Pocket Books (October 2001)
Winning at Love Means Taking a Chance
Growing up trapped by her father's wealth, awkward Ty Stannard found freedom on horseback. A talented equestrian, she yearned to ride as well as her idol, champion Steve Sheppard. Worshiping the handsome Kentuckian, she treasures the lucky medallion he gives her the day they chance to meet. But then a nasty fall changes everything, and Ty is forced to leave her dreams behind.
Now a beautiful woman, determined to live life on her own terms, Ty learns that Steve stands on the brink of ruin. Moved by memories of his kindness to her, she offers him financial backing, but Steve perceives only a selfish socialite amusing herself at his expense. In a daring move, he challenges Ty to be not only a financial partner -- but a full-time farmhand as well, expecting she'll tire of the hardships of a working stable. To Steve's surprise, Ty takes up his challenge.
As they rebuild Southwind, Steve's beloved stable, they find unexpected strength and comfort in each other -- and a passion neither can deny. But their fragile love will be tested by not only those who seek to destroy what they have built, but also the insecurities and doubts that shadow their own very vulnerable hearts.
Read the Reviews
"Because of her father's enormous wealth, 14-year-old Ty Stannard lives a fairly isolated life. Her one friend, Lizzie Ozbourne, shares her love of horses and show jumping. Ty and Lizzie are participating in a junior national show when they meet Ty's idol, Steve Sheppard, a young man rapidly rising in the show horse world. The brief meeting is mostly a disaster as Ty's bodyguard assumes the worst. However, Steve's kindness to a star struck teenager is something Ty never forgets.
More than a decade later, Ty has the chance to repay that act of kindness when a drug scandal and the death of his prize horse place Steve on the verge of ruin. His small horse farm, Southwind, is located on a choice piece of land. Ty knows that her ruthless father will snap up the property as soon as Steve defaults on his loan. Determined to stop her father and rescue Steve's career, Ty offers to become his partner.
Steve has no interest in gaining another partner. It was his first partner's reckless drug use that killed Steve's beloved horse and destroyed their business. However, with the foreclosure deadline days away, Steve has little choice.
Laura Moore's hot streak continues as once more she gives readers a book that is filled with multifaceted emotions, deep passion and romance. She is a star on the rise!"
Jill M. Smith
Romantic Times Magazine
"Horses are in and am I glad because nobody does it better than new author Laura Moore. She used her expertise in the field of horses and show jumping when she came out with her debut novel last year with RIDE A DARK HORSE and I fell in love with her writing. The minute CHANCE MEETING arrived in the mail for me to review I started on it right away. Hey, I'm hooked on Ms. Moore's writing.
CHANCE MEETING is another "blue ribbon" winner as Ms. Moore brings us a very unusual heroine in the wealthy Ty Stannard whose father expects her to be Miss Perfect in everything she does. She is tall and gawky and shy as she is growing up and only has one friend in school. She and Lizzie love horses and show jumping. When she is 14 and Lizzie 16 they meet Ty's idol and dream man, champion rider Steve Sheppard at a show, and Ty is in seventh heaven when Steve gives her a lucky medallion. Steve is tall and golden and a teenager's dream. Riding was the only escape she had from her demanding father, and all of that went to hell in a hand basket when she had a bad fall. At that point Ty's life changed and her father set her on another course grooming her for a place in society and his billionaire business in real estate. I was so mad at her father and ready to strangle him, I'll bet you will too when you read all about him. Grr!
Years later Ty is a beautiful woman and a smart savvy business woman determined to carve a pathway to leading her own life, especially when she hears that Steve is on the brink of financial ruin after a tragic accident involving his favorite horse and his business partner.... Steve is an excellent hero and it was wonderful to see him go through many changes throughout the book. And Ty is just incredible. She's just the type of person you would want on your side whether it was a calamity or a fun loving family get together. Ty cares about people and it shows big time.
I couldn't put the book down. I was so caught up in the horse shows and the fabulous romance between Ty and Steve that time just flew by... I hated for it to end. Darn! Don't miss this top-notch author.
Suzanne "Steve Sheppard was my HERO too!" Coleburn
"Laura Moore is fantastic! Her books are fresh and exciting just like her characters that work their way into your heart in no time. Don't miss this exceptional author, as she is a real find!"
The Belles and Beaux of Romance
Where and when did this man ever sleep?
It was as if she'd stumbled into some Gothic novel, Steve Sheppard doing an excellent imitation of a tortured soul. Perhaps a haunted one, too. The past three nights had convinced her of that, one after the other following the same disturbing routine.
She'd be lying in her bed, tossing and turning, unused to her new surroundings and far too anxious about the tangled mess she'd landed in to do more than drift off for a few minutes at a time. For the remainder of the night, as the moon followed its path across the sky, Ty stared sightlessly at the ceiling, glancing occasionally at the bedside clock, frustrated thoughts of Steve racing through her sleepless mind.
The man was an enigma, one minutes distant and sarcastic, the next piercing her with such heat in his crystal-blue eyes that she was briefly tempted to believe he found her attractive. But before she could decide for sure, he'd have switched back to the coolly remote figure of before.
Was this Jeykll-and-Hyde routine past of a plan to make her feel so totally off-kilter she would give up and sign over her half of the partnership? Answers eluded her, leaving her to toss and turn some more.
But then, at roughly two A.M. each night, she'd hear the light tread of his footsteps pass her door, followed by the creaky grown of the wooden stairs yielding under his weight, and finally the muffled thud of the front door being shut.
All hope of a good night's rest shattered, she'd listen in vain for his return.
In the morning, no matter how early she arose, there he'd be, sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee at his elbow, horse journals, horse show entry forms, and auction notices spread out before him, a pen stuck behind his ear and a yellow legal pad filled with his bold scrawl. Not that he ever showed her what he'd written. As the days passed, it was becoming abundantly clear that other than writing out and signing checks to pay off his debts, she wasn't going to be trusted with a single important detail of his business. Their business, but Mr. Sheppard seemed too determined to ignore that particular clause of the contract.
Well, tonight she'd had enough of the mystery surrounding his nocturnal peregrinations. She'd had enough of a lot of things around here. Ty grabbed a matching sweatshirt and pants and pulled them over the silk teddy she'd worn to bed. After shoving her feet into a pair of sneakers, she was out, standing in front of Steve's bedroom door, and, before giving herself time to reconsider, was rapping hard against the wooden panel. The sound echoed loudly in the quiet house.
No response, so she knocked again, just to be absolutely certain his footsteps in the hallway minutes ago hadn't been a dream. Nothing but deafening silence the second time, too. Cautiously, she turned the doorknob and stepped inside.
It took her breath away. First the initial shock, swiftly followed by the burst of anger. She didn't know how long she stood there, looking around in disbelief at Steve Sheppard's room. "The sneaky rat!" She exhaled, primed for a major reckoning with her partner.
Half expecting to find him in the barn, she went there first. A couple of lights, casting a soft yellow glow, illuminated the perfectly swept aisles, the deep roominess of the box stalls.
Ty moved quietly down the center aisle, aware of the muted, muffled sound of horses breathing. The three sleepy equines that remained at Southwind didn't even bother to raise their heads to see who was trespassing upon their rest. She walked past them, past too many empty box stalls, and out through the slight gap left in the sliding carriage doors at the far end.
The glowing tip of his cigarette served as a miniature flare in a night where everything else was obscure. Recalling a technique described by an author she loved to read on business trips, Ty squeezed her eyes shut for several seconds, impressed by how much more her eyes could make out in the inky darkness when she reopened them.
He was off to the side, sitting by the wooden fence that enclosed one of the nearer pastures. His back was bowed, his head bent.
Her sneakers crushed the roughly mown field, made crisp with cold night air, giving him ample time to hear her approach. It wasn't until she was a few feet away that she understood where they were, why he was sitting there. Her brief flash of temper at his duplicity faded away.
"Mind if I join you?" Her voice sounded hushed, softer than the night sounds that surrounded them or the rumble of the ocean off in the distance.
"Go ahead. It's a free country." His voice was quiet, too, nevertheless, she detected the fatigue and resignation underlying it.
Ty sank down to the ground near him, and there they sat, the long, black, rectangular expanse of freshly dug earth before them. Sudden hot tears pricked at the corners of her eyes as she stared at the uneven clumps of dirt. Her heart ached for him, for the depth of his loss.
She cleared her throat, searching for something to say. "I should tell you, the game is up. I went into your room a few minutes ago."
"So you've discovered my dirty secret." He didn't sound terribly surprised by her admission, or as if he even cared.
"Dirty isn't quite the adjective I'd use," she replied, remembering the understated simplicity of the bedroom's furnishings. The king-size bed, the row of bookshelves lining the opposite wall, the dark brown velvet sofa, brightened invitingly with colorful, plump cushions, the standing lamps placed at each end. The room was a haven, tastefully decorated with a keen, masculine sense of style. And not a single smelly sock in sight.
"Okay, I confess, I like things just as neat and orderly as you. Guilty as charged."
Her long hair brushed her shoulders as she shook her head in self-disgust. "Stupid of me to fall for it. I should have guessed it was a put-on the moment I figured out why you keep shoving all your filters in your front pocket. You can't stand for even a cigarette butt to fall on the ground and mess up Southwind," she accused gently.
"The filters on butts don't decompose."
"No, they don't, but that doesn't seem to bother any other smokers I've run into. Just to satisfy my curiosity, could you tell me how long you planned to let the rest of the house fall into unspeakable rot?" Ty inquired, her voice mild. "How long were you going to keep up the pretense?"
She felt the air stir as his broad shoulders lifted in a careless shrug. "Who knows?" It was a reasonable bet, thinking you'd clear out when you saw the state of the place. Wouldn't you have been tempted to play it the same way?"
"Maybe, but it was still a low-down rotten trick, and now that I do know, I'd appreciate it if you used the dishwasher." She hoped she sounded properly chastising but doubted she was succeeding--on reflection, her profound relief at discovering that she wasn't sharing a house with the world's biggest slob outweighed her annoyance at having been taken for a ride.
The image of his neatly ordered room flashed in her mind once again. "Did you study history in school?" The question was casual, as if she weren't deeply curious to know more about this frustrating and complex man. The titles of the books lining his shelves had been a surprising revelation. But at least now she knew why he'd made that crack about Ty thinking she was Marie Antoinette. She wondered how many people were aware of this side of him.
"You mean college? Didn't have time for it. I've been riding full-time since I finished high school. But there's a lot of free hours to read when you're on the road, stuck in airports, soaking horses' legs, sitting around during rain delays, that sort of thing. You can only shoot the shit with friends for so long, and , anyway, I've always liked books."
"And the photographs? Are they yours, too?"
The tip of his cigarette burned brighter for a second or two.
"Took a real good look, didn't you, Junior?" The tone was slightly mocking. "Check my sock drawer, too?"
When she didn't reply, Steve let out a heavy sigh. "Okay, yeah. My parents bought me a camera when I first went overseas. I got to know Europe pretty well, traveling from country to country, following the show circuit there. Photography's been a great way to record all the places I've been."
"They're very good." An understatement. The quality of the work she'd seen far surpassed the typical holiday snapshot. "Am I right in thinking the large one over your bed was shot near Zurich?" It was a stunning picture, taken at dawn, the morning sun mixing with the mist and mountain peaks.
"That's a couple years old, from when I competed at the Zurich International. Fancy Free won the Grand Prix for me there." Steve paused, staring blindly at the thick clumps of dirt in front of him, while memories of that summer swept over him. Fancy had been in tip-top shape, full of his signature razzle-dazzle. The crowd had gone wild, cheering madly as Steve and Fancy Free turned in perfect round after perfect round. Fancy had loved all the attention, knowing it was his due. God, he missed his horse so damn much.
Ty's voice broke into his thoughts. "I remember the beauty of those mountains, the peaks especially. The notion of time vanishes completely up there, perched on top of the world. There's no past or future, it's just you and clouds and air."
"Sounds as if you know the area well. Winter skiing?" he drawled.
"I was at a school in Switzerland, in Gstaad, for four years."
"Oh. Did you like it?"
"No." Her response was flat, unequivocal.
Steve was beginning to expect the unexpected from her. For the past three days, he'd watched her--surreptitiously, of course. Three days of observation to realize just how different a woman she was. Definitely not the spoiled, flighty type. No, she was a class act, unflappable and efficient. With no fuss or muss, Ty got things done. He'd dumped some shit jobs on her, too, both yesterday and today, waiting to see what she'd do--everything from paying the mountain of overdue bills that covered his office desk, to telephoning the insurance company and badgering them for information on the status of his claim, to cleaning out and organizing the tack room. He'd even given her water buckets to scrub. She'd tackled each without a murmur of complaint.
It annoyed the hell out of him that he was beginning to like her.
That she was way too bloody desirable for his peace of mind wasn't helping a whole lot, either. Especially when he could tell that most of the time, she wasn't even trying to turn him on. Like now. Simply sitting next to him, warm, quiet, talking to him as if she were trying to understand, as if it mattered.
He wanted to touch her. Badly. The thought hadn't ceased drumming inside his brain. He ached to wrap his arm around her shoulders, pull her close, and breathe in the intoxicating scent of lemon on warm skin that was her. As if of its own accord, his hand rose. Then stopped and dropped. Because doing what he wanted, holding her, kissing her, would be too fucking stupid for words, and his stupid quota was already maxed out.
Christ, what was it they'd been talking about?
Oh yeah. School. He wondered why a girl like her hadn't enjoyed being at one of those swank Swiss schools, the kind of school that has no need to advertise, its clientele assured: children of royal families, of oil magnates, of the ultra-rich. Her kind. "So what was wrong with the place?" he asked at last, picking up the thread of conversation.
"I don't think any one particular thing stands out in my memory. It was just the school's overall atmosphere. I didn't like being in a place where the teachers judged the students and the students judges each other solely in terms of their parents' bank accounts."
"Bet that's true in a lot of rich kids' schools."
"Yes, probably." She fell frustratingly silent.
"So, what'd they teach you there?" he found himself asking, just to hear her voice.
Her soft laughter had a musical quality. "Oh, everything. That is, everything they considered essential to producing picture-perfect representatives of the upper class. Lots of economics, languages, history, math. Of course, we girls were given extracurricular classes in ballet, table setting, flower arrangement, and comportment."
"You know, walking, standing, turning, descending stairs, getting in and out of a low-slung sports car dressed in a brand new pair of Manolo Blahnkis. All these skills were considered absolutely essential." Humor still laced her voice.
"What the hell are Manolo Blahniks?"
"An eastern European torture device designed especially for women."
"Shoes," she explained patiently. "Very high heels."
"Jesus." He exhaled. "I thought you were talking about chastity belts." The corner of his mouth tiled, pleased that he'd made her laugh. "How'd you do?"
"At school? Oh, I was raised from birth to be an overachiever. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable to my father. I can run in my Manolos if I have to, though that wasn't actually required. Running was frowned upon."
Silence descended once again as Steve tried to imagine that kind of an upbringing. Then Ty spoke. "I was wondering whether I could ask you something."
"Depends what it is."
"Would you mind telling me what your plans are? As your partner, I think I have a right to know. You can't seriously intend to rebuild your business by having me scrub water buckets and groom your horses. Though I'm sure it probably hasn't occurred to you, it's possible I can help."
The momentary sense of camaraderie between them vanished into the frigid night. Steve's back stiffened. "Don't sweat it, Junior. The only help I need from you is the green kind. Matter of fact, I've been devoting most of my waking hours to mapping out how I'm going to spend all that 'ready cash' you've been stockpiling. That is, when I'm not thinking I should have my head examined," Steve finished softly, bitterly under his breath.
She caught it. She didn't miss much.
"Oh, please." Her own voice was now heavy with sarcasm. "Whatever for?"
"Who wouldn't in my shoes? First of all, I must have been frigging nuts to enter into this partnership with you . . ." Especially because I'm wasting way too much time thinking about how badly I want to jump your bones. When instead I should be figuring out how to get you to sign over your half of the partnership.
"Not everyone would immediately conclude that was a sure-fire sign of insanity," she retorted dryly. "And second?"
"And second, for missing a horse so goddamn much that every night, I'm either sitting in his empty stall or out here by his grave, looking for answers in the dark." The despair was as raw and ugly as the large rectangle of torn earth between them.
A sense of helplessness gripped her as she sat, not knowing what to say, her mind awhirl. There was so much anger and pain inside him. More than anything, Ty wished she could reach out and touch him but didn't dare. She was sure he'd only rebuff her, thereby making the situation between them even more awkward and uncomfortable.
"Everybody deals with grief in their own way," she observed at last, speaking quietly. "I don't think there are any special rules written down outlining appropriate behavior when you've lost something or someone you love."
"And you're clearly an expert." he fired back, eager to lash out, letting the words hang there, a razor sharp barrier between them.
Ty thought of the mother she'd never had, the woman who'd died giving birth to her. She thought of her horse, Charisma, vetted, sold, and delivered to new owners without her even able to say good-bye. Thought of the hurt of being packed away from home, from everything familiar. "No, I'm not an expert," she agreed, suppressing the slight tremor that threatened her voice. She wasn't entirely successful but prayed he wouldn't notice. Ty refused to lose her composure in front of someone who thought so little of her, who wanted nothing to do with her. Then, in a tone layered with the impeccable politeness drilled thoroughly into the students at Ty's Swiss alma mater, she spoke. "Excuse me, won't you? I find I'm suddenly tired." She rose swiftly, gracefully to her feet, her retreating figure quickly enveloped in the cold, black night.