My Texas Towns—Welcome to McAllister and Colton
When you crack open the cover of any one of my contemporary western romances—Gambling On A Secret, Gambling On A Heart or Heartstrings—you are also opening the door to two very special little towns in Texas. What makes these towns special? Because they both are totally my towns. I invented them. But I didn’t do so without a lot of research and modeled them both after real towns. McAllister is very close to Clarendon, Texas, in geography, size and economy. And Colton resembles Clifton, Texas.
McAllister, Texas is just east of Amarillo near the Salt Fork Red River in the Panhandle, and Colton, Texas, set about 60 miles south of Dallas. Both of these towns are seeped in history and Texas pride. So, in good Southern hospitality, c’mon in, hang your hat, and grab a glass of sweet tea—or a long neck bottle of brew or even a shot glass Jack. I’ll show you around the little town that I spend a lot of time in (well, at least my mind does)—Colton, Texas.
(PHOTO CREDIT: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grabill_-_The_Cow_Boy.jpg)]
In The Colton Gamblers, Forest County gets its name from the oak forests that covered the land along the creeks running through it, but the majority of the land is grassland. Colton comes from the shortening of the original name for the cattle town Cole’s Town, which took its name from Judge Cole Cartwright, one of the founding fathers.
(PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/)]
The frontier town was nothing more than a Southern Baptist Church, a general store, a one-room school, and the all-important saloon. The large oak tree in the center of the town eventually became the spot for the courthouse. Fitting, considering it was from the massive branches the town’s founders hung anyone who questioned their law.
(PHOTO CREDIT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CliftonTexasAvenueDWest1.jpg)]
Today, the saloon is still standing and is still an important outlet after a long day to catch a beer and to listen to the local band. Several other churches joined the Baptists, and the educational system includes the small university, Colton College. And the old oak tree still stands before the courthouse as a reminder of Wild West justice.
(PHOTO CREDIT: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Army_50925_Soldiers_join_community_celebration_3.jpg)]
The people of Colton have a sense of community and look out for each other. They are patriotic to a fault, but proud of their Southern heritage.
(PHOTO CREDIT: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rodeo,_K%C3%A4lberfangen.jpg)]
In both McAllister and Colton, the people love good music, football, rodeo and gossip. But don’t let the idyllic quaintness fool you as the heroes and heroines of Gambling On A Secret, Gambling On A Heart and Heartstrings are about to find out.
Murder, theft, deceit, fraud and secrets are about to shake these little towns to their very foundations.
And the only way to survive is to rediscover the only thing that matters….
Gambling On A Secret
Book 1 of The Colton Gamblers
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?
Gambling On A Heart
Book 2 of The Colton Gamblers
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?
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.
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.
Follow the Second Honeymoon Blog Tour HERE
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.
Gambling On A Secret
“Stay with me for a little while.” Her voice was warm as good Southern whiskey and just as intoxicating. “I don’t want to fight this thing between us anymore. I don’t want to be alone.”
“Me either.” Slowly, he slid his hands over the soft cotton covering her back. She shivered and her lips parted.
He lowered his mouth to hers, and she opened to accept the full thrust of his tongue. She tugged on his t-shirt, and skimmed her hands over the skin under the hem. He groaned deep in his chest as she raked her nails over the small of his back, jolting his already excited erection.
When he tried to retreat from the battle of dueling tongues, she sucked on his, wrenching a long, deep moan from him. His hands held the curve of her behind, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to touch her flesh.
She broke the kiss long enough to pull his t-shirt over his head. Before he knew what she was doing, her hands were on his belt. He caught her by the wrists and stripped her of her shirt and bra. She tugged off her boots and shimmied out of her jeans between gut-twisting kisses.
She stood before him wearing only a diamond studded belly button ring and a pair of stretch lace, pink panties. Freckles, millions of them, speckled the creamy porcelain of her skin. Like springs caught in a blacksmith’s fire, her red-gold hair fell around her face and shoulders and down her back to her waist. The sexy pout puckering her lips and the heavy-lidded eyes caught and held his.
He knew she wasn’t innocent, but something about the way she looked made him think she was far more experienced than he’d initially thought.
“Are you sure we should do this?” His voice came through as a low rumble.
Charli flashed him a wicked grin. She skimmed her right hand over the Special Forces tat and the puckered nipple on the left side of his chest. He shuddered when she leaned in and flicked her hot tongue over the point and ran her hands down his body to the fly of his jeans. She’d already opened the belt. She lowered the zipper and purred against his skin. “Don’t you dare get all noble on me now."
Gambling On A Heart
“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.
Abby closed the pearl snaps of his shirt and wobbled through the kitchen. She lifted the collar and breathed in Seth’s scent. She loved the way he smelled and tasted.
The shirt barely covered her, but there was no way she’d walk around the house completely nude. She could only imagine what he’d think of her pudgy belly and full hips if he’d taken the time to actually look at her. She turned on the light over the sink and filled a glass with water.
She swallowed the cold sip and closed her eyes. What had she done?
“Hey, I came back from the bathroom to find you gone.” Seth entered from the hall, running his fingers through his tousled hair, and as nude as the day as he was born. Her gaze traveled over his amazing body, and he watched her as if unable to get enough of her either.
He sauntered toward her and wrapped his arms around her. “Damn. Too bad Urban’s already done that one.”
“You look good in my shirt,” he said, referring to a Keith Urban hit song. “But you look even better without it.”
Heat warmed her cheeks, and she leaned up to place a kiss on his lips. “You just plain look good...period.”
He removed the glass from her hand and took a sip before setting it on the counter. When he responded to her, she moaned and lifted her leg, bringing herself intimately against him. How could she be so achy for him so soon?
He raised a brow. “You haven’t been anywhere near loved enough, if you can still look at me like that.”
“Like you want to eat me right up.”
“Maybe I do.”
“Good. Because I’m feeling a little famished myself.” He lifted her, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. She wiggled against his erection. Chuckling low and sensually in her ear, he carried her back to bed. “Trust me, this will definitely be better than chocolate cake."
I'd like to thank Sara for joining us today. She's got a lot up for grabs and these books sound hot!
~Author Jennifer Labelle~