• Take one picture-perfect setting flavoured with rolling hills and African heat in South Africa’s racing “home”, Shongweni.
• Carefully add one gorgeous heroine, soaked in tragic secrets and guilty sauce.
• Throw in a hunky hero – strong, tasty and lightly dusted in the crisp tang of the outdoors.
What do you get? The perfect dish for every romance reader’s palate…
5 star review and in the Siren-Bookstrand mainstream top 10!
Josie Tate has been running for a long time – from her past, from a tragic secret, and mostly from herself. Then her life is suddenly upended, and she finds herself back in the one place on earth she doesn't want to be. Worse, she is suddenly caught between an unforgiving past and Cade Harper's unrelenting pursuit.
As determined as she is desperate, he seems hell-bent on making sure that her running days are over. It doesn't help that Cade is the most gorgeous man ever. Or that the uncanny attraction between them seems to have a life of its own.
But Josie is determined to keep her distance from Cade. He is equally determined to shatter the walls she is raising up between them. And when her ghosts reappear in the flesh Josie's life finally implodes. The only way out seems to be to...
Josie immediately understood the twins’ fascination. A horse stood in the ring, snorting and pawing at the ground while Cade simply stood patiently, hands loose at his sides. He seemed intent, focused, seemingly oblivious to the audience, his whole body tuned to the animal as if trying to read it, biding his time. Every now and then he would whistle softly, murmuring in between in a low, soothing voice.
He took a slow step forward, then another. The grey snorted again and spun away, racing around the enclosure in a flurry of dust and pounding hooves. Then he stopped short, eyeing the man with distrust, ears flat and his whole body straining and quivering with tension.
The process began again. Cade standing, waiting, still and patient, with low whistles and soft murmurs, with the horse pawing and rumbling in response. Then a step forward and the horse breaking away.
“How long does it take?”
“Depends. Hours if you’re lucky. Days until they’re used to the handling. Breaking in doesn’t mean breaking down. The trick is to bring them in slowly, bit by bit. It’s pretty rare, though, to have to start from scratch. Most horses are already used to handling and even halter trained by this age. But we bought this guy in from a local breeder, and for various reasons he missed the early preparation, so it’s going to be a long road with him.”
“It looks like hard work,” Josie said, her voice soft with a sense of wonder as she began to realise just how hard, and how much patience was probably involved.
Fiona grinned. “It is. Hot, sweaty work too, once the sun gets high. Fortunately the horse does most of the running. Until he’s roped, of course. Then the hard work starts.” Josie didn’t worry that she might look as confused as she felt. “This is the easy part, a kind of a warm-up. They’ll be at this for a while, until the horse lets him in close. Then he’ll talk a while, start to touch him. The next step is to get the rope on him, and that’s the hard part. Usually they feel it go on and they get going. You’ve got to play them, give them slack, tighten, give them slack, gradually ease them in. Some of them fight you all the way.”
“Isn’t it dangerous?” It sounded like a real city slicker question, but Fiona didn’t seem to notice.
“It can be. Now and then you get a mean one who isn’t afraid to have a go at you. Mostly, though, all they want to do is escape, which means they want to keep their distance. If you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty safe.”
She turned back to the ring, and they lapsed into silence. To Josie’s inexperienced eye, Cade didn’t seem to be making much headway, though he seemed as patient as ever. The struggle went on and on, a seemingly endless, intricate game, horse and man locked in a world of their own.
Josie lost track of time, as absorbed as anyone in the challenge. Strangely, the long, drawn-out, repetitive process didn’t bore her at all. It was like watching a struggle that went beyond the ordinary, an ageless ritual that spoke to something deep inside her.
Finally, after hours that seemed to melt into one another with no conscious passing of time, an utter silence descended, as if the entire world and everyone in it held their breath.
Cade stepped forward. He took another step, and then another. The grey nickered softly, quivering, his nostrils flared and eyes wide. But his ears remained pricked, listening to Cade’s low endearments. Neither of them moved.
They had moved close to where Josie and Fiona sat, and she could see the intense concentration on Cade’s face, his eyes narrowed, focused on nothing but the trembling animal.
Slowly, with an infinitely gentle movement, he lifted his hand. The horse snorted but stood his ground, watched the hand move closer till it stopped, palm upward, just short of his nose. There was another seemingly endless wait through seconds, minutes… Then the horse quivered slightly, made a tentative movement, tense and exploratory as, nostrils flared, he measured the scent of the man.
Cade made no move whatsoever, just stood with his hand open, letting the grey snort and sniff and nicker his low, rumbling protests. Josie sat stiffly, clutching the railing with suppressed excitement, willing the moment of contact.
His movements almost imperceptible, Cade turned his hand to slide it gently up the side of the horse’s nose. Unhurried, barely touching, a soft, strangely intimate caress. The grey stood still, trembling, nickering short, breathy, uncertain snorts. The hand continued upward towards his ear, the slid slowly down the arched neck once, twice, a finally a third time.
Suddenly the horse spun away, a loud neigh shattering the silence and the tension of the moment. Josie exhaled in a long, tension-releasing breath.