Who's Cheatin' Who?. Maggie Price
Thoroughbred horses are a specific breed, and throughout their history they’ve existed for one reason only: to win races. And even though their most desirable qualities are those of any premier athlete—speed, agility and a perfectly proportioned body that can run like the wind without shattering—there are no guarantees. Thoroughbred horse racing is a sport in which all is serendipity and chance. Anything can happen, and what does is impossible to predict.
Much like love.
Champion jockey Melanie Preston hates secrets, so the last man she’d trust is Marcus Vasquez, the world-renowned Thoroughbred trainer who refuses to reveal anything about his personal life. But when the brewing scandal surrounding her family’s livelihood forces Melanie to go to work for Marcus, she learns that love, like racing, is all about taking a gamble.
Who’s Cheatin’ Who?
MILLS & BOON
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Before embarking on a writing career, Maggie Price took a walk on the wild side and started associating with people who carry guns. Fortunately they were cops, and Maggie’s career as a crime analyst with the Oklahoma City Police Department has given her the background needed to write true-to-life police procedural romances that have won numerous accolades, including a nomination for a coveted RITA® Award.
Maggie is a recipient of a Golden Heart Award, a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews, a National Readers’ Choice Award and a Booksellers’ Best Award, all for series romantic suspense. Readers are invited to contact Maggie at 416 N.W. 8th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73102-2604, or on the Web at www.MaggiePrice.com.
Special thanks to:
My husband, Bill Price,
who brought home a kazillion dinners so I didn’t have
to cook while writing this book. (Then whisked me
off to the Orient for a much-needed respite!)
Linda Eubanks, for invaluable
and generous information. All liberties taken
in the name of fiction are my own.
Her shimmery gold gown glittering beneath the conservatory’s bright lights, bridesmaid Melanie Preston excused her way through a crush of wedding guests. When she reached the towering French doors that led to the back veranda of the house, she flung one open and rushed out into the cool December night.
“Dammit,” she muttered when she saw the man she’d followed there had already reached the far end of the long veranda, her grandfather’s Irish wolfhound trotting along beside him.
With moonlight pouring down from the cloudless sky, she watched him descend the flagstone steps two at a time. Veering off, he strode toward the cobblestone walkway leading to the building that housed his office.
His former office, she amended. As of five o’clock that afternoon, Marcus Vasquez was no longer head trainer at her family’s Quest Stables, Kentucky’s largest Thoroughbred racing facility.
With the world that had once seemed so perfect now in danger of collapsing like the legs of a newborn foal, Melanie couldn’t blame him for terminating his employment after only a few months.
Because her gold Jimmy Choo ice-pick heels quashed all hope of catching up with Marcus on the cobblestone walkway, she paused in the center of the veranda. Rubbing her bare arms to ward off the December chill, she studied his retreating form.
He was tall, an inch or two over six feet with that fluid grace certain men were born with. He had coal-black hair, olive skin and deep-set dark eyes guarded by heavy brows. She was used to seeing him in work clothes, not a tuxedo, so when he’d shown up for her cousin’s wedding, heat had spread through her in breath-stealing waves. It wasn’t every man whose tux fit as though it had been tailored to a god’s torso.
The man who hailed from a small town on Spain’s Costa del Sol was handsome, distant and maddeningly aloof about all things personal.
Which he had every right to be. But Melanie had learned a devastating lesson about trusting any man so elusively reticent about himself and his past. So when Marcus hired on at Quest Stables and she felt the same damnable dark awareness stirring deep inside her that had once toppled her into emotional quicksand, it had scared her to death.
Five months later, that awareness still vibrated in her nerves whenever she got near him.
Hell, whenever she thought about him. Which was often. So she’d gone to great lengths to avoid him whenever possible.
Problem was, she was Quest’s principal jockey and detouring around the head trainer hadn’t exactly made for ideal working conditions. Instinct told her Marcus had let her get away with that solely because of the racing ban the Jockey Association had leveled against her parents’ stables and every horse majority owned by the Prestons.
A shiver ran down her spine that had nothing to do with the crisp night air and everything to do with impending doom. Earlier that year, she’d ridden Leopold’s Legacy to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. But hopes for a Triple Crown sweep had been dashed when a computer snafu at the Jockey Association required a resubmittal of the Thoroughbred’s DNA. The resulting discovery that Leopold’s Legacy had not been sired by the stallion of record, Apollo’s Ice, sent shock waves through the racing world.
After that, things had gone from bad to worse. A cloud of suspicion now hung over the entire Preston family. Owners who’d boarded their horses at Quest for years had pulled them out and lodged them at other stables. And what had first been thought to be a data processing glitch took on a sinister edge when a horse also wrongly believed to have been sired by Apollo’s Ice was poisoned to death in Dubai and a computer tech who had worked