Title: Betting It All
Author: Cate Masters
Genres: Historical Romance
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Can the daughter of a well-known prostitute start a new life where no one knows her family history? Norah Hawkins is sure going to try. When a letter arrives deeding her property in San Francisco, she packs her bags.
Irishman Gerard MacKenzie likes his life free and easy, but is tired of the snobbish East Coast folk. San Francisco has enough vice and folly to suit his needs. Meeting Norah gives him the opportunity to bartend in her saloon. Maybe he can convince her to let him play the piano. She’s a shrewd businesswoman, and negotiating with her makes his blood boil. Damn if she doesn’t make his blood boil in other ways, too.
The morning of April 18, 1906, a terrible earthquake buries their dreams beneath the city’s ruins. Can Norah and Mac rebuild their lives? Will rebuilding their dreams bond them forever, or tear them apart?
Guilt filled her as she sealed the envelope. Her first letter should have been to her mother. Estelle probably forgot I left. More likely, she bought a bottle and forgot everything, period.
Downstairs in the hotel lobby, Mac stepped around the corner into her path. “A letter to your beau?”
She bristled. “No.”
Leering, he nodded. “Ah. You left him behind.”
“Certainly not.” My, but he cleaned up nicely. The electric wall sconce gave his black hair a sheen like raven’s feathers in the sun. His smooth-shaved skin accentuated the whites of his eyes, rimmed with thick dark lashes. Curled in a teasing smile, his lips appeared soft, not weather-worn like some men.
He cocked a brow. “He’s joining you later?”
“I don’t see how it’s any of your concern.” Unless he still hoped for employment. His long, smooth fingers might be handy for more than cards. Still, if she wanted music, she could buy a player piano and not have to pay it a weekly salary. Though it wouldn’t be nearly as nice to look at as Mac.
He shrugged. “It isn’t. Unless you run into debt playing poker. I want to be assured someone will back you up.”
“You needn’t worry. I never get in over my head.” In anything.
He tipped his cap. “Smart woman.”
Not enough to fool him. Last night, Norah had imitated her drunken mother to perfection, another skill that came in handy. Believing her vulnerable, the men made themselves moreso. Not Mac. He’d grown more careful, as if he guessed at her intent.
“What are you doing here?” She wondered what sort of a racket he ran. Everyone had one. Uppity ladies in their lace-edged gowns and mansions excelled at scamming men into marriage, but only succeeded in trapping themselves in the bargain. She preferred a prison with bars.
“Renting a room,” he said, “the same as you.”
Coincidence? Or had he followed her? “I’m curious. Do you possess other skills?”
Smiling, he tugged at his jacket lapels. “I’m a man of many talents. Why do you ask?”
Lo, his ego reared again. “Have you no real trade to ply?”
“Playing the piano is a ‘real’ trade, Miss Hawkins. However, I can work at almost anything, from carpenter to barkeep.”
Like Dan. All her stinging retorts vanished. “Oh.”
He grimaced. “You disapprove?”
“Not at all. Those are honorable trades.” Why should she feel relieved?
“As honorable as your own?”
What was he hinting at? Did he know about Estelle? Her face flushed hot. Pointedly, she said, “Yes, as honorable as owning a saloon.”
“Saloon,” he repeated, as if unsure. “I thought it was a gentleman’s club.”
Did he mean to imply she’d employ herself in some other occupation, such as her mother’s? In defiance, she curbed her tongue, unwilling to satisfy him with an answer.
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About the Author ~ Cate Masters
Multipublished, award-winning author Cate Masters has made beautiful central Pennsylvania her home, but she’ll always be a Jersey girl at heart. When not spending time with her dear hubby, she can be found in her lair, concocting a magical brew of contemporary, historical, and fantasy/paranormal stories with her cat Chairman Maiow and dog Lily as company. Look for her at http://catemasters.blogspot.com and in strange nooks and far-flung corners of the web.
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