Hardcore tomboy Cass had thought she’d seen the last of her miserable excuse for an ex when he left her at the altar. But he’s come back to their hometown, new “perfect” fiancee in tow, determined to show the world Cass was never woman enough for him. Never one to turn away from a fight, Cass is willing to do whatever it takes to prove to everyone—including herself—that she’s more woman than they can handle. The only problem…she has no idea where to start!
Burke Hallifax’s worst nightmare has somehow come true. His best friend wants him to see her as a real female, something Burke has spent a lifetime specifically avoiding. On the other hand, he’s also spent years getting rid of the no-good, worthless, faithless waste of space that was her high school sweetheart. The last thing he’s willing to do is watch Cass turn herself inside out again for a jerk who wasn’t worth her spit, which means going all-in to help Cass win her bet, even if it means seeing her in a whole new light. Anything to keep her from falling back in love with the wrong guy…
Now the entire town is betting as well—on whether Burke and Cass can pull off the makeover of the century…without falling in love.
Book One of the Rancho del Cielo Romance series—now with a brand new epilogue!
“Betting Hearts had me laughing from the very beginning…Ms. Tenorio has written a romantic comedy that delivers with every turn of the page. I believe that everyone needs a laugh every now and then and I recommend Betting Hearts to give you that every time.”
—Jo, Joyfully Reviewed
“BETTING HEARTS is a wonderful combination of romance and comedy…The last quarter of this book should not be missed – it is absolutely perfect and will easily make you laugh as well as cheer for the best friends turned so much more.”
—Marina, Cupid’s Library Reviews
“I really enjoy stories with best friends realizing they are in love with each other and make over stories. This story is both, yet was unique enough to keep me from putting the book down. Ms. Tenorio crafts a fun comedic story that is also sweet and romantic, making it a must read. Her characters are endearing and realistic, and the plot has enough suspense to keep you wondering if Cass and Burke will ever get it together.”
—Astraea, Enchanted Reviews
“A humorous and refreshing take on the play Pygmalion, BETTING HEARTS is a winner…Quite a few of the townspeople add insight and advice and, in the case of C.B.’s brother, a secondary romance. A delightful story, don’t miss BETTING HEARTS.”
—Jennifer Bishop, Romance Reviews Today
“Betting Hearts is one incredibly delightful story… The frolics, along with the sprinkling of the secondary characters, are remarkably done.”
“Ms. Tenorio crafts a magnificent read filled with dishonesty, deception, sensual infatuation, and pizzazz that this reader considered quite satisfying.”
—Cherokee, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance
“I so loved Burke for his holding back in giving in to CB’s request. Here’s a man who’s always helped his friends, but this one totally blows him away. CB herself is a woman you will love, for she is misunderstood in her own right. The things she goes through just to become a woman are so funny you will laugh out loud. LOL Not only is this a great, funny book, but one you will so want to keep.
“Samhain sure has a winning author. This one is definitely on my keeper shelf. Dee Tenorio just rocks with this book, and I can’t wait for more from this author.”
—LenaC, Fallen Angel Reviews
“It’s been absolutely ages since I laughed so much I nearly wet myself, (not literally of course because I do actually have excellent control of my bladder) but Betting Hearts had me laughing from the first paragraph, to the last…Tenorio’s voice appealed to me because she kept it simple…She was able to draw me in from the very beginning, and kept me reading until 3am in the morning. It’s been a while since I loved a book that much, I can tell you.”
“Cassandra Bishop was a woman who I could be friends with if she’d been a real person…My kind of heroine…Burke Halifax was also my ideal hero. Rough around the edges, but loyal as hell. I’m partial to male leads who make me envious of their heroines. He was manly, without being an asshole.”
“It’s not often I go all girly over a book, but I did find myself tilting my head to the side, placing both hands on my cheeks, and sighing in appreciation at Tenorio’s ability to mentally and emotionally, take me along Cassie and Burke’s tentative voyage into previously unchartered territory.”
“What I loved most about Betting Hearts was how romantic it actually was. I know that this should be a given in a fictional romance story, but I’ve read a fair few books in the past, which although were romance books, were actually not very romantic. I know that you guys will know exactly what I mean.”
“I’ve always loved the friends to lovers theme, when written well, and Dee Tenorio certainly did herself justice with this book…Well Dee, I had no idea who you were, before I read your book, but if you keep writing stories as good as Betting Hearts, then I’m gonna keep buying.”
—Karen Scott, “It’s My Blog And I’ll Say What I Want To”
“(A) straightforward well-written entertaining romance with plenty of down-to-earth charms and likable characters that work very well with me”
—Mrs. Giggles, Everything Romantic!
I love friends to lovers plots, but am sometimes disappointed by their sameness. Not so here. This wasn’t a faux friends to lovers story, where one “friend” has secretly loved the other for years. The two are the best of friends, only friends, and reading about the transition was fascinating… Grade: B.
“I just finished reading the sweetest love story. “Betting Hearts”, by Dee Tenorio, is a best friends story, which I love, and this one is so emotional, you just squirm right along with the hero, Burke…The sexual tension is thick as, well, as the heat here in SA. The love scene is fulfilling and heartbreaking. Secondary characters are great and real, twists of phrase make you smile (and wish you’d written them) and the last scene is fabulous.”
—Mary at The Bandwagon
“This book strikes the right balance between humor, character growth, and sexual tension. I am anxiously awaiting your next release. B for you.”
—Jane, Dear Author
“Let’s hear it for the tomboys! Cassandra is such a fun character. She’s bold and brash yet still girly, but not in a makeup and high-heels sort of way…Matters of the heart are always a gamble, but it’s so worth it when you bluff and win.”
—Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies
“This isn’t your night, Sel,” Alice Panyon crowed to her husband a few hours later. She pulled in her third pot of the night with a smoky laugh.
“It’s always my night, angel.”
Cass smiled at the pair of them, the most improbable couple in all of Rancho Del Cielo. Where Selvyn Panyon was probably born in jeans and leather, Alice was the epitome of a debutante; cool, blonde and perfect. Ironically, Sel grew up to be a world-renowned artist while Alice was a retired firefighter. They were probably the happiest couple in town, too, with one little girl and another baby due to make an appearance sometime in the next few weeks. Not that a high, round belly kept Alice from stretching her arms around a pile of multicolored chips and chortling greedily.
Sel smoothed a wisp of Alice’s white-blonde hair behind her ear, a gesture so intimate and familiar, Cass looked at the cards with a sense of guilt at having watched. Even jealousy. No one ever touched her like that.
But someone would.
Like a vow, the sentence ran through her mind as the cards ran through her fingers. When she did lift her eyes again, it wasn’t to spy on Alice and Sel, or to see what May Belle and Jimmy were conspiring about this time, or even if Ben Friedly was trying to swipe another handful of popcorn from the bowl on the counter. It was to look at Burke as she shuttled cards around the table.
He hadn’t made eye contact all evening but she concentrated on him until he couldn’t avoid her any more. A deep blue, Burke’s eyes were those of a man who thought, probably too much. He did everything deep in his head; math, bills, itinerary, designs for the cars he rebuilt from heaps. In the span of two minutes, the man could mentally take apart an entire engine and put it back together using all the pieces. Didn’t take him much longer in real life either. His entire life was about plan of attack. If anyone should appreciate her setting a goal, it would be Burke. Normally.
Right now, she could tell he was thinking too much again. Chomping at the bit to get the evening’s game over with so he could send her home with a pat on the head before having to discuss “the femininity plan”. Well, she’d just have to get around that, now wouldn’t she?
“Dealer’s choice. Five-card stud, aces high, favor game. Showdown rules.”
There were a few grumbles around the table, but no one complained about the game choice. Favor games were where you had to bet a favor instead of chips. Showdown rules meant in the case of only two players still holding, they could request a favor instead betting one. Burke eyed her suspiciously before reaching to the breakfast bar for the phone pad of paper and a pen. Cass gave him her best smile.
He almost knocked his chair over.
She stifled a laugh and set the leftover deck in front of herself. Carefully, she looked at her cards. Two queens, two aces and a deuce. She fought the urge to smile again as she lay down her deuce and slid it over to Jimmy. Burke was so going to lose.
They passed the pad around and by the time it made a full circle, the pot held a portrait sketch, a casserole, a lawn mowing, three free gallons of milk, a free dinner from Shaky Jakes and a Garth Brooks CD. Cass scowled. Damn, she better win this hand.
Right before she was about to call, Burke said he wanted to raise. He scribbled over the rights to his kitchen radio.
Fine, she could play dirty, too. She wrote her note and tossed it into the pot.
Jimmy leaned over and read her rotten handwriting by squinting one eye. “A date?”
“Gotta have one to take to Luke’s wedding, don’t I?”
She could have dropped a pin on the carpet and heard it snag.
Finally, Jimmy coughed. “Most of us here are married, CB. ‘Cept Burke. You sure you wanna drag him to a wedding?” In other words, are you sure you want to go to the wedding?
“Pass me off to someone. You meet more people than I do, Jimmy. I’m sure Sel could find someone if it came down to it. Alice and May Belle keep trying to set me up with people, so there’s no problem there.”
Sel gave his wife a worried glance. Alice shrugged. What else was she supposed to do? It was true.
“What am I supposed to do with it?” Burke’s baritone demanded.
Cass made herself shrug. “I don’t know. Use it?”
His brows crashed together hard enough to clang.
“Give it to one of the guys at the shop. Pawn me off on a customer. Whatever you want.”
“You’re going to let us hand you off to some stranger?” Alice asked, each word enunciated with care, eyes darting from Cass to Burke and back. Cass nodded, waiting for the sign that Burke was paying attention.
There it was, the twitch of his eye when he thought she was doing something stupid. Reverse psychology was invented for Burke Halifax. No way would he let her go on a date with some stranger he didn’t know. Even if he had to suffer himself.
Cass prepared herself for a hell of a game.
He should have throttled her while she was sleeping. Should have let her get pneumonia by sleeping on his front porch in the rain. He should have done anything but let her play poker tonight. The evil gleam in those green eyes warned she was about to be more trouble than she was worth but did he listen? No, of course not. That would have made sense. Now he was stuck watching the brat try to make him wriggle like a worm on a hook.
“Your bet, Jimmy.” Cass blinked innocently at the older man on her left. Ha! If she’s innocent, I’m the mayor of Munchkinland.
Jimmy slipped a glance over to Burke, who knew he didn’t have to bother shaking his head. Jimmy ran the only grocery in town. He survived Korea, thirty-five years of marriage, two children, and most recently four years of marriage to May Belle. The man knew when to throw in the cards.
May watched her husband, shrugged and tossed down her five as well. “Sorry, CB, Burke looks about ready to bust a vein. If I set you up, we have to do it discreetly.”
May Belle’s main clientele were gamblers and gossips. If they did it, they’d be doing it over his dead body.
CB smiled, nodding her head like a queen. Of course. She was getting what she wanted.
Sel leaned forward to look around Alice’s abundant stomach to check with Burke like Jimmy had before him. “I do know this one guy—”
“No, you don’t, honey.” Alice splayed her hand over Sel’s cards and laid them on the table. Hers quickly followed suit. “And neither do I.”
God, she better not be in on whatever CB was up to. Burke would hate to get angry with a pregnant woman.
He stared down at his own cards and wondered if he could beat her. They might only be fives, but it was hard to beat a three of a kind. He decided to risk it. All he had to do was take her bet and never call her on it. Easy as pie. “Call.”
“You can’t call.”
“Showdown rules. It’s just you and me now. I get to request a favor from you.”
If she said even one damn word about finding her femininity, he was going to kill her and let the coroner look for it. Wrap both hands around that long neck of hers and squeeze till she popped. No one could convict him, either. Through gritting teeth he made himself ask, “Fine. What do you want?”
Cats with cream didn’t look as pleased with themselves. She licked her lips, startling a rise out of him that had no business rising. You’d think his desire to do her in might have the smallest effect on him. At least his temper should have tamped the problem. It probably would have, but his worst nightmare began right before his eyes.
Cass leaned forward, wet lips pursed and pink, and said the words a man should never hear from his best friend. “It’s simple, Burke. I want you to make me a woman.”