Today we are sharing an exclusive excerpt for ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL by Jennifer Probst. This is the third novel in the Billionaire Builders series, and it will be released on July 25th! Be sure to enter the pre-order giveaway where you could win a $50 gift card or signed set of the series.
All or Nothing at All by Jennifer Probst
(Billionaire Builders, #3)
Coming July 25th!
HGTV’s Property Brothers meets The Marriage Bargain in this third volume in the Billionaire Builders series, an all-new, heart-wrenching, and sexy contemporary romance from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst.
Tristan Pierce left the family business to carve out a life of his own, but never forgot his passionate affair with the much younger, inexperienced Sydney Greene, or the hurtful breakup that tore him apart. When he’s forced to return home and face his past, will he be able to carve out a future, or will lies ruin his second chance at love?
Sydney Greene loved Tristan her entire life but when he left, he took not only her heart, but her trust along with him. Now that they’re together again, it’s time they both face the biggest secret of all…
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Sydney looked up at the huge chestnut horse and took a step back. “Hey, why don’t you two go and I’ll wait here?”
Becca giggled. Perched on top of a white pony, her pink helmet strapped under her chin, she looked happy and at ease. Unlike her mother. “You can do it, Mama. Don’t be afraid.”
The horse wrangler patted the horse’s rump. “Bam Bam is very gentle. He won’t hurt you. Now, swing your leg up and over.”
She looked to Tristan for help, but he only raised his brow in pure challenge. Damn. The man looked sexy as hell riding a sleek black horse, hands loosely fi sting the reins like a pro. Dressed in jeans, brown boots, and a plaid button-down shirt, he should’ve seemed more approachable. Instead, he gazed at her from behind a pair of aviator glasses, reminding her of some macho Western cowboy refusing to bend to society’s rules.
She shook off her thoughts and followed orders. Her cushioned butt sat in the saddle, and she listened to the instructions on how to keep her heels down and direct Bam Bam by using the reins. Their teacher, Jim, seemed relaxed and in charge, keeping up a conversation with Becca as he guided her around the field a few times to get comfortable. Tristan was situated in the middle, and she was at the back. Seemed Bam Bam was the ultimate follower and preferred to go at a slower pace.
Fine with her.
They started out on the trail at a leisurely walk. Spring had kicked in and turned the trees back to vibrant green. Buds exploded into eye-popping colored flowers, and the sky was a deep powder blue with fat fluffy clouds. The breeze tugged at her hair, full of earthy, woodsy smells. The creak of the leather saddle and the steady tread of hooves soothed her ears. After a few minutes, she realized Bam Bam wasn’t about to go charging anywhere and settled in.
Tristan slowed his pace and spoke over his shoulder. “Morgan called. Asked if Becca wanted to sleep over tonight at the new house. Is that okay with you?”
Bam Bam stopped to tear at some tasty leaves, munching with slow precision. She tugged, but he didn’t move. “Sure. Morgan spoils her rotten, and that will give me an opportunity to work later.”
The wrangler called out, “Kick with your right foot and pull your reins up! We don’t want them eating on the trail.”
“Great, I’m already in trouble,” she muttered, tugging harder. “Bam Bam, let’s go.”
He shot her a bored look and tore another leaf off the branch.
Tristan grinned, easing his horse closer. “Kick him harder, Syd. At the same time, tug up sharply.”
She did, and the horse practically rolled his eyes before allowing himself to be guided back in line. “How come your horse is named Dancer, Becca’s is Champion, and mine is from The Flintstones?”
“He senses your unease,” he told her with a laugh. “Keep your legs tight to his belly and a shorter grip on the reins. He needs to know you’re in charge.”
“How the heck do you know about this stuff?”
“My father used to watch John Wayne movies.”
She shook her head, fighting a grin. “Funny.”
Becca was up ahead, chattering away to her new friend, Jim. Sydney cleared her throat. He deserved to hear what Cynthia had told her Wednesday night. “I wanted to tell you there may be some gossip going around at Becca’s school. About you being her father. We just may need to keep an eye on her and make sure she’s not getting harassed.”
His voice turned hard. “How’d you find out?”
“At poker night, Cynthia joined us.”
“Bad Mom from the recital.”
“Crap. Are you serious? Tell me she wouldn’t hurt Becca just to spread mean-spirited gossip.”
“She might. I was going to have a talk with the principal, but I don’t want to cause attention needlessly. I just wanted you to know about it in case Becca says anything.”
He muttered a curse. “I’ll put a stop to it if she tries to spread rumors.”
“Raven and Morgan already threatened her. Scared Cynthia to death. Told her not to mess with the Pierce family. It was epic.”
“I bet. Though I’m sure you didn’t need it. Becca told me about your confrontation with Emma’s mother.”
“Ah, yes. I’m afraid Becca overheard some of my, er, colorful language.”
“But it worked.” He paused. “I’m glad you spoke with Morgan and Raven.”
He sounded genuine. At least, he didn’t want to see her punished by his family. It was something. “Me too.”
The horses eased down a small hill into the woods. Thick trees blocked the sun. Sticks and twigs snapped under the horses’ feet. A sense of peace flowed through her, a balance of nature and quiet, and being with the two people she loved most in life.
“Everyone doing okay back there?” Jim called out.
“We’re good,” Tristan said.
“Excellent. We’re heading up this hill to the clearing. Just follow me.”
The other horses pulled ahead, but Bam Bam paused in front of a large branch and shot her a look. “Come on,” she urged him. “Just walk over. It’s not big.”
He snorted. Ducked his head and began eating more leaves. Frustration nipped at her nerves. “Bam Bam, go!” She kicked and pulled the reins, but he ignored her. Suddenly he lifted his head and stood stock-still. A terrible smell hit her nostrils. “Ugh, yuck.” The sound of poop hitting the ground made her want to gag. So did the scent. “You’re eating too many leaves, dude. Let’s go.”
His stomach emptied, he began to go forward, then took a sharp right.
“No, not that way—this way.” She tugged, but he was heading directly past a large pricker bush. Tons of deadly thorns stuck out at wicked angles. “Left! Go left, Bam Bam—ow!”
Her left side got dragged past the bush, the needles poking into her clothes with wicked darts of pain. The horse gave her a sideways look and opened his mouth to gnaw on his bit. Was he laughing at her?
Tristan suddenly appeared before her, looking like a god on the Black Stallion. “You okay?”
“No! He pooped because he keeps eating leaves, and he dragged me into a pricker bush. He’s mean.”
His lips twitched in amusement. “He’s just looking for direction. Come on, Bam Bam. Follow me.” He whistled, leading his horse a few paces forward, and Bam Bam began walking again, closing the gap between them. “See? Just keep urging him ahead with kicks.”
Oh yeah, he was playing her for a fool. She wasn’t stupid. This horse didn’t like her. “Is Becca doing well?” she asked.
“She’s doing great. Don’t you think this would be fun to do on a regular basis? Fresh air, family time, and Becca learns about horses.”
Ugh. No way. “Great,” she forced herself to utter. “Fun things are supposed to be stressful.”
“What do you mean? Don’t you remember the time you came with us camping?”
The memory hit full force. “Oh, my God, I’d forgotten about that debacle! Your father had some crazy idea about going river rafting on the Esopus and decided camping out would be fun.”
Tristan shook his head. The sun bathed him in a gorgeous light, giving him an almost ethereal halo. “He thought it would be easy but had no clue what to do. Dalton fell off the raft and almost floated away.”
“Yes! And your mom freaked out and dove in after him, almost crashing on the rocks. I was so scared I just hung on to the raft and prayed to survive.”
“Then the tent collapsed in the middle of the night during the thunderstorm.”
“And we were covered in mud and freezing cold,” she added.
“Cal and I had a big fight over who got the last hot dog.”
“We had to walk almost a mile in the pitch-dark to get to the bathrooms, and your mom and I were freaking out about bears.”
“And Dad lost one of his shoes and declared we were all going home the very next morning,” Tristan finished, his golden eyes full of mirth.
She fought past the giggles. “No one talked to each other for the rest of the day, and we were hungry and tired and wet and miserable. And I swear, I think it was a raccoon that got Christian’s shoe. Remember how he had to drive barefoot?”
Tristan laughed with her. “See, not every family outing is a good thing. Worst vacation ever.”
Another memory flickered and teased her vision. “You kept me safe,” she said quietly. “Do you remember?”
“What are you talking about?”
“In the raft. After Dalton went over the side and your mom dove in after him. I was scared and clinging to the raft, and you came right over. Wrapped your arms around me and told me you wouldn’t let me fall off.”
God, it was all coming back to her. The feeling of being safe with him, knowing he’d never let anything happen. His shoulders stiffened, and his voice sounded strangled when he finally spoke. “I don’t remember.”
“I do. Your dad and Cal were trying to help Diane, so I was left alone. You took care of me.” The words stirred the air, wrapping around them like the breeze that sighed through the trees. Becca’s chatter came from far up ahead. “Did you always feel like I was a responsibility to you, Tristan?”
He stopped the horse. Turned around. She sucked in her breath.
His eyes glittered with a fierce golden light, raw with emotion. “You were never a responsibility to me. You were a fucking gift. Never forget that.”
And in that moment, she knew she’d do anything to win him back.
She loved Tristan Pierce with her heart and soul. Somehow she needed to believe he felt the same way. She had to fight to make sure they got their second chance, even if it meant pushing past uncomfortable boundaries and forcing him to take a risk.
“Mama? Daddy? Catch up!”
Turning back around, Tristan tapped his horse and closed the distance. “Come on, Bam Bam,” she sighed. “Let’s catch up.” She gave him a kick.
He kept his bored, slow pace, and if she tried to kick, he got slower. The ride continued to get worse. Every time Tristan got ahead, Bam Bam would eat leaves, push her into trees, and jerk his head when she tried to tighten the reins.
“You’re a big bully,” she hissed against his ear. “I’m not giving you an apple unless you treat me nice.”
He ducked his head low as if to jolt her off, and she let out a half shriek, clinging to his mane. Just as quickly, he rose back up and was standing with perfect innocence once Tristan turned around.
“Syd, you okay?”
“He’s the devil,” she accused. “He tried to knock me off!” “I have an idea. Why don’t you get ahead of me in line? Then I can help from the back.”
“Fine. I can’t believe you’re taking the horse’s side. He’s lying.”
Bam Bam docilely walked around Tristan, and the rest of the ride went without a hitch. She enjoyed her daughter’s excited chatter and relaxed until the ranch came back into view.
Jim turned around. “We’re going to try an easy trot up this hill. Nice and easy. Just follow me.”
Jim’s and Becca’s horses fell into a graceful trot, and her daughter’s giggles rose in the air. Bam Bam began to move at a bumpy clip, and Sydney’s ass slammed up and down in the saddle, her body being thrown side to side as he seemed to deliberately make choppy movements and hit every rock and pothole along the way.
Tristan’s horse lengthened his pace until he passed her, legs gracefully pumping into an almost canter with smooth, graceful motions that looked like poetry in vision.
And that’s when it happened.
Bam Bam gave a mad snort and trotted faster, throwing her off balance until she clutched the saddle horn and prayed. She pulled up madly on the reins, but he ignored her, charging forward and then— Stopped short.
Her ass collided back in the saddle with a sharp slap. Her teeth clattered together. Her body shook, off balance, and then he jerked his face around, saliva dripping from the bit he chomped madly on, brown eyes glinting with glee as he pulled back his lips and grinned at her.
“You did it on purpose!”
He snorted. Turned. Then began walking calmly the rest of the way, while the others gave her a thumbs-up sign.
They reached the top of the hill. “Did you see what he did?” she asked wildly. “He stopped short when no one was looking! He’s manipulating you all!”
Jim, Tristan, and Becca gazed at her with a hint of sympathy and plenty of amusement. “Bam Bam has never caused any problems on the trail,” Jim said with a frown. “He’s one of the best horses we have.”
“Yeah, Mama, look at him. He’s sweet.”
Bam Bam cocked his head with a mournful expression.
Tristan shook his head. “Umm, it’s okay, Syd. It was your first time, and you didn’t know what to expect. Just don’t blame your inexperience on the horse.” He patted Bam Bam on the head, and the horse gave him a gentle nudge for more.
“See? Sweet as pie. Let’s get you an apple, boy.” “No apple! I told him no apple!”
Becca gasped. “Mama! Don’t be mean!”
Jim tightened his lips and helped her swing down from the saddle. “Not everyone is an animal person,” he said with a touch of indignation.
“I love animals,” she said. “I swear.”
With one last look, he led Bam Bam back into the stable along with Becca and Tristan, leaving her behind. But not before his tail rose and an awful stench shot right at her.
She clapped a hand over her nose and gagged.
She could hear his laughing whinny as he walked away. Horseback riding sucked.
Jennifer Probst – Bio:
Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.
She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.
She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website for updates on new releases and her street team at www.jenniferprobst.com.
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