Stop on by the Diamond Saloon, where devious Englishmen blithely charm sceptical saloon owners and where voluptuous singers archly tease the strong, silent type. Enjoy these two sexy tales from Freewill, Wyoming.
~ROUGH DIAMOND~ Owner of the Diamond Saloon and Theater, Alice Reynolds is astounded when a fancy Englishman offers to buy her saloon. She won’t be selling the Diamond to anyone, let alone a man with a pretty, empty-headed grin…but then, she reckons that grin just might be a lie, and a man of intelligence and cunning resides beneath.
Rupert Llewellyn has another purpose for offering to buy the pretty widow’s saloon. However, he never banked on her knowing eyes making him weak at the knees, or how his deception would burn upon his soul.
Each determined to outwit the other, they tantalize and tease until passion explodes. But can their desire bridge the lies told and trust broken?
~FOOL’S GOLD~ Christmas Eve, the Diamond Saloon is empty of its people, and Pearl la Monte has a hankering to retire early. A pounding at the door rids her of such a fool notion. Her irritation rises when she sees the prissy, polite-like Garrett standing outside.
Ethan Garrett has a powerful need to gain succor. When the saloon’s voluptuous redheaded singer scowls at him from the threshold of the Diamond, he doesn’t stop to think on how his ire at her has disappeared. Or how he just wants to spend some time in her company.
When a blizzard storms in, trapping them, will they spend their time arguing or discover their irritation disguises something more?
Freewill, Wyoming, 1876
A knock sounded at the closed door, a brief hesitation followed by two firmer knocks, and finally a group of three that seemed more a flourish than a signal of a man’s presence.
Regarding the door, Alice didn’t immediately rise to answer the summons. A lot could be learned from a man’s knock, and even more from his reaction to waiting a spell. From this particular man, she could tell he was unsure of his welcome, but sought to cover such worry with brashness. Then, probably to be cocky about it all, he added the last flurry. From what little she knew of her visitor, such a knock described him to a tee.
Beyond the door, and the man on the other side of it, the faint sounds of the Diamond intruded. When she’d left the floor an hour earlier, the saloon had been full of men, all seeking to win at the tables or to drown whatever troubles they reckoned they had with what was behind the bar. It sounded as if the patronage had increased in number and rowdiness, judging by the raucous cheers as someone won at dice, or maybe at the roulette wheel she’d had imported from New Orleans.
Tapping her finger against her temple, Alice stared at the door. The man on the other side had arrived in Freewill less than two weeks ago, disembarking from the new train and trudging through Main Street. Standing on her balcony, she’d watched as he had walked through town to arrive at the boarding house, his fine coat and fancy boots ruined by mud. An inquiry to Mrs. Bradley, the owner of the boarding house, had her discovering his name and his origin, and in his short time in Freewill, he had done little more than wander aimlessly around town. She had no notion as to his purpose, and when he had requested this meet with her, she’d been curious enough to discover what his purpose was to accept.
From beyond the door, the dealer called for new bets, and the cheers settled to indistinct murmuring.
Her visitor had waited long enough. Placing her newfangled fountain pen in its holder, Alice rose from her desk, moving the kerosene lamp lighting her paperwork to the sideboard behind her. Seth had taught her much, and among his lessons had been if a man couldn’t tell the expression on your features, he couldn’t make a fool of you.
Quickly, she checked her appearance in the mirror. The hour spent on accounts and reports had done little damage to her hair, the complicated arrangement she’d braided into the ebony strands still under ruthless control. Her gown remained unblemished, but it was difficult to see any flaw in black, especially in such uncertain light.
She’d taken to wearing the shade, as was proper and right, after Seth had passed. Too soon her husband had been taken from her, but few recovered from a knife and a wicked-bad man wielding it. In those dark days following his passing, ritual had kept her grief from overwhelming her.
With the heels of her hands, she wiped at her cheeks. That was over and done, and five years had passed. Grief had lessened, but the day she’d been of a mind to wear color, she’d hesitated. If she continued to wear black, no man would forget she was Seth’s widow, and all things considered, it would make the running of a saloon a mite smoother. So, she made it that her wardrobe consisted of nothing but black. Black blouses, black skirts, black dresses…. Damn, she was mighty tired of black.
However, such a thought was neither here nor there. Giving her hair a final touch, she made her way across her office, and affecting the dazzling smile her momma had taught her long ago, she opened the door.
Mr. Rupert T. Llewellyn—lately of San Francisco, and before that London, England—stood on the other side. He looked the same as he had upon his arrival into town, dressed in fine, fancified clothes costing more than most men in Freewill earned in a year.
Widening her smile, she welcomed him. “Mr. Llewellyn, I’m mighty pleased you chose to visit us here at the Diamond.” Standing aside, she motioned for him to enter. “If you’re of a mind, I’d be delighted for you to seat yourself.”
“Mrs. Reynolds, a capital idea, simply capital!” Beaming, he grabbed her hand and pumped it mightily. “I say, this is how the chaps here in the West do it, is it not? A lady’s hand is to be shaken, as if a man?”
The strength and vigorous nature of his gesture had her wincing. “The greeting is not usually so effusive.”
Expression aghast, he dropped her hand as if it had turned to lead. “I do beg your pardon, dear lady! I should never wish to harm you, and it certainly was not my intention to cause you any injury. Dear me, we are getting off to a less than promising start, are we not?”
“Don’t let it trouble you. Please, sit.” As she led him to the chair before her desk, she stretched her fingers surreptitiously. He didn’t sit, though, instead watching her with a vapid smile as she moved around the desk. In fact, he didn’t seat himself until she had done so first, lowering himself into his chair with the enthusiasm of a demented puppy.
She let her gaze run over him. He was strange, this one. Manners she appreciated, but those he displayed were beyond what was proper and right. The last time a man had waited for her to seat herself, she’d been fifteen years younger and on the other side of the country, in a dance hall in Chicago. However, it hadn’t been courtesy for her, but because the man in question wished to impress her momma, and somehow thought being polite to her momma’s fourteen-year-old daughter would do the trick.
Rupert T. Llewellyn wasn’t so much different from that fancy-man. He also wore clothes too loud and too bright, and he appeared to have poured an entire tin of hair oil onto the gleaming black strands of his hair. For chrissakes, the man’s waistcoat was mustard. Who’d ever seen of such a thing here in Freewill? His clothing and demeanor were better suited to citified places, rather than this young frontier town she called her home. Even his skin wasn’t fit for Freewill, pale and fine under the wavering light of the kerosene lamps. Lucky for him the height of summer was past them; otherwise, he’d burn to a cinder five minutes after stepping out Mrs. Bradley’s door.