June 30, 2015
Fool's Gold, Book No. 18
She can't stay in Fool's Gold unless Zane loves her, too... but is this cowboy interested in forever?
After Phoebe Kitzke's kind heart gets her suspended from her job in LA, she swears off doing favors—until her best friend begs for help on the family ranch in Fool's Gold. Unfortunately, sexy cowboy Zane Nicholson isn't exactly thrilled by the city girl's arrival.
Thanks to his brother's latest scheme, Zane has been roped into taking tourists on a cattle drive. What Phoebe knows about ranching wouldn't fill his hat, but her laughter is so captivating that even his animals fall for her. One slip of his legendary control leads to a passionate kiss that convinces him she's exactly the kind of woman a single-minded loner needs to avoid.
In his arms, Phoebe discovers she's a country girl at heart. Yet no matter how much the small town feels like home, she can't stay unless Zane loves her, too…but is this cowboy interested in forever?
KISS ME has been named a "Best Book of the Month" in romance by the editors at Amazon.com!
"VERDICT Touching, insightful, and funny, this lively romance addresses some serious relationship issues as it delivers another satisfying, page-turning winner in Mallery's rapidly expanding series."
4.5 Stars HOT! “Both heart-tugging and memorable...Bravo!”
RT Book Reviews
The Best Romances of July "The second book in Mallery's wonderful "Fool's Gold" series puts city girl Phoebe Kitzke in the path—and in the strong arms—of modern cowboy Zane Nicholson."
Omnivoracious, the Amazon Book Review
Readers at Fresh Fiction have selected Kiss Me as a Fresh Pick for the month of June!
Library Reads has named KISS ME to their list of the "top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love" for the month of July. "A fantastic read!" - Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA
"I continue to be amazed that Mallery can come up with such different stories for one series...Kiss Me is one of the best books in the series and I know you will not be disappointed."
Danielle James, Romance at Random
5 Stars! "I really loved this one! KISS ME is the newest entry to the Fool's Gold Series by Susan Mallery. It's my favorite story so far, which is saying a lot since I simply adore the entire series."
Debra Taylor, The Romance Reviews
"I loved it. I loved it...oh, who am I kidding? I LOVED IT! Despite my aversion to the cowboy image (my issue, not yours), this is one of my favorite additions to the series to date... Overall, a GREAT addition to a series that just keeps getting better and better. With characters you grow to love, situations that leave their mark, and lessons of the heart coming at you from every corner, each time you journey to Fool's Gold, you're guaranteed to leave satisfied. "
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
5 Stars! "The first kiss between the sinfully-sexy Zane Nicholson, a fifth generation rancher, and Phoebe Kitzke was a spectacular fumbling mess…that charmed this reader. I love Phoebe's personality – and her quirky conversations with random animals."
Heather Coulter, Books Books and More Books
"I know I’ve said this before but, THIS IS THE BEST BOOK! What I liked: I really enjoyed Chase, Zane, and Phoebe . Their personalities were so completely different, enchanting, and real I couldn’t help but want to spend every moment with them on this vacation. Kiss Me is a don’t miss Fool’s Gold romance."
5 Stars! "GO AND BUY KISS ME - it's another amazing Mallery Romance that has it all: The town of Fool's Gold with all its amazing inhabitants - a sexy Cowboy - goats - funny, moving & adorable moments & romantic sexiness ♥ like all of SUSAN'S books = JUST PERFECT!"
BJ's Book Blog
"Kiss me was sweet loving story. It was hard not to like Phoebe with her big heart and her love of nature and animals."
Mrs. Leif's Reviews
5 Stars! "What a story! Mallery engages readers on multiple fronts, allowing them to experience real life for these residents of Fool’s Gold...coming into the town, seeing the approach from fresh eyes with Phoebe was breathtaking. It gives a new and much larger perspective to the town, while also putting it all in context. Not to mention the absolutely fantastic storyline."
4.5 Stars! "I don’t know what it is about Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series, but thus far I’ve loved every one I’ve read. Kiss Me is probably even my favorite thus far... Phoebe was pure joy, and I loved her. I totally wish she was my bff."
Aya M Productions
"I enjoyed Kiss Me like I enjoy all the Fool’s Gold novels. I liked reading a strong, silent hero, and I REALLY appreciated the sibling and friend relationships...and now I’m eagerly anticipating Thrill Me!"
Calliope, Random Book Muses
"Kiss Me is a sweet yet warm family romance."
Abigail Books Addiction
5 Stars! "Oh, that Susan Mallery. Just when I think she couldn’t possibly top her other Fool’s Gold romances, she introduces us to two new worthy souls who are just meant to be together. Loved it!"
This may be one of my favorite Fool’s Gold romances yet. Mallery gets the balance of humor and heart just right, and the Phoebe–Zane duet plays particularly well...Bottom line: if you like cowboy romances, Kiss Me belongs on your summer reading list."
The Bookwyrm's Hoard
"Kiss Me, the newest addition to the always fabulous and incredibly heartwarming Fool’s Gold series...is an emotional yet highly entertaining novel of love and forgiveness that old and new fans are going to love."
Book Reviews and More by Kathy
"KISS ME is the best Fool’s Gold book yet, in my opinion... The chemistry between Phoebe and Zane is palpable."
5 Stars! "Probably my favorite [Fool's Gold book]. The first kiss between the hero and heroine did me in, I swooned and I didn’t stop swooning...For fans of romances and specifically contemporary romance, check this one out."
"Zane is super into Phoebe and the chemistry between them lights fire to the pages. Especially as the harder Zane tries to fight it, the more he kisses Phoebe - and wow those kisses are beyond hot... I highly recommend this book to all those who love Cowboys, quirky cool heroines and big hot lovin'!"
Girls Just Wanna Read
(Audiobook) "Phoebe may be my new favorite female character in this series - I just loved her! She always wants to help people and has a huge heart, but because of this, often gets taken advantage of. Having grown up in the foster system, she just wants a family and someone to love her."
Always with a Book
5 Stars! "Ms. Mallery has written a wonderful story of family unity, small town living and heart filling love. Now if someone could just get Zane to wake up and admit to his feelings all would be right with the world."
"Phoebe is unable to hold back her quirks — talking to wild animals, making up funny stories, and pretty much being all kids of adorable...sexy and sweet with a sprinkling of lively supporting characters."
Rather Be Reading
4.5 Stars! "I just wanted to spend more time with these characters...She sees how hard he tries to do the right thing and she was wonderful. Zane gives Phoebe that stability and family inclusiveness she has always wanted. Even though at first it doesn't seem like it should, they just work. They are perfect for each other and I loved reading their story."
Jen in Bookland
"Kiss Me by Susan Mallery is the perfect weekend read with warmth, humor, and hot cowboys."
Sonya Field, Hypable
ZANE NICHOLSON BELIEVED in listening to his gut. At 9:55 that morning, it was telling him that today wasn’t going to be a good day.
He glanced out the window at the rolling hills that made up the Nicholson Ranch and wondered if being a farmer would have been easier. Crops didn’t break through fences in the night and wander away. Crops didn’t try to be born breech. He could be growing corn. Or wheat. Wheat was patriotic. All those amber waves.
He turned his attention back to his paperwork and shook his head. Who was he kidding? He was a fifth generation rancher. The closest he would come to farming was the vegetable garden the ranch cook grew out behind the bunkhouse.
Zane watched his foreman step into his office. Frank Adelman took off his worn cowboy hat, slapped it against his left thigh, then eased into the hard, plastic chair in front of the desk.
A visit from Frank before noon wasn’t going to bring good news.
“What?” Zane asked, more resigned than annoyed.
Nicholson Ranch had been annexed earlier this year by the city of Fool’s Gold, California, meaning that it was now inside the city’s jurisdiction, a decision which the mayor had sworn would be good for him. She said everyone out this way would benefit from more city services, but so far, it had only meant an increase in paperwork. He didn’t see the win, though his brother was happy about the faster internet speeds that came from the city laying cable out this way.
“There’s a busted pipe in the bunkhouse,” Frank said. “Under the kitchen sink. All the boys are out with the herd. I turned the water off, but we’re going to have to see to it today. You want me to pull someone in or call for a plumber?”
Zane dropped his pen on the desk and rubbed his temples. What he wanted was a little cooperation from fate. A couple of weeks without a crisis. Apparently that was too much to ask.
He weighed his options. Frank couldn’t take care of the busted pipe because they were expecting buyers in an hour or so, and Frank was going to take them around to see the kids. Zane had a meeting with some research scientists from Cal U-Fool’s Gold that afternoon, which meant he couldn’t take the buyers around. A plumber from Fool’s Gold would be easiest, but he might not be able to get someone out today.
“Call in a couple of the boys,” he said at last, then shook his head. “It’s Monday, right? It always hits the fan on Monday.”
Frank grunted his agreement, then rose. The phone rang before he’d even walked to the door.
So much for getting his paperwork finished on time, Zane thought as he reached for the receiver.
“Nicholson Ranch,” he said. “This is Zane.”
“Hi,” a woman said, her voice low and friendly. “I’m calling to talk to someone about facilities. Can you help me with that?”
Zane blinked at the question. “Facilities? You mean horse boarding? We don’t do that here, ma’am. You could check with old Reilly Konopka. Last I heard he was taking in boarders. Or Castle Ranch in town. Ask for Rafe.”
The woman laughed. “No. Not facilities for my horse. I meant for my husband and myself. We’re coming up for the cattle drive this weekend, and I was wondering if there were any spa facilities. We’ve been under a lot of stress lately. I was thinking that a couple’s massage might be a nice start to our vacation. Maybe deep tissue. Or those heated rocks. Aren’t they all the rage right now?”
Massage? Vacation? Cattle drive?
“Ma’am, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Zane said, his temper rising steadily as a knot formed in his gut. His gut feeling turned downright ugly.
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. “The website didn’t say anything about a spa, but I was hoping. Can you recommend a hotel with a spa in Fool’s Gold? We’ll come a day early. I do want to be rested before we arrive for our cattle drive on Saturday.”
“Ma’am, could you please tell me about this cattle drive you’re expecting?”
“Excuse me? Aren’t you an employee of the ranch?”
He was supposed to own it. What was going on? “I’m, ah, filling in,” he lied.
“Oh. All right. My husband and I are going on a cattle drive.”
She chatted away, giving details, including the website where she’d first found her vacation. While she continued to talk, Zane turned to his computer and typed in the web address. When the site popped up, his jaw dropped. He barely remembered to say goodbye before hanging up the phone.
In less than two minutes he’d explored the site, which detailed all the delights of a northern California cattle drive vacation. On Zane’s ranch. There was only one person who would dare a trick like that—his brother.
Rage bubbled and boiled into something Zane couldn’t begin to name. It filled him until he knew he was going to explode.
Chase had screwed up before, countless times, but compared to this new stunt, all that had been kids’ stuff. What had he been thinking?
Zane stood and headed for the door, then stopped himself. He wanted to hit something, throw something, break something. If he went to Chase right now, he would say and do a lot of things they would both regret. He knew the kid saw him as a cross between the devil incarnate and the worst guardian since Scrooge. He also knew Chase was nearly an adult, and if the teen didn’t get his shit together, he was going to spend his life screwing up and living with regrets.
Regrets. The single word was enough to calm Zane’s temper. He’d lived with them himself, since he was Chase’s age. They had a way of eating at a man’s insides. Of making him want to outrun the wind, if only he could leave the past behind. But the world wasn’t that tidy. Once done, a thing couldn’t be undone. He didn’t want that for his brother.
Ever since Chase had been a toddler, following him around the ranch, mimicking his every move, Zane had loved him so much, it was painful at times. He had vowed back then to watch out for the kid, to protect him—even from himself.
So instead of going gunning for Chase, he returned to his desk to consider the best course of action. Once and for all he was determined to teach his brother about responsibility so he could become the kind of man who respected himself. The kind of man who didn’t have to live with the ghost of blame.
“I’VE DECIDED NOT to put you in prison, Ms. Kitzke,” Judge Haverston said, looking stern as she peered over her half-glasses. “I believe you had the best of intentions.” She paused. “You know what they say about the road to hell.”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“There will be no punitive damages. The earnest money will be refunded.” She glanced at the paperwork on her wide desk, then gave her gavel a light tap. “I believe we are adjourned.”
Phoebe Kitzke remained standing as everyone else in the small Los Angeles courtroom was told to rise. Judge Haverston swept through the doorway leading to her chambers, or whatever it was that judges had. The legal secret place, she thought, looking for humor but unable to feel anything except lingering terror. Hopefully relief would soon follow.
Not going to prison was a good thing, she reminded herself. She’d seen plenty of teenage prison movies when she’d stayed up late watching cable while babysitting back in high school. She knew what sorts of things could happen. Far better to stay on the right side of the law.
Phoebe shook hands with the company attorney and thanked him for his help, then turned to find her boss, April Keller, waiting for her. April was taller than Phoebe—who wasn’t?—and the kind of sun-streaked blonde southern California was famous for. Phoebe had always felt a bit out of place in LA, with her short, curvy physique, and dark hair and eyes.
“Are you okay?” April asked.
Phoebe shrugged. “I’m happy about avoiding prison. I don’t have the background to be successful there. As for the rest of it, I’m still pretty numb.”
April sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said, sounding both miserable and relieved. “For everything. You really saved me.”
Phoebe didn’t want to go there. If she thought too much about what had happened, she would get angry and say things that would damage an important relationship.
“What about my job?” she asked instead. “Did I save that, too?”
April pressed her lips together and avoided her gaze.
“Great,” Phoebe said and pushed past her, heading for the exit. “Let me guess. I’ve been fired.”
April followed her into the hallway. People milled around them, all going about their legal business. Phoebe hoped the innocent ones would have better luck than she did. She stopped by a battered bulletin board and looked at her boss.
“For how long?” she asked.
“A month.” April touched her arm. “Look, I’m going to make this up to you, I swear. I’ll pay your salary out of my own pocket.”
Phoebe sucked in a breath. “I was suspended without pay?”
Perfect. Just perfect. Phoebe stepped back and squared her shoulders. “I guess I’ll see you in a month,” she said before heading for the door.
April hurried after her. “Phoebe, wait. I know you’re furious with me. You have every right to be angry.”
Phoebe stopped. “Actually, the person I’m angry with is myself.”
Tears filled April’s eyes. “If you hadn’t helped me, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“I know. I’m glad you’re okay.” She made a show of glancing at her watch. “Look, I have to go.”
“Okay, but call me in a couple of days, okay? You can yell at me for as long as you want. I deserve it.”
Phoebe nodded, then walked toward the elevator for the underground parking. She tried to tell herself that in the larger picture, she’d done a good deed. Cosmically, she’d just improved her chances of fame and glory in her next life by helping out someone in need. If there was a next life. If there wasn’t, she’d just been suspended—without pay—from a job she loved, for something that shouldn’t have been her fault, but was.
So far it wasn’t the best Monday she’d ever had.
The voice came from behind her, but she recognized it. Recognized it and knew her Monday was about to get worse. She sucked in a breath and turned to find Jeff Edwards standing in the grubby hallway. The same Jeff she’d once loved, promised to marry and had almost moved in with…right up until she’d caught him in bed with an eighteen-year-old intern she was training as part of a jobs program for kids aging out of foster care.
Tall, good-looking, successful Jeff Edwards who had dared to demand all his DVDs back after she’d ended the relationship. Jeff Edwards of the California Bureau of Real Estate.
“You really screwed up,” he said, holding out an official-looking envelope. “The board is considering revoking your license.”
She blinked at him, unable to believe this was really happening. It was like being involved in a car accident, when everything moved in slow motion. While there was no time to stop the course of events that would change her life forever, there was also no way to avoid the crash.
In a perfect world, she would be able to think of some witty, biting comment to put him in his place. But as her world was spinning in much the same direction as her day, she plucked the envelope from his hands without saying a word. In her first stroke of luck that morning, the elevator doors chose that moment to open, and she stepped inside with as much silent dignity as she could muster. Her only minor victory was the look of shock on Jeff’s face as the door gently closed, leaving him standing alone and talking to himself.