Today’s MFRW Book Hook is from Lily and the Gambler, which is on sale for 99 cents through Aug. 31st.
(Against her better judgment, Lily has taken a moonlit stroll on the deck of a steamship with a handsome stranger.)
She felt a blush heat her cheeks, but had to smile. “Are you flirting with me, sir?”
“I’m giving it my best shot,” he said with a grin that quickly faded. “Mrs. Albright, I know this is none of my business, but I don’t think it wise for you to travel alone. I doubt your husband would have approved.”
Lily turned back to stare at the sea of stars above, seeming almost within reach. Would Nigel approve of what she was doing? Yes, she decided. He’d been the consummate adventurer. He wouldn’t have expected her to live the rest of her life wrapped in cotton wool. And his death had given her greater freedom than she’d ever known. It was both frightening and exhilarating.
Creighton Callaway seemed to take her silence for agreement. “Please, at least allow me to see you safely on the train.”
Lily spun around to stare at him. “And in return?”
He spread his hands. “I expect nothing in return but the pleasure of your company. I have a widowed mother and sister. If either one was forced to travel alone, I would worry.”
Ah, so he thought women were too weak to take care of themselves. A typical male notion. “I’ve gotten this far on my own, Mr. Callaway, and my journey is almost over.”
“Mrs. Albright, you are not in England anymore. I grant you California is more civilized than it was twenty years ago, but it’s not what you are used to.”
Lily thought about the men she’d seen wearing gun belts and suppressed a shudder. Perhaps she should accept his offer. Once she reached Grass Valley and Uncle Arthur, she need never see the man again.
“I suppose you have a point, and I’d appreciate help with my trunks and sewing machine. Very well, Mr. Callaway. I place myself in your capable hands.” The image of his hands on her skin sent a shiver through her, but she suppressed the notion. The last person she needed in her life now was another gambler. “And now you may escort me to my cabin.”
He offered his arm again and they strolled to the stairway leading to the upper decks.
Another man hurried toward them, but skidded to a halt. “King, is that you?” he called out.
To Lily’s surprise, her companion stopped and nodded at the other man. “Turner.”
“The big game’s about to start,” Turner said. “You ain’t gonna miss it, are you?”
“Game?” Lily said.
Turner grinned at her. “Poker. Wouldn’t be the same without King Callaway.”
Lily heard him curse softly under his breath. She removed her hand from his arm. “I wouldn’t want to keep you from an important engagement.”
He scowled at the man. “I may sit in for a few hands later. After I see the lady to her cabin.”
“Oh, sure,” Turner agreed, bobbing his head.
“The lady is perfectly capable of finding her own cabin.” Lily turned and marched toward the stairs.
Callaway followed her up the stairs, catching up to her outside her door.
“Mrs. Albright, let me explain.”
“What is there to explain? After my husband died, I swore—” She broke off. What had happened to Nigel was none of his concern. She sighed. “Forgive me. What you do with your time, and your money, is your own affair. If you wish to waste it gambling, that is your prerogative.”
“It won’t be a waste of time, Mrs. Albright,” he said, a confident grin on his face. “Like my father was, I’m an excellent card player.”
She stared at him for a moment, anger and disappointment churning in her stomach. Men. “Really? In my experience, most men lose when they play at cards. Good night, sir.” She wrenched the door open and stepped inside her cabin.
Callaway held the door open with his hand. “I will see you in the morning, Mrs. Albright. You accepted my offer of escort to Grass Valley.”
“I don’t believe I require your assistance, after all.”
“Why? Because I gamble?” He leaned closer. “I don’t just gamble, Mrs. Albright. I make a living at it, and a damn good one at that.”
“How clever of you,” she replied, keeping her tone cool. “Good night, sir.”
“One last thing, ma’am,” he drawled lazily. “Regardless of what you think of me, I am a man of honor. I keep my promises, and I will see you safely home. Until tomorrow.”
When he let go of the door, Lily slammed it shut with a satisfying thud. Leaning against it, she cursed herself for being a gullible fool. Her first instincts about King Callaway had been right. Well, she hadn’t traveled thousands of miles to make the same mistake again.
In the morning she’d tell him again she didn’t need his kind of help.
She sat at the marble-topped dressing table, pulled the pins out of her hair and brushed it, using vigorous strokes. Why was she so angry? Creighton, no King Callaway’s only sin had been failing to live up to her expectations. What difference did it make when she had already arranged a marriage to a stranger?
She stopped brushing her hair and stared at her reflection in the mirror. The pale woman who stared back seemed like a stranger—the picture of respectability, from her high-necked black dress down to her sensible walking boots. Oh, she had played her part to perfection tonight. What a fraud she was.
“Who are you, my girl,” she whispered, “to judge anyone so harshly?”
A mail order bride sets out for a new life only to be tempted by a charming gambler. Can he convince her to pass up a sober businessman for a foot-loose card sharp?
After the death of her lover, Lily Penhallow has learned the cost of flaunting convention. Reinventing herself as a widow, she travels to California as the mail order bride of a prosperous mine owner. But on the riverboat from San Francisco, she meets an irresistible gambler. Against her better judgment, she finds herself drawn to the handsome charmer.
King Callaway believes that since life is a gamble, there’s no point in planning for the future. After meeting Lily, he knows he has found his Queen of Hearts. But she’s engaged to his uncle, a man King respects.
Lily finds herself torn between two men and two ways of life. Will she choose respectability or love?
Lily and the Gambler is a Second Chance at Love western historical romance.
If you like mail order brides, charming scoundrels and sensual romance, why not take a chance on Lily and the Gambler while it’s on sale?
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