Title: Katie's Gamble
Author: Kara O’Neal
Genre: Historical Romance
Katie McCord bears much weight on her shoulders–single-handedly running her family’s business, McCord’s Confectionery, and caring for her three younger siblings. And her little shop is in trouble, which forces her to seek help from her brother, Johnny McCord, a notorious gambler living in New Orleans, or lose everything.
Rowdy Denton might be a gambler working for Johnny McCord, but one look at Katie’s sweet innocence tugs at the ache and guilt in his heart. For his peace of mind, he’s determined to get her out of the opulent hotel and brothel kept by her brother and back to the little town in Texas where she belongs—far away from Rowdy.
When Johnny refuses to sell his share to Katie, he sends Rowdy to her hometown to cause her further trouble. But, instead, Rowdy finds himself working as her hired hand and helping her keep everything together.
Katie knows Rowdy has another purpose for being in Echols. He works for her brother, after all, and is a gambler himself. So, why is he helping her? When she discovers the answer to her question, she races back to New Orleans, prepared to make the biggest gamble of her life.
Katie McCord paced the space in front of one of the settees, her hands on her hips. Perhaps she could find Johnny herself. She eyed the corridor on the opposite side of the lobby and tried to gather her courage.
While the possible consequences of her hunt played through her mind, a man in a long, black coat, dark green brocade vest, and black trousers entered. He removed his gambler’s hat, and his coat stretched with the movement, revealing the gun belt riding low along his hips.
His dark brown hair fell over his forehead as he paused a moment in the center of the rug to dust off his hat.
He had a strong jaw, broad shoulders, and had to be over six feet. He wore a serious expression, instead of the jovial, eager one the other patrons exuded. An energy rolled off of him, as if nothing ever missed his notice, as if he were aware of his entire surroundings, though he hadn’t even assessed the space.
She lowered her arms and bit her lip. She’d made the wrong choice, coming here. A letter might have sufficed, as Mr. Cummings had suggested. She had no idea how to handle the environment in which she had placed herself.
The man looked up, his gaze going directly to her.
She held herself still, afraid to move should any twitch make him want to approach her.
Slowly, he let his eyes travel the length of her, and when his attention returned to her face, his expression was unreadable. But somehow she knew her presence irritated him.
He turned away and sauntered to the desk. He spoke in low tones to the lobby attendant, and Katie saw the newcomer’s shoulders tense at the attendant’s answers to his questions. He then glanced over at her, and his eyes narrowed.
After saying a few more words to the attendant, the man turned on a heel and strode toward her.
Frightened, she backed up, and her legs bumped into the edge of the settee.
“Miss McCord?” he asked, his voice hard and gruff.
“Y-Yes. I’m Katie McCord.”
He jerked his head at the doors. “You need to go.”
She gulped and curled her hands into fists. “I need to speak with my brother.”
The fellow shook his head. “No. And this is not a place for a lady like you. You need to go before it’s too late.”
Was he concerned about her safety? If so, then the best thing would be for him to let her see Johnny. “I would like nothing more than to leave, sir, but I can’t until I talk with my brother.”
A muscle twitched in his jaw. “That’s not gonna happen. Best to give up.”
The thought of what she might lose if she left here without Johnny’s half of the confectionery drew her up. She lifted her chin. “I can’t afford to. Do you know where he is?”
He didn’t reply, only watched her with a hard glint.
“Please, take me to him. I can’t stress the importance enough.”
That muscle jumped again. “I’m sure you have your reasons, but McCord won’t see you.”
His flat statement punched her in the stomach, and she felt panic rising within her. “He can’t ignore me. Please.”
Something flashed behind the rigid light in his eyes, but it disappeared so quickly that she had no time to determine what it was. “Miss McCord, I suggest you leave before the evening crowd arrives. Find yourself a safer hotel or return to your home.”
Anger flared. “My home is in Texas. It was once Johnny’s, and he has been neglectful. I’m here to discuss personal matters with him so that I can continue providing for myself and our siblings.”
The gambler, and probably gunslinger, rolled his tongue against the inside of his cheek as he studied her in silence.
After a few, quiet moments, during which she refused to fidget, he finally said, “He won’t listen, won’t care. It’s best that you just go and find an alternate way to take care of your kin.” His gaze swept over her once more. “Get married. That ought to do it.”
She let out a frustrated exhale. “You have no idea what you’re talking about, and I demand that you take me to my brother or send him out here to me.”
One corner of his mouth quirked. “Finding your backbone, huh?”
She set her jaw, sensing if she said more, she’d only end up giving him a laugh.
He shook his head. “The McCord temper might run in your veins, but this is no place for a woman like you. Heed me and go home.” With that, he turned around and strode toward the hall on the opposite side of the lobby.
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Award-winning author, Kara O’Neal is a teacher and lives in Texas with her husband and three children She write stories with strong family ties, lots of romance and guaranteed happy endings! Please visit her at www.karaoneal.com.
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