When divorced Wade Middleton meets wealthy Diana Buchanan, a beautiful horsewoman who relocates to Palo Alto, California, from Texas, he is introduced to the world of horses and the fox-hunt, and a whirlwind romance spins out of control. Problems arise in the relationship when Diana can’t let go of her high-horse lifestyle, nor entirely separate from her powerful husband. Wade’s love of poetry isn’t exactly embraced by Diana, either, and they are worlds apart. Yet for some reason, the two are saddled by an attraction to each other neither understands.
Add to this Wade’s unwillingness to help his friend Jorge when he needs it most, and the guilt that ensues from his having the hots for his friend’s wife, a desire he admirably suppresses to an extent. Wade has his own demons to wrestle down, but he is unprepared for the troubles to come.
EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK
Wade’s eyes snapped open when something heavy slammed into his shoulder. So, this is First Class?Why had he let the ticket agent talk him into an upgrade?
Rubbing his shoulder, he glanced up to see an attractive woman in a fitted silk blouse, her hand balancing the package that had hit him. “I’m so sorry,” she said, standing in the aisle. Her voice had enough of a drawl that Wade guessed she might be a local Dallas woman.
The large, bubble-wrapped package looked too big for her small frame. “You must have had quite a time getting it here,” he said.
“A gentleman helped me—he’s seated in back. I thought I could balance it on the arm until a flight attendant came by, but it somehow slipped. Could you?” Wade found himself staring at her hazel eyes, which were focused on the bin above their heads. “Possibly?” she asked.
It was all Wade could do to hoist the package up and jam it into the overhead bin.
“It’s my jumping saddle—with trophies, stirrup sets, and a few other things I didn’t trust to the movers.”
Wade hoped she was assigned to sit next to him. He smiled at the thought of this alluring female in one of those stretchy riding outfits he’d seen in movies. She didn’t have that ribbon and bows, half-girl, half-woman look you see in Texas. Her diamond stud earrings weren’t ostentatious, but close. Lone Star State or not, she belonged up in the front cabin. He was in luck, he thought as she squeezed past him to get to the window seat. She brushed against his knees. When the attendant came through, he found the courage to offer to buy his new seatmate a drink.
Her eyes shone. “You’re kidding, right? They don’t usually charge up front here.”
Oh, damn, got that wrong. Mark Twain had it right—better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. She asked for water, making Wade feel even sillier.
After he’d screwed up, what could he say? Everyone at work said Wade had the gift of gab, but something about this woman left him tongue-tied. He wondered how he appeared to her, his salt-and-pepper messy hair, bags under sagging blue eyes evident. Perhaps Wade could reopen a conversation by telling her about his poetry professor who had moved to Dallas to teach at SMU—if indeed she was a local as he suspected. Yes, he’d try it.
His conversational gambit worked. This captivating woman, who Wade guessed was his age or a few years younger, had heard of his teacher and seemed to relax. “I grew up in Dallas,” she said.
“Why does that not surprise me,” he said, a little too sure of himself. “I mean the accent. It’s charming, but it places you.”
“Well I’m a Texan, but I’m moving—moved—to California, down on the Peninsula. Palo Alto. When that saddle gets to the barn out there, I’ll be a Palo Altan.”
Wade was happily surprised she was willing to reveal so much. Could she be as curious about him as he was of her? “Now there’s a coincidence,” he said. “I’ve lived in Palo Alto almost twenty years.
The town’s changing, though.”
She took a sip of water. “How do you mean?”
“Nothing left of the sleepy college town,” he said. “Silicon Valley has changed that forever.”
He had to stop staring at her eyes. A birthmark showed above her left eye, a shade lighter than her skin tone. Wade thought of the medieval cathedral builders who purposely built in one flaw, so as not to compete with God.
A noise came from a pet carrier she had squeezed under the seat in front of her. No doubt in Wade’s mind—the muffled mew of a cat. “Micah’s been sick,” she said to him. “There you go, Micah,” she said. “You get better now.” As she extended a finger into the cage, he saw a wedding ring. Damn.
She pulled a book from her bag. Wade read the title, Equestrian Confidence over Big Jumps and saw the cover image of a horse jumping over a tall hedge.
“How could you get a horse to do that?” he asked. “Incredible.”
She handed Wade the book. “It’s a challenge, for sure. My trainer thinks that if you ask a horse to jump above three feet, it can no longer think about the rider. It takes everything the horse has just to clear the jump. You have to prepare the horse with confidence, and once the jump starts, take care of yourself.”
He imagined how she’d look in those sexy clothes riders wear. He thumbed through the pages of pictures, stunned at a horse jumping over a small car. “You actually do this?” he asked, and immediately wished he hadn’t sounded quite so naive.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I mean, I’ve never jumped a car, just standard rails. And oxers, where they put two rails a few feet apart, so the horse has to stretch.”
After he gave the book back, he said, “If you want my honest opinion, it looks terrifying. I’m Wade Middleton, by the way,” and held out his hand.
She took his hand warmly. “Diana Buchanan,” she said, emphasizing her last name as if he might know it. “And by the way, I always appreciate honesty.” She re-opened her book. Taking her cue, Wade retrieved a poetry book from his briefcase. He kept thinking about her, but he didn’t talk, not wanting to seem pushy.
Somewhere in the middle of the trip, over Arizona or Utah, he figured, she folded her tray table and stood up.
“I’ll take a stretch, too,” he said. As they were getting up, the plane lurched and she stumbled against him, and his arms instinctively embraced her taut body.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, and pulled away, laughing, her hazel eyes flashing. Later, when he leaned toward her to resume the conversation, he discovered that she was asleep. His questions would have to wait.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the US Navy, Kevin has published fifty stories and poems. He earned his Master’s in Fine Arts from San Jose State University in 2007, the same year he helped found Gold Rush Writers. He has ridden to hounds since 1999, earning his colors with the Los Altos Hounds, also in 2007. He served as President of Poetry Center San Jose for twelve years. Kevin is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, USA. The San Francisco / Peninsula California Writer’s Club recently named him Writer of the Year.