HIS HIGH-STAKES BRIDE
Texan Brides #3
by Martha Hix
Genre: Historical Romance
Pub Date: 8/29/2017
After losing her mama and all she has, vagabond Patience “Patty” Sweet dreams of reuniting with her father in the New Mexico territory. So she teams up with a no-good gambler whose winnings enable her to get her closer to her destination. Patty hates hanging around saloons and poker parlors, pulling dishonest deeds. But when a game of five-card draw goes wrong in Lubbock, Texas, Patty gets offered up as collateral—to a handsome stranger who’s about to turn the tables . . .
Lawyer Grant Kincaid has no intention of claiming his prize—a nearly nineteen-year-old petite beauty with sweet eyes—who has a hold on him he can’t deny. But as he tries to help Patty untangle herself from her shady partner, he discovers she’s not as innocent as she seems. For starters, she’s already stolen his hardened heart . . .
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Under a full moon
It is a sad day in a woman’s life when she comes to grips with weakness
of character. Today might have been that way for Patience Eileen Sweet,
but she couldn’t dwell on something like that. Not this day, which had
turned into a warm autumn night in 1910. Not when she intended to escape
the mess of her own making. Her papa would have told her, “Patty Cake,
proceed with caution.” He always claimed full moons bring babies, lunatics,
and any number of disasters, particularly mine cave-ins.
Tonight would bring change; that she knew beforehand. This night
unfolded for Patty in a saloon. By the midnight hour the floozies had
served their last drinks and were nowhere to be seen, most of the customers
having cleared out. The bartender did nothing to cover his yawns. Cigar
smoke still curled toward the tin ceiling. Gaming chips still pinged. Three
gamblers refused to give in or give up.
Still and all, it would be over soon.
Looking up from her mending, she meant to steal a glance at her
“stepbrother,” but she locked gazes with one of the gamblers instead, and
not for the first time this evening. The three were close enough that she
could get a good look—he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen. As
he had the other times, he nodded once. There was a puzzled, curious look
to his fine features, certainly not the nasty-old-pervert leer that Dorinda
had warned her to look out for.
She did like this man’s black-haired, blue-eyed looks. He wore the
garb of a West Texan—a yoked shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons and
denim britches that hugged him just right. His boots were the same kind
that cowboys wore, only this ’poke’s weren’t scuffed or worn out. His
clothes looked too clean, his hair and chin too smooth for a man of the
land. He looked rich.
Patty moved her line of sight to her partner-in-crime, Chet Merkel. It
was his turn to deal, and she could tell he was losing at five-card stud.
They couldn’t afford for him to lose, not even for one evening, yet she
prayed for his bad luck.
She knew what his next move would be. He’d barter her virginity. For
the third time.
Twice before to two different men in two different towns.
Tonight it was Scarlet Garter Jenny’s Saloon. The “winner” would
be a short, dark sheriff wearing a big, thick wedding ring. Or else the
winner might be that curious fellow—the smooth-shaven pretty boy that
the drunkards, gamblers, and preening waitresses called “counselor” and
“mouthpiece,” with “Grant” or “Kincaid” thrown in from time to time.
Well, the painted ladies usually said “Sugar.”
Neither of these men looked as gullible as the previous winners of her
Anyway, Patty knew how to get out of being the night’s reward. Did
she even want to? Just looking at Grant Kincaid had her in a tizzy. One
way or another, things would be different tonight. She was cutting all ties
to her double-dealing snake of a “stepbrother,” Chet Merkel.
Definitely, she wouldn’t be rendezvousing with Chet later.
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