Tuesday, January 11, 2011
BOUND & TIED:DUTY BOUND is out!
Find it at Amazon.com
With a little help from her friend, she can learn to play the game. When she learned the game, he changed all the rules.
Zach Braun struggles to resist his unnatural desire for his claim partner, Jake. The two rugged miners have been alone in the mountains for months, with no women to relieve them. Exhilarated by the discovery of gold, they give in to their lust and discover sexual delights in each other.
Cowgirl KC Matheson is fresh out of ideas. Thanks to her father's unlucky poker hand, her family is about to lose their ranch. Desperate to entice the winner to let her family keep their home, KC appeals to a sensual stranger, Rosalyn, to help awaken her inner vixen. A vixen with the womanly skills to make a deal with the devil.
Sent to fetch a companion for his partner's pregnant wife, miner Jake Thompson never thought luck could change this fast. First, his royal flush lands him a ranch. Then a punch in the face. Now the rancher's daughter, a woman with a body made for sin, is trying to seduce him into giving up his winnings. Jake has a better idea: her for the ranch. And to ensure she makes good on the bargain, there's a catch-she has to keep his interest, or the deal is off.
The three set off on the two-day trek to Jake's claim, experiencing wondrous delights in the cool mountain air. Then reality sets in, leaving Jake saddled with a mail-order bride, a deflowered virgin, and an unexpected desire to make things right with KC…forever.
Jake Thompson's heart thumped hard as he fought to remain calm and outwardly unaffected by the cards in his hand. The pot had grown to almost five hundred dollars' worth of gold. Zachariah Braun had thrown in his hand, as had the toothless miner who'd lost his entire bag of gold in this round of poker. Which left the cattleman.
A straight flush. Nothing could beat a straight flush but a royal flush, and the chances the cattleman had a royal flush were slim to none. He also knew the cattleman had just sold his herd of steers to the mining camp and was flush with funds, most of which already lay on the table. Just how much more he had on him, Jake didn't know, but he was about to find out.
Jake tossed in his last bag of gold nuggets. He wasn't too worried about losing it. There was more gold where that came from at the claim he and Zach owned two days' ride to the north.
From the sweat on the cattleman's face, he was bettin' more than he could afford. "I'll see you and raise you my ranch."
On the outside, Jake kept his face poker straight. On the inside, he cringed for the cattleman. Hadn't he seen the older man earlier with his young son, herding the cattle to the stockyards? A wad of guilt collected in Jake's gut. If he won-and with the hand he had he would-this man would have to go back to his son and tell him he'd not only lost their earnings from the cattle, he'd lost the ranch and any means he had of raising more cash.
"Not sure I want a ranch." Jake lifted his glass of whiskey and sipped. With his entire attention focused on his hand and the man across the table from him, he barely noticed the fire burning its way down his throat.
"Six hundred acres of prime land in the San Luis Valley. It's worth at least four hundred dollars, without the cattle. Not to mention the house I built myself."
"Probably made of logs." Jake's lips twisted. "Never much cared for log cabins, nor have I had a hankerin' for ranchin' cattle."
The cattleman stared down at his hand and pulled at his shirt, loosening the bolo tie at his throat. "I'll throw in fifty breedin' heifers and my prize Herford bull. The only one in the state."
Jake wanted the other man to throw in his hand, not offer more of his livelihood. He glanced over at Zach, whose dark countenance displayed his displeasure.
His friend shrugged. "Look, mister, it's just a game. No use bettin' your home on it."
The older man frowned. "Are you gonna play or flap yer jaws?"
With a shrug, Jake laid his cards face up on the table. If the man wanted to bet his life on a game of poker, who was he to deny him the right?
As Jake moved his hands so that the cattleman could see his cards, he kept a close eye on the guns around the table. As much as was at stake, someone might try to shoot him and relieve him of his newfound wealth.
Zach's face split in a grin. "Straight flush. And here I was thinkin' you were bluffin'."
The cattleman blanched, threw his cards on the table and stood so fast his chair toppled over backward, crashing to the wooden floor.
"Four kings." Zach clapped Jake on his back. "Good hand. But not good enough. Guess my buddy Jake will be movin' south to tend to a ranch."
"You cheated." The old man's face had gone from deathly white to flaming red, and he reached for his gun.
Jake sprang to his feet and drew his gun before the older man's pistol left his holster. "I got no use for name-callin'. I won the hand fair and square."
The toothless miner nodded. "That's the way I see'd it."
The cattleman stared at the men, his gaze shifting to the table and the pile of winnings which included the IOU for his ranch. He opened his mouth to say something, his hand still on the grip of his pistol, his body tense. A long, silent moment passed.
Jake stood his ground, his gun pointed at the cattleman.
After what felt like a winter season on the mountain, the old man's hands dropped to his sides, he spun on his worn, dirty boots and walked out of the saloon.
Jake let out the breath he'd been holding and tucked his pistol back in his holster.
"Reckon I was gonna break a sweat on that one."
"I wonder if the old man has a wife and more kids back at the ranch. Speakin' of which, we need to be headin' back to the claim. I don't like leaving Honor there for this long, what with her expectin' so soon. Will have been a week by the time we get back.
"Damned companion Honor sent for shoulda been here by now."
"You go on. Reckon I could stay a couple extra days. Got all this loot to spend. Might as well find me someone to help spend it all." Jake grinned. "Now that you've made an honest woman of Honor, I can't be hornin' in on you two anyway."
"You know you're not hornin' in."
"Still, with a kid comin'…" Jake shrugged. "Besides, I've got to figure out what to do with a ranch before I head back."
Zach shook his head. "That man had no business putting his ranch up in a game of poker. Saw his son earlier. Kinda young and skinny. I didn't win the ranch and I'm already feeling sorry for the boy."
"Since when did you give a rat's ass about someone else's kids?"
"Since I'm gonna be a father."
Jake sighed. "I'm feelin' a might guilty myself. I'll make the man sweat a day or two to teach him a lesson. What would I do with a ranch anyway?"
"You were raised on a ranch. You'd do just fine."
"I'm the joint owner of the Lucky Lady mine now. I don't have time to go pokin' cows."
"Suit yerself and stay. However, I will take you up on that offer to hit the trail." Zach slapped Jake on the back. "I better get some shut-eye. I can make it in a day if I start real early."
"Be careful. Damned claim jumpers just as soon see you dead and relieve you of that sack of flour and beans you'll be carrying."
"Same to you, brother. Sure you don't need help getting Honor's companion back up the mountain?"
"As long as she can ride a mule, I'm sure I'll do just fine. Give Honor my love and let her know I'll be there with her hired help as soon as she arrives."
"Honor will be glad of another woman to talk to and help her through the birthin'. Gotta say I'm right happy she's hirin' her. Can't imagine being on the other end of birthin'."
Zach shuddered. "Maybe we'll get lucky and she'll be pretty."
Jake's eyes narrowed. "The woman is just a companion for Honor, right?"
"Don't know what yer askin'."
"She didn't up and send for one of those mail-order brides, now did she?"
Zach's gaze shifted left, away from Jake.
Uh-oh. Zach was a straight shooter. If he couldn't make eye contact, he was fixin' to lie.
"Nope. She just sent for someone to help her through the birthin'."
Jake glared at Zach. "If that woman comes down off the stage tomorrow and tells me she's come for a wedding, I'll shove her right back up on the stage and send her back to where she came from."
"No need. She's really only coming to help Honor. Honest." Zach held up his right hand as if swearing an oath. "Trust me."
"Trust you? Ha! I've seen the way you and Honor had your heads together, whisperin' like a couple of thieves."
"Just talking about the baby. That's all." Zach crossed his arms over his chest. "Now can I trust you to bring Honor's companion out to her, or do I stay and do the job myself?"
"I'll bring her. But I won't be marryin' no mail-order bride." Jake shoved the pouches of gold, coins and the IOU into the pockets of his dungarees. "She's probably horse-faced and missing a few teeth. I'm holding out for better."
"Someone like Honor?"
Jake's chest ached. He knew Honor and Zach were meant for each other, but Honor was a beauty and what the three of them had shared had been special. "Damn right, I'm holdin' out for someone like Honor."
"You did what?" Katherine Carolina Matheson paced the narrow floor of her father's room in the Golden Nugget Hotel, the only hotel in the mining town of Idaho Springs.
"I'm sorry, KC. I just knew I'd win." Her father's speech slurred, the lines in his leathery tanned face deep, the shadows beneath his eyes more pronounced than ever."I had four kings." His voice caught and he dropped onto the bed. "Four kings."
"But you bet the ranch, Pa." She knelt on the floor in front of him, her long blonde hair hanging down the middle of her back in a thick braid. She always wore it up in her hat, hiding the fact that she was a woman. Her mother never ceased to remind her that she should be wearing a dress, not men's trousers. But her parents only managed to beget girls. Who else would help drive the herd of cattle from the San Luis Valley to Idaho Springs? Her father couldn't do it by himself, and he couldn't afford many hired hands.
And they needed the gold to purchase supplies sufficient to see them through the harsh Rocky Mountain winters.
Without the money they'd made on the sale of the cattle, they didn't stand a chance. Hell, they didn't even have the ranch. Where would they go? What would her mother and her six little sisters do to survive?
"Oh, KC, I can't face them. I can't bear to see the disappointment in your mother's eyes." Her father slumped forward and would have fallen flat on his face if KC hadn't been there to catch him.
"Pa, you can't talk like that. Ma will find it in her heart to forgive you. She always does…" As KC eased her father back against the bed, she sighed. He'd passed out in an alcohol-induced stupor.
KC pulled his boots off and folded the blanket over him, her mind churning over the news he'd delivered before he'd fainted.
KC left her father and went next door where she'd packed her saddlebag, ready to leave for home in the morning. If she could even get her father up. They couldn't stay another night in Idaho Springs without money to pay the hotelier.
KC shoved her hair up and plunked her dusty cowboy hat on her head. She had to find the man who'd cheated her father out of everything he owned and either talk him into returning it or kill him and take it.
She made her way down the stairs and past the front desk of the hotel without making eye contact with anyone along the way. No use letting the entire mining town know she was anything other than the boy she portrayed. If her mother hadn't put her foot down, KC would have cut every inch of her waist-long hair off to avoid being noticed as a woman. She'd even wrapped sheets of cotton around her breasts to keep her chest from pokin' out.
When she opened the door to the hotel, a woman stepped through, her royal blue traveling dress a stark contrast to the gray of dirty, dingy clothing every miner in Idaho Springs wore. Her black hair was pulled up with little ringlets spilling down her back, a smart hat perched on the side of her head with a fluffy feather curled over the side.
A twinge of envy slid beneath KC's skin for the first time in her life. She'd never had anything that pretty, nor would she have much use for it on the ranch. Couldn't ride a horse in that getup. Her lips pressed together and she pushed past the woman without an excuse me or by-your-leave.
She didn't have any trouble crossing the street to the saloon in the dark. With a deep breath, she slipped in the front, hiding in the shadows, keeping her back to the wall.
Two men stood at the bar, both ruggedly handsome, one tall and dark, the other not so tall, with reddish-brown hair hanging loose down around his shoulders. The black-haired man clapped the other man on the back. "Well how 'bout that, Jake. I still can't believe you won that hand. I could swear you were bluffin'."
The man called Jake grinned and held up his mug, sloshing beer over the side. "Guess today was my lucky day." He turned to the patrons of the crowded saloon and yelled, "This round's on me."
As a rush of miners stormed the bar, all talking and laughing at once, KC stood in a dark corner, her anger building with each breath she took. If she'd brought her gun, she'd plug a hole in the man's thieving head. How dare he spend her daddy's money on drinks for a bar full of rowdy miners?
The man called Jake was the one who'd stolen everything they owned. She had to fight the urge to stomp across the dirt floor and pound her fist into his face, no matter how much bigger he was than her.
She fought it, but the urge won. With all the strength and determination of a cornered polecat, she marched over the barroom floor, pushed her way through the crowd of miners until she stood face-to-face with the man who'd ruined her father.
The thief had the gall to look down at her and grin. "Boy, are you even old enough to drink?"
Heat boiled up her neck and shot through her head like a steam kettle exploding. Before rational thought could return, she punched him as hard as she could in the face. "That's for stealing everything we own from my father." She punched him again. "And that's for…for…" the steam seeped out as pain shot into her knuckles, "…for making my hand hurt." Tears welled in her eyes and she fled.
The crowd behind her roared with laughter, driving the pain straight into her heart. Damn him! Damn him to hell!
Not only had she let her anger get the better of her, her hand hurt so badly she thought maybe she'd broken it. Her mother's gentle voice echoed in her head. It's much easier to attract flies with honey. And she'd gone and punched the galoot, ruining any chance she had of convincing him to return the IOU for the ranch. If she wanted this man to give back what was rightfully theirs, she'd have to come up with a better plan.