Friday, November 16, 2012

Finally Friday !!

Yay, another crisp and cold Fridy in the North !!!  Today we have another great backlist book from Turquoise Morning Press.

Bluegrass Bountiful
Lozi Hart
Release: June 15, 2011
Category: Romance, Contemporary
Heat Level: Sensual
Length: 198 pages
Price: $2.99 digital, $11.99 print

Available at the following retailers:
  All Romance eBooks . Bookstrand .
Barnes and Noble Nookbook . Amazon Kindle

Graham McCullough never forgot his first Kentucky Derby or the dark-haired beauty who stole his heart that weekend twenty-five years ago. He’d gone home to Scotland after the Derby intending to return to Louisville to ask the woman to be his wife. But a family crises sent him to the wilds of the Amazon Rain Forest for the next six months and when he finally did make it back, she had vanished without a trace.

Mary Claire Beaumont lived each day with a reminder of the weekend she’d spent with Graham McCullough, oh so long ago, before he’d disappeared from the face of the earth. She’d gone home to her mother and father prepared to face life as a single parent with an illegitimate child—until her mother forced her marriage to old boyfriend, John Beaumont. Now twenty-five years later, her daughter grown, a widowed Mary Claire is ready to live her own life, until fate throws Graham McCullough straight into her path again.


Louisville, Kentucky
The First Saturday in May 1979

Mary Claire Rutherford stomped her bare foot on the folded beach towel covering the hot surface, then held her breath as her wobbly perch threatened to collapse. “I still can’t see it!”

The last strains of My Old Kentucky Home faded from the speakers. Mary Claire looked around for anything else she could use to add height to the viewing stand she’d constructed, an old metal cooler stacked on top of multiple six-packs. She needed to hurry. The post parade was nearly over.
“Don’t tell me you’re actually here to see the race?”

Mary Claire turned to see who had spoken. Ah, the tall one with the muscles and no shirt. The one with the Scottish name that she knew she’d heard before. He’d caught her attention earlier when he’d shucked his clothes to reveal those ugly baggy swimming trunks just before diving headlong onto the Slip-n-Slide a group of frat boys had set up.

“Yeah.” She jumped off the cooler. “I watch it every year, but this is my first time in the infield. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to see from here.”

“Tell you what.” He stooped down and held up his hand. “Climb on my shoulders. That should give you a proper view.”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“Really, come on. They’re almost to the gate.”

She glanced toward the track and then down at him. She did want to see this race. “Oh, what the hell.” She hitched her short-shorts up to the crease at the top of her legs, grasped his hand, and climbed on.
He raised straight up as if she weighed nothing at all. “How’s that? Can you see now?”

“Yes.” She wiggled, settling herself into the curve of his neck and shoulders.

Mary Claire put a hand above her eyes to shade them from the sun. The starter’s bell sounded and the gate burst open spewing a frenzy of horse flesh onto the track.

Bluegrass Bountiful broke from the number nine position and stayed just behind the leaders until they reached the quarter pole. Mary Claire held her breath, her heart pounding as she watched the horse make his move.

“Come on Bountiful. You can do it.” She yelled as the Rutherford Red Silks zoomed into the lead.

“Yes, yes, yes!” Mary Claire bounced up and down on her shoulder seat. She waved her arms in the air still cheering as the chestnut stallion crossed the finish line three lengths ahead of his nearest competitor.

Mary Claire laughed, elated with the success. Bountiful had gone off at fourteen to one. That meant as soon as she cashed in her ticket, she’d be twenty-eight hundred dollars richer, enough to give her at least another eight months of living expenses. Besides, even if she wasn’t speaking to her parents, she still wanted their Derby entry to win.

She had a special connection to this horse. She’d been in the barn the night Bountiful Bonny had foaled the much anticipated colt by Bluegrass King. Mary Claire had helped exercise and groom him and even slept in his stall on occasion. Her only regret was that she wouldn’t be in the winner’s circle today to congratulate Bluegrass Bountiful and slip him a sugar cube.

Graham McCullough stooped down again; this time to let the jubilant woman off his shoulders. She was flushed and smiling when she faced him.

He reached out and touched her arm. “It’s been a real pleasure to have you riding me screaming yes. How about we position you a bit lower and try it again?” He knew he shouldn’t have said it as soon as it came out of his mouth, but too much alcohol and too little food had stifled his better judgment.
He felt the sting of her hand across his face before he ever saw it coming. “Ouch!” He massaged his cheek as he watched her grab up a pair of leather sandals, stuff them into a floral print tote bag, and stalk off toward the entrance to the tunnel that went under the track, out of the infield, and toward the grandstand that stood beneath the twin spires of Churchill Downs.
Thunder rumbled in the distance. The storm was moving closer and Graham was still wandering around the streets of Louisville in a neighborhood that, like him, had seen better days.
He’d been wearing only his bathing trunks when he woke up an hour or so ago. The incredibly small tee shirt he’d managed to stretch over his upper half and the flip-flops that slapped against his heels as he walked he’d found in the discarded debris of the hordes who invaded Louisville on Derby day. He didn’t have a clue what had happened to his own clothes or his wallet and cash.

After Miss Legs had tagged his jaw and stomped off, he’d stopped drinking beer and gone for the mint juleps—the signature drink of the day—only without the mint or the julep part. He’d been gulping straight bourbon during the final two races.

He vaguely remembered his friend, Robbie, saying the rest of them were going on to the hotel and Graham could catch up with them later. Only thing was, Graham wasn’t driving. He was only along for the ride this trip, so he hadn’t bothered to ask the name of the hotel.

He’d watched Miss Legs all afternoon in that scoop neck, sleeveless tee and those damned short-shorts up to her…. Graham shook his head to get the image out of his mind.

Her skin had been silky smooth, and oh, the way she’d smelled. The perfume she wore was the real thing—subtle and expensive.

It began to sprinkle. He looked up trying to determine if a downpour was imminent as he passed by the window of a small storefront diner. A glimpse of something inside caught his eye. He stopped. A floral print tote bag sat in a chair at the table by the window.

He recognized it because he’d given one like it as a birthday gift to his sister, Polly. He’d bought it in Paris at the Laura Ashley Shop. He smiled as he silently repeated, Paris, France not Paris, Kentucky, the way he and Polly had always done for their Kentucky born mother. It had become a McCullough family joke. He reached for the door handle and hesitated only a moment before he pulled it open and entered the building.

The walls of the little diner were lined with continuous rows of framed black and white photographic prints. Including ones taken at the very counter where a shabbily dressed old man and Miss Legs now sat.

She was deep in conversation with a man behind the counter who swiped at the surface of the bar with a wet rag. He wore an apron that may have been white a few years ago.

All three turned to look at Graham.

The man in the apron stopped in mid-swipe, raised the hand that held the rag, and pointed toward the door. “Keep on going, my friend. We’re all out of leftovers. I’m ready to lock up.”

Miss Legs did a double take and laughed. “You look a little worse for wear this evening.”

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” He pointed to the table by the window. “Over here.”

She hesitated then slid off the stool. “Sure, why not?” She walked to the table where the tote bag sat.
He pulled the chair out and waited for her to sit down.

“Oh, so we’re a gentleman now?” She remained standing.

He dipped his head and felt his cheeks warm with embarrassment. “I…I’m really sorry about that comment. It’s no excuse I know, but I plead intoxication. I do apologize.”

She pursed her lips and then nodded. “Accepted.” She sat down.

He stayed behind her and helped scoot the chair in before he sat down across from her.

He cleared his throat. “I…I hate to ask, but I need a favor.”
She raised her eyebrows. “And what would that be?”

“Can I borrow some money? I seem to have lost my funds along with my clothes. I only need enough for a hotel room tonight and to buy something to wear tomorrow.”

She gave a snort of laughter. “Did you hit your head today? You surely must realize there’s not an empty hotel room within a hundred miles of here. Besides, I don’t have any to lend you.” She started to get up, scrutinized his face, hesitated, then settled back into the chair.

Graham dropped his head. He was screwed. He knew he’d never get in touch with his dad. He was three weeks into a trip in the wilds of the Amazon Rain Forest. Graham looked at the clock. And, it was already well into Sunday in Great Britain. He’d play hell trying to find someone to wire him money.

“Well, then, do you know of anyplace close I could hang out for the next couple of days, out of the rain?” His stomach rumbled. “And maybe get a bit to eat?”

She rose all the way up this time and walked to the counter. “Burl, where’s that camera you keep handy?”

“In the drawer, where it always is.” The man in the apron answered.

“May I borrow it for a minute?”

Burl wiped his hands on the bib of his apron, took the 35 mm from its resting place and handed it to her.

She crossed the room again. She circled Graham, snapping pictures as she went then took the camera back to Burl. “Thank you.” She handed him the camera.

Miss Legs smiled as she turned and walked back to the table. Her eyes locked with Graham’s as she said in a loud clear voice. “Burl, if anything happens to me in the next couple of days, make sure you take those pictures to the police.”

She picked up her bag. “Come on. You can sleep on my sofa tonight. I may even let you have a peanut butter sandwich if you behave yourself.”
About the Author:
 Lozi Hart grew up along the Ohio River in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky. She has studied music, art, architecture, interior design and anthropology. She adores old houses and loves writing about the people who inhabit them, whether their residence is in body or in spirit. Her first novel, Bluegrass Bountiful, will be published by Turquoise Morning Press in April of 2011. Lozi’s website is Stories by Lozi Hart “The Unhaunted House” in Something Spooky This Way Comes.

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