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At least-please, Lord-she hoped so.
Wrapped in a bathrobe, Katherine sat on her dressing stool in the walk-in closet of her penthouse suite and bemoaned her lack of fashion sense. Her supermodel mother, Felicia, would have instinctively known which shoes to pick.
"Should I wear the metallic snake slingbacks, the black peep-toe pumps, or the leopard thong sandals?" Katherine asked her assistant, Cari, on speakerphone.
"Wear the silver open-toe slingbacks. They're gorgeous with that dress," Cari said.
"How about my pink horsey slippers? They're kind of cute."
Silence at the other end told her the answer.
I was just kidding," Katherine said as she swept up her yoga pants and the T-shirt she'd napped in and dumped them in the hamper.
"Sure you were," Cari said in an I-know-you tone.
Katherine sighed in defeat. Get her in a pair of heels and she suddenly felt like a bull in Tiffany's. Why couldn't fund-raising come easy to her-as it had for her mother? "It would have helped if my mother left me her fashion sense to go along with the Breckenridge Foundation charity events."
Outside, the sun had half settled just beyond the Manhattan skyline, lighting the windows of surrounding buildings platinum. It flowed into her adjacent bedroom, turning the Turkish rugs to a brilliant turquoise. Katherine hadn't had the desire to redecorate. Everything in the master bedroom, from the gold-tasseled bed linens to the silver-plated mirrors to the antique silver vases holding the daily supply of yellow roses, still bore her mother's flair, her style.
Katherine didn't have the foggiest idea how she might improve on that.
"She did leave you her fashion sense, Katherine. The only problem is, her legacy comes in a size two. And it doesn't match your own, uh, style."
Katherine didn't need to glance in the mirror to confirm that she'd inherited her father's style. Her preference for jeans and cowboy boots. If only he'd also given her his charisma, his never-say-die spirit that had made him a champion bull rider. But she possessed neither her father's courage nor her mother's glamour. Felicia Breckenridge and Bobby Russell had been America's beloved poster couple.
So why hadn't their daughter inherited their magic? Magic she so desperately needed if she hoped to pull the Breckenridge Foundation away from the abyss of bankruptcy.
She just hoped that her grandfather and his wolfish board of directors would stay in their corners until she got through this little soiree and out into the financial clear.
"You'll be beautiful," Cari said, and her voice softened. "Put on your best Katherine Breckenridge smile, shake everyone's hand, and I promise that the five-course dinner you put together will have the donations pouring in. The board will see your efforts, forgive you for a few bad investments, and everything will be fine."
"A few bad investments?" According to Katherine's last balance sheets, her accounts had lost over five hundred thousand dollars in three months. And if Grandfather Breckenridge turned down her request to underwrite her donation to the Mercy Doctors clinic for another quarter, children like Eva might not live to see next year. "Now who's living in a fairy tale?"
"Maybe you and your life-is-but-a-dream mentality are rubbing off on me. I'm even willing to consider that a handsome prince might ride into the lobby of the Breckenridge and whisk me away to my castle, complete with my private entrance to Tiffany's and an unlimited expense account. But barring that, I believe you have a winning night planned. The weather is even cooperating. The heat wave will drive everyone inside to the air-conditioned ballroom of the Breckenridge Hotel, and they'll pay just to stay indoors." Cari's voice contained a smile. "And it won't hurt that you get to sit next to Lincoln Cash all night. I wonder what other celebrities are going to show."
At the mention of the actor's name, Katherine glanced at the issue of America, Now! in her trash bin. Sadly, it hadn't contained even a word of the press release she'd sent out about tonight's event. Although she'd also invited a passel of other actors and celebrities, she banked on a confirmed appearance by Lincoln Cash to lure the press. "I don't care if I sit by him-I just want him and his gang of photographers."
"Oh, please, there isn't a woman alive who wouldn't stand on a bed of coals to sit next to Lincoln Cash."
"He's not my type, which only adds to the fact that my mother and I were nothing alike. I prefer a well-barbered, silk-suited man to a whiskered, rough-edged scoundrel who considers a wink the invitation to dinner or more. Besides, I have Bradley."
Cari sighed. "Right."
"Bradley is stable. And patient. Everything a woman could want."
"If you're a houseplant."
"Okay, but only if you put down the black pumps."
"How do you do that?" With a look of longing, Katherine slid the pumps back into their drawer.
"Ten years of boarding school with you."
Katherine held up the green dress and the silver sandals and fleetingly wondered if she'd even fit into any of her outfits after last week's taste test with the catering company. Even if she'd only picked at the outrageously extravagant dishes, she still felt slightly traitorous after spending the last two weeks visiting the Guadalajara clinic. Again. But seeing Eva's smiling face-miraculously pink with health-gave Katherine the incentive to nail down every detail of tonight's annual event. "I just thought it would be easier."
"Easier to fill your mother's shoes?"
Katherine lifted a shoulder, staring into the mirror, trying for the thousandth time to see even a hint of Felicia's famous blue eyes in her own hazel ones.
"Or easier to realize that you're not her?"
"Thanks. I appreciate that show of support." Katherine laid the dress on her bed, dropped the sandals to the floor.
"So you're not your mother. You have your own style; you just don't know what it is yet. And when you get your rhythm, you'll be the wow she was."
"In the meantime, my grandfather is going to convince the board to write off the Breckenridge Foundation as a loss and swallow the entire charity into the maw of Walter Breckenridge Enterprises. I will have successfully driven my late mother's life work into the ground in the span of three years. I think that might be some kind of record."
"Tonight is going to be a success. By the way, the director of social services called again. She said something about an appointment at the Seventh Avenue children's shelter. Last time you did that, you wanted to adopt three children."
"I wasn't serious. Just ... moved."
"I'm not saying homeless kids don't tug at my heartstrings, honey, but you gotta stop trying to adopt every charity case you meet."
A knock came at her door. "Katherine?"
Katherine said a quick good-bye to Cari and disconnected the call. "Come in, Angelina." Her voice sounded fatigued, even to herself, despite the forty-minute nap she'd just caught.
Angelina strode past her into the bedroom. "You're not ready yet? Senor Lymon is on his way up."
Oh, perfect. Bradley hated being late.
The early evening sun poured through the French doors at the far end of her dressing room, yet heat shimmered in the twilight and reflected off the windows of Trump Tower across the street. From the balcony off her bedroom, Central Park, with its lakes and cool breezes, beckoned like a favorite novel, someplace to lose herself.
Maybe Cari was right. Tonight would be perfect. She had plotted every detail. All the same, it would be nice if the Almighty could send her a memo or something to assure her that she was on the right track. Lord, please make this night successful.
It seemed that ever since Katherine had returned from her first trip to Mexico six months ago, she'd had disaster touch every part of her life, from her seemingly bad accounting to her strained relationship with her grandfather to her health. It just wasn't natural to be so tired all the time, regardless of how many herbal remedies Angelina concocted, how many vitamins Cari made her swallow, and how many doctors Bradley made her visit. And now, another of her weekly migraines edged in on her.
Angelina led her to the dressing table in her bathroom and made her sit as she helped her style her hair. As usual, Angelina hummed from her repertoire of hymns, songs that Katherine still equated with warm, solid arms and unconditional comfort.
Angelina was the closest thing Katherine had to a real mother. The kind who'd known of her secret nest in the closet, with her horse posters, her Flicka books. The kind who woke her from her nightmares and fed her hot chocolate for breakfast. The kind who had prayed her through her teenage confusion and helped her find her own spiritual footing, beyond her Catholic boarding school. If it weren't for Angelina, Katherine might have turned out just like her grandfather, someone resembling the ice sculpture down in the ballroom. Sometimes she wondered why he even raised her. Maybe because her mother had been so busy-
She held her bathrobe at the neck. "Come in."
The bedroom door opened. "Hey there, beautiful." Bradley poked his head into the room. Concern filled his brown eyes. "Are you feeling okay?"
She managed a nod. "I'll be out in a moment. Make yourself at home."
"I have a quick meeting to attend. I'll meet you downstairs." Bradley gave a slight frown, then glanced at Angelina. "Do your best work, Senora. I have a special evening planned." He winked at Katherine and closed the door behind him.
Angelina's eyes shone, evidence she'd fallen under Bradley's spell. With his highlighted blond hair that he wore in a slightly mussed style and his lean, gym-toned physique, Bradley exuded a charm that made Katherine forget everything but the silly smile on her face and the way he put his hand on the small of her back.
A special evening. Funny, she had waited for such a special evening all her life, but now she only felt a crimp in her stomach. It had to be nerves. Just because Grandfather Breckenridge had introduced them didn't mean that successful attorney Bradley Lymon wasn't the man of her dreams. Katherine should stop trying to figure out why Bradley wanted her in his life, give up trying to make a difference in the world, and let herself relax.
She sat up straight on the velvet stool and stared into the tall, silver-plated mirror as Angelina put her hair up, letting the wisps curl down over her ears.
"Your mama would have been so proud," Angelina said, bringing her face close to Katherine's.
Katherine smiled, patting Angelina's hand. "Gracias." But she knew the truth. Angelina saw the girl she'd raised, the Breckenridge princess. However, next to Katherine's willowy blonde mother, Katherine had been ... well, more like a buffalo.
Maybe she resembled her father, Bobby, the man who'd died riding bulls when Katherine was a child. She had a faded color photograph of them together. Katherine was five and wearing red cowboy boots and a grin. Another photo displayed Bobby's wide smile, the way he lazily hung his hand from his giant gold championship buckle, the gleam in his dark brown eyes.
Felicia never, not even once, spoke of the man who'd died in her arms. And she'd refused to let Katherine speak of him either. Even her father's obituary had been sketchy. "Complications from a bull-riding fall" could mean anything in her curious mind.
And the fact that his death happened months after said fall raised even more questions.
Someday, Katherine vowed, she'd have answers.
Katherine put on a pair of teardrop diamond earrings, a recent present from Bradley, then added a matching necklace-last Christmas's gift, an extravagant gesture two weeks into their courtship. She slipped on the ball gown, and it pinched at the waist as she zipped it up. Thankfully, the tasting spree hadn't left its ravages.
"It's time," Angelina said as she hung up Katherine's robe.
Katherine dug out her most recent migraine prescription, quickly swallowed two capsules, and massaged her temples.
If people didn't look too closely, they'd never notice the extra makeup covering the circles under her eyes or the way her smile didn't quite dazzle. She grabbed her clutch, hoping that she could remember State Representative George Brennan's newest wife's name.
As Katherine let herself out of her suite and into the elevator, she felt the effects of the painkiller start to hit, the bludgeoning in her brain subside. With it came a surreal calm, the sense that she wasn't really connected to this moment but was somewhere else. Maybe on Grandfather's yacht, smelling the briny surf. Or better yet, that place in her childhood dreams where she found herself more and more lately-lost in Montana, riding horseback, the wind at her back, the smell of wildflowers beckoning her to freedom.
But that serene life was about as likely to happen as a longhorn steer charging through the lobby of the Breckenridge Hotel and taking a bath in the center fountain.
The picture made her smile.
Please, Lord, make this night successful. For Eva. For kids like Carlos.
The elevator doors opened, and she inclined her head to the applause that greeted her from her assembled guests in the lobby. Bradley stepped forward and took her hand, and she grasped it, grateful. Possibly even happy. Definitely happy. Bradley looked resplendent in his tuxedo as he tucked her hand in the crook of his arm.
Yes, tonight had the makings of the perfect evening.
* * *
John Kincaid stared at the blinking light of his answering machine and knew that in two weeks life as he knew it would end. He pushed Play. The voice detailed the time and place everything would change, and a cold sweat trickled down his spine.
He'd always anticipated this day. Especially with the string of good fortune he'd experienced over the past few years. However, with the good came the compromises, the secrets.
John sat down in his leather chair and drummed his fingers on the glass-topped desk, staring at the picture of his father, the late John Senior.
"You'll always be a rancher, Son. Get that through your head."
But John refused to end up like his father.
He smiled and slowly lowered the picture facedown. Then he opened the desk drawer and pulled out a small velvet box. Opening it, he stared a long time at the simple brilliant-cut solitaire diamond in a white gold setting. He'd had it for years, just tucked away in the drawer, waiting for the right words. For a man whose life revolved around words, the task seemed idiotically impossible. Will you marry me? Simple enough, but the first and only time he'd asked, Lolly had shaken her head and run off crying.
If that didn't scream a big no, he didn't know what did. Since then, she hadn't breathed a clue as to why. Being a Montana man, a rancher, and patient at heart, John didn't push. Obviously, he'd have to find a different set of words if he hoped for a yes.
John took out the ring and slipped it over his pinkie, holding it in the light and imagining what it might look like on Lolly's long, elegant ring finger. He closed his eyes and let her image fill his thoughts-her playful smile, the way her dishwater blonde hair spilled over her shoulders, the twinkle in her hazel eyes. For all Lolly's charm and flirtation, she still seemed a mystery to him. As if her life had started the day she arrived in Phillips, a twenty-year-old wanderer.
He'd watched her that day from his pickup in the feed store parking lot, the wind catching her hair, dust kicking up around her blue jeans, her hands in her back pockets as she stared at the vacant lot on the corner. Right then, something happened inside his chest. Not a lightning bolt zinging him with love at first sight but a soft and breathtaking peace that someday, if he bided his time, she'd be his wife.
Maybe this time when he asked, she'd say yes. Please, God.
John swallowed back the rush of too many emotions and closed the box. It felt small and soft in his work-worn hand. Sort of like his dreams.
But the blinking light on the machine told him that some dreams came true. And when they did, nothing would ever be the same again.
Excerpted from TAMING RAFE by SUSAN MAY WARREN Copyright © 2007 by Susan May Warren. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 25, 2008
It takes 8 seconds to win fame, fortune and glory in the bull riding arena. But it takes less for Rafe Noble to lose everything he has worked for and more. Running from broken dreams and remorse over the loss of his friends' life, Rafe's behavior spirals out of control. Crashing his truck into a ritzy hotel he trashes the lobby and the fund-raising event inside. Broken and bitter he returns to his family's ranch to heal. Katherine Breckenridge follows Rafe to Montana, furious with his careless behavior that cost her desperately needed funding to save her mother's bankrupt charity foundation. Katherine's determined to get money from him somehow, even if she has to wrangle it out of him. But nothing can prepare her for dealing with Rafe face-to-face. Hard as nails on the outside, Katherine is unprepared for the man she discovers. Together they try to find a way to help Katherine's charity and uncover what happened to half a million dollars that mysteriously disappeared. As the seconds tick by Katherine's finds her life in danger and Rafe puts his own on the line for one last ride to save her, but will 8 seconds be enough? Susan May Warner, kept me captivated in her book Taming Rafe. From the sweat-breaking adrenaline ride in the beginning to the taming of a tall, dark and handsome cowboy, I found myself breathlessly turning the pages to the end. After all who can resist a rugged dark haired cowboy when he turns on the charm?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 29, 2008
Sometimes when the first book in a series surprises you and sweeps you into the romance, I wonder if the second book will live up to the first. In this case Susan May Warren has written a sequel that more than stands on its own. Taming Rafe tells the story of two broken people, each searching for something but not really sure what. Katherine Breckenridge wants to break out of the expectations that she's been forced to live with. But she's hesitant to try. And Rafe feels even more like the lesser Noble after his life implodes. The book pulled me into the fictional dream mainly through the deep pain and searching of the characters. Katherine and Rafe each have deep reasons they are suffering their current problems. But the choice to confront those issues and take a less safe path, left me rooting for them. Could they do? Or would they take the easier rode? The book is filled with challenges for the characters...each of those a natural outgrowth of the plot and characters. And the secondary characters added a rich layer to the story through John and Lolly's fight to choose each other or walk away, and Nick's inability to communicate with Rafe. Add in a grandfather who wants to shelter his granddaughter, an almost fiancé who wants to elope and all kinds of other conflict, and this is a rich story it was almost impossible to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2009
Westerns usually aren't my cup of tea, but this series has really grabbed my attention. And I'm not just talking about the covers, even though they are SUPER HOT! This book taught me a lot about bull riding and the dangers that go with this sport. I've never really been a big fan of watching bull riding (and I still don't necessary agree with the sport even after reading the book) but I do have a lot more respect for the riders. It's a sport where you never know what's going to happen because you're not in control of the situation. I really liked Kat as a character. She has enough money to be a rich socialite but her heart is in the right place because she is focused on helping others. Her relationship with Brad adds suspense to the story with twists that the reader doesn't see coming. Rafe is a character that changes throughout the story. It's a interesting ride as the reader watches him grow. I loved the story within a story with the book that John wrote. It was actually quite a good read and I would have loved to have it more fleshed out as a story on its own. The only thing that irked me a bit was Lolly. I just wish she would have told Kat right off the bat who she was instead of clamming up. Of course it would have ruined the story, but I just hate it when things could have been resolved easily if there wasn't unnecessary drawn out drama. Also I didn't like the way she treated John. And women complain that there are never any good guys out there. All in all though, this was a wonderful story that I couldn't stop reading. I'm looking forward to reading the next book to find out more about Stefanie.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Eight seconds is all it took to destroy the life of Rafe Noble, world champion bull rider. He was riding Pee Wee when he was tossed by the inappropriately named bull. Instead of tumbling to the ground he got caught on the horns. His best friend Manuel Rodriguez saved Rafe¿s life, but lost his own leaving behind a wife and young son. --- Feeling guilt and unable to ride, Rafe is in New York to raise money for the Breckenridge Foundation whose president Katherine Breckenridge needs money to fund Mercy Doctors in Mexico. A bit drunk Rafe crashes into the hotel hosting the gala destroying the event and himself. He runs back to his family ranch in Montana to heal and escape the media, but it is Katherine¿s accusation that rips his gut. She decides to visit him on his family ranch to get him to help her raise money for her cause. As they fall in love, secrets involving her late bull riding daddy, her deceased sophisticated fundraising mom, and her mysterious missing Aunt surface. --- The sequel to RECLAIMING NICK is a warm inspirational Noble Legacy contemporary romance. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing and the ¿romance¿ between an older couple adds depth to the strong story line, but it is little Carlos, in spite of a tiny appearance, who haunts the heroine and the reader. The return of the other two Noble siblings makes life on the ranch seem right for the audience. Although a late suspense involving embezzlement provide unnecessary suspense, readers will appreciate Susan May Warren¿s fine tale while considering ask not what God can do for you ask what you can do for God. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.