New release time! Someone in her inner circle wants her dead. She retreats to the Colorado Rocky Mountains to heal and hide. Who knew she would find love on the Backroads? Read an excerpt and the back cover copy below.
From the back cover...
Movie star Marlowe Madison needs a break from fame after surviving a near-death experience. She knows fame comes at a cost, but now she is reevaluating if she's willing to pay such an exorbitant fee. Wanting anonymity and sanctuary, she retreats to a small town in central Colorado to hide while the authorities track down the person who wants her dead.
Sean Westbrook is intrigued by the mysterious neighbor who has disrupted the peaceful existence on his horse rescue ranch in the sleepy town of Jefferson, Colorado. Never one to mind his own business, his curiosity brings him face-to-face with his new neighbor. He has no idea that every interaction with her puts him directly in the crosshairs of the person hunting her.
Danger has followed Marlowe to this paradise in the middle of nowhere. As far as the assassin is concerned, she has moved to the perfect place to die.
Desire and curiosity override caution. Despite the danger, Sean and Marlowe embark on a relationship full of twists and turns and temptation. When danger finds them, will it unite them or rip them apart? Will the price of Marlowe’s fame end up costing her everything after all?
She pushed open the gate and walked aimlessly toward the forest. Pine needles crunched beneath her feet with every slow step she took. Birds chirped in the trees and squirrels darted in the shadows. The further she walked, the easier it became to breathe. Marlowe came to the edge of the property and leaned against a fence post. A lone white horse strolled up the hill toward her. She watched it approach, noticing its pink scars that slashed across its neck and across its chest. Its pure white mane tossed in the high-altitude wind as it approached, head held high. When it stopped in front of her, Marlowe laughed out loud.
“Hey, beautiful, where’d you come from? Are you all alone?” She scanned the hillside looking for other horses but only saw rolling hills leading down to a ranch house at least a few miles away.
The horse turned its head slightly to get a better look at Marlowe yet remained out of reach. From the scars, it was obvious to Marlowe that this beauty had seen more than its share of pain.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” she whispered to the horse as she hugged her arms across her body to ward off the high-altitude chill. “I don’t know if I should have died two weeks ago or if I should still be in my home by the ocean, but I do know I am scared and uncertain.”
The horse lifted its snout at her words as if acknowledging the conversation.
“Have you ever felt like you had no control over your own life?” She looked at a particularly jagged scar that marred the white fur and sighed. “Looks like you have. Sorry about that. People can be cruel. I don’t have any pets because I am usually traveling a lot, but I always wanted a dog.” She met the horse’s gaze and smiled. “Maybe we can be friends while I’m visiting? This was my grandpa’s house,” she motioned to the land behind her and winced at the stinging pain that pierced her shoulder at the sudden move. “I used to visit him in the summers until I was a teenager.”
A glint of light off of a lens tucked against a tree trunk reminded her that cameras lined the perimeter and she was not as alone as she felt. Considering the circumstances, that should have reassured her, but at the moment, it annoyed her.
“Know what I realized when I woke up in the hospital?” She asked the horse. “I may have fame, and I may love my career, and I may have millions of dollars, but I don’t have one person who loves me in this world. Or that I love, for that matter. I have plenty of people who need me, but that’s it. And someone is trying to kill me, and I have no idea why. I have made some poor life choices, White Horse, and I didn’t realize it until someone shot me.”
The horse snorted and stepped closer.
“Poor movie star,” she laughed at herself, “talking to a white horse on a beautiful day in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Life could be worse…I could be dead.” She smiled at the animal who still stood out of arm’s reach. “Why are you all alone?” Again, she looked down the hill toward the ranch in the distance. She noticed a few other horses closer to the stables and what looked like quite a few cars driving down their long driveway. “I guess you want some peace, huh? Nothing wrong with being a loner.”
The horse turned its head as if following her gaze. Its white ears twitched.
“I’m kind of scared of horses,” she admitted. “I don’t know why; you seem perfectly nice to me.”
Realizing that either Xavier or Holden probably watched a security screen and could see her talking to a horse, she cleared her throat and stepped back from the fence. Suddenly the shadows dancing along the forest floor behind her felt dangerous.
No one is chasing me here, she reminded herself. I’m safe. The agents have the investigation under control. Relax.
As if sensing the change in her demeanor, the horse broke into a trot and jogged away. Its mane and long tail billowed behind it like a dance as it pranced down the hill, backed by rugged peaks and wildflowers.
“A cinematographer’s perfect shot,” she whispered to the wind. Alone, Marlowe watched it depart with an odd sense of melancholy. “I think that’s the most meaningful conversation I’ve had in years.”
Grinning, she turned and walked back to the house. Her energy was far from normal levels. The day had been stressful. It had started with a secret meeting with Abernathy and Allen in her hospital room where they had said they were looking into the finances of those closest to her, searching for any unusual large cash withdrawals that could have been used to hire a hitman. Doctor Fin had given her some pain pills and a long list of instructions on how to take care of her injuries in the coming weeks. Emily, who had been left out of the plan, had arranged a press conference for the fans gathered outside the hospital---but Marlowe had slipped out a side door to a waiting car that the FBI had arranged to take her to the private airfield. As instructed, she had left her cellphone and other electronics in the hospital to make it appear as if she had simply vanished. Unable to relax in the private jet, she had second-guessed her decision about looping Rich into the plot. By the time she had landed, she had heard the headlines on E! about “Marlowe Madison Missing from the Hospital.” The helicopter ride from Denver to Jefferson had been choppy, which had only aggravated her wounds. Now, all she wanted to do was curl up in the small bedroom in her grandfather’s old house and sleep undisturbed for days to come.
She stopped at the edge of the clearing when she noticed Rich talking to a tall man wearing a big cowboy hat. The man wore a short-sleeved blue t-shirt and tight faded jeans that hugged his body like a glove. Based on Rich’s brief description, she knew this must be the infamous Sean Westbrook. For once, Rich hadn’t exaggerated the pure sexiness that exuded from the cowboy. She walked slowly from the protection of the trees, intrigued by how exasperated Rich appeared to be.
“For the last time, we did not order three pounds of fudge,” Rich said, motioning to his own physique. “Do I look like someone who eats fudge? And who has ever heard of a fudge delivery service?”
“Lois is never wrong. We have fudge with nuts, some without, and some mixed with strawberry. One pound of each.” Sean held the bags out in front of him, his smile full of mischief.
“You can’t bluff a bullshitter,” she said, shocking both men who turned abruptly to watch her approach. “You must be Sean Westbrook. Rich went on and on about how handsome and nosy you were.”
Rich looked like a guppy as he struggled to find words.
Sean appraised her with an arched eyebrow, his smile turning from wicked to appreciative. “You are a step ahead of me then. You are?”
She squinted, unsure if pretending not to know her was part of his game. “Marlowe.”
Rich shoved a hand through his hair. “We are not accepting visitors.”
“Accepting visitors? Are you royalty or something?” Sean looked amused by how flustered Rich had become.
“Or something.” Her gaze fell to the bags. She could smell the chocolatey sweetness even from several feet away. “I’ll take the fudge. I’ve always had a sweet tooth.”
“I’m your neighbor to the west. I saw the helicopter and all the commotion. I thought it would be best to introduce myself.” Sean handed the bags to her, his gaze roaming over her face as if trying to place where he had seen her.
“I was just having a conversation with one of your horses,” she admitted with a smile. “She proved to be a good listener.”
“Which one?” He removed his hat before running a hand through his hair to smooth it into place.
“Really?” Genuine surprise lit his blue eyes. “She’s a loner. I’m surprised she let you get close.”
“She came to me.”
Curiosity changed to appreciation in his eyes. “Then you must be pretty special. She doesn’t come to anyone, not yet. I picked her up a few weeks ago from ranch in Oklahoma where she’d been abused and grossly neglected. I’ve managed to get some weight back on her, but she keeps her distance from the rest of the herd and me.”
She held the bags of fudge to her chest while she digested his words. “You rescue horses? Are all of your horses rescues?”
“Yes. I rescue them, rehab them, and then rehome them when they are ready—if they ever are. Some prefer to graze the land and that’s fine with me.” He shrugged his broad shoulders, drawing her attention to the lean muscles of his arms and the sweaty hair that stuck to his neck.
“We didn’t order fudge,” Rich said to her as if warning her from the man.
“I know we didn’t, and he knows we know. It’s a joke. Lighten up, Rich.” She opened a bag and grabbed out a bar loaded with walnuts. “Rich is my assistant. He takes his job very seriously.”
Rich gaped at her as if she had gone mad. From the way he stared at her, she knew he was trying to silently remind her that she is not to be seen by anyone.
“Bill Tribedoe was my grandfather,” she said to Sean as she stepped between him and Rich. “I thought it was the perfect time to breathe some life back into the place.”
“And the security?” Sean moved his gaze from her face to the security shed to the trees towering behind them.
“A single woman can never be too cautious these days,” she said, enjoying the fact that he hadn’t immediately recognized her. “I saw a line of cars headed to your house.”
“Not my house. My sister runs a camp on the opposite side of the property that backs up to the mountain. Those are families dropping off their kids—but don’t worry, all of the facilities and their activities remain far from you.”
“What kind of camp? A summer camp kind of thing?”
“Grief camp for kids who have lost a parent.”
“So, you and your sister are a pair of saints?”
“I am far from saint-like, Marlowe.” Desire darkened his blue eyes to indigo as his gaze locked onto hers. “Come over tomorrow, help me with Starlight if you want.”
Caution. Hit the brakes. You cannot get to know this man. Her gaze dipped to his lips. She shifted her weight from foot-to-foot. But, damn, I bet he tastes good and I am sure his body feels even better. Hard. Hot. She cleared her throat.
“I’m not really a horse person,” she managed to say.
“My horse must think otherwise.” His eyes held a challenge. “Think about it. You know where to find me—but when the driveway forks, take the right turn or else you’ll end up at the camp. My sister Zoe will be all over you to volunteer, she scoops people up when they least expect it. Stay safe and head my way.”
“Marlowe isn’t here to socialize. She needs to stay here,” Rich dropped a protective hand on her forearm before quickly releasing her. “She’s resting.”
“Resting?” Sean looked her up and down as if assessing her wellbeing.
“I was in an accident recently.” She automatically touched her chest where the bullet had pierced her lung. “I have been told to take it easy.”
“This is a good place for that.” Sean’s expression softened before he looked over her head toward the house. “I’m glad you’re here. This house has always looked so lonely sitting here abandoned.”
“She doesn’t want everyone knowing she’s here,” Rich said, looking more distressed by the minute. “Seriously, you can’t go back to the Moose Shack or wherever and tell anyone you met Marlowe.”
She jabbed her thumb against his ribs and shook her head no when he looked at her. His nervous behavior made him appear more suspicious than anything else he could do or say.
“I’m sorry, Sean, Rich is just looking after my best interests.”
“I can keep a secret,” Sean said, putting his cowboy hat on his head and adjusting it low on his forehead.
They made eye contact. She held her breath.
Okay, so Rich’s description had been dead on. Sean Westbrook had box-office sex appeal and appeared not to realize it.
“Enjoy the fudge. Lois is the best.” His gaze again sliding over her face before snapping up to her eyes. “If you ever need anything, let me know.”
“I’ve had a long day with the traveling and other things. I need to take to soak in the tub and then get to bed. I don’t suppose you can help me with that?”
“I…uh…I should probably let you take care of that on your own.” His lips twitched and she got the distinct impression that he wanted to add the words, for now, to the end of that sentence.
She flicked the cowboy hat with her finger as she walked past him and winked for the fun of flirting. It had been awhile... “What’s the horse’s name, by the way? The white one?”
“Starlight,” she repeated softly, “Good name.” She turned her back on both men and walked inside the gated yard to leave them be.
“Nice to meet you, Marlowe Tribedoe,” Sean shouted, mistakenly assuming her last name was that of her grandfather. She liked the sound of it, though.
Without turning around, she lifted her hand in acknowledgement before entering the house. Thankful for the quiet, she moved to the second bedroom where she had slept as a child, set the bags of fudge down on the dresser, and sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. A curled up old fashioned window shade stuck out from behind the dresser. She smiled as she reached behind to pull it out. Carefully, she unfurled it across the bed and laughed at the words, ‘Marlie’s Show’, and recalled how she had carefully created the words with markers one summer so she could put on a show for her grandfather and his friends. She had draped the shade across the back porch and played all the characters herself to a round of applause from the locals. She had been eight at the time.
“You were born to be a star,” her grandfather had used to say with that sparkle in her eye. “Give ‘em hell, Marlie May.”
“I gave ‘em hell, Wild Bill,” she whispered with a smile as she traced the words on the dusty shade with a fingertip. “I won’t quit. I promise you.”
With a sigh, she curled the plastic window shade up and tucked it behind the dresser. She had been blessed with knowing great men in her life—her grandfather and her father. They had loved her and believed in her and, because of them, she had always believed in herself enough to gamble everything for a dream.
Lying on bed, she hugged a pillow to her chest, and she smiled at the memory of the sexy cowboy who had delivered fudge in a weak attempt at snooping. Perhaps hiding out and recuperating wouldn’t be such a sacrifice.
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