Authors: Ginny Baird
It is with pleasure and passion that I introduce my “Girls on the Go” series with this launch book,
Santa Fe Fortune.
When I was a young college woman, I studied abroad in beautiful Seville, Spain. I was at an impressionable age to experience new things, including my first deeply felt love. And, while I developed a significant and memorable romance, the most profound discovery I made that year was the unveiling of myself. For it is often in distancing ourselves from what is most familiar that we truly come to understand ourselves.
With these thoughts in mind, I conceived this new book series, designed to showcase powerful yet evolving heroines enduring journeys of the heart while traveling far from home. So please, pack up your suitcase and join us for the adventure. I discovered Santa Fe, New Mexico last summer, and promptly fell in love. Both with the charming city, and—once again—with my wonderful husband John.
Such a lovely spot for romance,
I found myself thinking. And then, being a writer… Well, the ideas for this story started flowing.
I like Gwen a lot. She’s a genuine gal, who’s been through rough times and deserves real happiness. She might not be perfect, but she just might be perfect for precisely the right man. In any case, Gwen’s sure to appreciate what the future heroines in this series will also learn: it’s who you are on the inside that matters. Once you believe in your strengths, others will see them too.
With best wishes for happy endings,
Ginny Baird, author of “Girls on the Go”
Sometimes you have to get away to find yourself!
SANTA FE FORTUNE
Winter Wedding Press
All Rights Reserved
is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient, unless this book is a participant in a qualified lending program. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to export portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected].
Characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
Edited by Linda
Cover by Darleen Dixon
SANTA FE FORTUNE
“I had a really great time tonight,” she said, beaming up at him and feeling very much as if it had been a date.
“Me too,” he said, stepping a fraction of an inch closer. Sea-blue eyes washed over her, threatening to pull her under. And boy, did she want to get swept away. “I’m glad you agreed to see me tomorrow, even if it’s just an arrangement.”
Gwen sensed Dan could rearrange her heart every which way, if she wasn’t careful. “I’m glad I’m seeing you too,” she said, feeling the warmth in her cheeks.
“Ten o’clock work for you?” he asked, his tone growing gravelly.
“Uh-huh,” she uttered, mesmerized by his gaze.
He moved nearer now, his mouth just inches away. “I’ll be damned if I don’t want to kiss you,” he said, his voice a husky rasp.
And she’d be damned if she didn’t want him to. “Dan…” she said, tilting up her chin and closing her eyes.
“But I won’t,” he said, snapping her back to attention, eyes open. “Not now. Not here. Not like this…”
She started to speak as he brought his fingers to her lips. “If ever I’ve seen a woman who deserves to be kissed well, it’s you. But the timing has got to be right. You have to be sure.” He cast a cursory glance at her wedding band and backed away. “I need to be sure. Something tells me we’ve both gone down a path neither of us wants to travel again…”
Gwendolyn Marsh leaned across the large oak table that served as a desk. “I’m going to be honest with you, Mr. Holbrook. I didn’t fly all the way out here to get swindled.”
Dan stared in disbelief at the incredibly contentious woman.
was an awfully big accusation coming from such a small frame. She couldn’t stand more than five foot five in heels, and she’d nearly tumbled off them striding into the place.
“Like I told you, Mrs. Marsh, I’m not in the position to make that decision. If two thousand a canvas is what Ms. Holstein quoted you in the email, then I’m afraid I’ll need to stick by that.”
Soft gold curls fell at uneven angles, framing a lovely face as deep brown eyes homed in on him. If she weren’t so hard-edged, he might consider her beautiful. Dan stopped himself, realizing appraisals of the clientele weren’t in his job description.
if you must know.”
Some lucky fellow was off the hook.
“My apologies. I saw the wedding band and…”
“It’s a relic, okay? I haven’t gotten used to going without it.”
“I’m sorry, I had no idea. I understand it takes a while.”
She leveled him a look, as if he were the culprit. Hey, maybe in her eyes, all men were. Dan had met the type before and could easily read the signs:
steer clear, not for you buddy, a sexy woman’s not everything…
Sexy? Did he just think
Gwendolyn Marsh wasn’t movie-star thin like most females here. Her formfitting sundress hugged every curve in just the right way. Wrong way, as far as he was concerned. This was just another sign he’d been alone too long. It wasn’t like Dan didn’t have his reasons. In fact, when he was being honest, Dan realized he was likely worse news for her than she was for him. All women after a while had hopes, dreams…and Dan Holbrook was just the man to dash them.
Dark eyes sparked with fierce determination. “I think I’d like to speak to Ms. Holstein myself.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”
She arched one perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Why not?”
This was just what Dan needed, a hot-tempered, hot-bodied woman waltzing into his Santa Fe gallery on a hot July afternoon. Okay, it wasn’t technically his gallery…
Dan cursed himself for his soft spot in agreeing to run the place while Nancy was away. He didn’t even like being indoors.
“Ms. Holstein is in the south of France, will be until next month.”
She pulled her naturally plump lips into a thin pink line. “I see.” She faltered slightly, nearly losing her composure. There was sheen to her eyes that made them look moist. Dan hoped she wasn’t about to break down crying. Nancy had assured him this would be easy, just a few clients flying in from out of state. Surprise negotiations and weepy women weren’t in the mix. Negotiations Dan could handle. Weepy women were another story.
A bell tinkled above the door, and a couple of well-dressed patrons entered, a man in an expensive suit and a woman wearing a tailored dress and high-end cowgirl boots.
“Be right with you folks,” Dan told them, surmising these were the buyers from Los Angeles.
Gwen stood, apparently taking this as a dismissal. “Well, I guess that’s it, then.” She tucked her clutch under one arm and thrust forward the opposite hand. “Thanks for your time.”
Dan sent a furtive glance at the Californians perusing shelves of New Mexican pottery and pretending not to listen. “Ms. Marsh, I’m afraid we got off on the wrong…” She tapped a strappy sandal, sporting bright painted nails and multiple toe rings. Heat rose at Dan’s nape as his gaze eased up shapely legs. “…foot.”
She withdrew her hand and cocked her head sideways, waiting.
“What I mean is, please sit back down, and let’s discuss this like reasonable people. I’m sure we can work something out.” Dan cringed at the sound of his own voice. Groveling? Here was a word not even in his vocabulary, yet he was being just about as placating as humanly possible. Dan wasn’t doing it for himself, he remembered. He was doing this for Nancy. Other than the day-to-day oversight of things, which really was no problem, she’d given him only two jobs to do. Surely a man as capable at cutting deals as he was wouldn’t have trouble selling a few items to some Los Angeles industry execs and buying canvases from an easy-going North Carolina native. Dan had a notion Nancy had never met Gwendolyn Marsh face-to-face when she’d made the latter assessment.
The hardness lining her eyes eased just a little. “I suppose I could stay for a bit,” she said, her voice taking on the lilt of the mid-Atlantic South. She took her seat, splaying the lap of her flowered sundress across tightly nestled knees.
The Californians tastefully removed themselves to the back of the gallery to study a photographic desert landscape series, and Dan sat as well. He plucked a hanky from his suit pocket and dabbed the back of his neck, thinking it had to be over a hundred degrees in here.
Something tender welled in Dan’s throat, and he realized he wasn’t just doing this for Nancy. For some inexplicable reason, he felt driven to be nice to Ms. Marsh for her own sake. Never mind that she’d practically bulldozed right over him crashing in here. After all, he’d dealt with worse in business before. The truth was Nancy had given him some leeway. If Marsh really pushed, Dan could go up as high as three thousand a pop, mostly because Nancy had faith in Marsh’s work and thought it was good. Nancy also believed that Marsh could develop a Santa Fe following. Many of the buyers here came from the West Coast, and Marsh’s oils capturing snippets of sea life would be a ready sell. Dan had seen the slides, and they were impressive. Borrowing more from impressionism than realism, Marsh had a way of zeroing in on the smallest, seemingly inconsequential detail, like an isolated seashell, and illuminating it in a special and grandiose way.
She opened her purse and withdrew a thin ledger. “If you’d let me show you my figures, I’m sure you’ll understand why my prices have gone up.”
Dan scanned the haphazardly arranged numbers, deciding she was no mathematician. He pointed to one clumsily assumed total. “I can understand where material costs have climbed, but how exactly is it that your hourly rate has doubled?”
“Hard times, Mr. Holbrook,” she said without flinching. “Don’t you read the papers?”
Wall Street Journal
and you?” he bantered without skipping a beat.
“Well, I…read, of course.” With that, she awkwardly angled an elbow and sent her clutch crashing to the floor. “Oh no!”
A small cloud of makeup powder-puffed up from beneath them as a rolling lipstick assaulted Dan’s loafer. To this day, he’d never understood the mysteries of a woman’s bag.
“Here, let me,” he began.
“No! I’ve got it!”
They bent simultaneously toward the mound of sprawled purse contents, nearly knocking heads. “I’m sorry!” he said, down on hands and knees to help her.
A scent overtook him as cunning and fine as the most succulent desert flower. Dan looked up into bewitching brown eyes less than six inches away. Whatever was happening here, he had to put a halt to it. This was no sensible way for a man pushing forty to behave. He was reeling like a raving teenager. He hadn’t been in a position this compromising with a woman in a while, and it showed. All sorts of crazy thoughts went racing through his head, like how it might feel to kiss her good and hard as she probably deserved.