everything he needed to know about being a cruel, self-serving bastard. He’d never had a reason to use those lessons.
He would wear her down until she begged him to take the ranch.
Victoria felt naked, utterly skinless in front of Eli. She’d said all she could to convince him of her good intentions toward the ranch and the land. She didn’t know how else to sway him, and yet he seemed unswayed.
He slipped the bridle over his giant horse’s head, tucking the bit into her mouth, clucking when the horse gummed at him.
It was as if Victoria were totally invisible and after being invisible to every man in her entire life, she’d had enough.
“Where are you going?”
Eli tipped his hat back off his eyes and she forced herself not to look away. Those eyes were like sunlight on a mirror. Too bright. Too sharp.
“It’s Saturday. Auction day for the Angus herd. Up in the north pasture.”
“Today?” she asked and he nodded, leaning past her. The smell of him—sunshine and sweat, horse and dirt—eddied around her, making her dizzy with a terrible hunger.
In the early days of their courtship, Joel had called her femininity delicate. And he’d loved that; said her weakness had made him feel strong. Like a protector. So, like any good idiot, she’d cultivated it. Until she was treated like glass, which was fine in public, but boring in private.
Their sex life had been respectful, she told herself.
And if smelling Eli Turnbull made her feel as if she’d been missing out on something in all those years of quiet and plain missionary position, well, then, add it to the pile of disappointments.
Posted July 31, 2012
When I read book #1 in this series, I hated Victoria's character, but was determined that I would still give this book a chance. Thank goodness that I did because I adore both her and Eli's characters in this book. These are two people who are so caught up in their own misery and bitterness that they have a hard time seeing anything else. That's what makes this book so good though because you see both their transformations as their relationship develops and they both get there in very different ways.
For Victoria, she's had a really hard last few years. Her husband masterminded a ponzi scheme and then killed himself in their home when it all came out. While she was still reeling from all that, her 7 yo son, who suffers from asthma and allergies, almost died. She lost her home, her friends, all her money, and all the things that had made up her identity since she got married. She is determined that running this ranch is going to pull herself out of that misery.
Standing in her way is Eli. He wants nothing more than the ranch to fail. If he can't have it, then no one else deserves it. Certainly not the spoiled little princess, Victoria. It's no secret that they get off to a really awful, vicious start as they attack and retaliate through the first few chapters of this book. Finally, their conflict hits a climax and it opens Eli's eyes to the person he's become. Like I said, there is a really nice character arc through this book. At the beginning neither one is a very good person and certainly not anyone that you would want to know. But watching their struggles and discoveries is a wonderful journey.
I LIKED this book...a lot and I absolutely fell in love with both these characters. They are so wounded and scarred. For me, they both just simply touched my heart. I wanted to weep for both of them at different times throughout the book. Just a really incredible book!
I received a complementary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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Posted October 26, 2012
Victoria is the daughter of Lyle Baker, the deceased former owner of the Crooked Creek Ranch, and his mistress. Victoria was born a year after her brother Luc, whose mother is Celeste and was married to Lyle at the time. Victoria was always treated as a burden and someone unimportant her entire life. While he was alive, her father, Lyle was emotionally and verbally abusive. Victoria met and married Joel Schulman a New York financier. Joel was involved in a Ponzi scheme and stole a lot of money from people, including people who were supposed to be their friends. Instead of facing the legal consequences of his actions, he committed suicide and left a big mess for Victoria to have to deal with. Victoria was left in financial ruin and moved in with her brother Luc and her son Jacob. After Lyle died, Victoria decided that the ranch was as good a place as any to make a home for herself and her son.
Eli Turnbull is the Foreman of the Crooked Creek Ranch. Several decades earlier, the Crooked Creek Ranch actually belonged to Eli’s family. Over the course of time, the Turnbull family sold the land to the Baker family in order to pay off various debts. When Lyle Baker passed away, Eli thought Lyle would leave some of the land to him as he promised. Being the true butt that he was, Lyle only left Eli the Angus herd, with the stipulation that half of the proceeds from the sale was to go back to the Baker family.
Eli asked Victoria to sell him back some of the land. Victoria refused and in turn wanted Eli to teach her how to run a ranch. Eli’s first reaction to her was to sell all of the herd, except for fifty head. With not much of a ranch left to run and with the realization that she needed to generate monthly income, Victoria comes up with the idea of transforming the Crooked Creek Ranch into the Crooked Creek Resort and Spa. With help of Celeste and Ruby, the cook/housekeeper, Victoria set the wheels in motion to have her dream come true.
This book gives a little of Celeste’s background and made me realize that Celeste and Victoria are alike in some ways. Celeste has probably always loved Victoria, but had a problem with her, because she was living proof that Lyle cheated on her. Celeste blames herself for not protecting Victoria from Lyle and Victoria’s own mother like she should have.
What was supposed to be just two adults enjoying each other’s company, slowly but surely turned into something more. Something neither Eli nor Victoria expected or were looking for. Both are tortured souls due to bad childhoods, but with the help of each other they are able to overcome all of the negativity in their lives to find the good in themselves and in each other. I can not think of anyone who deserves to be truly happy, in love, and have a happily ever after more than Victoria and Eli.
I received the book from NetGalley, in exchange for my review.
Posted August 27, 2012
Can’t Hurry Love is a sexy, emotionally gripping, complicated love story
about two people who are deeply scarred by their pasts. It is a story
about the struggles of two people trying to overcome the hurts and
disappointments from previous relationships in order to be able to open
up their hearts to one another. Molly O’ Keefe's characters are
beautifully flawed and real. They are so fleshed out that they simply
pop off the page. Eli and Victoria start off as characters that are not
very likable, but as we learn more about their difficult past
experiences, we begin to empathize with them and forgive them for their
flaws. I loved watching the Eli and Victoria transformed by the
relationship building between them. They each had emotional baggage to
deal with, but they eventually found that with the love and support of
the other they were able to work through their issues. The dialogue in
this book was excellent. It was emotional, realistic and purposeful.
Ms. O' Keefe's stories suck me in to the point that I am unable to put
her books down until I am done. Once I finish them though, I feel sad
because I am not ready to let her characters go! I highly recommend
this book to anyone who likes sexy, emotional stories that will tug at
your heart strings.
Posted August 3, 2012
Posted January 6, 2013
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Posted September 7, 2012
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