Title: The Queen of Paradise Valley
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Diana Rennie, daughter of a wealthy rancher, attempts to persuade mystery man Del Russell to leave his grievances behind and forgive her father for past mistakes. Her careful plan goes awry and results in a shotgun wedding and a prison sentence for Del.
Four years later, Del is back in her life with a vengeance—back for his rightful share of Diana's ranch, back to prove he isn't the criminal she thought he was, back to finish what the two of them started years ago in a passionate daze. And he isn’t going anywhere, no matter what beautiful, treacherous Diana does or says to try to get rid of him.
She felt his heat and turned, rubbed her cheeks, then her arms. "The cows out there. I imagine they're dead, each and every one. And it's all your fault."
"Everything's my fault. Can't you think of something new?"
"There is nothing new. How can there be when the entire world outside has ceased to exist?" She swept a hand across her brow. "I'm going to my room."
He scratched his jaw. "Shutting yourself in your room will only make your cabin fever worse. Don't you get bored?"
Damn, how bored she was! "No. Never."
"Feel like a diversion? A game. Chess, poker--"
"Real poker? For real stakes?" She studied his face. And then wished she hadn't, for his eyes had a smoky quality that gave her goose bumps.
A familiar half smile. “I never play pretend at anything?"
She justified her quick assent to a game by reasoning any diversion was better than a descent into madness. But when they sat across from each other at a card table, she felt vague misgivings. She toyed with the folded bills and stack of coins they had taken from the cashbox, twenty dollars each, and wondered if this was wise.
He shuffled the cards. "Having second thoughts?"
"Ah--no. But I want to deal." She took the deck from him, cut, and dealt.
As they played he often rubbed his beard-shadowed jaw and pushed back a piece of hair that slipped over his brow. But his eyes were unreadable and she couldn’t determine his thoughts. She kept her expression bland, but couldn't hide a smug smile when she won the sixth time in a row and all the cash sat on her side of the table.
He lifted his hands, shrugged. "No more money. But I have this--" He reached inside his shirt, retrieved the rawhide cords, untangled them, and pulled one over his head.
She glanced at it with casual interest. What she had assumed were beads were stones of various sizes, drilled and strung together. Some were smooth and polished--black, blood red, lapis lazuli blue; some were irregular-shaped white and pink crystals.
“Found some of these." He slid his fingers along the stones. "Bought the others. It's worth at least five dollars. Interested in playing for it?"
She counted out five dollars for her bet and dealt the cards. An easy win. She scooped up the necklace and slipped it over her neck, into her shirt. The stones dropped inside her camisole and, still warm from his body, hung on her breasts, giving her a frisson of pleasure. She looked up in triumph, expecting him to bemoan his luck. But there was a hint of amusement in his eyes, the whisper of a smile about his mouth. Her own smile faltered.
"I don't have much left to wager. I doubt you'd want my saddle and I won't part with my horses." He again rubbed his jaw. "My share of the mine."
The cards slipped from her hand. "Are you mad? For forty dollars and a pretty--"
"I had higher stakes in mind."
"What stakes?" Now his eyes were like sunshine reflected on a rippling silver lake. She gathered the cards together and the stones skipped against her skin. Mouth dry, she repeated, "What stakes?"
"If I win, you'll move into my bedroom, share my bed."
Thrills snaked down her back, jumbled visions careened through her mind. She forced herself to concentrate on reshuffling the cards. Wind whistled down the chimney and the flames flared, then sizzled and spit when sprayed by melting snow.
She met his gaze. "If I win, you'll sign your entire share to me." He nodded and she went on, "If you win, I'll go to your bed, but for one night only. Is your share of the mine worth so little to you?"
"Is your pride worth so much to you?" A soft laugh. "Should we put it in writing? Deal the cards. Maybe your luck will hold."
She surprised herself by the easy way she handled the cards, and remained impassive when she looked at her hand. Three sevens and a pair of aces! But her immediate elation at having what could be the winning hand swiftly ebbed. How could such a stroke of luck leave her feeling so dejected? This was what she wanted--him no longer involved with the mine. It would be hers again, the way Owen had meant it to be. Exactly what she wanted, wasn't it?
Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-queen-of-paradise-valley-cat-dubie/1127176154?ean=2940158564567
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
I would go to Paris, City of Light and Love! I was there when I was four years old and have only fragmented memories and photographs. Now I want to see everything!
What’s your favorite thing about Spring and why?
I like to see the rebirth – leaves develop, flowers bloom, birds return. And, of course, warmer temperatures.
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Cat Dubie's love of words began early – she was making rhymes soon after learning to talk. With a crayon in hand she first drew stories, with a pencil she wrote them. As for reading, she was the girl who always had her nose in a book, the one who read with a flashlight under the covers or, when the moon was full, sat by a window for hours laughing, crying, loving characters whose adventurous lives wouldn't let her sleep.
She has traveled the world in books. She has traveled back to the dawn of time and far into the future in books. Her keen interest in history determined the nature of her books, and the first Historical romance novel she read, settled the genre.
After working for various levels of government, she retired and now lives in the beautiful province of British Columbia, where she indulges in her need for creating stories about romance, adventure, passion, mystery, love…
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