In bestselling author Francis Ray’s latest Grayson Friends novel, two lost souls come together to discover what matters most of all. Find out what happens when a self-made man meets a self-possessed woman...
LOVE COMES WITH NO GUARANTEE…
Lance Saxton is a self-made man who enjoys every moment of his success.
Running an auction house allows him to manage his own time and travel
the world on a moment’s notice—so why rush to settle down? The question
answers itself…until he crosses paths with a beautiful, spirited travel
writer who makes him second-guess his sense of independence—and leaves
him wanting more.
BUT IT’S ALWAYS WORTH THE RISK…
What’s love got to do with it? Fallon Marshall is at the peak of her
career as a journalist. Any story she wants she can get. So when she
hears about an auction being held at a fabled old estate in Santa Fe,
New Mexico, off she goes…only to meet a man who makes her question her
priorities. Maybe it’s time for Fallon to stop running away in search of
adventure…and just fall into Lance’s arms?
READ AN EXCERPT
Fallon Nicole Marshall had always considered herself cool under
pressure. After all, she was a well-respected travel writer for some of
the top magazines in the country. She routinely dealt with tight
deadlines, demanding editors, computer glitches and uncooperative
people. She’d baked in 107 degrees, frozen in six below to get a story
and just the right photographs. She had the patience of Job and the
tenacity of a terrier. Nothing – if you didn’t consider her need for
two cups of coffee each morning – got the best of her anymore. She’d
been there, done that.
Or so she’d mistakenly thought.
Slowing down on the highway, Fallon put on her signal and turned her
rental onto the paved road three miles out of Santa Fe. Her slim
fingers flexed on the steering wheel of the late model Taurus. She was
only marginally pleased that they weren’t damp with perspiration. She
might be a bit nervous about obtaining information for her next story,
but at least she wasn’t showing her frayed nerves on meeting Lance
It was perfectly understandable that she felt apprehensive – after all,
she had been, well, rather abrupt to Lance Saxton two weeks ago when
they’d first met. She’d practically accused him of being a thief and
walked away from him in self-righteous indignation. Although he had to
share some of the blame for that crack about “not handling their
financial responsibilities correctly,” she had to take her share as
She freely admitted that since her mother was swindled by the
unscrupulous owner of an auction house, and Lance owned an auction
house, she had judged quickly and harshly.
And she’d been wrong.
She hadn’t discovered her mistake until recently. Naomi Reese, her
friend and neighbor, had insisted Fallon read an article about Lance in
Fortune magazine. Fallon had turned up her nose and ignored the sudden
thump of her heart on seeing a picture of Lance in an expensive navy
pin-striped suit standing in front of Saxton Auction House but she’d
read the article.
In less than a minute she’d known she’d been wrong. She’d handed the
magazine back to Naomi, thanked her and gone home, telling herself if
the opportunity ever presented itself, she’d apologize, and fully aware
that she wasn’t going to initiate the contact. That changed a few days
Now she needed Lance Saxton to gain access to the Yates’ home for the
article she planned to write. He might toss her out; then again, he
might not. There was only one way to find out.
Moments later the red barrel roof of a house came into view, then as she
rounded a curve she saw the sprawling Yates house. She slowed and came
to a complete stop. It was simply beautiful with the afternoon sun
shining on the roof and the adobe exterior. She could easily imagine
coming home from work or a trip and catching the first glimpse of the
house. She didn’t even live there and yet she felt a sort of calming
peace. One day she’d have a house, family, but for now she enjoyed her
job. She loved to travel and was paid well to visit and write about
some of the most exciting places in the world.
The last thought had her squaring her shoulders. She was good at what
she did. Nothing had ever stopped her in the past, and she wouldn’t
allow Lance Saxton to be the first.
Putting the car into motion she continued down the mile-long road and
parked on the circular driveway in front of the massive red double
doors, reasoning if Lance threw her out, she wouldn’t have far to go to
her car. Getting out, she again studied the sprawling two-story house.
The home was originally built in the 1920s by oil mogul Thaddeus Yates.
He liked the Southwest and chose Santa Fe as his base when he wanted to
relax and get away from Lubbock, Texas. After his death, his only
child and daughter, Colleen, expanded the six thousand square foot home
another five thousand square feet to include a loggia and pool house.
Her son did more renovation on the house plus extensive landscaping,
turning the usually parched grounds of the area into a verdant paradise
with lush green grass and a rainbow hue of flowers.
Fallon hadn’t seen grass so lush since she’d left her hometown of Austin
four months ago. She was tempted to slip off her sandals and let the
grass tickle her toes. She refrained. All she needed was for Lance to
see her and think she was a nut case. Still, with less than twelve
inches of rain yearly in Santa Fe, it would cost a small fortune to
maintain the grounds.
Through research she’d learned that the single male heir and last owner
had died six months ago from injuries sustained in a skiing accident.
Banks sometimes paid for minor upkeep, but nothing more.
Fallon realized she was stalling, and with good reason. She wasn’t
looking forward to ringing the doorbell and meeting Lance Saxton again.
She didn’t mind admitting she was wrong so much as she didn’t like the
idea of making that admission to a man she had a mild attraction to.
She’d like to think he’d caught her at a weak moment, but that would be a
lie. She traveled so much she didn’t have time for a relationship, and
she valued herself too much to have meaningless affairs.
Yet, her girlie antenna had zinged the instant she looked into Lance’s
midnight black eyes. He had the “Y” yummy factor in spades. At least
six-feet-four in sinful jeans and a white polo that delineated hard
muscles, she was almost fantasizing about the naughty things he could
whisper in her ear – until she learned what he did for a living. And
went as cold as an iceberg on the man.
Sighing, Fallon removed her camera from the case, looped the strap
around her neck and grabbed her notebook. Standing there wouldn’t get
the job done. Closing the car door, she followed the paved path to the
wide double doors, all the time telling herself that this was a story
like all the hundreds, probably thousands, she’d written in the past.
As a travel writer it was her job to point out the new and unusual, the
best places to make that vacation or staycation exciting, fun and
memorable. Reading about the auction in the newspaper had given her an
idea for a story – that of leaving time on the schedule for something
unexpected, like an auction.
The Yates home was a piece of history that would soon be gone….just as
her family’s heirlooms and antiques were gone. She’d never forgive the
owner of the auction house who cheated her mother and made their lives
miserable when she was seventeen, but she’d been wrong to lump Lance
with the crook.
The Yates possessions weren’t going to be low-balled as theirs had been.
Lance Saxton, although new to the auction scene, had a sterling
reputation as a savvy businessman with a Midas touch. Whatever he
touched succeeded in spades. The Yates auction would only be his second
in the three months since he’d opened Saxton Auction House. The other
had been in Tucson where his office was located, and hugely successful.
The retired movie star’s possessions had sold out after the second day
of the four-day sale.
Fallon realized she was stalling. Again. She hadn’t called for an
appointment. She honestly hadn’t known what to say. Hey, I’m sorry I
accused you of being a thief, but I have this great idea for a story and
two editors are interested so let’s forget about our first meeting. If
the positions were reversed, she would have thrown him out. She had a
bit of a temper – which had gotten her into this mess.
So, she’d taken the coward’s way and asked his cousin, Richard
Youngblood, if he thought Lance would be at the Yates house working.
Richard had been at his fiancé Naomi’s apartment that morning eating
breakfast and discussing wedding plans. They were as giddy as teenagers
and so much in love. Fallon was happy for both of them, especially
after what Naomi had gone through.
Declining the offer of breakfast, Fallon had gone back to her place next
door to leave them alone. Or as much as possible with Naomi’s
five-year-old daughter Kayla with them. Neither Richard nor Naomi
seemed to mind. That had been hours ago. It was almost two. It had
taken Fallon this long to work up the courage to drive out.
Blowing out a breath, Fallon rang the doorbell.
In the small library of the Yates house that Lance Saxton had taken for
his office, he slowly lifted his head when he heard the doorbell. He’d
been waiting for the sound since Richard called that morning to tell him
that Fallon had asked if he would be there. To Richard’s “Don’t blow
your second chance” Lance had said nothing.
Since Lance didn’t have any other appointments and he wasn’t expecting
any deliveries, he reasoned it was Fallon Marshall. His hand flexed on
the pen in his hand. It didn’t take much to visualize the stunning
woman with long curly hair, bedroom brown eyes, model cheekbones and
lips to drive a man crazy. For some reason – perhaps because Richard
was in such a great mood and Lance could tell his cousin was finally
interested in a woman – the moment they’d met, Lance had found himself
attracted to Fallon.
It was the first time in months he’d had more than a passing interest in
a woman. He’d honestly thought he had written women off except for the
occasional ones he took to bed. It was purely physical for both of
them; easily had and easier forgotten.
The chime came again. This was the housekeeper’s half-day off. The
people he’d hired to help catalog the house contents for the auction had
driven into town for a late lunch. There was no one there but him.
If he didn’t answer, she’d leave and he wouldn’t have to worry about
forgetting his long ago promise of steering clear of women he couldn’t
easily walk away from. Yet, he found himself coming to his feet and
leaving the study. Fallon was just a woman.
Opening the front door, he had to revise his earlier thought about
Fallon. She was stunning in a raspberry knit top and white walking
shorts. Her eyes were just as captivating as before, her mouth just as
tempting. His hand clamped on the door knob as they continued to stare
at each other. He wouldn’t be the first to speak. She had called him a
“Hello, Lance. I guess you’re surprised to see me.”
“That’s putting it mildly.”
Fallon ran her tongue over lips he’d dreamed about before saying, “I’m
not sure if you remember or not, but I’m a travel writer.”
Since his mouth was dry, he simply nodded. Fallon was too much of a
temptation. As soon as possible he was sending her on her way.
“I read about this place and the auction you’re having. I came up with
the idea for an article.” She glanced around the yard. “This house
might not be on the historical society’s register, but it’s has a lot of
history that will be lost once the auction is over. I’d like to
“By doing a story,” he said, unable to keep the derision out of his
voice. Another person who wanted to profit from the misfortune of
others. And she’d thought him heartless.
Her eyes narrowed briefly, then she shifted back to him, inadvertently
making her breasts in the knit top jut forward. Lance gritted his teeth
and opened his mouth to tell her goodbye, but she finally spoke.
“Not just a story. I want to bring the history of the house and the
people who lived here to life. I also want to let readers know that
it’s all right not to plan every second of a vacation. Wonderful
opportunities like this auction might present itself. I’ve done a bit of
research on the house already.”
“Don’t you think that was a bit premature?” he asked, glad his voice was normal even if his heart rate wasn’t.
“Yes, but knowledge is never wasted.” She stepped back and looked up at
the window overhead. “Do you know that some of the timber in this
house came from Yates’ grandparents’ property in Louisiana? He was a
bit of a sentimentalist.” She sent Lance a quick grin. “The stained
glass in the window overhead is from Paris and the chandelier in the
living room is Waterford. They’re his wife’s selections.”
“Women like the finer things.” He’d learned that lesson the hard way.
Her brow arched. “So do men. Thaddeus spared no expense to build this
house. It took three years. His daughter expanded it even more. From
the little I was able to find, she doted on her son and wanted the house
to last for generations. It’s a shame that her dreams died with him.”
Fallon gave him her full attention, her expression so heartrending he
had to lock his knees to keep from reaching out to comfort her. “It
would be wonderful if that didn’t happen, if the family history could be
preserved, and be the impetus for other family dreams and legacies.”
His gaze narrowed on her. So, she wasn’t just beautiful and brassy. It
was rare to meet someone not in the business who really understood the
value and importance of beloved furniture and accessories being a
Even at thirty-six, there were times when he thought of his own
immortality. He never planned to marry. What would he leave behind?
Who would mourn him? The answers weren’t comforting, so he continued to
study Fallon. Unlike most people, his direct stare didn’t make her
He’d been devastatingly wrong about women before, but something told him
that Fallon was telling the truth. This was more than a story to her.
Watching her hair dance in the breeze, her steady gaze, he came to a
Instead of being annoyed with Fallon, he really should be thanking her.
If she hadn’t put a stop to things that afternoon they met, they would
have probably ended up in bed and his life would have been in turmoil
again. Besides, he’d like the Yates’ history and legacy to be
preserved as well.
Stepping back inside, he watched her eyes widen, her mouth open. He
realized she thought he was going to shut the door in her face. It
annoyed the hell out of him that she believed he was that rude. “Come
Her mouth hung open for a second longer, before she snapped it shut. She quickly stepped inside. “Thank you.”
He noted that perspiration dampened the flawless skin on her forehead.
Perhaps he was rude to keep her out in the heat. “Would you care for
something to drink?”
“No, thank—” Her eyes widened and she was across the room. Reverently
her hand grazed the top of an oak finished chest of drawers. “This is
one of Thaddeus’s pieces, isn’t it? His daughter used this for her hope
Lance joined her. “You did your research well, I see.”
“I wanted to be prepared.” She smiled over her shoulder at him, then
turned back to the piece that was as tall as she. “He was a furniture
maker before they struck oil on his property. A picture of this chest
was the only one I could find of the contents in the house.”
“There are other pieces he made mixed throughout with the more famous
makers like Chippendale,” he said. “The house is a treasure trove of
furniture, art work and crystal.”
Her eyes glittered with hope, one hand clamped on the camera, the other on the notebook. “Then you’ll let me do the story?”
He was probably crazy considering he barely could keep his eyes off her
lips. “You can do the story.” He motioned toward her camera. “Feel
free to take as many photos as you like. You seem to understand and
appreciate the furnishings – that they meant something to the Yates –
they aren’t just things or possessions,” he said.
For a second, her eyes darkened with pain. “Yes”
He wondered if she was thinking about the incident that caused her to
brand him a thief. “Feel free to look around. I’ll be in my office.”
He pointed to an open door to the left. “Just let me know when you’re
With a brief nod, he returned to his study, hoping he hadn’t made a terrible mistake.
( Story Continues... )
Copyright © 2013 by Francis Ray. All rights reserved. Book excerpt
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