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#1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling Author

May 29, 2012

Summer Days

Fool's Gold, Book No. 7

In Fool's Gold, summer love can last a lifetime.

Locked in an unexpected land dispute, Rafe Stryker is trapped in the one place he vowed never to return to—the Castle Ranch in Fool’s Gold, California. He made millions facing ruthless adversaries in the boardroom, but nothing could’ve prepared him to go head-to-head against stubborn, beautiful Heidi Simpson. No one is more surprised than Rafe to discover that he’s finding Heidi—and life as a cowboy—much more compelling than he wants to admit.

For Heidi, the Castle Ranch is the home she’s always wanted. After a life on the road, the vivacious blonde has finally put down roots. She won’t give that up without a fight, not even for a man whose late-night kisses make her yearn to be a little less…wholesome.

As the two turn from passionate adversaries to passionate, period, they’ll discover that summer love can last a lifetime.

5 Stars "What a heartwarming story about what we do for those we love. Glen, Heidi, and May are such great people inside and out... I hope the rest of the Stryker family is next in the Fool's Gold series. I am definitely wanting to know what happens with Clay, Evie, and Shane!"

My Reading Addiction

"Summer Days follows Heidi Simpson, owner of Castle Ranch, and wealthy businessman Rafe Stryker. An unexpected land dispute brings together two very different people who are trying to save the family they love. Their hearts, home and family are on the line as we revisit the quaint town of Fools Gold. Characters from the previous books make appearances in another satisfying Susan Mallery romance."

Cassandra, Librarian at Mary Jacobs Library

"This is actually my first Fools Gold novel and I'm quite sad I didn’t get in on this series way before now. This book was a light, fun, sweet read with some humor thrown in... Even without having read the first 6 books in this series I was never lost as I was immersed in this fun town of Fools Gold."

Let's Get Romantical!

5 out of 5 stars! "Mallery has a way of making you feel like you are a part of this small town and you're just watching everything from the sidelines waiting for your story to be told... great summer reads."

Good Choice Reading

"Mallery thrives at creating a world that you want to live in and characters you want to be friends with (or you just want to be). If you have never visited Fool’s Gold this is a good place to start. The world as she has created it is referenced but you do not need to have read the previous books to be able to enjoy this one. Be forewarned, though, that once you enter Fool’s Gold you will want to return again and again."

Book Trib

"...perfect for the summer. Sweet, heartwarming, real and just, well, all kinds of wonderful."

My Guilty Obession

"Of course I loved the book. Why? To start with, it’s a Fool’s Gold book. The characters that inhabit this town are priceless and fun. I especially love Mayor Marsha. I like to think that there is a town like this somewhere and I wish I could move there."

Gone Pecan LA

"[Heidi's] grandfather sells part of the ranch that he doesn't even own to raise money for a friend who is fighting cancer. That's when the trouble starts. Rafe comes in now all rich and successful to claim the ranch for his mom. The money is gone so Heidi can't pay it back. She might lose her first and only real home. The judge decides to make them share for a while and look into the case more and that's when the fun starts. This was a fun book."

Modokker Book Picks

"As with all of Susan’s books, this was a great read from start to finish. We got to catch up on some of the inhabitants of Fool’s Gold from previous books while getting a glimpse of what is to come in the series all the while getting to know Rafe and Heidi... Being that Fool’s Gold is the land of happy endings, Summer Days certainly gives you one. It’s nice to read a book where the character’s are real people with real issues and I lift a glass to Susan for giving her readers yet another enjoyable read while keeping us in a place that we continually wish was real."

Romancing the Book

"The perfect summer read!"

For Love and Books

"Susan Mallery once again gives her readers an emotionally complex story that is quite captivating and tremendously entertaining...Summer Days is a truly wonderful story about family, friendship and love. The sex scenes between Rafe and Heidi are deliciously steamy and filled with passion. The tantalizing glimpses of Rafe’s siblings are quite intriguing and I cannot wait to see what Ms. Mallery has planned for them."

Book Reviews and More

"This is a fantastic book!! I have been a fan of Susan Mallery's work for quite some time and she has yet to disappoint me. I literally couldn't put this book down (bad idea when reading at work). The story of Rafe and Heidi was so wonderful, and the quirkiness of each character made them so life like that I hated to see the ending come sooner than I wanted."

Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

"Oh, how I adore Fool’s Gold! ... [SUMMER DAYS] had me laughing and it had me shedding a tear for Heidi... be warned once you visit Fool’s Gold you will return again and again."

Books N Kisses

"SUMMER DAYS is the first of three delightful stories about trusting your heart and listening less to your head. Smart people tend to justify their feelings or lack of them with very detailed reasons which usually works to keep them from being vulnerable -- a state they adamantly avoid. Vulnerability equals weakness. True Mallery magic weaving a wonderful tale about giving up control and finding love where you least expect it."

Fresh Fiction

"All Heidi wants is a place she can call home but when her newly bought piece of paradise is in jeopardy she finds that home is less a place to reside but who resides in it with you... Deep down Rafe has a heart of gold and a very strong will that made me love him…most of the time. A fierce protector of his family he sees the wrongs that he has done in his past and I was pleasantly pleased at the way he choose to handle his mistakes. Another hit in the Fools Gold Series I just can’t get enough of this town and the people in it. I can’t wait to read the next one."

Judging a Book by Its Pages

"Summer Days was a great addition to the Fool’s Gold series. It works as a stand alone read as well but it’s nice to start from the beginning to get familiar with the town and its residents. Susan Mallery is my go-to author when I’m in the mood for a cozy contemporary romance. Fans of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series will appreciate the small town setting and the bond between the community as well as a blooming romance between two people as they fall in love."

The Book Vixen

4.5 Stars! "Summer Days was probably my favorite Susan Mallery book... a fun read!"

Jen in Bookland

Chapter One

Only in Fool's Gold would a Mercedes be brought to a stop by a goat. Rafe Stryker turned off the engine of the powerful sedan and climbed out. The goat in the middle of the road surveyed him with a confident gleam in her dark eyes. If he didn't know better, he would swear she was telling him this was her road and if anyone was going to back down in this battle of wills, it would be him.

"Damn goats," he muttered, looking around for whomever owned the wayward animal. Instead he saw a few trees, a broken fence line and beyond all that, mountains soaring up to the heavens. Some would describe this as God's country. Rafe knew God, being smart and all knowing, would have nothing to do with Fool's Gold.

Hard to believe that a three hour drive west would return Rafe to San Francisco—land of fine dining, high-rise buildings and beautiful women. It was where he belonged. Not here, on the outskirts of some town he'd promised himself he would never set foot in again. And yet he had returned, drawn by the one person he could never turn his back on—his mother.

Swearing under his breath, he eyed the goat. He would guess she weighed about a hundred and twenty-pounds, give or take. While he'd spent the past eighteen years doing his best to forget his time in Fool's Gold, the lessons he'd learned on the Castle Ranch lived on. He figured if he'd been able to wrestle an adult steer as a scrawny fourteen year-old, he should be able to take a goat now. Or at the very least, pick her up and move her to the side of the road.

He lowered his gaze to her hooves, wondering how sharp they would be and what they would do to his suit. He rested his elbow on the roof of his car and pinched the bridge of his nose. If his mother hadn't sounded so broken on the phone, he would turn around and go back home. In San Francisco he had a staff, minions even. People who would take care of things like goats in the road.

He chuckled, imagining his starchy assistant facing down a goat. Ms. Jennings, a fifty-something powerhouse with an innate ability to make the most successful of executives feel incompetent, would mostly likely stare the goat into submission.

"You found her!"

Rafe turned toward the voice and saw a woman jogging toward him. She had a rope in one hand and what looked like lettuce in the other.

"I was so worried. Athena lives to get into trouble. I can't find a gate lock that will keep her contained. She's smart. Aren't you, baby girl?"

The woman approached the goat and patted her on the back. The goat moved toward her, like a dog seeking affection. She took the lettuce and the rope around her neck with equal acceptance.

The woman glanced back at him. "Hi. I'm Heidi Simpson."

She was maybe five-nine, with blond hair she wore in braided pigtails. A cotton shirt tucked into jeans showed him she was leggy and curvy, a combination that normally appealed. Just not today. Not when he still had to deal with his mother and get out of town as quickly as possible.

"Rafe Stryker," he said.

The woman—Heidi—stared at him her green eyes widening as she took a single step back. Her full mouth trembled slightly and she lost her smile.

"Stryker," she whispered and swallowed. "May is your—"

"Mother. How do you know her?"

Heidi took another step back. "She's, ah, at the ranch right now. Talking to my grandfather. There seems to be a mix-up."

"Mix-up?" He used what Ms. Jennings referred to as his scary, serial killer voice. "Is that how you'd describe what happened? I was thinking more along the lines of fraud and theft. Felony theft."

#

This was bad, Heidi thought, wishing she could simply run for it. Not that she wasn't one to face her problems. But in this case, she would feel a lot better facing them around other people, rather than on a deserted road. She eyed Athena, wondering if the goat would protect her, then decided probably not. Athena would be more interested in getting a taste of Rafe Stryker's well-cut, obviously expensive, suit.

The man standing in front of her looked seriously pissed. Pissed enough to plow her over with his big car and keep going. He was tall, with dark hair and eyes and right now he looked angry enough to crush her with his bare hands. She had a feeling he was strong enough to do it, too.

She drew in a breath. Okay, maybe not that, but he wanted to do something. She could read that in his brown-black eyes.

"I know what you're thinking," she began.

"I doubt that."

His voice was low, silky and made her feel unsettled. Like she couldn't predict what was going to happen next and whatever it was, it was going to be bad.

"My grandfather overstepped his bounds," she began, thinking it wasn't the first time Glen had given into his "ask forgiveness rather than permission" philosophy of life. "He didn't mean to hurt anyone."

"He stole from my mother."

Heidi winced. "You're close to her?" She shook her head. "Never mind. Stupid question." If Rafe didn't take care of his mother, he wouldn't be here now. Not that she was surprised. From what she could tell, May was a lovely woman who had been very understanding about the mistake. Although not understanding enough to keep her son out of it.

"Glen, my grandfather, has a close friend who was diagnosed with cancer. Harvey needed treatment, didn't have insurance and Glen wanted to help." Heidi did her best to smile, but her lips didn't feel as if they cooperated. "So, um, he got the idea of selling part of the ranch. To your mother."

"The ranch that belongs to you."

"Technically." Her name was the one on the bank loan. She hadn't done the math, but she would guess she had in the neighborhood of seventy thousand dollars in equity. The rest of the ranch was tied up in her mortgage.

"He took two hundred and fifty thousand dollars from my mother and in return she owns nothing."

"Kind of."

"Your grandfather has no way to pay her back."

"He gets social security and we have some savings."

Rafe's gaze moved from her to Athena and back. "How much in savings?"

Defeat made her shoulders sag. "Twenty-five hundred dollars."

"Please move the goat. I'm going to the ranch."

Heidi stiffened her spine. "What are you going to do?"

"Have your grandfather arrested."

"You can't!" Glen was the only family she had. "He's an old man."

"I'm sure the judge will take that into account when setting bail."

"He didn't mean to hurt anyone."

Rafe was unmoved by her plea. "My family grew up here, Ms. Simpson. My mother was the housekeeper. The old man who owned the ranch paid her next to nothing. At times there wasn't enough money for her to feed her four children. But she hung on because he promised to leave her the ranch when he died."

Heidi didn't like this story. She just knew it had a bad ending.

"Like your grandfather, he lied. When he finally died, the ranch went to distant relatives back east." His dark eyes turned into lasers that seemed to bore into her, promising untold punishment. "No one is going to screw my mother out of this ranch twice."

Oh, no! It was worse than she'd imagined. Much worse. "You have to understand. My grandfather would never hurt anyone. He's a great guy."

"He's the man who stole two hundred and fifty thousand dollars from my mother, Ms. Simpson. The rest is simply window dressing. Now move your...goat."

Unable to think of what else to say, Heidi stepped to the side of the road. Athena trotted along with her. Rafe got in his car and drove away. The only thing missing from his angry departure was a cloud of dust. However, the road was paved and well maintained by the city. One of the advantages of living in Fool's Gold.

She waited until he'd gone past, then turned toward the ranch and started to run. Athena kept up easily, for once not insisting on extending her time of freedom.

"Did you hear that?" Heidi asked, her athletic shoes pounding on the pavement. "That man is really mad at us."

Athena trotted along, apparently unconcerned about Glen's fate.

"You'll be sorry if we have to sell you to pay back May Stryker," Heidi muttered, then wished she hadn't.

All her life she'd only ever wanted one thing. A home. A real home with a roof and a foundation, hooked up to sewer and water and electricity. Something most people took for granted. But she'd grown up moving from town to town, the rhythm of her days defined by the carnival where her grandfather had worked.

When she'd found the Castle Ranch, she'd fallen instantly and madly in love. With the land, the old house and especially the nearby town of Fool's Gold. She had a herd of eight goats, uncounted feral cows and nearly a thousand acres of land. She'd started a business making goat cheese and goat milk soap. She sold goat milk and goat fertilizer. There were natural caves where she could age her cheese. This was her home and she wasn't giving it up for anything.

But she might have to give it up for somebody. Glen. Who'd sold a part of what he didn't own to an woman with a very angry son.

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