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I Cross My Heart Mass Market Paperback – May 21, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
Book 10 of 17 in the Sons of Chance Series

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The Underground Railroad
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson’s love affair with cowboys started with the Lone Ranger, continued through Maverick and took a turn south of the border with Zorro. Fortunately for her, she lives in the Arizona desert, where broad-shouldered, lean-hipped cowboys abound.  Visit her website at www.vickilewisthompson.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

When it came to mental health, Nash Bledsoe vastly preferred shoveling shit to lying on a therapist's couch. His newly minted ex-wife, Lindsay, felt differently and had told him numerous times he needed a shrink. But his final divorce papers had arrived from Sacramento late yesterday afternoon, and Lindsay no longer had any say-so about how he dealt with his emotions.

Now that they were officially divorced, he'd never again have to hear Lindsay quote her favorite self-help guru, Bethany Grace: Happiness Is a Choice. He shuddered. God, how he'd come to hate that phrase.

Well, damn it, today he chose to be mad as hell. And mucking out stalls was both productive and therapeutic. He wouldn't deny that he had plenty of issues, but fortunately the Last Chance barn had plenty of stalls.

"Better slow down before you hurt yourself, son."

Nash glanced up in midshovel. Emmett Sterling, the Last Chance's foreman, leaned in the doorway of the stall and chewed absently on a piece of straw. The guy looked more like a veteran cowboy than anyone Nash knew. Although he was past sixty, he had the lean body of a man much younger. His graying mustache gave him an Old West look that suited him.

"The exercise feels good," Nash said.

"I expect it does. Heard about the divorce papers arriving."

"Yep. I'm officially a free man." He didn't pretend to be surprised that Emmett knew. His mail was delivered to the bunkhouse, and his buddy Luke Griffin had been there when he'd opened the thick envelope.

Luke had worked at the Sacramento riding stables owned by Nash and Lindsay, but he'd lost his taste for the job when Nash had left. So Nash had put in a good word for him here at the Last Chance and Luke had hired on a couple months after Nash had. Last night Luke had joined him in polishing off a bottle of Wild Turkey, and several of the other hands had produced some twelve-packs and turned it into a party.

The divorce papers hadn't been a surprise. Lindsay had filed almost a year ago, and Nash had spent some time and money trying to get a fair shake. Turned out to have been a waste, and seeing the settlement spelled out in black and white had brought back all his suppressed rage. He tossed the shovelful of manure into the wheelbarrow and went back for more.

"I remember being as angry as you are right now. It'll pass," Emmett said.

Nash dumped more manure into the wheelbarrow. "Especially if I keep shoveling." He'd forgotten that Emmett's wife had divorced him twenty-some years ago. Now Emmett was seeing Pam Mulholland, who owned a bed-and-breakfast on the main road into town.

Pam was part of the Chance family through her late sister, Nicole O'Leary, mother of Nick Chance. A wealthy divorcee with no children, Pam had moved to the Jackson Hole area to be near her nephew. And she'd soon fallen head over heels for Emmett Sterling.

But Emmett was dragging his feet about marrying her because she was loaded and Emmett was not. Nash could relate. Lindsay's money had been a ticking time bomb—one he'd foolishly deemed unimportant when he'd asked her to share his life.

"I hate to interfere with your plan to work until you drop," Emmett said, "but one of the hands spotted a column of smoke over at the Triple G. I need someone to check it out, and I'm afraid you're nominated."

"Glad to." Nash was grateful to have a job and was committed to doing anything the foreman asked of him. He laid the shovel across the load in the wheelbarrow. "Just leave me some stalls to muck out, okay?"

"That can be arranged."

Emmett and Nash walked out of the barn, their booted feet making hollow sounds on the wooden floor. "It's bad enough that Hank Grace had to drink himself to death," Emmett said. "I hate to think of someone trespassing and starting a fire because nobody's around to stop them."

"Nobody's there?"

"Far as I know. Hank sold off the animals months ago. From what I heard, he abandoned the place and checked himself into a hospital in Jackson. Died there a week ago. Don't know what's supposed to happen with the property."

Nash had been gone long enough that his memory was cloudy when it came to some of the residents of this area. "Wasn't there a daughter?" He vaguely remembered that she'd been several years behind him in school.

"Yeah, but she turned into a city girl and wasn't around much. I doubt she's the one lighting a fire over there. Doesn't fit. Could be kids having a campout, but it's still trespassing, and I never like seeing unexplained smoke. Untended fires can spread." Emmett handed Nash a set of keys. "Take the Ford F-150. There's a fire extinguisher behind the seat. I'd rather not bring the sheriff into it if we don't have to, but you have your cell phone, right?"

"Yes."

"Call the law or the fire department if you can't handle it, but I'm hoping it's nothing too drastic."

"Probably isn't. School's out. Stuff happens."

"That's my thought. Thanks, Nash."

"You're welcome. See you soon." Nash tugged his hat a little lower over his eyes to block the glare of the bright June sunshine. He could see the smoke rising about five miles away.

Maybe this break would help rid his mind of depressing thoughts. He'd failed to create a happy marriage, and he wasn't used to failure. But at least his family and friends hadn't witnessed the debacle firsthand. He'd grown up in Jackson Hole, but he'd spent the past ten years in Sacramento, nine of them married to Lindsay.

He should have known when she'd asked him to sign a prenup nine years ago that no matter how hard he worked, he would never have been considered an equal partner in that riding stable. Her parents had constantly reminded him that they'd bankrolled the business and bought Nash and Lindsay a home, to boot.

Lindsay had never called them on that, either, and his relationship with her had started unraveling after the first year. Good thing his old friend Jack Chance had given him a job last fall. Nash had literally come out of the marriage with nothing but his truck, which needed a valve job.

He'd put that off because he seldom drove anywhere on personal business and he had use of the ranch vehicles when Emmett needed something done, like now. Food and lodging were part of the job. That allowed Nash to invest most of his salary, and thanks to a good financial adviser in Jackson, his savings were growing nicely. Eventually he'd have enough for a down payment on his own place.

The tan ranch truck was parked near the two-story main house. As he walked the short distance, he rolled his shoulders to ease the tension that had settled the moment he'd opened the envelope from Sacramento. He hated to think his life was spiraling downward, but sometimes it felt that way, especially when he compared his situation to Jack Chance's.

Jack was technically his boss, although he would never pull rank. They'd been friends since high school, where they'd been in the same graduating class and had played on the same football team. But now their situations were totally different.

Jack's dad had died several years ago in a rollover, leaving his three sons and his wife as joint owners of this valuable operation. The Last Chance bred paints and trained them as cutting horses. As the oldest son, Jack ran the daily operation in partnership with his mother, Sarah. Middle brother Nick was a vet with his own practice, but he made sure all the animals on the ranch stayed healthy. Gabe was the competitor who rode the Last Chance horses and showcased the ones offered for sale.

Sarah and her fiance, Pete Beckett, lived in the main house, but each of the sons had staked out a parcel of ranch land and had built homes for themselves and their wives. No doubt about it—the Chance brothers had been blessed with good fortune. Nash didn't begrudge them any of it, but he longed for that kind of financial and emotional stability.

He was working to build up a nest egg now, but finding the right person to love would have to come later. He wasn't about to hook up with a woman until he had resources. He'd learned his lesson on that score. He'd already made one big mistake, and he wasn't planning to make another.

Climbing into the dusty ranch truck, he started the engine and backed the vehicle around. The long and tortuous dirt road that connected the ranch to a paved two-lane highway was always a challenge, but at least today it was dry. Jack's dad had deliberately left the road unpaved to discourage trespassers, and his sons had decided to honor that tradition.

A little bit of grading wouldn't hurt, though, Nash thought as the truck bounced over the hardened ruts. The ranch had a tractor and a blade, but apparently using it on the road would be considered sacrilegious. Nash wondered how often Jack had to replace the shocks in his trucks because of these ruts.

After a bone-jolting drive, Nash reached the two upright poles and massive crossbeam that marked the entrance to the Last Chance. To the left, about ten miles away, was the little town of Shoshone. It supplied many of the basics, like food, gas and a great bar, the Spirits and Spurs, owned by Jack's wife, Josie. But for anything fancy, people had to drive nearly an hour into the city of Jackson.

Nash took a right toward the Triple G, a much smaller spread than the Last Chance. As Nash recalled, the Graces had kept to themselves—not a common thing around here, but it happened. Not all country folk were social.

Grace. He'd likely always cringe when he heard that last name now. His marriage had probably been doomed from the first day, since Lindsay's wealthy parents had never approved of him. But when Lindsay had started reading those motivational books by Bethany Grace, the game had changed dramatically. She'd used Bethany Grace's mantra, Happiness Is a Choice, as a response to every fight they'd had.

When Lindsay had insisted he read the then-current bestseller, Living with Grace, he'd done his best. He'd made it through twenty pages. The woman obviously lived in a bubble and knew nothing about actual relationships. But Lindsay thought Bethany Grace was a genius and that Happiness Is a Choice solved every issue.

Meanwhile Lindsay had consistently ignored his input regarding the business and had reminded him in many subtle ways that because she had the money, he was little more than a stable boy. It had been death by a thousand cuts. And the more angry and miserable he'd become, the more often she'd chirped that mantra: Happiness Is a Choice.

He was so lost in thought that he nearly missed the turnoff to the Triple G. The weathered sign was small and low to the ground. At the last minute he noticed it and took the turn too fast. He sent up a rooster tail of dust and avoided taking out the pathetic little sign by inches. A good thing, too. His mission involved protecting property, not destroying it.

If he'd thought the Last Chance road was poorly maintained, it was a superhighway compared to this collection of potholes. He slowed down in an effort to save the truck's alignment. Any teenage trespassers who'd braved this road might be sorry when the deep ruts did a number on their precious first car, or worse yet, screwed up the family SUV.

Because he had to concentrate on the miserable road in front of him, he couldn't take stock of what was causing the smoke. The stench reached him long before he arrived on the scene. Finally he pulled into the weed-infested clearing surrounded by a collection of dilapidated buildings that made up the Triple G Ranch. Then he put on the brakes and stared.

In the bare dirt area that constituted the ranch's front yard, a leather recliner was on fire. Even more curious, a dark-haired woman dressed in heels, a short beige skirt and a matching jacket stood watching it, butane lighter in hand. She seemed to be the only person around, and was most likely the citified daughter.

A red SUV was parked beside the house, a fairly safe distance from the blazing chair unless a spark caught the weeds on fire. If Nash were to guess, he'd say she'd arrived in that vehicle, but he couldn't imagine her motivation for setting the chair on fire.

That had to be deliberate. And difficult. Those chairs were usually treated with flame retardants, which explained the god-awful smell. Gasoline had probably been involved. Sure enough, he spotted a can lying about twenty feet away from her.

She gave him a cursory glance before returning her attention to the chair. The flames had died down, leaving a blackened, smoldering mess. She seemed to have it in for the chair, but if she intended to destroy it completely, she'd have to douse it with more gasoline and relight the fire or run over it with that shiny red SUV. Both options made Nash wince.

He decided to intervene before she proceeded to do either of those things. Emmett had asked him to check things out, so he'd do that. In the process he hoped to satisfy his curiosity, because this recliner-torching was the damnedest thing he'd ever seen and he wanted to know the reason behind it.

Climbing out of the truck, he tried not to breathe too deeply. No telling what toxic crap was in that smoke. She should smother the fire for environmental reasons, if nothing else.

At the metallic sound of the truck door closing, she looked at him again. This time she held his gaze as he walked toward her. She'd seemed pulled-together and neat at first, but the closer he came, the more that impression shifted.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (May 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373797559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373797554
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.6 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nash Bledsoe may not be a Chance by blood, but having grown up with Jack, Nick and Gabe, Nash is one of Sarah Chance's "adopted" sons. When things go south in his marriage, he asks his friend, Jack, for a job and is welcomed with open arms.
Bethany Grace left Shoshone, Wyoming at 18 and didn't look back. Now a successful self-help author and soon-to-be talk show regular, Bethany only returns to her childhood home, the ranch next door to The Last Chance, in order to get the place ready to sell after the sudden death of her father. But years of pent up anger at a man who died an alcoholic having left his ranch to fall apart take their toll on Bethany, and she sets fire to her father's recliner. When the foreman of The Last Chance asks Nash to check out the flames shooting into the sky from The Triple G, he heads right over. And the sparks really begin to fly!
I loved it! The heat, the growing affection, the love, the respect, and the spicy love scenes all blended perfectly - almost as perfect as the first three Sons books! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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My view

This is not my first rodeo at the Last Chance Ranch and once again the author did not disappoint. As is her style, this book can be read as a stand alone with enough information to learn about other characters, but without the need to read other books in the series to have a better understanding of the current book events.

The relationship between Nash and Bethany is steamy from the beginning (no pun intended). Both characters are lovable and worth the time. Their relationship was initiated by Bethany, but Nash takes control of the situation within the minute and leads them to the start of a simple, but great relationship.

We have the opportunity to see a lot of the characters from other books take part of this installment. My only complain is related to Bethany's mentor. The character was not well develop and felt as taken directly from current social media. Therefore, making the book ending not as unique as it could had been.

What I liked the most

I love the interactions between Bethany and Nash. They worked great together.

I wanted more of

I wanted a different ending for the book. Maybe a little more original.

Who should read it

Anyone looking for a good cowboy story could read this book without the need to read any previous one in the series.

Rate

4 out of 5
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Vicki Lewis Thompson is amazing...with the Last Chance books there just amazing...we have Nash Bledsoe friends with Jack Chance..he's working in the stables when he sees the smoke coming from the Triple G....Emmett the Forman from the Last Chance Ranch tells him go check it out. He does just that...comes across a women burning a chair which belonged to her father.....things start to spark between them. When he finds out what Bethany Grace does for a living...he loses it but he learns something important...and watch out things really get HOT!!! It's simply an amazing book. She learns a lot and vice versa. It touches your heart. I did not want it to end.
I can't wait until the next two books come out...The Heart Won't Lie and Wild at Heart...
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Enjoyed reading this contemporary western romance. The characters were all likable.
Nash, a smart & kind man has come from a one sided marriage/divorce with the shirt on his back.
Bethany has come home to quickly sell her parents ranch with the passing of her dad (last living relative), so she can move on with her growing career.
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I loved this book -- so appropriately named, too, because Nash Bledsoe is a man honor-bound to keep his promises. Sparks fly (literally!) when recently divorced Nash meets his worst nightmare, self-help guru Bethany Grace -- one of the best first meets ever!

Vicki Lewis Thompson can't be beat when it comes to heartwarming, funny dialogue, as well as characters that will charm the socks off you! I devoured this delicious story in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment of Ms. Thompson's wonderful Sons of Chance series.
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As always Vicki Lewis Thompson spins another tale that catches your interest at the very first page, and doesnt loose it to the very last page. She always leaves you with a great feeling and wishing the story was longer!
I do and always will recommend her writing to anyone who likes a good read, a "get you involved" novel.
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Tenth in the Sons of Chance western romance. The couple focus is on Bethany Grace and Nash Bledsoe and set near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

My Take
It's a sweet romance with little depth or tension, making this an easy and cozy read; a cute story with a nice twist on the self-help book. Well, nice for the reader; not so nice for Nash. Although he did eventually got the best end of the deal.

I did enjoy this. It's such a positive statement by both protagonists as they each heal, and their lives evolve to encompass what each of them truly wants. An excellent example of changing the life patterns one grows up with. It certainly helped that they are surrounded by supportive and loving people.

"Your books made my life a living hell."

It's a perversion of what Bethany's books are about, and I do like that Bethany recognized and explained how wrong Lindsay was.

It was sweet that Nash brought up the coercion aspects of sex and sale after Bethany brought up the same viewpoint, although from a different angle. It did however smack too much of too angelic a stance. It does present both characters as very decent people.

The Story
It's Bethany's need to purge her anger at her father that brings Nash running to the Triple G ranch where Nash discovers she's the author of so much of his unhappiness.

All Bethany wants to do is get rid of the ranch, but it's sorry state could have a negative impact on her own reputation. But exposing that same sorry state to a contractor who might talk...well, that could be disastrous as well.

Lucky for her that Nash is so intent on building up his own nest egg.
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