JANUARY FROST - a contemporary romance due out this Fall from Keith Publishing...
Evelyn Graham-Frost had it all, an award winning career riding her champion stallion, Snowman all over the world; wealthy business partners who adored her and her daughter Davinia, and freedom from the painful memories of her past. For ten years everything has been a storybook existence. But every high has its opposite.
Riding for the Global Cup championship in the middle of a downpour, Evelyn suffers a career-ending fall. Awakening from a three week coma, she discovers more than her body has changed. Her partners, Sebastian Faeroe and Kurt Bittner, called in Davinia’s grandmother, Lady Rachel Tattinger, and filled in the woman on Davinia’s parentage.
Despite wanted to remain separate from Grey Cliffs, the farm where she and Snowman were raised Evelyn realizes her days of financial independence are over. Without a rider, ‘Manny’ can no longer compete, meaning no more money for his broken owner. Lady Rachel makes an offer Evelyn cannot afford to turn down: return home and become the trainer and manager of Grey Cliffs. It means a home for Evelyn and Davinia; a place for Manny to stand as stud, and the chance to introduce her daughter to the father she has never met, the new lord of the manor, David Edvard Tattinger, III. The first and only love of Evelyn's life.
Evie accepts the position, knowing her daughter’s needs are more important than her pride. But is her heart ready to see Trey again? Evelyn needs time to deal with the flood of emotions that have accompanied her return to Grey Cliffs. The unsolved car wreck that killed her parents, the argument between her and Sir David which drove her away from everything she loved – these are but two of the issues begging for her attention.
Training horses and riders for Grey Cliffs is Evelyn primary responsibility. With seven advanced students to assist her, Evelyn sets her sights on returning the barn to its days of former glory. However, with the brace on her right leg, her own mobility is severely limited. Despite what she knows will be disapproval, Evie begins riding just as soon as the doctor approves.
Preparing for the largest race of the year, the Greenway Cup, Evelyn and Trey find their old passions awakening and soon she relents, allowing Trey to know she still loves him. But memories of Sir David’s assault spook her, awakening questions the entire community never asked. This time however, Trey stays by her side, comforting and supporting her.
As the year rolls over to January, and a massive snowstorm prepares to assault the Greenway, Trey and Evelyn find themselves again fighting an unknown enemy; one who is prepared to go to any lengths to keep the truth of Daniel and Alise Graham-Frost’s deaths hidden and to keep Trey and Evelyn apart. Even if it means killing again!
JUNE, TWO YEARS AGO
My only clear memory of the accident itself is overwhelming pain. I remember every detail of my preparations for that ride. It was a brilliant mid-summer day. The sky was clear, deep blue with high, light clouds, but rain was forecast for later in the day. The temperature was cool in the morning, but heated up as the sun climbed higher into the sky. I remember arriving at the complex that morning, spending extra time getting my massive stallion Grey Cliffs’ Snowman, or ‘Manny’ ready for his divisions, and thinking about the promises I made to my daughter Davy, and my business partner Sebastian to make this show season our last. Manny had been ready as a farm stud for a while and it was his commercial viability that set the tone for the rest of our barn family. As long as I needed to jump and run away, Snowman would take me.
When the storm front arrived, the rain was intense, clouds carrying lightning, accompanied by hail and buckets of water. By the time Manny and I were on the course, the ground was a combination of ankle deep mud and shallow rivers. Once we were committed, I spent a great deal of time encouraging Manny as we worked our way through the sludge with the constant rain fogging my goggles and making it harder to see. We were approaching the fifteenth jump, an in-and-out ditch, then out again and through a corridor lined with hedge and finally over a flat top wooden bench with flowers and distractions galore. Underneath my legs, the energy gathered in Manny’s legs as he prepared himself for the down and away slope of the jump. But right when the massive grey stallion was ready to leap over the split rail four-foot-high jump, the ground under his hooves gave way, throwing him off balance.
I lost my seat. My forward momentum did not change or slow down when he did. I was launched out of the saddle and over Manny’s head. I had fallen before, many times. But this went wrong. When Manny clipped his front legs against the rail, he threw up his head. It connected with my left arm and I could hear the bone snap. The sudden noise, so close to his ears, startled the big grey stallion, who then flinched. I hit the ground with my right leg underneath me. Before I reacted, the off-balanced horse landed on my legs, causing the stress fractures and small breaks from the initial fall to worsen. Finally my head snapped back, smacking the ground with enough force to crack my helmet into several pieces. After that moment, I can’t remember much of the coming weeks.
People ran around screaming for an emergency stretcher, while I did the only thing my body would allow given the circumstances: I passed out. Apparently my fall created a lot of activity with horse and human ambulances having to slog through waist-deep mud to our position. Manny was physically fine, just a few small cuts, but emotionally he was a wreck. Those hurts would take a long time to heal; in the grey baby’s eyes the fall was his fault. I wasn’t as lucky. A traumatic brain injury would make it three weeks before I woke up, and when I did it was to discover a lot of things changed while I was away.
My next conscious memory was wondering if I wanted to wake up or go back to sleep. Deciding I probably needed to wake up and check on Manny, I began the arduous task of opening my eyes and using my voice to speak. Slow and cautious, I pried my lids open. I was in an intensive care unit, tubes and wires connecting me to a bizarre combination of quietly beeping machines. Under my nose, tubes carrying oxygen breezed around my nostrils. My left wrist was in a small cast as well as my right leg all the way up to my mid-thigh. I felt like an abused rag doll, and my head pounded with every beat of my heart.
Noise in the corner drew my attention as someone shifted in the hospital chair. Someone else was in the room. My head was well bandaged and my senses were overly drugged. The lights in the room were low, curtains pulled and the blinds closed, but I discerned the shape of a person sitting in a chair close besides the railing. Before I could adjust to the shock of waking up, the door opened and a nurse entered.
Right behind her was my friend and partner, Sebastian Faeroe. Bas was oblivious to my opening eyes. He concentrated on trying to convince the young nurse to have dinner with him. I had to chuckle below my breath. Bas was constantly picking up women. It’s easy when you have billions in the bank. But he always came home alone to me, Davy, and our third business partner Karl. The women were all part of his public facade.
“Just dinner,” he was saying. “I know the best little café, right down the street. We could chat, get to know each other and then you can be back at work in no time. Come on, you have to eat, so why not with me.”
The nurse shook her head but the response was not very convincing to her or to me. “The hospital has a policy against dating patients or their families or spouses.”
“Well, that makes it perfect!” The smile on Bas’ face went from ear to ear. “I’m not family or spouse.”
“Aren’t you the father of her daughter?” I heard the waiver in her tone. It was just a matter of time before she fell for Bas and/or his money. Of course, he was very good looking in addition to filthy rich.
I watched the nurse as she took the vital signs and made notations. Every so often she glanced over the clipboard at Bas. Wavy dark blond hair with deep green eyes, Bas worked out every day in addition to eating only organic foods. His accent hinted of the finest boarding schools in Switzerland and his clothes were hand tailored by the same store that had outfitted Faeroe men for three generations. Old money and a casual elegance all rolled into one glamorous package, it was no wonder so many women fell for his charm. I certainly had.
Bas chuckled. “I plead the no comment to that accusation. Evie and I are friends, and business partners. I refuse to assist speculation as to the details of our relationship.”
“Well,” the nurse mused. “I suppose one dinner wouldn’t be against regulations.”
“Excellent!” Bas always got his way.
The other visitor in my room laughed, with that polished silver voice I recognized so well. “Bas, do you ever stop playing the horn dog?” Lady Rachel Tattinger asked.
“Why would I want to stop?”
Through half-open eyes I studied my boss. Sebastian Faeroe was a multi-billionaire from the south of Spain. He preferred to keep most details of his private life as hidden as possible. I worked for him, riding and training his horses for almost ten years, and along with our other business partner Karl Bittner no one knew more about Bas than I did. All three of us had learned to keep each other’s secrets well.
I decided this was as good a time as any to let everyone know I was conscious. My voice rasped and was broken from tubes inserted in my throat during those lost days. I barely managed a rather ungraceful croak, similar to a large bullfrog. It was enough to capture their attention.