March 5, 2012

Buck's Dilemma: Do Love and Money Mix

By Toni Noel

I've always enjoyed a love of horses, and several of my novels have horses in them. The cowboy hero of Restored Dreams rides a black horse or drives a well-kept 1932 Ford V-8 pickup. When the urge to travel hits him he loads his horse and truck in his fifth-wheel toy hauler hitched to a shinny Peter Built cab and heads to his next stop.
You're probably thinking this guy is loaded. He is, but you'd never know it talking to him. He'd rather talk about his rodeo days and show off his championship belt buckle, but a sadness shades Buck's eyes as he speaks of roping and riding events he can no longer enter. After breaking his back, he no longer competes.
He has other things on his mind now, like his plan to help the folks in Lakeview, California who were cheated out of their life savings by his grandfather. Yes, the old man was a fast talking traveling salesman who absconded with all the money invested in his railroad scheme. Buck's primary goal in life is to make the lives of the good folks in Lakeview easier, one replaced roof or floor at a time.
He enjoys spending his unwanted inheritance this way, and if he winds up giving his heart to Treasure Montgomery while he restores her run-down Victorian house to its original beauty -- well he wouldn't mind at all. The softhearted teacher has goals, too, goals he'd like to see her achieve.
First he has to win her trust. His helping out with her equine therapy classes is a step in the right direction. He never dreamed his dressage lessons as a boy would come in handy on a ranch. Somebody in Treasure's past did the little lady wrong, Buck suspects. She's downright skittish around men, but unlike him, has no fear of snakes.
Now, if she'd just let him replace her roof the way he wants to, he'd be a happy man. Why must Treasure insist on paying her own way, when he has more money than one man could ever spend in a lifetime and a burning desire to do her repairs correctly. Prideful woman. Why won't she accept his help?

Restored Dreams Blurb:

Her roof leaks, the plumbing, too, but on a teacher's salary Treasure Montgomery can barely pay the taxes on her property, so the list of needed repairs to the grand Victorian house she inherited from the aunt who raised her continues to grow.

Treasure surrounds herself with other people's children, seeking some fulfillment in an otherwise empty life until she meets Buck. A retired rodeo rider turned philanthropist, Buck willingly donates his labor to anyone who needs a helping hand, spending his father's ill-gotten fortune to make amends for his father's bad deeds, but Treasure wants no part of his charity.

Buck persists. Treasure resists, and he turns to subterfuge to get around the obstacles she throws in his path. She learns the truth and fears she might lose her house to Buck. How wrong can a woman be about the man with whom she's fallen in love?

Excerpt: Restored Dreams

Teaching at Lakeview Middle School is a breeze. Holding this Victorian house together is what's sapping my energy, Treasure Montgomery thought as she approached her ranch east of San Diego.
She stepped into her kitchen after a long day in the classroom, turned her back on the paint peeling off the hundred-year-old cabinets, and reached for The Thrifties.
First things first. I may as well get this over with.
The unread mail could wait. Finding another repairman to finish her upstairs bath repairs couldn't. Not when the man she'd hired to do the work had ripped up her floor, then quit.
She started making calls.
Nine calls later, she was no nearer finding a handyman she'd trust to do the work. Some of the men she talked to had even laughed at her.
"You'll pay what?"
"Try me again next fall."
"Get real, lady."
What am I going to do?
At the sound of a vehicle turning down her drive, Treasure glanced up. Who did she know who drove an antique truck?
Through the kitchen curtains -- those needed replacing, too -- she watched a tall man unfold and step out of the carefully-maintained blue truck. His jean-clad legs, like parallel train tracks, were slim and straight. A wide-brimmed Stetson hat hid his face, but she had no trouble making out wide shoulders that narrowed to the belt slung low at his waist.
He was billboard handsome, and not anyone she knew, but he'd look great on her horse. Make that any horse.
Experiencing the usual uneasiness the sudden appearance of a stranger brought, Treasure froze, debating her options as she stared at the closed back door.
Lock it and pretend no one is home?
No. Aunt Bee did that. Not me.
The sound of footsteps crossing her porch caused Treasure's heartbeat to stutter, then drum in her ears.
The man's knock, as cocky as his walk, rattled the door.
Wouldn't do to let the stranger know she'd cautiously watched his approach, Aunt Bee would have advised. Treasure patted her hair, making certain her hair tie still kept her long black hair neat, then waited a moment longer before answering the knock.
"Yes?" she said, opening the door a crack.
"Miss Montgomery?" the man said and removed his hat.
Hmm. Tall. Bushy brown eyebrows overshadowed his eyes but overall, she liked his looks, although he could use a haircut. Chestnut curls hid his ears and the back collar of his denim work shirt.
She nodded.
"Evening, Ma'am. My name's Buck. Angela Turner called to say you got yourself in some kind of bind and could use my help."
"Never trust a man with a Southern drawl," Aunt Bee always warned, an Aunt Bee-ism Treasure wanted to heed, but this man's mellow way of speaking touched something deep inside, warming her and almost making her smile.
Treasure sighed. "I'm sorry, there's been a misunderstanding. You see, I teach with Angela and happened to mention that the man I'd hired quit. She never should have called you. I told her I didn't like the idea of hiring a stranger to work on my house, no matter how highly you come recommended."
"Appreciate that," he said, grinning.
"You're the carpenter who did the Community Hall roof?"
"The church, too," he said with a grin guaranteed to make women swoon.
Not Treasure. Her first night out with a devastatingly handsome man, he'd destroyed her trust. Now she was immune to good looking men, but apparently not immune to this man's softly-spoken drawl.
Watch yourself.
Buck cleared his throat. "Nice rural setting for a Victorian house. Now, if you'll just show me where--"
Unnerved, she tugged on her long hair. "No, I-I can't do that, but thank you. I've lived in Lakeview almost all my life."
Her stammered words rocked him back on his heels and he cocked his head. "It's gonna be kinda hard to estimate the work involved if you won't let me come in."
Now she felt foolish. She hesitated a moment longer, then stepped aside. "You're right. It's just that I don't have much money, and Hank, the man I'd hired, came--"
"Cheap?" he finished with another wide grin and ducked entering the house. "I understand he quit."
As he straightened, Treasure gulped. Beware men who--
No. No more isms. This is my house now.
Aunt Bee hated men.
Even after what happened to me, I don't.
Right or wrong, a man deserved the chance to prove himself.
Even Buck?
His wide shoulders seemed to dwarf her kitchen, and her.
In need of reassurance, Treasure patted her hair again. "It's the master bath, upstairs. I guess it won't hurt to just let you see."
"No, ma'am."
The way he said ma'am made her feel like a queen watching her favorite knight paying homage on bended knee, a sensation she'd never experienced before.
"This way." Shoving the uninvited image to the far recesses of her mind, she led him to the stairs, then started up, suddenly self-conscious, feeling his eyes on...
Not my hair, my butt.
"I'm afraid the hall outside the bathroom is a mess," she murmured, turning sideways to direct his attention elsewhere as she reached the top step.
No, no. This is worse. Now his eyes are on my--
"That's understandable," he said with a knowing grin. "You'd have no use for me if everything was in perfect repair, now would you, ma'am?"
Treasure laughed as she reached the landing and turned right. "True."
"Hmm. Nice view."
She clenched her fists. How dare he?
She swung around, prepared to boot Buck down the stairs for his unwelcome remark and discovered him peering out the landing window at the barn and the rolling hills beyond.
Oh. That view.
"Is that all yours?"
"I own everything to the base of those hills."
"Nice," he repeated, striding toward her.
"Yes, it is," she agreed, scurrying ahead of him down the hall. And you're even taller than I thought.

Restored Dreams is available for download here:

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marybelle said...

RESTORED DREAMS does sound like a great read.


Toni Noel said...

Thanks for stopping buy, Marybelle. Restored Dreams restores your belief in fairy godmothers and true love.