||May 8, 2009
Vowing never to be shackled into marriage, Lucas Weston favors the soiled doves until Missy Morgan changes his way of thinking.
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Handsome, rugged cowboy, Lucas Weston is living proof of the damage a woman can cause. Determined to keep another miss from running stampede over his heart, Lucas has garnered the reputation of a man who favores flirting and wild times between the sheets. When he's roped into taking to the trail to escort Missy Morgan back to her home in San Francisco Lucas isn't too pleased until he discovers she uses her poker-playing, whiskey-swilling ways to hide her own fears. What those fears might be, he doesen't know, but he's going to find out. Drawn to her from the start, Missy represents the opportunity for the life fate cheated him seven years ago.
Missy Morgan has lived by a rigid set of rules for so long she knows no other way. Life hasn't always been kind. Fate has dealt her more losing hands than she cares to remember. But she has Lady Luck and her family. For them she'll remain strong, until a handsome cowboy enters her life and challenges her way of thinking. Against her will, she's drawn to Lucas' blue eys and honesty. Would it be so terrible if she put her trust in him? The odds say yes, but something else says no. And what about that horrible night? Its hung over her head so long only a fool would gamble on Lucas' goodness. And she's not a fool. Or is she?
Chapter 1; Scene 1
Revolving Point, Texas, Summer-1860
Missy Morgan closed her carpetbag and made a quick search of the dingy hotel room. She grabbed the last of her poker winnings hidden beneath the mattress and shoved the greenbacks in her skirt pocket. Anything else in the room belonged to the hotel, except the bottle of whiskey on the scratched bureau.
She picked up the bottle, saw a swallow remained and glanced toward the sun streaming in through the frayed curtain on the window. So it was early morning. She could use a drink to settle her nerves and get her through what promised to be a long, trying day traveling with someone other than Buck Grayson, her hired gun.
With a tilt of her head, the amber liquid slid past her tongue and burned a familiar path down her throat. Returning the bottle to the bureau, she sat on the bed and waited.
She was going home today, back to San Francisco where she belonged. In a few weeks, she'd see her daughter and second family--an odd assortment of people having nothing in common except the need to feel safe--and never have to leave again. After five summers of riding the trail with Buck, searching every saloon and brothel, she'd finally found her brother and sister.
Adam was dead. He'd been killed by their pa. Pa was dead, too. Good. The bastard deserved to die for trying to sell her and her sister to a Mexican landlord. But Paige was alive and on her way back to Colorado Territory with her husband, Royce Weston.
It'd be a long time before she saw her sister again. The distance between Colorado and San Francisco didn't make for many visits, but Paige had found someone to love and love her in return.
She'd never be as fortunate. Pa had seen to that, so had Doc and Harley. Their treachery left behind scars she couldn't heal.
A sharp rap at the door interrupted her thoughts.
"Missy, open up," Buck ordered and she hurried to let him in.
"Lucas is at the depot stowing his gear on top of the stage." He crossed the floor, pushed aside the curtain and peered down into the street. "Don't know why he's taking his horse. Shoulda sent the stallion home with his brother and Paige."
Missy smiled, amused by the tall, muscular man's fussing. Dressed in black, a scowl on his lips and ivory-handled pistols riding low on his hips, she'd miss the outlaw. He was more brother than protector. "Would you leave your horse behind?"
"Nope, but then I ain't stupid enough to take the stage." He reached into his vest pocket and extracted a small bottle. "Brought you something." He tossed it to her. "Figured you'd want a stiff drink tonight."
She smiled and reached for her bag. "If Lucas doesn't bring his horse to San Francisco, how's he supposed to get back home?"
"Not my problem." Buck looked back to the street.
"I wish you were coming with me instead of hiring out your gun. I don't know Lucas very well."
"He's a good man. He'll take care of you."
"I know he is."
"You don't know shit." He settled his dark gaze on her. "You've been holed up with him while his brother and me flushed out your pa and still you haven't told him about Tess or Lady Luck."
"Tess and Lady Luck are none of Lucas' business."
"No?" Buck lifted a brow. "He came here to help you. Now he's taking time away from his ranch to see you get home safe. The man has a right to know what that involves."
"Men as honest as him don't understand what it's like to be me."
"He already knows you deal stud and drink whiskey. Your having a daughter and owning a gaming parlor ain't gonna matter to him."
"Until he finds out Tess is illegitimate. Then he'll wonder how long it'll take to make me his mistress."
"Lucas won't fault you for not being able to fend off Harley."
Missy stared at him, open-mouthed. "You can't mean for me to tell him everything. You’re the one who taught me how to protect myself."
Buck shrugged and returned his attention back to the street. "Suit yourself. It's your own grave you're digging."
"How can you say that? Men always assume I'm another willing madam even though Lady Luck isn't a brothel." She fastened the strap on her carpetbag. "Lucas won't be an exception."
"Wrong. Shit, there's Taggert." He dropped the curtain. "Bastard won't dodge the bullet this time." He flung the door open and moved quick down the hall, saying. "Don't leave without me."
Missy spit her tongue at him then slammed the door shut. "What does he know?" Cutthroats and gentlemen, they were all the same.
She'd never forget the night she met Lucas. Dealing stud in a saloon in his hometown, he mistook her for her sister and hauled her out of the chair. Black hair, sapphire eyes and dimple set in his chin; her heart fluttered at the sight of him. She'd had the same reaction when he arrived in Revolving Point last week.
Would he really snub her for having a daughter and owning Lady Luck, an old sea ship run aground, abandoned and then renovated into a notorious gaming hall on San Francisco's Barbary Coast?
She liked to think he wouldn't, especially since he was known for his dalliances with the soiled doves. But past hurts had a way of staying with her. They kept her on the defense. And until he proved her wrong, she wouldn't be swayed by his pretty blue eyes or deep voice calling her Michelle, her given name.
The Romance Studio
Missy Morgan had been mistreated by the men in her life. Now when she traveled, she always had a bodyguard. Buck, a known outlaw, had been with her for a long time. However, this trip back home, Buck asked a friend, Lucas Weston, to escort her. That was just the beginning of their problems. From the holdup with the stagecoach, to the fiasco they encountered when they got to Lady Luck, there was never a dull moment.
Lucas had a son, but the boy's mother ran off with him seven years ago. He had been unable to find either of them. His background had taught him that women were not to be trusted. Missy also had issues which insured she wanted no part of any man. The two were attracted to each other. They were determined not to act upon that infatuation. Of course, we know from the beginning that is going to change.
Ms. Julie Lence was a new author to me. I haven't, therefore, had the pleasure of reading book one in the series. It did not take away from the plot in book two. It did convince me, however, that I needed to get the other and read it also. These two characters were strong individuals with scarred pasts. How they dealt with the problems made this storyline one terrific read.
The supporting characters were many. Each provided additional information into the background of these two main personalities. The book was full of action and there was never a dull moment. I never wanted to put the book down. The writing style of Ms. Lence was fabulous. It created a book that made me feel as if I were personally involved.
This book by Julie Lence is one of the best I've read in a long while. I have another author to add to my must-read list. I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by: Brenda Talley; TRS
This is probably one of the most well written romance novels that I have read. The western and coastal scenes are vivid, the characters are so lively they seem to jump off of the page, and the storyline is quite interesting. This is one of those books where you hope all will turn out well in the end, but you do not mind seeing the struggle to get there. Why? Because you know in the end, you will get exactly what you hoped for...or even better...something you could not have imagined.
Shannon, reviewer for Coffeetime Romance
Long and Short reviews
Ms. Lence tells a fabulous story here that pulls the reader in and doesn't let go until the end.... Great job, Ms. Lence
Reviewed by Queen Anne's Lace for LASR
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